Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How Accessible and Transparent Is Your School Board?

At the August 30, 2011 school board meeting, I asked that the school district post its financial data online like other school districts do such as Rockwood, Parkway, Wentzville and Mehlville. I also asked that our school district post email addresses and/or phone numbers for our school board members on the district website so school board members would be more accessible to the public.  This would allow patrons of the district to express their concerns outside of the extremely short 3 minutes allowed for Public Comment at the start of school board meetings. I also asked to have our board meetings audio or video recorded and make them available online.  I checked many other school district websites prior to making my requests at the board meeting. So you could say that I had done my homework.

The most important question to ask is why doesn't Fox post Board Member Contact Information, School District Financials and Board Meeting Information Packets on their website?  Other school districts make this information available to their patrons.  By not posting this information or by making the information difficult to obtain gives the impression that our school board is hiding things from the public.

How do I know that it is difficult to obtain the information?

I have made multiple requests over the last couple of years and have been told that it's not online and that I would have to pay 10 cents per page for the information.  School board meeting packet information has been stored in PDF format since at least April 2010 as I now have copies of them.  It wasn't until the board members started using tablet computers at the December 2011 school board meeting to view the board meeting information packets that I was able to counter our superintendent's claims that I would have to pay for paper copies of those documents referencing Missouri Sunshine Law. The district has been posting board meeting minutes online in PDF format since 2002 so it is a bit difficult to believe that it board meeting information packets didn't exist prior to 2010 as I have been told.

Superintendent's Excuse Why Board Packets Aren't Online
Immediately following the August 2011 school board meeting our superintendent told me that our district didn't have a full time person to maintain our district website and instead chooses to put its money into the classroom as the reason why this information was not on our district website.  However, after reviewing board meeting information packets I have received, I discovered that the district does have a full time Web Designer that has been working for the district for 7 years.  Her excuse was simply an excuse to try and throw me off the trail.

Fox Puts Its Money Into The Classroom
Our superintendent has stressed the point of putting our money into the classroom before.  In her March 2011 Superintendent Message, she compared Fox with other districts in the "Elite 9" school districts that have achieved "District of Distinction" 10 years in a row in the state of Missouri.  In her message, she stated, "Clearly, we use our resources wisely! We put our money where it counts - in the classrooms."  I disagree with her statement considering the fact that our school board has taken quite a bit of money out of the classroom in order to significantly increase her salary.  Our superintendent's salary has been increased by over $100,000 since 2006.  One would think that with the extremely high pay that our superintendent is now making ($238,785 for the 2012-2013 school year), that she would have had the resources to provide the same information that the other "Districts of Distinction" are providing to their patrons online as well.

Ask Your School Board Members Questions
So, If you get a chance to speak to a Fox C-6 school board member, perhaps you can ask them why Fox doesn't make the same information available and as accessible as the other "Districts of Distinction".

Below I have listed a link to Fox's Board of Education page and the Meet Our Board of Education PageBelow that you will find a list of the other school districts in the area that I researched and what information they make available on their websites. Some districts even post audio or video recordings of their board meetings online for the public to view at any time such as Wentzville, Mehlville and Clayton.  Copies of Mehlville's board meetings are available on DVD for a nominal fee.  The cost to setup the ability to audio or video record school board meetings and make them available to the public is extremely minimal compared to the school district's annual budget.  Our school district simply doesn't want you to have easy access to the information.  This leads to distrust by the community and it is not a good thing.

Fox C-6
NO Board Member Individual Email Addresses
NO Board Member Phone Numbers
NO Board Member Home Addresses
NO Online Financial Data
NO Online School Budget Information
NO Online Board Meeting Information Packets
School Board Email Address (goes to Board Secretary/Superintendent Secretary)
Board Meeting Minutes back to 2008. Meeting minutes used to be posted as far back as 2002 prior to Edline. (I have copies of those documents.)

Board Members Individual Wentzville School District Email Address
Board Members Individual School Phone Number Extension
Board Meeting Information Packets Posted Online Prior to Board Meetings for Public 
Wentzville BoardDocs Page
Review (Includes Check Registers,Contracts and Requests for Proposal Bids, etc.)
Here is a link to the May 2011 Meeting Packet I mentioned at the August board meeting.

Francis Howell
Board Members Home Address
Board Members Home Phone
Board Members Individual Francis Howell Email Address

Board Members Individual Mehlville Email Address
Board Meetings Video Recorded and Posted Online or Available on DVD

Board Members Home Phones
Board Members Home Address or PO Box
Board Members Individual Rockwood Email Address

Board Members Home Address
Board Members Home Phone
Board Members Individual Parkway Email Links

Board Members Home Address
Board Members Home Phone
Board Meeting Minutes back to 2004
Their board member web page has a very nice explanation of Board Member Responsibilities and the following statement which seems to be a stark contrast as to how things are handled at Fox C-6 despite what it is stated all over our website and printed on our letter head.
The Board carries out its functions openly while seeking the involvement and contributions of the public, students and staff in its decision-making process.”

Board Members Home Address
Board Members Home Phone
Board Members Personal Email Address
Board Meeting Minutes back to 2009

Board Members Individual School Email Address
BoardDocs – Online Financials
OnlineAudio Recordings of Board Meetings in MP3 Format
Nice explanation of School Board Responsibilities and the statement that,The Board of Education is elected to represent the School District of Clayton community in the governance of its public schools.”

Board Members Home Address
Board Members Home Phone
Board Members Individual Ladue School Email Address
Advisory committees: Curriculum & Instruction, Finance, Facilities Planning and Technology

Board Members Assigned School Phone Number
Financial Data Online
Hazelwood School Administration Page with photos, email addresses and direct phone numbers to school district administrators 

Board Members Individual School Email Address
Board Members Special Email Link to Email All Members at Once
Board Meeting Minutes back to 2002

Board Members Home Phone
Board Members Individual School Email Address
3 Citizen Committees - Finance Advisory Committee, Public Relations Committee and Building Advisory Committee
Board Meeting Minutes back to 2009

Board Members Home Address
Board Meeting Minutes back to 2011 online older documents by request.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fox C-6 Superintendent Salary

How does our superintendent's salary hold up to the other school districts in the area?  It appears that our school board has done an excellent job of providing our superintendent with one of the top salaries in the state.  I am not sure what the meteoric rise in salary has been based on.  A 65.39% pay increase in just 7 years is very impressive.  But, then it has been reported by and KMOV that superintendent salaries in the state of Missouri have been rising despite a recession and our school board seems to have been helping to contribute to this problem. The report from the Show-Me Institute reported in July 2010 that even during a recession the average superintendent salary was increasing.

So, how has our superintendent's salary done since she became superintendent?  The following data was collected from data that what was reported to MO DESE by the school district and was provided to the Show-Me Institute from a Sunshine Law request and is available from the Show-Me Daily Superintendent Contracts Report.

2006 - $137,589
2007 - $152,068
2008 - $164,428
2009 - $192,586
2010 - $207,393

The following salary information was obtained from a KMOV news story copy of the May 23, 2010 contract for our superintendent. This appeared after the April 2010 news story on KSDK that reported that the Administrators in Fox School District forfeited their own pay raises.  I find it interesting that our superintendent stated that she was giving up her pay raise after she felt uncomfortable that the 47 administrators decided on their own to give up their raises.  You must watch the KDSK video news story to appreciate the excitement the administrators made in giving up their pay raises.  It appears that the forfeiting of our superintendent's pay raise would have occurred  during the 2012-2013 school year according to her May 23, 2010 contract.

2011 - $215,276
2012 - $221,643
2013 - $221,643

It seems odd that giving up a pay raise would still result in a higher salary for the 2013 school year when her May 23, 2010 contract showed a lower amount for 2013. Then, there was the recent announcement of our superintendent's pay for the 2012-2013 school year in The Leader which was reported would be $228,000.

From The Leader Newspaper:
2012 - $228,000

UPDATE: I finally received a copy of the 2012-2013 - 2014-2015 Superintendent Salary Schedule at 4:12PM on Monday August 6, 2012. My request for this data was made at 8:10AM on Wednesday August 1, 2012.  The school district certainly didn't want this information to get out into the community prior to the August 7, 2012 Bond Issue Vote.  Once you see the Salary Amounts you will understand why.

2013 - $238,785
2014 - $245,588
2015 - $252,391

It is important to note that the 2012 - 2015 Superintendent Salary Schedule includes an automatic 5% increase in the multiplier for each year of service in the district. To calculate the Superintendent's Base Pay Amount, the top teacher pay is multiplied by the multiplier value which becomes the base pay.  So, each year as the teacher's pay increases, so does the administrator's pay.

So, I have to ask the question:
When did our Superintendent forfeit her pay raise?

I suggest that you contact your Fox C-6 School Board Members and ask them to provide you with the documentation that shows when the superintendent forfeited her pay raise.  According to the data collected from MO Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and her May 23, 2010 contract and what was reported in The Leader newspaper recently, it does not appear that there was any pay raise forfeited.

Here is the April 10, 2010 news story on KSDK that reported that the Administrators in Fox School District forfeited their own pay raises for the teachers.  Did this pay raise forfeiture really occur for our superintendent or was it simply a nice story to provide to the public to gain public support for the district and hide other issues going on within the district?

The June 30, 2012 school board meeting information packet had a copy of the 2012-2013 school year Administrators Salary Schedule.  However, the Administrator Salary Schedule DID NOT contain a salary schedule for our superintendent.  I requested a copy of the Superintendent Salary Schedule but did not receive a copy of it right away but did receive other information since making that request.

Administrator Pay Based on Teachers Pay Scale
The pay schedule for administrators is based on the teachers pay scale.  So, anytime the administrators and school board approve a pay raise for the teachers, the administrators are also assured a pay raise. The multiplier for the Administrators Salary Schedule is 1.5 times the highest teacher pay with a doctorate degree which for the 2012-2013 school year is around $97,706 dollars making the Administrators Base Pay Amount at: $136,060.

The salary schedule is based on the Pay Grade and Year Index values where Grade levels are 1 through 5 as follows:

1 = Assistant Elementary or Assistant Middle School Principal
2 = Assistant High School Principal
3 = Elementary or Middle School Principal
4 = High School Principal
5 = Assistant Superintendent

The multipliers range from 0.540 for first year elementary and middle school principals to 1.200 for 12 year assistant superintendents.  There are also Education Factor multipliers that are part of the Salary Calculation where the following Education Factors are:

Masters + 15   = 0.005
Specialist         = 0.010
Specialist + 15 = 0.015
Specialist + 30 = 0.020
Doctorate        = 0.025

The Salary Calculation is computed as:  (GYI + EF) * BASE = Salary.

The example given on the schedule was:  (0.820 + 0.010) * 136,060 = $112,930.

The Highest Paid Assistant Superintendent would be calculated as:

(1.200 + 0.025) * 136,060 = $166,674

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Do You Trust Your School Superintendent and School Board?

Why would our school district superintendent tell me after the August 30, 2011 Board of Education meeting, "You know that we don't have a person that's just in charge of the website. We put our money in the classroom." when the district already employs a full time Web Designer who has been working for the school district for 7 years? This was in response to a request to the school board to post financial and board meeting packet and board member contact information onto the district website like they do at other school districts. Instead, I was told how the district puts its money into the classroom and not the website like other districts do. However, it appears now that she is planning on putting our money into the football fields and not as much into the classroom. Please note that the district does in fact have a full time Web Designer who was contracted to make $44,731 for the 2011-2012 school year. She could have just told me the truth but decided not to. This wasn't the first time I had been provided false or misleading information and wasn't the last and in doing so she destroys her credibility.

Our district seems to have a significant problem when school board members and administrators ignore requests for information or requests to post information such as board packets on the district website like they do in other districts. Not providing the information gives the appearance that our district is trying to hide things from the public. It certainly brings into question why the district never published the estimated cost of items for the $18.5 Million dollar bond issue.

So why didn't the district ever publish the budget for the items they wished to purchase with the Bond Issue money until I made a request for the budget on Monday July 16, 2012 which was then emailed to me and published on the website on Wednesday July 18, 2012?

How the school district plans to spend your taxpayer dollars should be of great interest to those in our school district. There are certainly repair needs within the district. The Election Ballot is written quite deceptively in regards to what is really happening with the $3.3 Million dollars being invested into what the election ballot lists as "converting the existing athletic facilities into multipurpose facilities."

What academic benefit is gained in spending $1.5 Million dollars to install artificial turf on the football fields and then another $1 Million dollars to replace the already rubberized tracks and the remaining $800,000 on bleachers?

I think our superintendent and school board is hoping to sneak the artificial turf in under the radar by not mentioning it on the ballot. Most people that I have spoken with had no idea that the school district was planning on installing artificial turf. One parent told me she was not going to pay for artificial turf when her son's middle school doesn't have enough books for his class to go around so they had to share books. She asked why they needed artificial turf? I said that is a really good question but that it was most likely because several other schools in the area recently installed artificial turf so our coaches want it too.

I emailed the school board secretary and the school board over two weeks ago requesting the cost analysis that was provided to the school board in justifying the cost of installing and maintaining artificial turf verses natural grass and how long the artificial turf would last before needing to be replaced. My questions were forwarded to Mr. Crutchley on July 16 but I have not received a response to those questions as of August 2, 2012 even after emailing another request. Most people I have spoken with seem to think that those are valid questions and that the school board should be asking those questions before spending that much in taxpayer dollars. You as taxpayers should be highly concerned because artificial turf typically only lasts around 8 to 10 years before needing to be replaced according to the industry. Additionally, there is quite a bit of maintenance cost as well. Not to mention the fact that artificial turf can reach temperatures of 140 degrees Fahrenheit according to a 2008 National Institutes of Health report. So, that means the district will be needing to spend another large sum of money when we are only half way into paying off the Bond Issue which would be extended to 2032.

So, should you be concerned with how the district plans on using the largest portion of the $18.5 million dollar bond issue?  The estimated costs for the bond issue items from the district website totals to less than $16 Million dollars. What is the extra $2.5 Million dollars going to be used for?

I certainly hope that you VOTE NO on the $18.5 Million dollar bond issue!