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.