Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fox C-6 Board Member Touts Bringing School District to National Recognition

Cheryl Hermann is running for Jefferson County Council – District 2 in the November 6, 2012 election.  Ms. Hermann recently stated in the October 25, 2012 edition of The Leader newspaper that people should vote for her because, “My experience working collaboratively as a school board member, helping to bring Fox board from ineffectiveness, controversy and lawsuits in 2000 to a nationally recognized school district in 2012.”  Ms. Hermann did not say what kind of national recognition that the school district received.  But, a Google search for “Fox C-6 504 Compliance Reviews” will find presentations from across the country where Fox C-6 has been recognized nationally as being chosen as one of two school districts out of the entire nation that are undergoing a Discrimination Review being conducted by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for ensuring access to appropriate services for students with medical and health conditions and impairments such as food allergies and diabetes.  This is definitely an honor to have been chosen as not too many school districts undergo District Wide Compliance Reviews nationally.  To save a little time, I have included one of the top results from a Google search from the Nashville Public Schools website: (

This was a presentation given by a law firm at the Spring Forum 2011.  You will be able to find Fox C-6 on slide #30 titled Current OCR Disability Discrimination Reviews.

Fox C-6 was informed of their impending District Wide Compliance Review in March 2010 by Russlyn Ali, the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education.  The District Wide Compliance Review is still ongoing as the district attorneys have notified me in the past when I made inquiries to the school board regarding this issue.  I also made Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for information pertaining to the results of the Compliance Review.  At this time since the Discrimination Review is still ongoing and there is nothing to report according to the FOIA request response.

How long does it take to do a Compliance Review?

I would like to note that it is a fact that the Compliance Review is being conducted even if the district has not publicly acknowledged this information.

Another interesting Google search is for “Fox C-6 504 Resolution Agreement” which will also find presentations from across the country which documents a Resolution Agreement signed by the school district on May 1, 2009 which has an LRP publication number of (109 LRP 54751 (OCR 2009)).  Here is a direct link to one of the presentations discussing the Resolution Agreement at a national level and can be found on the Utah State Office of Education website: (

In the Resolution Agreement the district agreed to update its 504 Manual, policies and procedures to remove references to mitigating measures and to incorporate a definition of a person with a disability that is consistent with the ADAAA.  Revisions will include but not be limited to, defining 'major life activities' as they are defined in the ADAAA and removing references to any court decisions that were specifically rejected by the ADAAA.  Additionally, it was identified by ED OCR that district policies and student handbooks identified at least 7 different contacts as the Section 504 coordinator for the district.  One of which has been retired since 2008.

You may ask how long does it take for the district to update its documentation as requested?  School board members Cheryl Hermann and Dan Smith should be asking questions as to why it is taking the district so long to produce these documents?  Does it truly take more than 3 years to update documents in our school district?  This responsibility should also fall on the shoulders of the superintendent.  Does this demonstrate effective leadership or management skills?  It has already been more than 6 months since the 'completely overhauled' school board policies, regulations and forms were released for review.  The district informed ED OCR that they would be providing updated policies to ED OCR by August 28, 2012 as part of the Resolution Agreement after failing to meet previously set deadlines informing ED OCR that the update policies had to first be approved by the school board.  The school failed to meet that deadline and ED OCR extended the district deadline another 2 months.  Perhaps Cheryl Hermann and Dan Smith can explain why these deadlines are consistently not being met?

So, it seems that national recognition can have different meanings for different people.  And certainly the amount of legal fees spent in making corrective actions and challenging the U.S. Department of Education and USDA Final Agency Decision should be recognized as part of Ms. Hermann’s, “experience and proven actions as an elected official on the Fox school board.”  Those legal expenses can be found in the school board packets which contain the Check Register listings for payments made to vendors that are approved each month by the school board.  You simply need to know the name of the law firm or other law firms that have been involved in order to total up the cost to the taxpaying public.  Legal expenses have now exceed well over $200,000!

Ms. Hermann is running on the idea that she is “A Voice Of Reason and Common Sense!”  Is it Common Sense to fight the U.S. government with local taxpayer dollars?  Wouldn’t it have been much cheaper and easier for the school district to simply comply with Federal Laws rather than continue spending taxpayer dollars on legal fees?

I recently learned that a different attorney from the school district law firm has to get up to speed on these matters as the current one is retiring.  At least that was the reason given this time by Karl Menninger from the Kansas City U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (ED OCR) office monitoring the Resolution Agreement in a recent email.  However, this was the same reason given to Senator Roy Blunt’s office by the KC OCR office in May 2012.  It begs the question as to how long does it take to get up to speed?  Attorneys are needed to help review and help produce documentation that ED OCR has been requesting from the district since May 2009?  Luckily for the school district, ED OCR graciously continues to provide the district with new deadlines each time it doesn't meet them rather than take enforcement actions or reopen the investigation like their regulations allow them to do.  Per an email from Rosanne Shepherd of Kansas City ED OCR, “OCR is continuing our efforts to allow the District to comply with the voluntary agreement.  The District has not indicated they refuse to comply with the agreement, therefore, at this time OCR has not decided if it will reopen the investigation or to move to enforcement.  OCR will continue to monitor the District’s compliance with the agreement and will keep you informed of monitoring activities.”

Mr. Dan Smith another Fox C-6 school board member should also take credit for helping bring this type of national recognition to the Fox C-6 school district since he has been a school board director since April 2008 before all of this occurred.  By the way, Dan Smith is running for Missouri State House of Representative in District 113.

Maybe Dan Smith would be interested in answering your questions about spending your taxpayer dollars regarding these matters?

So, what kind of National Recognition would you like to see for Jefferson County?

Fox C-6 Board Member Dan Smith Wants To Make Government “As Transparent and Easy To Understand As Possible”!

Dan Smith is running for the Missouri State House of Representatives in District 113 and wants to go to Jefferson City.  He stated in an Arnold Patch article on March 1, 2012 that “We need to give government back to the people and make it as transparent and easy to understand as possible.”  If that is the case, perhaps Mr. Smith can explain why the Fox C-6 School Board and School District have refused to publish the school board packets on the district website as I have been requesting for quite some time.  That would show that he truly believes in transparency and it’s not just political talk!  I have made Sunshine Law requests personally to obtain copies of the board packets which are sent out every month to the board members.  However, I have only been provided the board packets AFTER the board meetings have occurred and not before even though I have requested otherwise.  Additionally, the patrons of the district have not been informed of decisions made by the school board until more than a month after a school board meeting.  The board minutes are not published onto the district website until after they have been approved at the next school board meeting.  I have asked for Draft Copies which should be available within 3 days of a school board meeting per Sunshine Law and have been able to obtain some draft copies using that method.  But, why can’t those draft board meeting minutes be published on the district website like other school districts?  That would give the appearance that our school district is attempting to be transparent rather than giving the appearance of trying to hide information.

Board packets are provided to the board members ahead of board meetings so they can review the information prior to the meeting and hopefully make informed decisions for the patrons of our school district.  However, the patrons of the school district have not been afforded the same transparency that Dan Smith is touting as part of his campaign.  If so, the district would graciously publish the board meeting packets on the district website for the patrons to review prior to the upcoming school board meeting allowing patrons to ask their board members who represent them questions concerning those issues prior to the board members voting on them.

Doesn’t that seem like a reasonable request?

You should contact your two school board members Mr. Dan Smith and Mrs. Cheryl Hermann who are both running for other public offices while still serving as school board members, why the patrons of our school district are not provided the same information as the school board members prior to school board meetings?  MANY other school districts publish their board packet information on their district websites prior to school board meetings.  Wentzville is a great example of transparency in action.  I gave Wentzville as an example at the August 2011 board meeting and brought it to our school board’s attention.  However, I was told by Mrs. Dianne Brown, our superintendent, that our school district does not have a dedicated person maintaining the district website in order to do that and instead chooses to put its money into the classroom.  Really?

That was a very interesting statement that our superintendent made considering the fact that after receiving copies of the board packets through Sunshine Law requests which included the salary schedules for district employees, I found that the district does indeed have a full time person employed as a Web Designer.  That person makes over $40,000 per year and has been with the school district for more than 7 years.  So, her explanation as to why the documents can’t be posted on the website doesn’t seem very credible now does it?

So, what is so difficult for that person to publish our school board packets onto the district website?  It is a simple drag and drop of a file onto a district web server file folder and then creating a hyperlink on a web page.  Maybe it is due to the fact that salary schedules and check register listings are contained in the district board packets?  School employee salaries are Public Information and the taxpayers/patrons of our school district do have the right to know how our taxpayer dollars are being spent.  The check registers include payments to all vendors paid each month and those payments are presumably reviewed by our board members and then approved each month since there is a motion each month documenting the approval of those payments.

So, Mr. Dan Smith, since you refuse to respond to my emails, maybe you can explain to other constituents why our school district does not publish school board packets on the district website or for that matter why our district website is in such a mess compared to other districts that our superintendent likes to compare us to.  I challenge our school district patrons to find an email address for Mr. Smith or Mrs. Hermann on our district website to contact them directly.  You will not find one.  What you will find is an email address which states that it goes to the school board which is  However, in reality it goes directly to the school board secretary who forwards it to the appropriate person and not directly to the school board as you are lead to believe.  You also won’t find any other contact information for our school board members such as an address or phone number like there are on many other school district websites in the area.  Why is that?

Mr. Smith also stated in his March 2012 Arnold Patch article from his press release when he announced his run for State Representative, “People in the community need someone who is approachable.“  So, how approachable is Mr. Smith if he has NO contact information as a school board member on the school district website?  I have asked the school board several times to publish email addresses, phone numbers and addresses for our school board members and have been told that they are not on the website.

It does not appear that our school board members really want to listen to or represent the will of our community if you cannot contact them does it?

Will things change if they hold a different office or should you rely more so on the examples they have shown to our community while they have been school board members?

You will have your chance to decide on November 6, 2012 as to whether or not you believe Mr. Smith will do what he says he will.  I personally believe that Past Actions Speak MUCH LOUDER than Words!  Don’t you?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

2011-2012 School Calendar Total Days and Federal Holiday Issues

During Public Comment at the April 19, 2011 school board meeting, I pointed out to the school board that the 2011-2012 school calendar which had been reviewed and approved by the school board in 2010 had the incorrect total number of days on the calendar.  The total number of days listed at the bottom of the 2011-2012 calendar showed 174 days for the school year.  However, counting each of the days on the calendar only totaled to 170 days.  The total number of days for each of the quarters was also shown incorrectly thus resulting in the 174 days being shown.  At the April board meeting, I verified with the school board that they had approved the calendar as listed on the website and asked that they please update the total number of days on the calendar to correctly reflect the days marked on the calendar.  During my 3 minutes, I also presented a few other concerns to be looked into by the school board as well as asking for a response from my December 2010 Public Comments questions.  This was also the school board meeting that was interrupted by the storm.

On May 17, 2011, I emailed Ruth Ann Newman the board president at the time and John Laughlin asking for follow up answers from my December 2010 Public Comments as well as informing them that the school calendar had not been updated since the last board meeting.  I also pointed out that the 2011-2012 school calendar showed that school was set to resume on Monday January 2, 2012 which was a federal holiday and that most companies are closed that day.  I received a scathing email response from our superintendent Dianne Brown at 10:47AM that same morning thanking me for voicing my concerns pertaining to the Fox C-6 School District followed by the statement, “After reading your concerns, many are false and inaccurate.”  I guess this is her way of informing the school board that I do not know what I am talking about and they might as well stop reading from there.  Well, Ms. Brown addressed 7 of my concerns in her email response.  Item number 7 addressed the school calendar issue and she stated in her response that it had been updated and corrected.  You might ask, how was it corrected?  The totals at the bottom of the calendar were removed as well as the quarterly day counts and total day count for the year.  The 174 days was probably a holdover from the old calendar when Missouri required school districts to have a minimum of 174 school days in a year for 5 day per week school districts.  Missouri changed the rules on school calendars a few years ago and now allows fewer school days as long as the school district meets the 1,044 hours of school time per calendar year.

So, the 2011-2012 school calendar was updated on May 17, 2011 but nothing was ever done to change the fact that our school district was resuming school on a federal holiday on January 2, 2012.  So, I brought this question up again in August with Ruth Ann Newman simply asking her about the calendar thinking that possibly no one realized that Monday January 2, 2012 was a federal holiday and didn’t notice that I had pointed it out in my email since this was never changed.  I also thought that someone else in the district might have noticed the calendar issue and voiced their concerns as I didn’t want to be the only person to complain. <g>

The last time that January 2 occurred on a Monday was in 2006 and Fox did not resume school until Tuesday January 3rd.  The rules for federal holidays are that if the holiday falls on a Sunday, then the holiday is observed on the Monday following the holiday.

I thought that possibly the district might notice that the we were going to school on a federal holiday and possibly make a change at the December 2011 school board meeting.  My friend Scott Steele spoke with Dan Smith about the calendar before the board meeting and Dan didn’t realize that we were going back to school on a federal holiday and told Scott that he would bring it up at the board meeting.  I attended the December 2011 board meeting and there was nothing on the agenda for the calendar and following the meeting nothing was changed regarding the calendar.  So, on December 20, 2011 I emailed my concern to Ruth Ann Newman, John Laughlin, Dianne Brown and the email address regarding the calendar and asking them “Why is the Fox C-6 school district scheduled to resume school following the Winter Break on the State and Federal holiday of Monday January 2, 2012?”  I pointed out in my email that the last time that January 2nd occurred on a Monday, school did not resume until Tuesday January 3rd.  I also pointed out in my email that only 2 school districts out of 57 in the St. Louis area were planning on resuming school on January 2, 2012.  I was also asking this question because many parents that I had spoken to had not even looked at the school calendar and were just assuming that we were off of school on Monday January 2, 2012 since they themselves were off of work that day and I was beginning to wonder how many kids were going to miss school that day because they didn’t know school was resuming on a Federal Holiday.

I received the following reply from Mr. Tim Crutchley concerning my email that same day:

Mr. Simpson,

Thank you for inquiring about our calendar. The 2011-2012 school calendar has been public for 2 years now and the day we are returning to school from this break has not changed during that time. While the district does recognize some state and/or federal holidays, we do not recognize them all. We also do not build our calendar around other school district calendars because what works for some districts does not work for us and conversely what works for our school district may not work for others. You reference the 2005-2006 calendar and obviously we have taken a different approach to the current year with our last day being today, the 21st of December not the 22nd of December which was the last day for that calendar. I hope this helps, please feel free to email or call me if you have any further questions regarding our calendars.

Tim Crutchley
Assistant Superintendent

Elsberry R-II was the other school district that resumed school on January 2, 2012.  I thought that maybe it was quite difficult to change your school calendar once it was set in stone with MO DESE.  However, I spoke with MO DESE to see if it was possible to change the school calendar during the school year and I was told that calendars are changed all the time.  I also had them do a quick search of all of the school districts in the state to see how many school districts were attending school on January 2, 2012 and there were roughly 50 or so schools that did attend that day.  So, I guess Fox wasn’t that different after all.

The next time that January 2nd falls on a Monday is during the 2016-2017 school year.

Student Handbooks Issue From 2011

At the August 2011 Lone Dell Open House for the 2011-2012 school year, 6th grade parents were told that the school was no longer going to print student handbooks and that parents could download them from the district website.  So, that evening I downloaded the student handbook for Lone Dell Elementary and found that it was for the 2009-2010 school year.  I tried to find a newer version but it was the only one on the website.  So, I started checking the other elementary school student handbooks and found out of 11 elementary student handbooks that only 2 of them contained current information or were dated for the current school year.  So, I downloaded all of the student handbooks and on August 17, 2011, I emailed a copy of them to Ruth Ann Newman the board president at the time and to John Laughlin my neighbor who had been newly elected as a board member that spring.  I explained in my email that I had to email them copies of the student handbooks because I could not email them a direct link to the student handbooks because hyperlinks are generated dynamically for documents on the district website.  Which by the ways is quite annoying.  I also included an example hyperlink that worked on my computer in my email so that they would be able to see that it would not work when they tried to use the link.  The dynamic hyperlinks are generated for each individual session that you create when connecting to the web server.  Even on your own PC, you cannot use the same hyperlink between two different browsers because each browser creates a separate session on the server.  However, I had already mentioned the hyperlink issue to the school board before at the April 2011 board meeting and asked them to change this but nothing became of it.  I should include a copy of the email that I sent as it was a nice email explaining what I found and asking our board members to review the information and pass on to the appropriate district personnel so the district could update the website as required by Missouri state statute 162.08:

Section 162.208
Internet websites, required postings.
162.208. If any public school district hosts a district-sponsored Internet web site, that district shall post the following on such site:

(1) A current version of that district's policy manual and all related documents; and

(2) A current version of that district's handbook, or, if the district has more than one handbook, a current version of all of that district's handbooks. 

Ruth Ann Newman did respond back to me that morning letting me know that she forwarded my message on to the Central Office.

I did not receive any emails from the central office regarding the student handbook issues.  But, I did notice that by the end of the week that most of the student handbooks had been updated on the district website.  So, when I spoke at the August 30, 2011 board meeting.  The first thing I did was thank the school board and the school district for updating the student handbooks because I had been told by Ms. Newman that I never compliment the school board on what a great job they do.  However, the way I was told that I never compliment the board was not pointed out to me in quite that friendly of a manner.  But, I was happy to see that the school district did update the handbooks.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fox C-6 School Board Meeting Minutes Issues

How accurate or how much detail should be included in school board meeting minutes?

Should Public Comments be documented with ANY of the topics of concern that were stated during Public Comment by a citizen?

For example, from the December 2010 Fox C-6 board meeting minutes my Public Comments were documented as, “Concerns with the district.”  Is that enough detail for the public to know what concerns were presented to the school board?

Would the school board be able to recall what those concerns were when they read the meeting minutes at the next board meeting and voted to approve the minutes as written?

In an email response from Dianne Brown the Fox C-6 School District superintendent dated May 17, 2011 regarding the lack of detail documenting my Public Comments, she informed me that:

“The Board secretary contacted MSBA’s legal counsel the following day after the April meeting.  They informed her that the district was in compliance in the manner in which the BOE minutes are reported.”  

Our superintendent's response was quite terse and stated that, "After reading your concerns, many are false and inaccurate."  Her response was only sent after I had emailed school board president Ruth Ann Newman and school board secretary on May 17, 2011 after never receiving a response from the school board per Policy 403 “All questions will be responded to by an appropriate person with the week wherever possible.”  This could be why it is a rare occurrence for people to speak during Public Comment because they rarely receive a response.

So, after never receiving a response from the school board concerning my questions that were expressed at the April 2011 board meeting, I emailed regarding how my December 2010 meeting comments were documented in the board meeting minutes as well as asking for a response from the questions and comments made at the April 2011 board meeting.

Do you think there was enough detail in the December 2010 board meeting minutes to know what my concerns were?  I would venture to say that an audio or video recording of the meeting would have had a bit more detail as to what questions were presented to the school board.

So, should school board meeting minutes be transcribed from an audio recording of the meeting or simply from what the board secretary heard at the meeting?  At the March 2012 school board meeting, Dianne Brown stated that:

We are finally ready for the forms and manuals and policies to be reviewed.  This would be an overhaul of all of the school district policies. They will be placed, I believe tomorrow night, Debby, on the website? And, sent out to staff or we will have a place that staff can log into.  We're not sure if we can send that big of documents for download. And we're going to leave them up until June so that staff can make recommendations and the public can make recommendations.  Then we'll bring those recommendations back and my guess is....". 

Dianne’s statement was transcribed from my audio recording taken at the March 2012 school board meeting.

By the way, audio and video recording school board meetings is permitted per Policy 0410 per the guidelines adopted in regulation 0410.

So, on March 29, 2012, a little over a week after Dianne’s statement at the board meeting, I emailed the school board secretary (Dianne Brown's secretary) and Ruth Ann Newman the board president and asked where I could find the updated district policies.  I received the following email response to my question from Dianne Brown:

“The draft of the Board Policies and Regulations are sent via email to the staff for comments (not for public review at this time in the process).  Policy review and adoption has always been handled in this manner. They then will be placed on the district web site after they have been adopted by the board.  Drafts of Board meeting minutes are not for public view (policy 0405).  Only board minutes that have been approved by the board are made public, which you can obtain on the website. You can view the March 20 meeting minutes upon approval of the April board meeting.  It usually takes a week or two, so please be patient.” 

I replied to Dianne Brown’s email and provided her with a transcript of what she stated at the March 2012 board meeting and received the following response from Dianne Brown:

“Hello Rich! Debby will gather all of this information and shoot it to you electronically today.  Please let us know if it all doesn't transmit.”

So, what is wrong with this picture, first of all, if I had not made an audio recording of Dianne’s statement made at the board meeting, I would have had nothing to back up what she said at the board meeting and the updated policies and regulations would have never been made available to the public for them to review and make recommendations to.  The district did finally post the documents on the district website after I followed up to make sure that they were per our superintendent's statement.   I wonder if I would have been told the same story initially by our superintendent if our school district audio or video recorded our board meetings?  I have asked the school board several times to record board meetings and post them online for the Public to view just like they do at other school districts and as they do at Arnold City Council meetings and at Jefferson County Council meetings.  In fact back in 2002, this was requested by another citizen and even documented in the board meeting minutes that a similar request was made.  So, I am not the first person requesting this.  However, to date, the school district refuses to record our board meetings and post them online.

But, the story doesn't end here!  When I received a Draft copy of the March Board meeting minutes, Dianne’s statement regarding the posting of the updated board policies was documented in the minutes as follows:

“Dr. Brown reported that the Board Policy/Regulations/Forms are read for Board review and comments.  These will also be available on the district website for viewing and reading for the Fox C-6 Staff." 

So, I emailed the board secretary and Ruth Ann Newman asking that the minutes be corrected to reflect the fact:

“that the documents would also be available on the district website for the Public to view, read and make recommendations to as well and that they will be left on the website until June for review.”

From this email, I received the following response from our school board secretary (Dianne Brown's secretary):

“The minutes that were transcribed are reflective of what I heard at the meeting.  The minutes are not a verbatim recording of the meeting.”

One of my friends that read our board secretaries response said it sure sounds to me like they need to record their meetings.

Should the minutes have been updated to reflect what Dianne stated at the board meeting?

Or, is it OK to just leave the minutes as they were written? 

I believe the board meeting minutes should have been updated to reflect what was actually stated at the meeting so the public would know that the documents would be placed on the district website.

In order to get a truly accurate documenting of our school board meetings, Fox C-6 needs to audio and/or video record board meetings and make them available online like other school districts or the public will never know what truly happened at our board meetings.  Needless to say, the board meeting minutes were not changed after my request.