Monday, December 24, 2012

December 18, 2012 Email To Fox School Board Regarding Board Packets and Textbooks

On December 18, 2012, I emailed the following letter to our school board president Linda Nash, board vice president Dan Smith and board members Ruth Ann Newman and John Laughlin as well as our board secretary after speaking at the December 12, 2012 school board meeting in regards to the publishing of the board packets to our district website.  I've made this request to our board several times previously in my Public Comments at board meetings and via emails to our board.  You can find my request documented in the August 2011 school board meeting minutes.  Please note the detail in the board meeting minutes with regard to my Public Comments.  For another example of the detail to which my Public Comments are documented, I recommend that you read the December 2010 school board meeting minutes.

I certainly hope that everyone in our community starts asking the Fox C-6 school board why they will not publish board meeting packets on the district website that contain the documents that are referenced throughout the board meeting minutes.  Without the documents referenced by the board meeting minutes, our board minutes are not complete.  Other school districts publish these documents on their websites.  So why will Fox not publish these documents on the district website?  Why is Fox now charging a rate of $33 per hour for "scanning and search time" to obtain the documents which were sent to me for FREE up until August 2012?

According to Missouri Sunshine Law Section 610.026, the charges for public records are "not to exceed the average hourly rate of pay for clerical staff of the public governmental body".  Missouri Sunshine law also states that, "Documents may be furnished without charge or at a reduced charge when the public governmental body determines that waiver or reduction of the fee is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the public governmental body and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester".  I am not requesting the documents for commercial interest.  I am requesting these documents in order to better understand the operational costs of our school district and the decisions being made by our school board.

The rate of $33 per hour equates to a annual salary of $68,640.  If that rate seems high for the "average hourly rate" of the clerical staff at Fox C-6, that is because that is the hourly rate of the school board secretary who is also our superintendent's secretary.

Please read my email to our board members.  Then, contact your Fox C-6 board members and ask them the same questions that I have been asking and see if you get a response.  I have not received a response from the school board as to why they will not publish the board packets on the district website like other school districts do that I have researched.  I did receive a response from our superintendent in 2011 after the August board meeting which you will find in my email.  You should also request copies of the board packet documents so you too can have a better understanding of how much it costs to run a school district.  The board packets contain a list of ALL payments that are approved by the school board each month and helps you understand where your taxpayer dollars are being spent.  The board packets also contain salary schedules for employees in the district as well as the list of staff hired and separated from the district.

The board packets already exist in PDF format because the school board members have been able to view them on tablet computers at board meetings for the past year.  However, while sitting at a board meeting, you don't know what the board members are viewing on their tablet computers because you can't obtain a copy of those documents prior to a board meeting like you can at Wentzville for example.  You should be able to review those documents prior to a board meeting.  That would allow you to contact your board members and ask them questions about issues prior to their voting on them.  Your board members are elected officials and are supposed to be making decisions in your interest.  Currently, you don't find out what decisions were made until after the next board meeting when the minutes are approved by the board and posted on the district website.

Mrs. Davis,
I am requesting again an electronic copy of the October 2012 Fox C-6 School Board Meeting Minutes w/attachments packet be sent to me via email per Missouri Sunshine Law free of charge.

I am also requesting an electronic copy of the November 2012 Board Meeting Minutes w/attachments packet be sent to me via email per Missouri Sunshine Law free of charge.

As I stated at the December 2012 School Board meeting, I had not been charged for the board meeting packets prior to my request in September 2012. I also stated that School Board Policy #0421 states that that the school board speaks through its minutes and that those minutes are to be Accurate and Complete. Our board minutes ARE NOT COMPLETE without posting the associated board meeting documents that our basic board meeting minutes reference. The documents in the board meeting minutes attachments need to be made available on our district website in order for our board meeting minutes to be complete. By not making those documents freely available to the public violates board policies and leads to distrust in the community.

I am encouraging you and the school board to post the board meeting minutes to the school district website along with the board meeting minutes that are currently posted on the district website dating back to July 2008. By making this PUBLIC information available to the community, you can begin rebuilding the trust of our community. It will also provide the community a better sense of how much money it takes to run a school district and how their taxpayer dollars are being spent.

Mr. Dan Smith campaigned for State Representative on the premise of transparency of government. Therefore, I am asking that you and our school board help improve the transparency of our school district by publishing these documents to our school district website just as they do in other school districts.

I have made the request of publishing the board packets to our district website several times in the past and was told by our superintendent that the school district does not have a full time person maintaining our district website in order to spend the time posting this type of information but instead chooses to “put our money into the classroom“. I was told this after giving the Wentzville School District as an example of a school district that does publish their board meeting packets to their district website prior to their board meetings. If we do not have a full time person to manager our district website, can you explain to me what the full time position of Web Designer’s responsibilities have been for the past 7 or 8 years?

John Laughlin spoke to me after the December 2012 school board meeting and told me that he was not aware that I was being charged for these documents and said he would inquire about this issue. I also spoke with Dan Smith regarding the concerns of the community and told him that there is quite a bit of distrust in the community now of both the school board and the administration due to the spending of almost $3.5 million dollars for football stadium upgrades and the recent hiring of our board president’s daughter in law to a position in the school district when she did not have the certifications at the time of the hiring that the district was looking for candidates to possess or obtain when other candidates did have those credentials. I informed Dan Smith, Ruth Ann Newman and Dan Baker that our students at Ridgewood Middle School do not have enough books for all of the students to take home at night to study with and only those that get the books checked out first have them available to them. Dan Smith and Dan Baker stated they were unaware of this situation. This is why parents are concerned with the spending of money on football fields when there are not enough books for the students to each have their own book. I then informed Ruth Ann Newman and Dan Baker about which is a website that has FREE textbooks available for download in PDF, epub and mobi format that can be read on computers, tablet computers and smart phones.

I am looking forward to receiving an electronic copy of the October 2012 and November 2012 School Board Meeting Minutes w/attachments documents.

Thank you,

Rich Simpson