Thursday, January 17, 2013

FACT CHECKING - January 2013 Fox C-6 School Board Meeting

Fact Checking School Board Meetings

There were many more parents and patrons in attendance at the January 2013 Fox C-6 School Board Meeting than at past meetings.  When I attended the December 2011 meeting, there was only myself and a reporter.  So, it was good to see community interest and support at the meeting.  I know for many this was their first board meeting and many did not know the protocol; because it isn't really made available.  From speaking with many of them afterwards, they told me it was not at all what they expected.

One of the first things you need to learn about our board meetings is that everything stated isn't always fact and that you must always check everything.  And, since you can't speak out after public comment, you don't have a way to correct school officials during the meeting.  You may have also noticed that our superintendent and board members tend to embellish their "facts".  There are also those half truths where some information may be left out purposefully in order to keep from exposing things that might not reflect as well for the district.  One of those pieces of information was the reporting of the Percentage of Graduates Taking the ACT compared to the state average and other schools. This report was left out of the November 2012 board meeting presentation .  So, it really is important that you verify everything that was said at the board meetings and in the board meeting minutes.

Since our school board meetings are not currently recorded by the school district, I record them when I attend.  This needs to be done in order to get accurate information. Our board meeting minutes don't always reflect what was stated during the meeting. Or, there isn't enough detail to know what was discussed or commented on.  I believe this is done by design. Our school board secretary informed me via email that she does not transcribe board meeting minutes from an audio recording and simply documents what is heard.

What Stood Out At The Meeting?
  • Public Comments - Citizens Want Change
  • The Facts About Our School Calendar, Comments from Our Superintendent
  • $18.5 or $23 Million Dollar Bond Issue - "Fantastic News for Our District"

Public Comments
There were 3 Public Comments at the board meeting from parents in the district.  All 3 expressed their disappointment in both the school board and the school district administration.

You can download a copy of my audio recording of the school board meeting.

The Public Comments can be found in my school occur at these time points in the audio recording:
  • 16:28 - Rich Simpson
  • 19:50 - Michelle Tyler
  • 23:37 - Mark Paul
I asked why our district cannot do what they do in other districts.  I have been requesting the following for nearly two years and have not received any answers from our school board.  If our superintendent is going to compare us to other school districts and state how we are among the top school districts in the state, then our school district should be doing what those other top districts do as well!

Here is what I requested (again):
  • Audio Record or Video Record board meetings and post those recordings on the district website.  This would circumvent the problem that we currently have with trying to learn what happened at a board meeting due to the fact that our board meeting minutes are vague or not always accurate.
  • Publish school board meeting information packets online prior to school board meetings so our community can be more informed and involved in what is going on within our school district.
  • Publish school board member contact information on the district website so our board members would be accessible to the community.
I also respectfully requested that our current school board members resign and that past board members do not seek re-election.  I also stated that there are are school administrators that should resign as well so our school district and community can get a fresh start towards building a new and improved school district, one that we can truly be proud of.

It was the first time I ever received a standing ovation after making Public Comments at a school board meeting!  To the parents and taxpayers in attendance at the school board meeting, I say Thank You for your support.  It was definitely good to know that our community has an interest in our school district and that they want to see change as well.  It takes two people to start a movement according to this TED Talk video by Derek Sivers: How to Start a Movement. The video itself is a bit funny. However, the message for everyone in our community is that by joining together, you will have the courage to stand up and have your voices heard and make positive changes in our school district. The more people that get involved, the quicker the changes will occur. Soon, no one will be sitting on the sidelines because they won't be part of the crowd.

While your looking at, you may want to check out some of the other great TED Talks from people like Salman Kahn (Khan Academy), Ken Robinson (Education Reform), Arthur Benjamin (Mathemagic) and Steve Jurvetson (Model Rocketry) just to name a few.  Most TED Talk videos are both educational and inspirational.  TED stands for Technology Entertainment and Design.  There is also a TED app for both Android and iOS.

The Facts About Our School Calendar
One of the statements that stood out to me at this board meeting was during discussion of Agenda Item 4.4 covering the 2014-2015 school calendar.  I believe that our superintendent was trying to impress the audience by stating that Fox has more hours in its school calendar than most districts in the area. That is simply not true.  I already knew that Fox has one of the shortest calendars in the state with only 170 days compared to Rockwood's 180 days.  I just didn't have the exact number of hours readily available to compare our calendar hours to other school districts in the area.  I downloaded the 2012 data from MO DESE and made them available in the table below so you can compare her statement against actual data.

To know what our superintendent said at the meeting, I transcribed the audio from my recording regarding the school calendar.  Compare what our superintendent said about Fox's school calendar to the data obtained from MO DESE.  I don't think her statements were very accurate or truthful.  But, it sounded good at the meeting I am sure.  Right before her statement, there was a question regarding the possibility of Missouri moving to a 180 day school calendar requirement from the current 174 days.

Here are our superintendents comments that were transcribed from my audio recording of the school board meeting:

63:34 - Dianne CritchlowMrs. Newman recall that we are one of the few districts that are in school as many hours a day.  So, if they change the hours, we’re probably still OK.
63:42Ruth Ann Newman – I wondered about that.

63:45Dianne Critchlow - We go more hours. And, we always have, than most school districts around.  So, I would think we would be OK unless they changed the EXACT number of days.


District Name
DaysHoursLength of Day
1791136 6.6
1761128 6.4
1681126 6.8
1781124 6.5
1811122 6.3
1781121 6.4
1741120 6.7
1771117 6.4
1701113 6.7
1761111 6.5
1701108 6.6
1691102 6.6
1691099 6.6
1751098 6.5
1751096 6.3
1701096 6.5
1741094 6.4
1771091 6.2
1761086 6.4
1741076 6.4

Bond Issue Problem
Did The Taxpayers Approve $18.5 million or $23 million?
In August 2012, the Fox C-6 taxpayers approved an $18.5 million dollar bond issue. However, on Saturday January 12, 2013, our superintendent informed the community that an alert that she posted a new Superintendent Message that had the following message in it:

"In November, 2012, when the first half of our bonds were issued (approximately 9 million dollars), the district earned almost 2.5 million dollars more than anticipated.  This was fantastic news for our district."

Why Wasn't The Public Informed Sooner About This Fantastic News?
If this was such "fantastic news", why did our school board and our superintendent wait nearly 2 months before informing the Public about our "fantastic news"?  The school district knew about this on November 1, 2012 when the bond sales was issued.  I checked both the November and December 2012 school board meeting minutes and there was NO MENTION of this "fantastic news" in either of the school board meeting minutes.  I think the public should be concerned about how this information was disseminated by our superintendent and school board.  That is not too mention the fact that the voters only approved an $18.5 million dollar bond issue instead of a $23 million dollar bond issue.

Here is a copy of the Missouri State Auditor's Offices' report of the Bond Issue.

Ask your school board members and superintendent why we weren't informed about this Fantastic News sooner.  Also, ask them why they kept talking to the Leader about the $18.5 million dollar bond issue in the December 2012 article about moving the administrators to the Service Center if they already knew that we had an extra $2.5 million dollars!