Sunday, February 24, 2013

Superintendent Flummoxed Over Proposed 200 Day School Calendar and Comparison

At the February 19, 2013 Fox C-6 Board of Education (BOE) meeting, I mentioned as part of my Public Comment the FACT that Fox's school calendar does NOT have more hours than most districts in the areas as she touted at the January 2013 BOE meeting. I researched other local school district school calendars and posted my analysis in a previous post. In fact, Fox is actually very near the bottom of the list in both the number of hours and very much so in the number of days that our students attend school each year. Fox only has 170 days in its school calendar whereas Lindbergh has 177 days and Rockwood has 180 days. Rockwood is in session 2 more weeks per year than Fox. That is a significant difference! When you compare things on a global scale, countries such as China have a 230 day school calendar.

I didn't realize how perplexing the math is behind the school calendar. So I transcribed Dianne's comments from my audio recording of the BOE meeting regarding Fox's school calendar and the affect that the Governor's proposed 200 day school calendar might have on our school district to make it easier to understand. I believe she was a bit bothered by me pointing out the fact that our district DOES NOT have more hours in our school calendar than most districts during my Public Comments. I guess that is why she threw in her comments that there is nothing that is not correct about that information and about not trying to hide things.

The math is a bit difficult to follow due to the switching of units between 174 days and 170 hours. The other thing that gets confusing is her comments regarding the number of hours that our kids attend in the high school each day. She explains how our high schools have 7 hours in a day where most other schools only have 6 hours in a day. The truth of the matter is that our high schools have a 7 Period day. Lindbergh's superintendent could claim that they have an 8 hour day because on Wednesdays they have an 8 "hour" or period day.

The fact is our high school students don’t attend more hours in the day than most other high schools.  Mr. McCutchen explained earlier to the audience after my Public Comments that our students attend school for 6.5 hours each day because lunch does not count towards the number of hours of instruction. I addressed the calendar issue in my Fact Checking post about the January BOE meeting. You don’t get the same impact from just reading the text as you do when you hear the audio. So, I will work on getting that posted in the near future. She states that our kids really have an advantage because of the extra hours they attend. Her math skills are what sets her apart from other superintendents and why she is compensated so well for what she does.


Right now, um, the legislative session has begun. And, it is proposed right now that schools go to a 200 day calendar year. Now we don't know where this is going to go. Um, it could be like many bills that are thrown out there. That they go nowhere. Um, as Mr. McCutchen indicated earlier, we are a school district that only goes 174 days but we go more hours than many. Most of our high schools are in 7 hours. Our high schools are 7 hours. Most high schools operate a 6 hour schedule. And we've always gone more hours even when we were going 174. So, when that law changed, we were able to go 170 hours and still be over the mandated hours. And I believe that's probably one of the reasons we do so well. Our kids really have an advantage if they're in school an hour a day. There is nothing that is not correct about that information. We're not hiding anything. They're in school 170 hours. But, they're in school many more hours during the day. Um, this however, could pose a big problem for school districts. Number one, it would take away summer school. And then number two, if they initiated this right away, that's 16 more days or more than that on a teacher's salary schedule and on classified salary schedules. So, you know with them not fully funding the budget, the formula. I'm not sure how school districts could survive that unless they came up with a lot of money to have school. Because you'd have to pay the teachers more. I can't see them work 200 days and not pay them anymore.

So, it's out there right now. But, like many things when the sessions are started. It's out there. And we don't know now if they're going to say 200 days or if they did like they did with the calendar a few years ago the numbers of hours that you go. But, you also don't want kids in school from 6 in the morning until 8 at night. So, at some point they just stopped funding and stopped doing it. So, that's just something to keep an eye on when we study those legislative bills.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Progress Is Being Made Towards Transparency!

Our efforts are gaining traction towards bringing the Fox C-6 School District inline with other school districts in terms of transparency. These efforts have been nearly two years in the making. I would like to say thank you to the overwhelming support from the community at the last two school board meetings. Showing up at board meetings is paying off. Our school board and school administrators are starting to pay attention!

First Board Meeting Packet Published On District Website
For the first time ever, the Fox C-6 School District has published a Board Meeting Information Packet on the district website. This historic event occurred on February 21, 2013. On that day, the school district published the February 19, 2013 Board Meeting Information Packet that is sent to school board members for them to review prior to the board meeting. This is a significant accomplishment!

School districts are accountable to the taxpayer. In order to show they are being accountable, they must be as transparent as possible. When public entities are not transparent, it causes mistrust in the community and the citizens that they serve.

Even though I never received a response from our school board or our administrators regarding school board member email addresses or school board meeting information packets that I have asked for many times, I am glad to see that school board members now have individual email addresses and that the district is inching its way towards publishing the board meeting packets on the district website.

Currently, the link can be found on the Board of Education web page under the Contents section on the right side of the page. The link is listed as Board Meeting Packets. I am confident that this link will eventually change since it links directly to the February 19, 2013 Board Meeting Packet rather than a subfolder similar to the link to the Minutes for Board of Education Meetings. So, this will most likely change once more board meeting packets are posted.

What Was Missing In The Board Meeting Packet?
One of the most significant items that was missing from the Board Meeting Packet was the Check Payments Listing. Each month the BOE must approve the payments being disbursed by the school district. The BOE is supposed to be reviewing those payments to make sure that our taxpayer dollars are being spent prudently. Board members should be asking questions if they find questionable payments. Since the check payments listing did not make it into the packet that was recently published, I encourage you to contact your board members and ask them to please include them. It is much easier to contact your board members now that they have email addresses on the district website.

Previous Board Meeting Packets
For examples of what types of payments are listed in the Board Meeting Packets, you can download board meeting packets dating back to April 2010 from links on this page:

http://foxc6watchdogs.blogspot.com/2012/12/Fox-C-6-Public-Board-Meeting-Minutes-with-Attachments.html

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

ACT Data - How Does Fox Compare?

With all the touting of Fox's ACT Composite Scores, I thought it would be good to provided the information that was missing from the November presentation to the school board by our administration for the ACT data. The information that was missing was the Percentage of Graduates Tested on the ACT. The sources for the information below came from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MO DESE). The links for the data and the files can be found at the bottom of the page.

Fox Ranks 349 Out Of 447
Without having ALL of the information for the ACT data to back up Fox's ACT Composite Score, the information is biased. To me it is a very disappointing FACT that Fox's rank in the state for the Percentage of Graduates Tested is only 349 out of 447.

I am always hearing all of this talk about how Fox is ranked in the top 10 of the state and how Fox has had 12 years of District of Distinction. However, the numbers on this report really don't seem to be that impressive. Fox's ACT Composite Score has improved over the years. But, the Percentage of Graduates Taking the ACT has improved very little compared to other school districts like Parkway and Rockwood. When Fox is ranked below the City of St. Louis Public Schools for the Percentage of Graduates Taking the ACT, I think it's time for our school board members to start paying attention to the data that isn't being presented by the administrators at the school board meetings and start asking questions.

So, how does Parkway and Rockwood get so many of their students to take the ACT?

Parkway and Rockwood pay for each of their students to take the ACT test one time. The test for 2012 cost $35 per student to take the test. That seems like a very small amount of money for our school district to invest into each student to allow them to take the ACT and possibly qualify for scholarship monies. Some states such as Illinois require ALL students in the state to take the ACT.

ACT Composite Scores and other ACT data has been one of the 14 key areas considered in receiving Missouri's District of Distinction award which Fox has received for the past 12 years in a row. However, most parents in the community have no idea how low the Percentage of Graduates Tested on the ACT has been for the district. Learning about this data usually results in a reaction of surprise because they have always been told how great Fox is compared to other schools.

Did you know that Fox ranked so low in this area?

If you think Fox should be keeping up with the other districts, please contact your school board members and ask them if they were aware of how low Fox ranked in the state with regards to the Percentage of Graduates taking the ACT.

This is an area that our school district needs to improve. You can't compare apples to apples if you don't have all of the data. Our district's ACT Composite Score will most likely drop slightly as the Percentage of Graduates taking the ACT increases like it has in other school districts. Hopefully, that will encourage our school leaders to make improvements in this area rather than dismissing this information as conveying "negativity" towards the district. Ignoring issues that are in need of improvement only hurts the students and the district. It demonstrates poor leadership and lack of stewardship of our district.

Fox's ACT Composite Score was touted by our superintendent at the recent Safety Summit despite the fact that everyone was there ONLY to talk about Safety that evening. She also pointed out that Fox has been a District of Distinction for 12 years and is a National District of Character. Most parents I spoke with didn't know what those points had to do with safety but that our superintendent certainly wanted to point them out to the audience that night.

Fox's ACT Composite Score is above the state average. But, it needs to be put into perspective by comparing Fox with the state average for the Percentage of Students Taking the ACT. Fox is nearly 20% below the state average for the Percentage of Students Taking the ACT. That is a significantly lower than the state average. Fox is 40% below Parkway and Rockwood. Perhaps, that is why our school leaders don't publicize that fact!

How do we improve this?

By contacting your school board members and school administrators and asking them to follow the lead of Parkway and Rockwood and ask them to pay for every student to take the ACT test like those districts do.  $35 per student out of the almost $9000 spent on each student each year is a small price to pay so Fox can start comparing apples to apples.

2012 ACT PERCENTAGE OF GRADUATES TESTED

District Name
Percent of Graduates TestedRank out of 447% Rank in State
PARKWAY
96.1898%
ROCKWOOD
95.9998%
CLAYTON
88.82395%
LINDBERGH
84.530 93%
WEBSTER GROVES
79.26286%
LADUE
78.468 85%
FT ZUMWALT
77.77982%
KIRKWOOD
76.990 80%
FRANCIS HOWELL
76.692 79%
MISSOURI (Average)
75.0

BRENTWOOD
74.6112 75%
CRYSTAL CITY
70.8154 66%
PATTONVILLE
70.5157 65%
WENTZVILLE
69.9167 63%
ST. LOUIS CITY
69.9168 62%
HAZELWOOD
68.3191 57%
WINDSOR
68.1196 56%
ST. CHARLES
68.0197 56%
MEHLVILLE
66.4213 52%
FESTUS
66.2218 51%
VALLEY PARK
63.8251 44%
DUNKLIN R-V
59.0300 33%
DESOTO
57.8321 28%
FOX
56.0349 22%
NORTHWEST
52.0393 12%
HILLSBORO
50.0402 10%
GRANDVIEW R-2
48.1410 8%


2012 ACT PERCENTAGE OF STUDENTS SCORING ABOVE THE NATIONAL AVERAGE

District Name
Percent of Graduates TestedRank out of 447% Rank in State
CLAYTON
67.82100%
ROCKWOOD
65.1399%
LADUE
64.9499%
PARKWAY
61.45 99%
LINDBERGH
55.3998%
WEBSTER GROVES
52.610 98%
KIRKWOOD
52.51198%
FRANCIS HOWELL
48.020 96%
FT ZUMWALT
46.024 95%
BRENTWOOD
42.933 93%
WENTZVILLE
41.243 90%
ST. CHARLES
40.647 89%
PATTONVILLE
40.449 89%
MEHLVILLE
39.951 89%
VALLEY PARK
36.283 81%
FESTUS
35.588 80%
CRYSTAL CITY
34.898 78%
WINDSOR
33.8104 77%
FOX
32.1127 72%
NORTHWEST
27.4184 59%
DESOTO
26.5204 54%
DUNKLIN R-V
25.3225 50%
GRANDVIEW R-2
25.3226 49%
HILLSBORO
23.5270 40%
HAZELWOOD
16.2371 17%
ST. LOUIS CITY
8.2431 4%


DATA SOURCES FOR INFORMATION:
The Average Percentage of Graduates Tested on the ACT for the state of Missouri came from the Missouri DESE Top 10 by 20 Dashboard page located here:
http://dese.mo.gov/top10by20/comparison.html#act

The source of data for ALL of the school districts listed above came from the following Missouri DESE web page:
http://mcds.dese.mo.gov/quickfacts/Pages/Career-Education.aspx

The spreadsheet of data that was analyzed and sorted came from the following file:


Friday, February 8, 2013

NO Nepotism Policy Examples - Lindbergh and Mehlville

The Lindbergh School District's Professional Staff Recruiting and Hiring Policy is more strict than Fox's on nepotism. According to their policy, Lindbergh will not employ or continue to employ any person who is related within the fourth degree to a Board member unless the person is a tenured teacher in the district and cannot otherwise be removed. It appears that Lindbergh's restrictions do not apply to district officials such as superintendents, assistant superintendents, directors and principals like the even more restrictive policy at Mehlville.

Both Mehlville and Lindbergh use the Missouri School Board Association's school board policies. However, Mehlville's policy takes their nepotism restrictions a bit further. Mehlville's policy will not allow the Board of Education to contract with or employ to any position any Board member, any immediate relative of a Board member, or immediate relative of an administrative official of the district.  Administrative officials of the district includes superintendents, assistant superintendents, directors, principals, assistant principals and assistants to the superintendent.


Lindbergh School District Policy
Professional Staff Recruiting and Hiring
http://policy.msbanet.org/lindbergh/showpolicy.php?file=GCD-C.LDB

Nepotism

The district will not employ or continue to employ any person who is related within the fourth degree to a Board member by consanguinity or affinity, unless the person is a tenured teacher in the district and cannot otherwise be removed. If a Board member is elected or appointed who is related to an at-will employee, the employee will be given notice and terminated at the end of the school year. If a Board member is elected or appointed who is related to a contracted employee, the employee will continue to be employed until the contract expires. However, the district will not renew or extend the employment contract.

"Fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity" means parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents, spouse, children, siblings, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren, nieces or nephews, grand-nieces or grand-nephews, aunts or uncles, great-aunts or great-uncles, and first cousins by virtue of a blood relationship or marriage.


Mehlville R-IX School District Policy
Professional Staff Recruiting and Hiring
http://policy.msbanet.org/mehlville/showpolicy.php?file=GCD-C.MEH

Restrictions on Hiring and Promoting

Hiring and promotion decisions within the Mehlville School District are made based upon the qualifications of each applicant and are not influenced through nepotism.

1.      The Board of Education shall not contract with or employ to any position any Board member, any immediate relative of a Board member, or immediate relative of an administrative official of the district. This does not preclude promotion of a current employee whose spouse is also employed by the district. In such cases, both may continue employment with the district, in accordance with item #6 below.

2.        Any Board of Education member or immediate relative shall not be eligible for a position within the district for a period of one (1) year after said member has completed his or her term of office.

3.     For the purposes of this policy, the term "immediate relative" includes the following:

            ►          husband or wife;
            ►          father or father-in-law;
            ►          mother or mother-in-law;
            ►          brother or brother-in-law;
            ►          sister or sister-in-law;
            ►          son or son-in-law;
            ►          daughter or daughter-in-law;
            ►          uncle or aunt;
            ►          niece or nephew;
            ►          grandchild;
            ►          great grandchild;
            ►          grandparent;
            ►          great grandparent;
            ►          anyone listed above of a step- or half-relationship.

4.        The term "relative" also includes a person who enters into or engages in a spousal relationship with another person in which the two are not legally married but live together in a relationship that is generally similar to a marriage relationship.

5.        For the purposes of this policy, "administrative official" includes persons serving in any of the following positions:

            ►          superintendent;
            ►          associate superintendent;
            ►          assistant superintendent;
            ►          assistant to the superintendent;
            ►          administrative assistant to the superintendent;
            ►          principal, assistant principal;
            ►          district directors.

6.      Notwithstanding number 8 below, no employee shall have under his/her direct supervision any immediate relative after March 8, 1993.

7.        Nothing contained in this policy shall be construed to limit or impair the rights of any employee of the school district contained in the Missouri Teacher Tenure Act, § 168.102 et seq, RSMo., or other provisions of Missouri law.

8.    Persons employed full- or part-time prior to March 8, 1993, and serving continuously since that time, are exempt from this policy. Immediate relatives employed as summer employees may continue now and in the future in their current positions only.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fox C-6 School Board Members Finally Have Public Email Addresses

It's been nearly 2 years since I first asked our school board to publish public email addresses for each individual school board member so the community could contact them. How hard was it to do that?

There was a schoolboard@fox.k12.mo.us email address on the district website. However, it didn't go to all of the school board members as you would have expected. It went to the school board secretary who is also our superintendent's secretary. She decided who should get the email. The couple of times I used it, it went directly to the superintendent. Our superintendent would respond even though the questions were for our school board. I don't believe I ever received a single response from our school board other than a letter that was signed by both our superintendent and Cheryl Hermann.

So, having individual email address for each of our school board members is BIG NEWS and VERY GOOD NEWS for the community. Now you can voice your concerns directly to our school board members. You no longer have to wait to go to a school board meeting which is only held once a month to voice your concerns. Fox C-6 school board meetings used to be held twice a month like they do in Rockwood and other districts. Up until now, you only had one chance a month to voice your concerns to your school board during Public Comments at a school board meeting. Plus, you had to voice your concerns in less than 3 minutes! These email addresses are a very welcome change.

However, the community will have to wait and see who actually receives the emails and if any of our school board members actually respond. Many people have already expressed their concerns to me. They don't think the board will actually get the emails. I hope they get the emails and that they aren't filtered by our school board secretary or administrators. The school board is elected to represent the community and be OUR VOICE to the administration. The school board hires the superintendent and takes an oath to ensure that they make sure our superintendent does her job properly and that the school district follows state and federal laws and regulations. If the school board never gets your messages because they are filtered by the school board secretary or the administrators, then you are not being served very well by your school board.

You can find the school board email addresses on the Fox C-6 website on the Meet the Board of Education web page. Please ignore the fact that the URL for the web page shows that it is the 2010-11_Board_of_Education once it is loaded. The page itself shows it is the 2012-2013 Board of Education:
http://www.fox.k12.mo.us/pages/Fox_C-6/Programs_Departments/Board_of_Education/General_Info


I highly encourage you to contact your school board and start voicing your concerns. I was at a parents club meeting the other night and the principal was telling us that there is so much negativity in the community right now. I told her that there is a difference between people expressing valid concerns and negativity. Our administrators and school board members don't want to hear what the community has to say unless it is positive news. Anything else to them is "negativity" and that is how they will attempt to portray anyone that voices a concern or speaks up about problems within our district. Our administrators and school board members keep trying to sweep everything under the rug. Well, the pile under the rug is getting so tall that people are starting to trip over it! They can't continue to mislead the public and think think that the community isn't paying attention anymore and simply ignore the issues. Our school board members and administrators need to take corrective action and undo the things that they have done wrong and move forward; OR, they need to step down from their positions and bring in people that WILL conduct themselves with Integrity and Honesty. The school board needs to listen to and respect the opinions and concerns of the Public. Our school board needs to uphold the oath they took when they accepted their responsibility to serve on the board. They represent and work for the community. The DO NOT work for the superintendent and her administrators.
The next Fox C-6 School Board Meeting is Tuesday February 19, 2013 at 7PM.

EVERYONE in our school community needs to attend the next board meeting. This is the only way to show your current school board that you are disappointed with how they have represented YOU!

The community needs to ask our school board for a NO NEPOTISM POLICY and TERM LIMITS for School Board Members. The Fox C-6 School District community deserves to be served much better than it has been over the last decade.

Please use the new email addresses to contact your school board members. Fox still hasn't published phone numbers for our school board members like they do at many other school districts like Rockwood, Parkway, Wentzville, Francis Howell, Pattonville, Lindbergh, Ladue and Webster to name a few. You can see how accessible and transparent Fox's school board is compared to those other districts by reading my comparison in the following article:
http://foxc6watchdogs.blogspot.com/2012/08/how-accessible-and-transparent-is-your.html

So, please email your board members and let them know how you feel about what has been going on in our school district. Let them know how you feel about having hired the school board president's daughter-in-law to a high paid position over much more qualified candidates.