Sunday, March 31, 2013

Please Vote April 2nd and Make A Positive Change In Our District


You have a great opportunity on Tuesday April 2, 2013 to make a POSITIVE change in the Fox C-6 School District by casting your vote and ELECTING TWO NEW SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS to the Fox C-6 School Board.

Please VOTE for
 MARK JONES and STEVE HOLLOWAY!!

Your Vote WILL Make a Difference!!

I have spoken with all of the candidates that have been at public meetings and I am putting my support behind Mark Jones and Steve Holloway. They are both graduates of Fox Senior High School. They both have successful careers and are very dedicated individuals. Mark Jones graduated in 1985. Steve Holloway graduated in 1990. They both have children attending our school district and want to see our school district improve its reputation and how it involves and respects our community.  They will be working to increase Transparency and Accountability in our school district which is something that our district has been severely lacking.

Mark Jones doesn't have any family members working for the school district. Steve Holloway's wife is a teacher at Antonia Elementary. I have met and spoken with her in person and I was very impressed by her. I have heard a lot of great things about her as a teacher and I just learned today that a retired Fox elementary school teacher I know had her in his class when he was teaching.

Our district has been like a family for years. However, that family oriented emphasis has been taken too  far recently and it has brought unwelcome attention to our school district. Our current board members that are up for re-election stand behind their recent hiring decisions. These same incumbent board members voted in 2006 to promote another board president's wife to the position of district head nurse despite the fact that there were at least 9 or 10 nurses with more years of experience than her in the district at that time. One of those other nurses had nearly 3 times the number of years of experience in the district. The board also voted to increase her salary by 75% by changing her contract from 9 months to an 11 or 12 month contract. The recent hiring of a board president's relative is not new. But, the most recent decision really stood out due to the fact that board president Linda Nash's daughter-in-law did not have the college degree or certification that the district was looking for in their job post. Those in the community that have seen the recent media attention our school district received have been telling me that they want to see a change in our school board as well. In order to make that change, I am asking that you vote for Mark Jones and Steve Holloway

Questions For The Community
ANY VOTE for an incumbent school board member this year would show that you are willing to continue to put up with a school board that is unresponsive and shows very little respect for the community they were elected to serve. Our school board members are elected to be our voice in the school district.

Let me ask you some questions to see if you believe that our school board has been representing us as you elected them to do:
  • Would you have asked our school board members to approve spending more than $3 million dollars to install artificial turf to upgrade our athletic fields to multi-purpose fields if they had asked you?

    (NOTE:
    Pete Nicholas stated on his campaign Facebook page that, "I presented the idea of upgrading our fields from grass to turf, to our School Board of Education. After weighing in the pros and cons, the motion was passed." Pete also stated that, "what sold me in the end, was the deal to get 2 turf fields for the price of 1. Plus, two turf baseball/softball fields and the icing on the cake was a digital electronic sign for FHS." So, Pete “promoted” the idea to the Board. Then the Board approved his idea and decided to spend over $3 million dollars on the new fields. Do you believe that we got 2 fields for the price of 1? Pete, your voice is heard loud and clear! Plus, the decision to get the new digital electronic sign decision was not yet decided as of the March 2013 BOE meeting.)

  • Would you have asked your board members to replace the bleachers at Fox High School for $320,000 and sell the old bleachers to another school district that could use them for $30,000 despite the fact that the public was told that the old bleachers were old, damaged and needed to be replaced?

    (NOTE:
    It was announced at the March 2013 BOE meeting that the district didn't realize that the new bleachers wouldn't be able to store any equipment underneath them like the old ones due to their design until after they were installed. They are now erecting a new building for $52,000 to store the equipment in that used to be stored under the bleachers.)

  • Would you have asked the school board to hire the daughter-in-law of our current school board president Linda Nash as the Food Nutrition Services Director with her high school diploma and experience working at McDonalds if our school board had asked for your opinion?

  • Would you have voted to post the board meeting packets on the district website to be more transparent to the community and not discuss the decision during the open meeting nor document the decision in the board meeting minutes?

  • Would you have voted to NOT post the Bill Payments on the district website with the board packets that the board members receive due to privacy concerns - not for the employees, but for the students?

I believe that the majority of parents and patrons in our community wouldn't have asked our school board members to speaking for us as they have. That is why as a community, you need to make a change to our school board by casting your vote on April 2nd in the Fox C-6 School Board election and MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

How Our Incumbents Respond To The Community
Our incumbent board members state that they listen to the community and that they are doing this for the kids. However, from my experience, they only listen and respond if you are praising them for doing a great job. Asking your board members to do simple things like correct the school calendar, or correct a school board policy they adopted that didn't meet state law, or asking them to correct school board policies for typographical and grammatical errors and remove points of contacts who retired from the district 4 years ago should not cause them to lash out at you and tell you that all you do is complain. That is NOT how I expect school board members to respond. But, that has been my experience.

Pete Nicholas is running for re-election had the following quote on his campaign Facebook page that tells me that he is out of touch with reality as to how some of our school district administrators feel about "anyone" attending board meetings and addressing their concerns to the board. Here is what Pete Nicholas says on his Facebook page:
Board meetings are openly displayed on the Fox School District website. Anyone can attend the meeting and address their concerns to the board. Attendance of school board meetings is something that I will continue to encourage if I'm re-elected to the school board.
There are several problems with his statements here. One being that Pete says that "Anyone can attend the meeting and address their concerns to the board." I have attended many board meetings and spoken during Public Comment at most of those meetings and addressed my concerns. However, I NEVER received a response from the school board regarding my concerns I presented to the board. What good does it do to address your concerns if your school board does not respond? Also, my concerns weren't documented in the board meeting minutes with anything more than a mention of the fact that I spoke and possibly the topics that I commented on. The meeting minutes said nothing as to WHAT my comments were regarding those topics. As proof that our board members help to cover up those concerns, they will approve the vaguely written minutes at the next month's meeting. That is how our district censors the concerns of the community. Pete's actions speak louder than words about transparency and caring what the community has to say.

Additionally, I have been ridiculed and threatened by individuals online for attending and speaking at board meetings as have others in our school district. Teachers that attended the January 2013 school board meeting were called into the principal's office over the next couple of days after the board meeting and questioned as to why they attended the meeting. Does this seem as if "Anyone can attend the meeting"?

On May 17, 2011, I wrote an email to then school board president Ruth Ann Newman to which she never responded regarding the December 2010 and April 2011 board meetings I attended and spoke at. My email resulted in a very unprofessional response from Superintendent Dianne Brown at the time. Please note that our Superintendent addressed my concerns regarding the poorly documented board meeting minutes. My email also addressed an incident that occurred at the April 2011 board meeting with Mr. Jamie Critchlow who is now our Superintendent's husband. Mr. Critchlow approached me at that meeting and introduced himself. He then proceeded to inform me that he did not appreciate the fact that I went and spoke to the school board regarding his hiring and that if I had any questions, that I should contact him directly. It appears to me that Pete Nicholas is out of touch with reality as to how encouraging he has been with regard to anyone attending board meetings and addressing their concerns to the board.

My email to Ruth Ann Newman and our Superintendent's response can be found in my article published on January 5, 2013 titled:
Emailing Fox C-6 School Board President Results in Superintendent Response

You should not get a "Cease and Desist" letter if you don't vote for our incumbent board members this Tuesday! Hopefully our Superintendent won't be spending anymore taxpayer dollars in the future on "Cease and Desist" letters just because she wants critics to stop talking.
On April 2nd, please tell our Board of Education and our central office administrators that you are ready for change by VOTING IN TWO NEW BOARD MEMBERS!

  • Let them know that you want people on the school board that you can trust.
  • Let them know that you want school board members who read and follow our school board policies and obey state and federal laws.
  • Let them know that you want a school board that will respond to your questions and concerns.
  • Let them know that you want a school board that will question our Superintendent and her recommendations.
  • Let them know that the school board should demonstrate their Commitment to the Character Education Program as they have adopted in our school board policies.
Accountability and Transparency is important in Open Government and without it, there is a good chance that things are being done that you would not approve of.

So, what does this all mean to you, the parents and patrons of the Fox C-6 School District?

If you really care about the future of our school district and want to improve your child's educational experience and make a positive change in our school district, please vote for Mark Jones and Steve Holloway on Tuesday April 2, 2013!!


Thank you!!

Rich Simpson

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Still No Response From The Board - What Are They Hiding?

It's been two weeks since I first emailed our entire school board questions regarding the recent publishing of school board meeting packets on the district website. I asked the board why they decided not to publish the Bill Payments. I received an initial response from board member Ruth Ann Newman. However, no one has responded as to why their decision wasn't discussed during open meeting or why their decision wasn't documented in the board meeting minutes. Our school board is the voice for the community and is obligated to keep the community informed. By not documenting this decision in the board meeting minutes and not responding to questions gives the community even more reasons to doubt the honesty and integrity of our school board and administration.

The questions that our school board has not yet responded to are:
  • Was the decision to post the board meeting packets on the district website made at the February 19 BOE Meeting?
  • Why wasn't the decision to post board meeting packets listed as a business item for discussion in the February BOE meeting agenda?
  • Why wasn’t the decision to post board meeting packets documented in the board meeting minutes?
  • Why wasn't the decision to post board meeting packets discussed in an open meeting? 

Very Valid Questions
The questions I posed to our board members are definitely valid questions. Some of the questions I posed to the board were asked of me by other public officials after I informed them that board meeting packets had been posted on the district website without the Bill Payments.

If a decision is made to change the way the district has been doing business for more than a decade it should be documented in the meeting minutes. According to school board policy 0405, the Board of Education speaks through its minutes. Therefore, this decision should have been recorded in the minutes. Picking and choosing what portion of the District's Public Records they wish to post is not an option.

Reason Not To Post Bill Payments Raises Eyebrows
Literally!! Everyone I've spoken to as to why our school board decided not to post the Bill Payments on the district website causes them to raise their eyebrows in disbelief.

So, why did the school board decide not to post the bill payments on the district website?

Board member Ruth Ann Newman informed me in an email on Monday March 18, 2013 that the reason that the the board didn't post the bill payments on the district website was that, "Right now, we felt like this was a privacy issue--not for the employees, but for the students.  Someone is checking to see what other districts are doing and why, or why not."

Why would there be privacy concerns for the students? It really doesn't make sense. But, that's the reason that was given by our school board.

When I made Missouri Sunshine Law requests for board meeting packets in the past, the bill payments were always included with the board meeting packets that the school sent me. The school board meeting minutes references the pages in the board meeting packets that are the bill payments. The board members approve these bill payments each month.

So, what are they hiding from the public by not posting the bill payments?

Call or email your school board members and ask them. It appears that they may not respond to your questions. You have the right to know how your taxpayer dollars are being spent. Our school board gets an "F" for failing to disclose this information. Perhaps the board doesn't want you to know until AFTER the school board elections. Once the bill payments get posted online, the community will be able to find out how much it cost the taxpayers for the "cease and desist" letters that our Superintendent sent out to members of our community because she didn't like the criticism she was receiving.

Hopefully, the patrons of our school district will show their discontent with our current school board in the upcoming election by voting in new school board members. Our community has the opportunity to make a positive change to our school board by replacing the incumbents on April 2, 2013. We need school board members that are responsive to the community and believe in Open Government and Transparency.

Please vote for Mark Jones and Steve Holloway for Fox C-6 School Board on Tuesday April 2, 2013!

Khan Academy - FREE Tutoring For Your Child!

As a parent, you may not remember your algebra, trigonometry or calculus classes from high school or college. So, when your child is at home and stuck on a math problem and asks for your help, you now have a place to turn for answers to help them with their homework. I have been using and telling people about Khan Academy for several years now. When my youngest son was in second grade he watched a 13 minute video on Khan Academy on multiplication. He understood the concepts right away and started doing the practice problems on the Khan Academy website which really boosted his confidence in his newly learned skill. Shortly after that he started going around asking older kids to ask him multiplication problems to which he enjoyed answering. That is the kind of enthusiasm and confidence you would like to instill in every student in learning about the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) subjects.

Khan Academy was founded by Salman Khan in 2004. Sal earned 3 degrees from MIT (a BS in mathematics, a BS in electrical engineering and computer science and a Masters in electrical engineering and computer science) and an MBA from Harvard. He started out by recording some videos helping to tutor his niece in math and posted them on YouTube. He then started get comments thanking him for his videos. He posted more videos which eventually led to the Khan Academy website which now has more than 3000 educational and instructional videos on Math, Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics and more. All of the videos are hosted on YouTube for FREE. The website now has interactive problem solving software that allows the students to do practice problems over and over until they master the topic or concept before moving on to the next topic. Khan Academy has a "knowledge map" for all of the math subjects to help the student start at the basics and move into more complex topics.

In 2010, Google announced it would give Khan Academy $2 million dollar towards developing more courses and shortly thereafter the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave Khan Academy another $1.5 million dollar. This has helped Sal grow Khan Academy and in keeping it free for everyone to use.

You can find the Khan Academy website here: www.KhanAcademy.org

Khan Academy Videos
You might find yourself using Khan Academy as a refresher for some topics yourself if you are taking some college courses. You can search for the videos by topic and have your child watch a video on a particular topic. The videos are typically from 2 to 10 minutes in length. They are recorded as if he was teaching a class on each particular topic only you don't see him in the video. He uses a pen tablet and screen capture software to record the lessons to video and then posts them on YouTube. So, if you missed or didn't understand what he was explaining, you can always back up the video and play it again. It is like having access to a math or science tutor 24/7 for FREE.

I highly recommend checking out Khan Academy especially if you have students or children that struggling with their math or science classes. The site now has interactive practice problems that allow you or your child to practice the concepts taught in the videos. One issue that Sal talks about is the fact that students have trouble in math down the road if they don't learn and "master" all of the basics. If a student doesn't learn ad and master the basics, their math skills will be like Swiss cheese. They will find some things down the road may be very easy for them, while other concepts that are equally as easy will seem really hard to them because they may have missed mastering a few basic concepts. So, the ability to learn and review at anytime can really boost your child's or student's skills and confidence and eventually their grades.

Salman Kahn's Book - The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined
Right now you can purchase and download the digital version of Salman Khan's book titled The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined from Amazon in Kindle format for only $2.99. It is normally priced at $12.99 so if you can get it on sale, I highly recommend it. It is the story of how Sal founded Khan Academy and what he learned about teaching when he started introducing it to teachers and students. His book was released in October 2012.

You can purchase and download his book directly onto your iOS or Android phone or tablet or onto your Kindle readers directly from Amazon here:

The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined

TED Talk Presentations
I highly recommend watching Salman Khan's TED Talk presentation at the 2011 TED Talk Conference. His presentation gives a great overview of Khan Academy and how some schools in California are using it to flip their classroom learning.

You can find his TED Talk presentation here:
Salman Kahn - Let's Use Video To Reinvent Education

While speaking about math, one of my other favorite videos I show to inspire people on improving their math skills is a TED Talk video from Arthur Benjamin. For math teachers, this is a great way to motivate students and show them what can be done with a practice. More importantly it will help your child or student improve their math skills tremendously if they use the techniques that Arthur Benjamin teaches in his book and in some of his videos.
Arthur Benjamin Does "Mathemagic"

You never know who you may inspire or help by passing this information on to your family and friends. I even recommend passing this information on to your child's teacher as many of the teachers I have spoken with are not aware of Khan Academy.

FREE Digital Textbooks
I guess while I'm on the subject of helpful sites, I should also mention www.ck12.org. CK12.ORG is a website where you can find and download many free textbooks in ePub, mobi and PDF formats. So, if you have a smart phone or a tablet computer running iOS or Android or even some eBook Readers you can visit CK12.ORG and download free textbooks.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thank You For Reading My Blog!

I'd like to give a Shout Out to our Superintendent Dianne Critchlow and our school board members to thank them for reading my blog. Our Superintendent had a meeting yesterday with one of the citizens in our community who received one of the Cease and Desist letters. She told him that she reads my blog and that information on my blog isn't true. I would have to stop her right there and say that HER STATEMENT IS NOT TRUE!!

Everyone that knows me, knows that I always strive for the utmost accuracy and truth in the information I provide to our community. So, if our superintendent and school board members find ANY inaccuracies or what they consider to be false or misleading information, please contact me and I will correct it!!

Our superintendent and her supporters who claim my statements are "untrue" should be able to point out what information, specifically, is false or inaccurate. Our superintendent has pointed out to me in past emails, that "many of my concerns were false and inaccurate" only to end up having to make corrections to her own claims and learn that what I stated was true. It's one thing to make a claim and another to back it up.

JUST AN EXAMPLE
Just as an example, I informed the school board at the August 2011 board meeting that their new policy for Allergy Prevention and Response DID NOT meet state law. Our Superintendent fired back an email informing me that it did meet state law and that the school district attorneys had reviewed it. It had even been sent out to the school board members and all of the building principals for review. The policy that the school board adopted at the June 2011 board meeting was only 8 sentences in length and basically stated that the school district would develop a policy. So I emailed our school board the sample policy developed by the state of Missouri, which was over 4 pages long. I even included the policy from the Mehlville School District where one of Dianne Critchlow's brothers is an administrator . Then behold, this district policy appeared on the November 2011 board meeting agenda and was re-adopted at the December 2011 board meeting. The re-adopted policy approved at the December 2011 board meeting looks very similar to the sample policy from the state.

I believe that the concern I brought up to the board was constructive, not "negativity". If our school board needs to address an issue I will bring it to their attention either by correspondence or by speaking during the designated public comment time at public school board meetings. It seems that our Superintendent (as well as some board members and staff) do not like the fact that I ask them to address issues that need corrections, and so my concerns are usually met with a blanket claim that my information is "false", "untrue" or "inaccurate".

CHECK THE FACTS
I am not pulling information out of thin air or making it up. I am using the data available online through the Missouri Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) website available at dese.mo.gov. I am also referencing documents available in board meeting packets that were only available from our district by making Missouri Sunshine Law requests to our school board secretary and being charged a fee to obtain those documents only after I had provided some of the information from those documents to the public.

Check the date that our Superintendent's current husband obtained his teaching credentials. According to the school district, he was hired in August 2009 (before he married Superintendent Brown) and his salary was in the low to mid $30,000 range. Then, just 3 months later, he was promoted to "Director" of the Bridges program and his salary increased to $98,959.

According to the DESE website, our Superintendent's husband did not take the Praxis test to earn his teaching certification until 2010, and he did not actually receive his teaching certificate until January 2011. He may have obtained a "provisional certificate" upon his hire at Fox so that he was allowed to teach. He has a Master's Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Texas at Tyler from 2001. Also, according to DESE, Mr. Critchlow has not taken the School Leadership Licensure Assessment (SLLA), a component of the licensure process for principals.

Interestingly, correspondence provided in the board packets, however, shows that Mr. Critchlow referred to himself with the title of "principal". According to DESE, however, he cannot be nor can he claim to be a "principal".

As a comparison, I looked at the qualifications of another "Director" within our District, the Director of the Fox C-6 Early Childhood Center hold's a Master's Degree in Education Administration and has completed the School Leadership Licensure Assessment (SLLA) test. The Director of the ECC earns a comparable salary.

So, believing my concerns to be valid, I expressed them to the our school board at the December 2010 board meeting. Unfortunately, our school board never responded to my questions. Mrs. Hermann, the board president at the time, did tell me at the board meeting that I could call the school the next day and someone would be able to find the person that could answer my questions. However, I intentionally directed my concern to the school board since it is the board that had approved the hiring. Our Superintendent did send me an email a few months later letting me know that my information about her husband was false and inaccurate. She told me that he was not paid the $98,859 that I had claimed.

In case you're wondering, I did inform the Superintendent in 2011 that my data is from DESE. If the salary and/or certification from DESE is "false, misleading, or inaccurate", the Superintendent should have contacted DESE to ensure the information was correct. As you can see from the DESE website, as of this date, the DESE data cited to Dr. Critchlow has not been revised and remains the same as when I brought it to the board's attention and Dr. Critchlow in December 2010.

Oh yes. Then on August 24, 2012, I received a "Cease and Desist" letter from the Superintendent.

BRING IT!
It is one thing to make a generalized comment that my statements are "untrue", that I'm "vindictive", or that I "have an axe to grind". But, will you back that up with any proof? Any documentation? Simply saying it's "not true" is cowardly. Show me exactly, what I've stated that is untrue and show me the data that supports it. Please.

I've asked this before. I responded to Dr. Critchlow's "cease and desist" asking her what I stated or written was untrue.

This may be shocking to some of you out there, but (gasp) I never received a response. Instead of responding to my direct request for this information, to allow me the opportunity to correct or defend my statement(s), Dianne continues to dismiss me by only saying "it's not true". Yesterday's meeting with the recipient of one of her "cease and desist" letters is just a recent example of her evasion tactics.

I asked before to no avail, so I will ask again: What's "not true" Dianne? Since you apparently read this blog, why don't you clarify to me exactly what I've stated here, on my blog, that you referred to as "untrue"? You have exerted the time and effort to read my blog and make it a point to state to others that it's "untrue", so why not use a fraction of that energy to contact me directly and let me know exactly which of my statements you believe are inaccurate?

I have the right to bring forth questions regarding hiring practices - whether they involve the Superintendent's husband or the Board of Education president's daughter-in-law. I believe that I, along with my fellow citizens, have the right to question our school board about the issues and inconsistencies   , and that our questions deserve to be answered. We may disagree, but to simply not respond, or to respond with a canned "it's not true", is not acceptable. And, it should not be acceptable to the members of our school board, not to any of the stakeholders of our community.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Take Note Community - Your School Board Failed To Respond

It is less than a week before the April 2, 2013 School Board Election and your current school board has failed to respond to my questions regarding the posting of the Bill Payments on the district website. I think this is a huge failure by our school board given the fact that the election is so close. Possibly, the school board believes that if the community knows nothing about the fact that they did not respond, everyone in our community will think things are going great in our school district because our Superintendent told you so.

Maybe our superintendent will send me another Cease and Desist letter due to the fact that I sent several emails trying to find out why the district didn't post the Bill Payments with the board packets on the district website. You can read the email exchanges and the questions that they DID NOT respond to in my previous article here:

For nearly 2 years, I have been asking our school board to post the Board Packets, Bill Payment and Financials on the district website at numerous board meetings and in emails without receiving a single response from our school board as to why they refuse to post them. Our school board does not understand Open Government and Transparency. This is one of the biggest failures and most disrespectful behaviors I have ever come across in dealing with elected officials. 

Our school board members were voted into office to represent the community and be our voice in the school district and listen to our concerns. I told Ruth Ann Newman that corrections needed to be made to our school board policies for typographic and grammatical errors as well as removing points of contact from them that have retired years ago in February 2011. She told me that all I did was complain and that they were working on rewriting them at that time. That was more than 2 years ago. The district posted a completely overhauled and updated version of the policies on the district website more than a year ago. The board and school district still haven't finished reviewing them and approving them for adoption. If this is how your school board responds to the community and fulfills their role as school board members, then WE SHOULD NOT BE VOTING INCUMBENTS BACK ONTO THE SCHOOL BOARD! 

Ruth Ann Newman and Pete Nicholas are up for re-election on the April 2, 2013 ballot. I hope that the voters and patrons of our school district take note and spread the word that OUR SCHOOL BOARD IS UNRESPONSIVE AND THAT OUR COMMUNITY NEEDS NEW PEOPLE ON THE BOARD! It would be nice to let our superintendent know that the community has reached its limit with the problems going on in our school district by NOT CASTING ANY VOTES for Ruth Ann Newman or Pete Nicholas. We DO NOT NEED Ruth Ann and Pete on the school board for another 3 years. From speaking with many people in the community that have been paying attention to the press that our school district has been receiving, they will not be casting votes for our incumbents. It is up to you to inform your friends, family and neighbors before the election about how our school board and school district has been treating the public. Please link to this article on Facebook and Twitter. You can make a Positive change in our district.

On April 2, 2013, I will be casting my votes for Mark Jones and Steve Holloway. Both Mark and Steve are graduates of Fox High School and have children in our school district. Mark Jones doesn't have anyone working for the school district and he cares a lot about our school district just as I do. Steve Holloway's wife is a teacher at Antonia Elementary and I was very impressed when I met her. Many people have told me great things about her as a teacher. I also know that Steve has done a lot of work helping Antonia Elementary and he cares about our district as well. Neither Mark nor Steve come from a political background. They just want to help improve our school district!

Dan Kroupa is also running for the school board and I have my concerns if he were to get elected onto the school board due to his political connections with the City of Arnold and Ron Counts.  Ron Counts was helpful in getting Dianne Brown-Critchlow placed as our school district superintendent. Ron Counts and Dianne Critchlow are very close and with Dan Kroupa being closely involved with the City of Arnold, I believe that if Dan were to get elected that it would significantly upset the chances of getting a school board that is responsive to our community. These are my opinions and I have the right to voice them. I have always been respectful in expressing my concerns and opinions despite what our superintendent, some of our administrators and school board may want you to think.

As a Community, I hope that you vote for Mark Jones and Steve Holloway in the April 2, 2013 school board election. Please put the Community back into our school board and remove the self-serving and non-responsive members of our current board. 


YOU HAVE THE POWER TO CHANGE THINGS IN OUR SCHOOL DISTRICT WITH YOUR VOTE ON TUESDAY APRIL 2, 2013!!!


By casting your vote on April 2, 2013, you can exercise your right to show our school board anonymously how you feel about their behavior, attitude and unresponsiveness without having to endure the ridicule and offensive slander that I have received for voicing my concerns at school board meetings and in speaking with people in our community.

You have the right to vote and I hope you exercise that right in the upcoming election!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fox C-6 and MO DESE Undergo USDA Compliance Review

Does Our School Board Know About The USDA Compliance Review?
The week of March 25, 2013 the USDA Office of Civil Rights (USDA OCR) will be visiting the Fox C-6 School District and the state of Missouri's Department of Secondary and Elementary Education (MO DESE) to conduct an onsite Compliance Review. USDA OCR will be covering their Guidelines and Regulations in which the school district and MO DESE were found to be Non-Compliant in their August 2011 Final Agency Decision (FAD). The Compliance Review is being conducted at both the district and state level. Their review will be focusing on the Assurance Agreement that the State and School District sign in order to receive their federal funds. The Assurance Agreement covers the USDA's Federal Regulations and Guidance, and more in depth Section 504 Law, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act (ADA AA). This Compliance Review stems from an April 2009 complaint filed with the USDA. The USDA performed a preliminary onsite visit in September 2009 to the state and then a November 2009 visit to our school district, and issued a preliminary report to the Washington D.C. office in March of 2010. The March 2010 report stated that our school district did not understand their responsibilities in following the USDA Guidelines and Regulations and the laws contained therein.

Fox and MO DESE Found To Be Non-Compliant
How did Fox being found to be Non-Compliant by the USDA cause the state of Missouri to be Non-Compliant? According to the USDA's Final Agency Decision, the Fox C-6 School District signs an assurance agreement each year with MO DESE. Each year MO DESE signs an assurance agreement with the USDA stating that it will ensure that our state's school districts will abide by the Guidelines, Regulations and laws that the USDA is charged with enforcing when participating in the USDA's National School Lunch program. Since MO DESE is responsible for ensuring that school districts in the state follow the USDA's Guidelines and Regulations, and the laws it covers, and Fox was found to be Non-Compliant, the entire state of Missouri was found to be Non-Compliant.

U.S. Department of Justice Gets Involved
In order for all of this to occur, the USDA had to work with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) in order to pursue enforcement action against our school and our state. The USDA has a Case Processing Manual that is a step by step guide that they must follow before they can come into the state and then to the district to enforce the law. But, once the USDA found the state to be non-compliant, it has the ability to withhold federal reimbursement for the entire state of Missouri's National School Lunch program. This covers Free and Reduced lunches as well as the standard reimbursement for a regular pay school lunch. Based upon the number of lunches reported by Missouri DESE and the USDA's reimbursement formula, this would amount to over $1,000,000 dollars per day that the USDA could withhold from the state of Missouri due to the Fox C-6 School District not complying with the USDA's Guidelines and Regulations and not following Section 504 Law, the ADA and ADAAA.  The USDA prefers voluntary compliance as opposed to withholding federal funds.

Rest assured, our school district didn't like the decision that the USDA handed down. The school district attorneys spent a good amount of time in filing an appeal as well as conducting conference calls with the USDA. Our school district attorneys even made Freedom of Information Act requesting any and all correspondence between us and the USDA. Everything I sent to the USDA was statement of fact and documentation from meetings and or documents that I found online at MO DESE, school attorney presentations and emails from the district and attorneys. This is when our school district learned that I had supplied the USDA with an audio recording of our December 7, 2009 Section 504 meeting and a transcript of that meeting. Why did I record the meeting? Because I had learned in an August 2008 Section 504 meeting that statements made and documented in our meetings with the school and documented by school weren't accurate or misrepresented the facts. Since it was our word against theirs, I needed proof as to what was said and occurred during those meetings.

District Attorneys Lying To Federal Attorneys?
For example, following a May 2009 504 meeting, the school district attorney at the time made false statements to the Kansas City US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (ED OCR) attorney about statements I informed ED OCR he had made during the meeting.  During that meeting, the district attorney stated that "episodic and in remission only applied to people with cancer" in reference to the new ADAAA. I told the district attorney during the meeting that this is not what the new law said. He told me that yes it was because he had "just read it in the congressional findings the day before". He then told me that we weren't here to debate the new law. I told ED OCR that he was trying to teach the team that the new law didn't apply to our case, which was not true.

In discussing my concerns with the ED OCR attorney about what the district attorney said during the meeting, she told me that she was sure that he wouldn't have said that. She said she would call him and ask him if he said that. She called him and emailed me back. In her email, she informed me that the district attorney told her that he never said that. I said thanks for checking and then I emailed her a copy of my audio recording of the meeting as proof that he did in fact make those statements during the meeting!

The Federal Law On Lying
Why would a school district attorney be willing to lie to a federal attorney when there are laws that carry big penalties for doing so? Could it be that he thought he wouldn't get caught because what happens behind closed doors in 504 meetings stays behind closed doors? You know there is a problem with how your district is handling things when district attorneys lie to ED OCR federal attorneys and the ED OCR attorneys brush it off. The law that I am referring to is United States Code (USC) 18 Section 1001. It is known as the Federal Law on Lying. It's the same law that was used to put Martha Stewart in jail. It should be noted that a person does not have to be under oath when making false statements in order for it to be a crime. The person doesn't even have to make the false statement directly to the federal employee or agent. For instance, let's say that a school district official makes false statements or falsifies documentation to MO DESE during an investigation. Now, let's say that the results of that MO DESE investigation are then turned over to a federal agency such as ED OCR. Those false statements or falsified documentation would violate this law. Under this statute, it is a crime to knowingly and willfully make any materially false statement concerning any matter that is within the jurisdiction of the United States. The Department of Education and the US Department of Agriculture fall under this jurisdiction. The penalties for violating this law are up to 5 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine per count and the statute of limitations under this law is 5 years.

Here is a great article covering USC 18 Section 1001:


So, it appears that this is how things have been done for years by our school district. If it weren't for my audio recordings it would have been my word against the school's word. Since there is no school board policy at Fox C-6 that prohibited the audio recording of 504 meetings at that time and there still isn't. I started recording our 504 meetings. There is a policy that prevents someone from recording IEP meetings unless you request permission prior to the meeting to do so. NOTE: The new school board policies that our school board has been reviewing since March of 2012 and are still working to adopt includes a new policy that will prohibit audio recording 504 meetings just like IEP meetings. I wonder what prompted our school district to add this to their policies?  

After all of the false statements I had heard during our 504 meetings, I began recording the meetings as a way of documenting what was going on so I could review them later and make notes as to what they were trying to pull. I was not as knowledgeable in Section 504 law back then. For parents that don't do this on a daily or regular basis, the district can easily walk all over you. They will tell you things that aren't true hoping that you don't catch them in their lies so they don't have to do things that they are required to do but may not want to do. It still begs the question as to why attorneys were brought into this entire process in the first place. But, I am guess that it was because we got up to speed on the laws very quickly and were able to go toe to toe with their attorneys so well that they had to resort to misrepresenting the facts.

School Districts Get To Choose Due Process Hearing Officers
I am guessing that our school district attorneys kept assuring our superintendent that they would win this case. They were able to pull off a win in a Due Process Hearing when the school district hired a former law associate of the school district attorney to act as a Due Process Hearing Officer. We handled our side of the case pro se. Every attorney we spoke with told us we would be wasting our money if we hired an attorney because the school district had already rendered their decision. The Due Process Hearing was simply a formality. According to our school district's Procedural Safeguards, the school district gets to choose the Due Process Hearing Officer. It just happened that the district chose an attorney that used to work closely for years with the district attorney representing school districts in other law firms. In fact the two of them even spoke at a 2007 Missouri Speech and Hearing Conference on "How To Testify In Due Process Hearings". So, you can probably see that chances are pretty slim that any due process hearing with the school district will be "fair and impartial". In fact, within a few seconds of getting the name from the school district as to who the Due Process Hearing Officer would be, I was able to find his name on several court cases with the district attorney representing school districts against parents when they worked together in other law firms.

When we talked about backing out of Due Process (we had no chance of getting a fair hearing), the school district informed us that they would exercise their right to file a Due Process Hearing against us because they wanted to get this decision finalized once and for all. Once the district attorney got the decision she wanted, she put it into her presentations that she made across the state. The USDA reviewed the school district's Due Process Hearing decision and gave it very little credibility. So, even though the district attorney was able to get the decision she wanted, the USDA found that the hearing officer did not properly apply the law and that is why they are stepping in. ED OCR didn't step in at all. I will go into my theories as to why in another article. It has something to do with the fact that the lead attorney for ED OCR in the Kansas City OCR office is a former Missouri School District attorney. We have a long list of excuses as to why ED OCR can't seem to enforce the law after nearly 5 years of handling our case.

Our Superintendent Did Inform the School Board
The district filed an appeal to the USDA Final Agency Decision which Mr. Dan Baker was so proud to tell me about after the December 2011 school board meeting when I asked him if the administration had ever informed the school board about the ruling. I told Mr. Baker and Dianne (Brown at the time) that the board members I had spoken to didn't know anything about the USDA ruling. Dianne informed me that she had sent an email to the board. She sent me a copy of the email that she sent the board dated August 24, 2011 the next day as proof that she informed them. She sent it to me on December 14, 2011. This is how she described the USDA Final Agency Decision to the school board in her email:

Good morning, 
I received this 12 page document from our attorney regarding the Simspon case. I am sending it to you and will provide a copy in your backup materials in case you can't open the document. In summation, it is a long letter from USDA and their OCR. Terry (attorney) has noticed many inaccuracies in the document. 
However, I am just reminding everyone that since this is pending litigation. We cannot talk to the Simspons about the case. Per our attorney, please ask them if you are notified to contact myself or the district's attorney. 
Thank you!
Dianne
Did the School Board Read the "long letter" From the USDA?
I know that Ruth Ann Newman wasn't aware of the "long letter". Dan Smith didn't recall seeing the "long letter" when I asked him if he had after the December 2011 school board meeting. He also wasn't aware of it when another friend of mine had asked him about it prior to the board meeting. However, he did recall seeing it when Dianne Critchlow walked up and told him that he had. It was quite humorous to see Dan's recall improve when he was told that he had seen it because Dianne had emailed it to everyone on the board. The question is, did anyone read it? I'm guessing that they didn't.

Since Dianne reminded him that he had seen it and that I was wrong to assume that the board members were unaware of the letter since I had asked them and they didn't know anything about, she pointed out in her email to me in her normal arrogant attitude that, "Your statement last evening that the Board of Education was not informed is false and inaccurate." Thank you Dianne for correcting me! My mistake. She had informed the school board in an email about the USDA ruling. Our superintendent didn't seem too concerned with the fact that our school district and the entire state of Missouri had been found Non-Compliant by the USDA at the time. She also had trouble spelling my last name in her email. At least she was consistent. I guess that's OK because the USDA had trouble spelling the school name in their document which was one of the inaccuracies that the district attorney noticed. It is very important note that the school district was eventually informed that there was no appeal because it was a Final Agency Decision. That's why they are now conducting a Compliance Review of our district and MO DESE.

Fox's new Food Nutrition Services Director (school board president Linda Nash's daughter-in-law) is going to get thrown into the frying pan or get grilled this week when she gets to meet with the USDA and the Office of Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OASCR). Wow! All of this effort because our school district didn't want to fill out some paperwork like other school district do. Also, I guess our superintendent didn't like getting caught doing something wrong. That's why the district pays the attorneys to make things "look" proper. Well, that's at least what they want you to think. It will be interesting to see what the outcome of this Compliance Review brings given the fact that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) is now involved and given the fact that attorneys from the DOJ recently contacted us.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fox C-6 Superintendent Says: "We're Not Hiding Anything!"

Fox C-6 Superintendent says: "We're Not Hiding Anything!"

If so, then why didn't the school district include the Check Payment Listing/Bill Payments in the board meeting packets posted on the district website? The payments are included in the board packets sent to the school board members each month. Other school districts post their payments on their websites for the public to review. That is what transparency and open government is all about.

One would think that our school board would like to appear as transparent as possible given the recent negative exposure received by the school district and the fact that school board elections are less than 2 weeks away. Do they want the public thinking that they are trying to hide information from them? It certainly seems to be the case given how difficult it is to get an answer from them.

School Board Response
On Sunday night March 17, 2013, I received the following response from school board member Ruth Ann Newman to my email from Friday regarding the board packets. Mrs. Newman's response was as follows:

"As of now, we have decided not to post this information.  Thanks! 
--Ruth Ann"
From her response, I didn't know if she was speaking about the January board packet or the check payment listing or as she calls it the "itemized list of bills" that the board approves each month. So, I wrote back and asked for a clarification. On Monday March 18, 2013, I received the following response from Mrs. Newman:
"I was speaking of the itemized list of bills.  Right now, we felt like this was a privacy issue--not for the employees, but for the students.  Someone is checking to see what other districts are doing and why, or why not.  I don't know about the January Packet. We started with February because that's when the decision was made. 
--Ruth Ann"
PRIVACY ISSUE?
It seems strange that the school board "felt like this was privacy issue" and that was why they decided NOT to post the itemized list of bills on the district website. School board meeting minutes have been posted on the district website for years with student names. The board meeting packets include student names for contracts for each student that attends the Program for Exceptionally Gifted Students (PEGS) at the Lindbergh School District. Assistant Superintendent Tim Crutchley spoke about the PEGS program at the February 2013 BOE meeting. In order to qualify for the program he stated that the student must have an IQ of 150 or more to qualify. Fox pays Lindbergh $5700 for each student that attends the PEGS program. 5 students from Fox attended the program in the 2011-2012 school year. According to contracts in the board meeting packets, Mr. Crutchley has two children attending PEGS.

In the June 2011 board meeting packets, I found check payments that were issued for scholarships and special funds that were paid to individuals that appear to be students. However those students are listed and honored in the newspaper or in the semi-annual district newsletter. So, again that doesn't seem as if it would be a privacy issue. Some of the descriptions for those payments were: "FOX FOLLIES SCHOLARSHIP" and "SPECIAL FUND FHS".

NO RESPONSE FROM THE SCHOOL BOARD
On Tuesday morning March 19, 2013, I responded to Mrs. Newman's second email with some questions concerning the response I received from her the day before. I sent my response with questions to all of the board members including the school board secretary. As of Friday morning March 22, 2013, I still had not received a single response from any of the board member or the school board secretary. With the upcoming elections, you would think that our school board would want to appear to be responsive to questions hoping to get the incumbents re-elected. Should the school board respond to these types of questions? Since the decision to post board packets was recently made by the school board, it should have been documented in the school board minutes but it was not. It also should have been discussed during the open meeting but it was not.

Here are the questions I asked in my follow up email:
Was the decision to post the board meeting packets on the district website made at the February 19 BOE Meeting? 
Why wasn't the decision to post board meeting packets listed as a business item for discussion in the February BOE meeting agenda? 
Why wasn’t the decision to post board meeting packets documented in the board meeting minutes? 
Why wasn't the decision to post board meeting packets discussed in an open meeting?

Email Your School Board Members
Email your school board members and request that the Bill Payments be included in the board meeting packets posted on the website. Other school districts post their payments online. It is part of doing business as a public entity and promotes Open Government and Public Participation. How your taxpayer dollars are being spent can only be known from reviewing the check payments in the board meeting packets. If our school board is unwilling to post this data, it gives the appearance that they are trying to hide something. School board members can say that they spend our money wisely in their campaign ads. Just like we are told that they hire the "best" person for the job. It is our responsibility as patrons of the district to verify that our board members are doing what they say they are. Are they looking out for the community or for themselves?

Fox C-6 Board of Education Email Addresses Page


You can download board meeting packets from April 2010 to December 2012 that include the check /bill payment listings that I received via Missouri Sunshine Law Requests here:
Fox C-6 Board Meeting Packets

Is $287,000 Too Much For A High School Athletic Field Scoreboard?

The Fox High Athletic director is hoping to get a college caliber scoreboard that costs $287,000 before any financing costs for the Fox High School Athletic Field. He presented this information to the school board at the March 2013 Board of Education meeting. The scoreboard would have a jumbotron screen on it that could display videos like the ones you see at colleges and at high schools in Texas.

The district has the opportunity to make money by selling advertising on the scoreboard.

There are 3 options to purchasing the board. The options have different financing options ranging from the district pays for the scoreboard upfront to where the district doesn't have to pay anything for the scoreboard and it is paid for with advertisement from the community and after 5 years the school would own the board and could sell their own advertising on the board.

The school board is supposed to review the information and get back to the district in the next month. There are photos of the scoreboard included in the March 19, 2013 board meeting packet that can be downloaded from the district website from here:
Fox C-6 School Board Meeting Packets

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fox C-6 March 19, 2013 Board Meeting Report

More Realistic Than Last Month
The March 19, 2013 Fox C-6 Board of Education meeting was a nice change of pace from last month's meeting. This month's meeting brought some genuine highlights of students and teachers that are making a difference in the district. A student from Fox Elementary was highlighted for her heroic action of using the Heimlich maneuver to save a fellow classmate from choking on a piece of popcorn chicken. The American Heart Association honored Rockport Elementary for its fund raising efforts this year by raising over $33,000 for the American Heart Association. It was the top fund raising school in the state of Missouri for the American Heart Association's Jump Rope for Heart. Rockport has been raising funds for more than 20 years for the American Heart Association. Mr. Steis the assistant principal at Antonia and Ridgewood middle schools highlighted some of his students that are tutoring special needs students. These were truly meaningful stories by students and teachers in our district. It was a far cry from what went on at last month's meeting during Public Comment. Last month a new school record was set for the most number of Public Comments made at a board meeting since 2001.

In contrast, the February 2013 BOE meeting couldn't have been better scripted by our superintendent in her efforts to combat the bad press that she and the district have been receiving lately. It was as if she had handed out writing assignments to 5 individuals (some being teachers) from our school district to come up with something great to say about the district. It was very amusing listening to the over the top Public Comments last month. It was even more interesting to see how they were documented in the board meeting minutes in contrast to how my comments were documented. It speaks volumes as to how our district filters the information to keep the public from getting an honest summary of board meetings and the public's concerns. At least the minutes stated more than "Concerns within the district" which is how my Public Comments were documented in the December 2010 BOE meeting minutes. I emailed the board regarding my comments being documented as "Concerns within the district.". I received quite an unprofessional response from our superintendent informing me that our school board secretary had contacted the Missouri School Board Associations's legal counsel and that the board meeting minutes fully complied with the law. I wonder if anyone remembers what my "Concerns" were back then?

February 19, 2013 Board Meeting Minutes
Public Comments:

  • Madelyn Layman - the importance of using positive character in our schools.
  • Barb Wiley - commented on the progress of the district over the past 24 years.
  • Joe Simino - Success and growth in the Fox C-6 School District music department.
  • Cailyn Hotop - thanked the board for all of the decisions they had made that have helped to shaped her high school career.
  • Katherine Luh - expressed gratitude for the exceptional education.
  • Rich Simpson - commented on ACT data, school calendar, textbooks, public comments policy.
Last month our superintendent wanted to make sure that the community knows how great a job our school board is doing right before the election. She has been doing this for years in the local papers. She needs to keep the incumbents in place. I am sure that everyone in the community has already forgotten about the recent decision by our school board to hire the daughter in law of our school board president as the district's new Director of Food Nutrition Services for $65,000 a year. Linda Nash's daughter in law has a high school diploma and had worked at McDonald's for 17 years.

This month I felt that I needed to address my concerns regarding the Cease and Desist letters that the district has been spending taxpayer dollars to send out to citizens in our community for voicing their concerns and opinions and for asking the school district to be accountable and transparent. These letters were sent to try and silence those being critical of our district.

Public Comments
There is not a whole lot you can say in 3 minutes to get your point across to the school board and administration and inform the Public. It slows the progress of change by restricting what can be conveyed to the board and the public. That's also why there are blogs like this so more information can be conveyed to the public; and, so they can become more educated on the process and what is really happening within our school district.

Since this was the last board meeting prior to the election, I felt that it was really important to point out a systemic problem that has been occurring for more than 2 years. It is a fact that there have been individuals posting in an online forum known as Topix. I happened upon this website in October 2010 while researching information about the district to send to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (ED OCR)It is like the gossip channel for communities across the nation. Comments can be posted anonymously. This allows anyone to say anything about anyone without fear of reprisal to the real poster of the comment. In fact, I have been the subject as well as my parents of many false, defamatory and slanderous comments over the past couple of years because of my efforts to educate our school board and inform the public. 

What was my major point in telling the board about this? Despite the false accusations and claims posted on TOPIX that I was the person making posts in this online forum, I have not posted on Topix in over 2 years.

So, while some Fox C-6 administrators may be mad that people were speaking about them over the last couple of years on TOPIX, I have not been the one posting those comments. Nor did I ask anyone to post comments on that site for me.

The first slanderous comment directed at my parents and I was posted only a week after I spoke at the December 2010 school board meeting and 2 days before an article was published in the Leader newspaper about the newly appointed head football coach at Seckman High School. What a coincidence! Especially given the fact that there were only 7 people in attendance at the December 2010 board meeting besides the board members and administrators. Those in attendance included myself, a reporter from the Leader and a few students and a couple of accountants. The board meeting minutes didn't get posted for over a month and then there weren't any details of my public comments in those board minutes.

Recently, the personal attacks made against me have really picked up after I spoke at the December 2012, January 2013 and February 2013 board meetings. Those personal attacks have also been directed at others who have voiced their concerns about our school district, superintendent and school board. I believe as well as many others in our community that there are only a few people that would be so upset over critical comments made of our superintendent and school board. The language in the posts and the people that have been attacked speaks even louder as to who might be posting these defamatory and slanderous comments. Even more telling is the fact that some of the information posted would have only been known to school administrators. As I stated in my public comment at the March 2013 board meeting, remarks such as those that have been posted online, would lead to the dismissal of any educator who would make such comments. Rather than calling people names and making false accusations, they should be addressing the problems and criticisms rather than risking their careers.

Here is what I read at the March 19, 2013 school board meeting.



My March 19, 2013 Fox C-6 board meeting Public Comment

I would like to report that I have been getting a lot of positive feedback from the community and from teachers and staff and even retirees for my efforts in helping to bring accountability to our school district. It is good to see that the public is becoming more aware of how our school district leadership and school board has been conducting business compared to other school districts under our current administration. I think it is very important for the community to know that using taxpayer dollars to send out cease and desist letters to individuals in the community who voice their concerns at board meetings and in the community is unacceptable. It is also very unacceptable for individuals who are very well in the know of actions being taken by our administration prior to them even being public to be making slanderous comments about individuals in online forums anonymously. Well, actually they use a variety of different names all within minutes of each other but spreading the same message. This type of conduct will eventually lead to the dismissal of educators within our district if proven to be who everyone now believes to be the person or persons posting these messages.
I would like the school board to know that I have never made ANY defamatory or derogatory comments at school board meetings or to school board members as was misrepresented in the cease and desist letter sent to me by our school district last fall. I would also ask that our school board read up on Missouri’s Anti-SLAPP law regarding this topic. Our school board and administrators should also know that I have not posted anything on the TOPIX online forum for more than 2 years. I made a total of 18 posts between October 2010 and January 11, 2011 providing statistical data and information from Missouri DESE and school board meeting minutes and information regarding a District Wide Compliance Reviews that was being conducted by the Office of Civil Rights of our school district. That Compliance Review has been ongoing since March of 2010. I certainly have not deserved the crude and slanderous remarks that have been made against me and my parents for my advocacy efforts and efforts to hold our school district accountable. You have some very serious issues to deal with and I am glad that the community is beginning to realize that things aren’t as glowing and as positive as you would like everyone to believe.
So, in closing would like to say that I certainly hope that the upcoming election will bring a new set of faces to our school board and that our district begins to head in a new direction. It will take a concerted effort by our community to encourage a change in leadership. It will also require that our school board and school administrators conduct themselves with the Character traits of Honesty and Integrity that they so often tout. 
Thank You!

Fox C-6 School Board Election
I have been asked by quite a few people including my parents as to who I support for the upcoming Fox C-6 School Board election. I am putting my support behind Mark Jones and Steve Holloway. Mark Jones is a 1985 graduate of Fox High School and Steve Holloway is a 1990 graduate of Fox High School.

Mark Jones and Steve Holloway have information on Facebook. Mark Jones has a website as well.

Mark Jones Website
Mark Jones Facebook Page

Steve Holloway's Facebook Page


My father told me just the other day that he thought Mark Jones had a good chance at getting on the school board. He said that having 6 people running for 2 positions makes it more difficult but he still liked his chances. I was really glad to hear that from my father. My father knows a lot of people in our school district and in the community.  He and my mother are very well respected and his remarks should say a lot to the community. I hope Mark Jones and Steve Holloway gets elected to the school board. Both Mark and Steve have a background in computer science and work in the technology field. Their skills could benefit our school board and community greatly.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Fox C-6 Is Hoping To Silence Critics Using Cease and Desist Letters

Should the Fox C-6 School Superintendent use taxpayer money to threaten parents and patrons with "Cease and Desist" letters because she does not like the criticism that she and the district have been receiving?

Is the school board even aware of the fact that our Superintendent has been sending out "Cease and Desist" letters to parents and patrons in the Fox C-6 School District?

So far, I am aware of four "Cease and Desist" letters that have been sent to individuals within our school district. None of the letters that I have seen were copied to school board members other than mine. I received my letter on August 24, 2012. It was copied to Ruth Ann Newman since she was mentioned in my letter. It was also copied to Dianne Critchlow and Dan Baker. My letter stated that I had called Ruth Ann Newman "a liar" and that I had used other defamatory and derogatory comments which of course I never did. But, that is the typical misrepresentation of fact and tactic typically used in a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) type of lawsuit or threat of a lawsuit in order to silence and intimidate critics of a governmental body.

So, what actually happened? I attempted to speak to Ruth Ann Newman about issues in our school district after a scout meeting. We are both leaders in the same scout troop. She didn't want to talk about the issues and told me that she "wasn't going to dwell on the negative". She told me that all I ever did was complain; and, that I was the only one that complained about our district.

During that same discussion she scolded me saying, "When was the last time that you came to a school board meeting and thanked the board for the great job we are doing? When? When?". I guess I should have expected that since I am typically the only person until recently who speaks during Public Comments at school board meetings. In fact, in checking all of the board meeting minutes back to 2001, I found that I now hold the school record for the most Public Comments since then. I now always try to say thank you to our board before saying anything that the board may not wish to hear because it may not be as glowing or as positive as they would like.

So, where does the "liar" part come in? Well, Ruth Ann Newman later denied ever saying that I was "the only person that ever complains about the district". I tried to remind her that she did in fact say that. I have known Ruth Ann Newman since I was a student in school. My dad was her teacher back in the day. So, I thought that she would be willing to listen to my concerns. But, I believe that she has been tainted from being on the school board for so long and because she was told in an email from our superintendent that was sent to all board members that the board could not speak with me. So, that could have something to do with it as well.

So, who does the school board serve? Is it the community or our superintendent?

Back to those other "Cease and Desist" letters. The other three letters that I am aware of weren't copied to the board or board members. So it seems likely that our board members may not have been informed that these cease and desist letters were even sent because according to School Board Policy 0360:
"A decision to seek legal counsel or advice on behalf of the School District shall normally be made by the superintendent or by persons specifically authorized by the superintendent. It may also take place as a consequence of formal Board direction.
Many types of legal assistance to the district may be considered routine, and may not require specific Board approval or prior notice. However, when the administration concludes that unusual types or amounts of professional legal service may be required, the Board directs the administration to so advise it, and to expeditiously seek either initial or continuing authorization for such service."
Therefore, our school superintendent IS allowed to use legal counsel for "routine" issues and only needs to inform the board if, "unusual types or amounts of professional legal service may be required". I know from past experience that our school board has simply been informed that district attorneys are taking care of things and board members weren't given any details using the premise of privacy concerns. Our board members accept that information from our superintendent. However, many people have expressed their concerns to me about the fact that our board members never seem to question our superintendent. That is why I believe our school board has lost credibility with the community and why the community is demanding change. When I made Sunshine Requests for billing invoices from our district's law firm in the past, I was told that they do not contain detailed billing information and that many things on those bills would have to be redacted. That certainly makes it difficult to determine how our taxpayer dollars are being spent on legal fees.

Why would our school district send out "cease and desist" letters to individuals expressing their concerns at school board meetings or voicing their concerns to other individuals?

I've told numerous people about the letter I received last fall. I received mine after I sent out our superintendent's salary schedule to friends via email. I also expressed my concerns about the $18.5 million dollar bond issue and that I was not in support of it since the district had not been forthcoming as to how the money was going to be spent in a line item budget which I had to request via Missouri Sunshine Law. So, someone forwarded my email to someone who eventually routed it to our superintendent. Our superintendent must not have liked the fact that I was distributing her salary schedule to my friends and comparing it to the amount that the Vice President of the United States makes. Yes it is true. Our school superintendent makes more than the Vice President of the United States. That is a Fact by the way! Both salaries are public information.

So, why would our district use taxpayer money to pay school district attorneys that typically charge anywhere from $350 to $450 per hour to send out threatening cease and desist letters?

It is called a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP). This is done in the hopes of silencing anyone who exercises their constitutional right to speak and petition government. However, there is a law in the state of Missouri protecting citizens from this type of action. This law is known as Missouri's Anti-SLAPP Law. It was enacted in 2004. This law was written to protect individuals who are the victims of such actions made by entities such as our school district. Our school district has a lot more money available to spend on attorneys. Most SLAPP lawsuits or the threat of a law suit usually alleges defamation or business torts such as "tortuous interference with a contract" as was stated in my letter. Luckily I found humor in reading the responses I received from my friends in the legal community that I shared my letter with. That's how I learned about Missouri's Anti-SLAPP Law.

There is a great article written by Stephen L. Kling that can be found in the May-June 2005 issue of the Journal of the Missouri Bar that explains in great detail with case references as to why SLAPP lawsuits are made or are threatened to be made against individuals. Below is a link to information about Missouri's Anti-SLAPP law:
http://www.rcfp.org/slapp-stick-fighting-frivolous-lawsuits-against-journalists/missouri

SLAPP lawsuits are primarily not intended to resolve allegations made by the plaintiff such as as the school district or our superintendent. SLAPP lawsuits are intended to punish or retaliate against citizens who have spoken out against the plaintiff and to intimidate those who would otherwise speak in the future. It is intended to make an example of the victim and to spread fear throughout the community.

How does Missouri's Anti-SLAPP law protect the intended victim? The Anti-SLAPP law mandates the payment of attorney's fees and costs incurred by a SLAPP victim and provides for expedited consideration for a special motion to dismiss. The U.S. Supreme Court has also recognized that  "[c]irculars, speeches, newspaper articles, editorials, magazine articles, memoranda and all other documents" espousing a petitioner's viewpoint deserve First Amendment petition clause immunity when they are part of an overall effort "to influence government action".

Does sending out "Cease and Desist" letters to citizens expressing their concerns and opinions publicly about our school district set a good example for a National District of Character?

Is this what our school board members consider spending our taxpayer money wisely in their campaign ads?

Please email your board members and tell them what you think. Every board member now has their own personal email address. Their email addresses can be found on the Fox C-6 Board of Education - Meet the Board of Education page.

Everyone I have spoken to in the community concerning this tactic taken by the school district has not been pleased. This is why it is very important that you vote in the April 2013 school board election and let our incumbent school board members know that we as a community are not happy about what has been going on in our school district.

The Fox C-6 School District needs new administrative leadership and a new school board.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Fox C-6 Board Meeting Packets Available Online!

Fox C-6 Is Inching Its Way Towards Transparency!
On Friday March 15, 2013, the Fox C-6 School District posted a Board of Education (BOE) board meeting packet on the district website ahead of a school board meeting. This is a first for our school district. I would like to thank the school district and the board of education for making the information available to the public. I do not know if the board meeting packet was posted onto the district website yesterday afternoon as a result of the email I sent to the BOE early Friday morning or not. I never received an email response from any of our board members or the school board secretary. This was the first time I used our board members new email addresses. The board member's new email addresses can be found on the district website on the Meet The Board of Education Page.

This is really big news because I have been asking for the board meeting packets to be posted on the district website for nearly 2 years. Our school district is funded with taxpayer dollars and therefore the community has the right to know how their money is being spent and what upcoming decisions the board of education will be voting on. You cannot get the full picture from reading the board meeting agenda ahead of a BOE meeting. For example, last fall, the board meeting agenda had listed a Business Item that was titled: Central Office Facilities. So, what did that mean to the community? It meant that the school board was going to discuss something about the Central Office Facilities. What about the Central Office Facilities? Well, it turns out that the board meeting packet had bid proposals for remodeling the Central Office Facilities. The BOE reviewed the bid proposals at that board meeting and approved spending over $100,000 to remodel the Central Office shortly after the $18.5 million dollar bond issue was approved. What's the big deal? Well, the fact of the matter was that there was nothing listed in the Bond Issue Improvement Projects for remodeling the Central Office. The bond issue money was sold to the public by saying "It was for the kids". Many people in the community weren't too happy with the fact that the Central Office was being remodeled right after the bond issue was approved. Now, had the public had copies of the board meeting packet ahead of the school board meeting, they would have been able to ask the school board during Public Comment why they were needing to spend over $100,000 to remodel the Central Office. But, since no one knew what the Business Item listed as Central Office Facilities was referring to from the Agenda Items, they didn't have a chance to ask questions once the proposals were on the table. This is why it is important that the school district share this information with the public ahead of our school board meetings!

So, I encourage everyone in our district to contact our board members and thank them for publishing this information on the district website ahead of the next board meeting. This is a huge step towards keeping our community informed about what is going on in our school district. You now have the ability to review the information ahead of a board meeting and provide feedback or ask more informed questions of your school board members during Public Comments. This gives you the ability to help with the checks and balances of our school district. It is very important to understand that once the Public Comments session of a board meeting is over, you can no longer ask questions or participate in the school board meeting. But, with the board meeting packet in hand, you will now be able to follow along during the meeting and see what the board members are reviewing on their tablet computers at the head table. This is a huge step towards helping our community improve our school district and not simply rely upon the decisions of our 7 elected board members. In the past, the public didn't know know most of what happened at the last board meeting until after the next board meeting when the board meeting minutes were posted. Since there is no audio or video recording of our board meetings, you can't get the whole picture just from the board meeting minutes. I applaud Mehlville and other school districts that video record their board meeting and publish them online within a day or two of the school board meeting. I have been asking our school board to do this for nearly two years. Doing so would help rebuild the trust in the community. Currently the board minutes cannot and do not fully reflect what was stated at a board meeting. I have definitely noticed that there is a lot more detail in the board meeting minutes documenting Public Comments for those people that shower praise upon our school board and school administration and tell them what a wonderful job they are doing! Imagine that.

Board Meeting Packets Now Online
You can find the board meeting packets on the Fox C-6 School District website currently using the following link:

Still Missing the Check Payments
Our district is still not being fully transparent with the board meeting packets. The Check Payment Listings were not included in the packets that are currently on the district website for the February or March 2013 board meetings. However, the board meeting packets that I received in the past via Missouri Sunshine Law Requests included the Check Payment Listings. So, I asked the BOE in my email yesterday to please include them. I never received a response from the BOE or the board secretary. However, I did receive a read receipt from John Laughlin shortly after I sent my email and I a read receipt from the school board secretary at 5:05PM.

Email Your School Board Members
So, please email your school board members and request that the Check Payment Listings are included in the board meeting packets. Our school board members are required to approve the check payments every month at the BOE meeting. This is part of their fiduciary responsibility to ensure that our taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely. In order to do so, those check payments must be reviewed ahead of the BOE meeting. There are pages and pages of check payments to review. Our school board members can say the spend our money wisely in their campaign ads. It is up to you to determine just how wisely they are spending your money by reviewing the payments yourself!

You can find prior months board meeting packets that include the check payment listings that I received via Missouri Sunshine Law Requests here:
Fox C-6 Board Meeting Packets


Below is the email that I sent to the Fox C-6 Board of Education and school board secretary on Friday morning March 15, 2013:

Mrs. Davis and Fox C-6 School Board Directors, 
I would like to thank you for posting the February 2013 Board Meeting Information Packet on the Fox C-6 School District website. I greatly appreciate your effort towards helping the district become more transparent. I would like to ask that you please include the Check Payment Listing that the board receives and approves at BOE meetings online as well. Many school districts in the area provide this information. Providing this information helps build trust within the community and is vital to open government. This year marks the 40th year of Missouri’s first Sunshine Law and your efforts in improving the transparency in our school district is greatly appreciated.
I would also like to ask that you please post the January 2013 Board Meeting Information Packet as well on the district website and please include the Check Payment Listing.
It would be very beneficial if the board meeting information packets were posted online prior to the BOE meetings. It may even lead to more positive input and feedback. The BOE is elected to represent the community and be our voice to the school district. Keeping the community informed is very important to the success of our school district.

Thank you, 
Rich Simpson