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