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"
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".

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