Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Review - April 16, 2013 Fox C-6 School Board Meeting

I was unable to attend the April 16 Fox C-6 school board meeting. However, since the meeting I have spoken with several individuals who did attend the meeting and learned about some of the key items that stood out at the meeting.

Stand Out Items from the April 16, 2013 Fox C-6 School Board Meeting:
  • New board member Steve Holloway voted "NO" on the group consenting for Agenda Item 6.0 Consent Grouping for Action - Human Resources.
  • New board member Dan Kroupa asked a question about "Contract Modifications" that was in Agenda Item 6.0 Consent Grouping For Action - Human Resources.
  • New board member Dan Kroupa asked our Superintendent Dianne Critchlow to look at what other school districts have in their nepotism policies and bring those to the board for discussion for the Board Policy and Regulations Review meeting in May.
  • Board member John Laughlin asked questions about the Athletic Field Usage Fees.

I haven't spoken with any of the above board members yet or emailed them questions regarding the items above. I would like to note that I sent all of our current school board members an email a couple of weeks ago and have not had a single response from any of them. The emails that I sent to Dan Kroupa and Steve Holloway were using their personal email addresses. I will email them using their new school email addresses and let you know if I get a response from their new Fox C-6 school board email addresses. I wrote about the fact that I received automatic messages from several board members that my messages were DELETED but NOT READ on Monday April 15, 2013.

You can read about the emails being deleted in this post:
Fox C-6 Board Members Delete Emails Without Reading Them

Since my April 15, 2013 article regarding the deleting of email messages, I've received more email messages stating that my follow up email message was deleted as well without being read. Not reading email messages from citizens in the community appears to violate school board policy. Perhaps our board members don't communicate with me due to the fact that superintendent Dianne Critchlow stated in a 2011 email to the board that that they could not speak with me about issues and that they should direct all communications to herself or the school district attorney. It seems that she does not want our board members to be apprised of my concerns since I am willing to voice those concerns.

I would think that our school board members would be a little more mindful now of the fact that the community is watching them more closely now. They should know that not responding to questions concerning how they are doing business does not reflect well on them or our school district. I will continue to keep the community informed as attempt to educate and communicate concerns to our school board. Only having 3 minutes for Public Comment and being allowed to use names doesn't really give much time or ability to communicate concerns to our school board. That is why it is important that our board members open and read their emails. Also, the fact that our school board meetings are not audio or video recorded allows the school district to censor concerns from the Public that are brought up during Public Comments. School board meeting minutes fail to mention what is contained in those comments. This practice keeps the Public from being fully informed as to what is going on in our school district. This is not transparency in any sense of the word.

I would like to clear up some confusion as to how Consent Grouping For Action - Human Resources voting is done after reading some comments that were posted on Topix recently after the April 2013 school board meeting. The board members receive the Board Meeting Packets each month prior to the school board meeting. Our school board members are expected to review the information contained in the Board Meeting Packet prior to the next school board meeting so they can make informed decisions and ask questions if necessary and discuss agenda items prior to their votes . (NOTE: You can now download the Board Meeting Packets from the Fox C-6 District Website prior to school board meetings.) In fact, I received an email on Tuesday April 16, 2013 from our school board secretary that the January through April 2013 school board meeting packets are now online and they include the Bill Payments as well as a PDF document.

The Board Meeting Packets can be download from here:
Fox C-6 Board Meeting Packets

After downloading the Board Meeting Packets, you can use the Table of Contents in the PDF document to jump immediately to Agenda Item 6.0 in the document and read what Steve Holloway and the other board members got to review prior to their Consent Grouping For Action vote. There is no prior discussion among the board members regarding the new hires, contract modifications or dismissals that is contained in this section prior to the vote unless they discuss it during the board meeting. Our administrators simply provide the board members a list of names of the new hires and dismissals in the board meeting packet and the school board members are asked to "approve" that list. So, I'm not sure if Steve Holloway was voting NO due to a name on the list or that he voted NO because of the process. I hope to find out from him before the next school board meeting.

As you can see that this is quite a flawed system in the fact that our superintendent(s) make the suggestions as to who should be hired or dismissed or are simply quitting. The board is asked to accept the list "as is". Given the recent track record for hiring family members of board members in our district, this type of practice doesn't look good to the community and has brought a lot of attention to our school district in the media. This isn't the first time egregious example of nepotism by our school board. In 2006, the Fox C-6 School Board voted to promote current school board member David Palmer's wife Gee Palmer to the position of District Head Nurse. Gee Palmer's promotion occurred while David Palmer was the President of the School Board in 2006. I documented this back in 2010 after I learned about it from individuals in our school district. I verified the promotion from the school board meeting minutes which are no longer available on the district website. I have a copy of those minutes.

What made the promotion of Gee Palmer even worse was the fact that she received a 75% pay increase over her previous salary as a regular school district nurse. The position was changed from a 9 month contract to an 11 or 12 month contract. So, Gee Palmer's pay was increased from roughly $40,000 to $70,000 for those additional 2 to 3 months of work. Additionally, when I looked into this, I found that there were 10 nurses that had more years of experience working in the school district than Gee Palmer. One of the nurses that had applied for the position had nearly 3 times the number of years of service in the school district. Now, one can argue (or should I say our administrators and school board members would argue) that Gee Palmer was "the best for the job". However, in speaking with many others who worked or have worked for the district including retired administrators, many of them told me that Gee Palmer was not "the best" for the job when she was hired. Do you think Gee Palmer was chosen due to her being the wife of then School Board President David Palmer? At the April 2013 Fox C-6 school board meeting, David Palmer was elected as the Fox C-6 School Board Vice President. All of this occurred before I began dealing with any issues within our school district and was under the assumption that things were being done "above board". So like most of the public, I was not aware of what had been going in within our school district.

2007 Fox C-6 Nepotism News Story in the Post Dispatch
In 2007, there was a St. Louis Post Dispatch news article concerning nepotism issues in the Fox C-6 School District. The article stated that District Officials said that Nepotism Complaints were Unfounded. In reading the news article, I found it very odd that "Attempts to reach board member David Palmer were unsuccessful." Could it have been that he did not want to discuss the issue given the fact that his wife had recently been promoted to the district head nursing position and given a 75% pay increase. Perhaps he didn't want to discuss the fact that two of his children had been hired as Teacher's Aides by the school district according to Missouri DESE records.

You can find the St. Louis Post Dispatch article here:

FOX SCHOOLS: Nepotism Complaints Unfounded, District Officials Say

Please contact your school board members concerning making changes to our school board policies regarding nepotism in our school district. I have written about the Lindbergh and Mehlville school board policies regarding nepotism. I have also read many other school district policies as well. Many of the basic policies state that decisions made by the board SHOULD NOT give the appearance of wrong doing. I believe that our school board has made several decisions that give the appearance of wrong doing and that is why the community is looking for change.