Friday, May 3, 2013

My Wish List For the Fox C-6 School District!

There are a lot of things that people wish for in life and I have many. However, the majority of people probably don't wake up in the morning wishing they had a school board that responded to their concerns or that their school district had a new superintendent of schools. Those kind of wishes certainly weren't on my mind 5 years ago. As a parent, you want to be proud of the school district that you are raising your kids in. I do even more since my parents devoted their entire educational career to the Fox C-6 School District. It's where I was raised and went to school. I should feel more proud given the fact that there is a school in our district named after my father. My parents really cared and still care about our school district. My family has been connected to the school district for a very long time. I have always been a supporter as well. That is why I am so passionate about wanting our school district to always do the right thing and follow the law and its policies so it's not an embarrassment to me, my parents or our community.

I expect school administrators and principals to be honest and ethical and conduct themselves in a professional manner on a daily basis. Everyone expects school leaders to be honest. However, when they aren't honest or ethical, it reflects poorly on them as well as our community. Honesty is one of the character traits of the Character Education program taught by our school district. When our school district leaders don't set a good example, then we need new leaders. What started as a simple issue has become a Pandora's Box for our Superintendent and our School Board. They've worked hard to keep that "Box" from opening and hide their misdeeds from the public. And, they continue to do so. In fact, five school district supporters showed up at the February 2013 board meeting to read words of praise for our Superintendent and our School Board during Public Comments. Their praise was well documented in the board meeting minutes compared to how poorly my comments were documented. Our Superintendent's will do what she can to try and save her job. It's too late. The "Box"has been opened and the misdeeds cannot be undone. Corrective action needs to be taken and make sure they don't repeat their mistakes.

For the last several years, I have been asking our school district to do the right thing. If presenting facts makes our Superintendent or School Board uncomfortable or embarrassed, that means they know they haven't been doing the right thing. They could have changed their ways but that didn't happen. It's very apparent that our Superintendent doesn't want my facts made public or she wouldn't have sent me a "Cease and Desist" letter in August 2012. Her letter told me that I couldn't discuss my concerns with people in our community or school district except during Public Comments at school board meetings or they would take legal action against me. The comments I make during board meetings haven't been and won't be well documented in the board meeting minutes. Since our district hasn't responded to my requests to audio or video record board meetings, you can assume they don't plan to. Other school districts in the area video record their board meetings. But, that would mean that concerns from the community would be seen by the public. Our superintendent only wants the community to get her spin on things.

Making a school district look good is part of a school superintendent's job. However, it must be done with honesty and integrity while showing respect for those who bring valid concerns to the district. Had our school board listened to my concerns and done something about them over the last several years, I doubt that they would be in the mess that they are in today. Their only course of action from here on out is to read our school board policies and state and federal laws and start following them as they swore to do when they were elected to represent our community. Excuses are no longer being tolerated by the community as shown by the recent ousting of two long time school board members.

Now that the information is starting to flow, our school board will have to change their ways and change the leadership of our school district in order to correct the problems and damage that they have done to our school district's reputation. There will be a few people who still support our school superintendent and some members of our school board. They will continue to try and discredit me and my information. There have been a few that have attacked me personally instead of the facts I present in online forums. I have a very good idea of who some of those posters are and if my analysis is correct, our Superintendent and her husband should be out of a job. I tried numerous times over the last couple of years to bring up these personal attacks to the attention of our school board but was ignored.

Why is it important to me to bring about change in our school district? I want my children to grow up in a school district that they can be proud of. I want them to have great memories of their school years just like I have. However, our current administration and school board has really overshadowed those great memories. It's not the same district that I was proud of while I was growing up when my parents worked for the district. I'm really hoping our community can start working together towards making a positive change in our district.

Five years ago, I would have never dreamed that I would have learned so much about school law and how school districts operate. My mother was a teacher in the district as well for more than 30 years. My father was a teacher, a principal and an assistant superintendent and retired as the acting Superintendent at Fox C-6 in 1997. My father spent 42 years working for the school district after starting his career at Fox in 1955. He has thousands of stories that I've heard many times over the years about things that happened in our school district. Most of the stories I remember are funny things that kids did in his class or excuses that students gave him for doing things they shouldn't have done. Once a student told my father that he was late to school because an airplane crashed and the student stopped to help them. Once when my father was a teacher he had a snapping turtle in his classroom in a covered basket and he wrote on the board, "Do Not Look In The Basket". A few minutes later there were screams coming from his classroom after some of the girls in his class decided to look in the basket. Those are the memories that last a lifetime for dedicated educators and you remember as a kid because you heard them so often while growing up with educators.

My career isn't in the educational field. But, I do have a passion for learning and sharing what I've learned. I'm an aerospace engineer and software developer. Little did I know that I would have to write a blog about my school district in order to get accurate and factual information to our community because you won't find it in the media or get it from our school district. Our school district has a lot of great teachers that really care about the kids. The teachers are the ones that spend the most time with our children and so they should get the most credit for how well our children are educated. Parents can also make a huge difference in the success of their child's education as well. So become involved in your child's education and your school district.

In order to get my points out quickly, I thought I would create a wish list of items that I would like to see our school district work on or do in order to improve things in our district and start rebuilding our district's reputation. Most of all I want a school district that I can be proud of like I was when I was growing up in the district. I will continue to add things to this wish list as I think of them. So, check this post fairly regularly for updates.

So, here are some of the things on my wish list:

Superintendent
  • I wish we had a Superintendent who was honest and trustworthy. Hiding, falsifying or misrepresenting the facts can only be done for so long before truth starts to catch up you and it becomes public knowledge. Threatening or retaliating against those who know the truth only only hastens one's demise.
  • I wish our school board hadn't voted to nearly double our Superintendent's salary over the past 7 years. It has given our Superintendent a false sense of worth to both our school district and our community. If it was truly "all about the kids", our school board shouldn't have voted to approve such a pay increase to our Superintendent. The board should have scrutinized her claims of accomplishments more. Likewise, our Superintendent shouldn't have accepted her lavish pay increases. To put things into perspective, the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools in California is paid $288,000 per year to run 325 schools and 35 school districts with 195,000 students. Our Superintendent is being paid $238,000 for the 2012-2013 school year to run 19 schools with almost 12,000 students. Even more impressive is the fact that the Fresno County Superintendent is giving back his $288,000 annual salary until the end of his 2015 contract by technically retiring early. He was rehired at a salary of $31,000 and is donating it to charity. It's easy to see why our community has lost faith in both our school board and our Superintendent.
    2012 Fox C-6 Superintendent Salary Information
    California School Superintendent Gives Back to his Community Newspaper Article
  • I wish our Superintendent would have simply told me that she didn't want the board packets on the district website because they didn't want the public to have all that information when I asked the board to post them in August 2011. That would have been a much better answer instead of telling me that the district didn't have a full time person to manage the district website. Because it turns our that after I made a Sunshine Request for the board packets, I discovered that the district has had a full time web developer for more than 7 years. It's always best to tell the truth when in a position of power. Not telling the truth destroys a person's credibility.
  • However, I will never forget the time when Jim Chellew our former school superintendent told me in December 2011 that "I'm sure they weren't intentional lies." when I told him about all of the lies that our Superintendent Dianne Brown (now Dianne Critchlow) had told me over the past several years. Mr. Chellew said he was sure that they weren't intentional lies. He explained to me that superintendents speak to so many people about so many different things that a person can't always remember what they've talked about. His explanation reminded me of Mark Twain's famous quote, "If You Always Tell The Truth. You Don't Have To Remember Anything!"
  • I wish our Superintendent's contract contained a Morality Clause as contained in many School District Superintendent contracts.
  • I wish our Superintendent would acknowledge the fact that her husband was promoted due to their relationship and not because of his credentials or experience. That would be a much more honest approach rather than denying what everyone already knows.
  • I wish our Superintendent knew that a 200 Day School Calendar would result in 26 more school days per year rather than 16 more school days per year when based on a 174 day school calendar as was documented in the board meeting minutes.
  • I wish our Superintendent knew that our school district is only 74.06 square miles and not 104 square miles as documented on the district website. I mentioned this to Dan Baker at the April 2011 school board meeting after she referred to the size of our school district in her Superintendent Message addressing snow days that year. You can find the square mileage of every school district in the state on the MO DESE website at:
    http://dese.mo.gov/divadm/govern/SchoolDistrictAreainSquareMiles.htm
  • I wish Fox had enough books for all of our students despite what our Superintendent told News Channel 5. The teachers and parents know the truth.
School Administrators
  • I wish the few school supporters making statements in the paper and in online forums who make claims that my information contains "lies and misleading statements" would point out to me what information is incorrect so I can correct it. Not being able to state what information isn't correct lessens their credibility. It's my opinion that our district has a few disgruntled administrators who don't want the public to know the truth. They've been successfully hiding the truth from our community for years and they aren't happy with the fact that their misdeeds are now becoming public. The school board has done nothing to correct the situation. The board simply ignores the problems and looks the other way.

    You won't find anyone working for the district documenting the problems and issues within our district. They know they would be retaliated against if they did. Therefore, the information needs to be reported by someone who has dealt with our district and experienced first hand how they conduct business and doesn't have anyone employed by the district that our administrators can lash out at. A handful of people with inside information continue to make personal attacks against me anonymously (they must be the disgruntled administrators) in an attempt to sway the public from the truth. Given that Perseverance is a Character Education trait taught by our school district, they should be commended for their Perseverance in attacking me and my family! Great job!!
  • I wish ALL school administrators and principals were honest. I went to school with many of the administrators or have gotten to know them over the years through my parents and so there are many of them that I can trust. However, there have been a few that have told me lies during meetings or in face to face conversations and that doesn't reflect well on them as an administrator. It makes it difficult to have respect for a person once they lie to you. Administrators are in a position of trust and lying is unacceptable for anyone in an administrative position.
  • I wish our school administrators had been honest with MO DESE when they informed them that the special education school buses depart from Lone Dell Elementary at 3PM as documented in the MO DESE reports that were forwarded to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (ED OCR) since that isn't true. The buses may have departed at 3PM on the day that MO DESE came and observed our school district. However, it certainly doesn't occur on a regular basis. Being dismissed 5 minutes early every day for an entire school year is the same as being absent for 2 full days of school based on a 170 day school calendar. I am guessing that our administrators and staff aren't aware of USC 18 Section 1001.
  • I wish our school administrators realized that Monday January 2 is a Federal Holiday when January 1 falls on a Sunday when planning the school calendar. Just as a reminder this will occur again in 2017!
School Board
  • I wish our School Board members would respond to questions asked at school board meetings during Public Comments. Fox's school board policy states that our school board will always try to respond within a week. I don't believe our board has answered a single question of mine since I first spoke at a school board meeting in December 2010. I've had a few questions answered by our Superintendent. Her response berated me for asking questions and she told me that "many of my concerns are false or inaccurate". My concerns must not have been false or inaccurate since the district made corrections to our school calendar and website.
  • I wish our school board members would read my emails before they deleted them. So far, our two newest board members at least opened my email according to the Read Receipt I received. It must be difficult for our board members to listen to the view points and concerns of citizens in our community if they don't read their emails.
  • I wish the school board would have responded to my concerns when our Superintendent's husband approached me at the April 2011 school board meeting and told me that if I had any questions about him that I needed to call him directly. He said I should not be asking our school board questions about him. I took his comments as a threat. Our board simply ignored my concerns. Our Superintendent did respond and told me that I incorrectly stated his salary amount even though it was the amount provided by the district to MO DESE in the CORE data. She never addressed my concerns of his confronting me at the board meeting. Of course, this all occurred prior to them getting married.
  • I wish our School Board would post the Board Packets dating back to 2008 so I could total up the amount of money our school district has spent in legal fees since they decided to take on the federal agencies. I guess they are going to make a federal case out of this.
  • I wish Dave Palmer would resign from the school board since he took advantage of the taxpayers when his wife was promoted to district head nurse in May of 2006 and was given a 75% pay increase. Previous district head nurses never had a contract longer than 9 months and they weren't paid 75% more than all of the other nurses in the school district. She made at least an extra $210,000 more than the next highest paid nurse over the past 7 years. That's just not right.
  • I wish we had a district head nurse who didn't think that her extensive training and knowledge makes her smarter than two 25+ year board certified doctors in their respective field of practice.
  • I wish our district head nurse Gee Palmer would resign from the school district as she is obviously overqualified for the job that she is doing here in our school district. With her extensive knowledge and training that makes her smarter than doctors she should find a much more rewarding job. This would free up enough money for two entry level nurses to be hired by our school district. She could possibly work as an expert witness given the vast knowledge and training she has had as a school nurse.
  • I wish I knew how board vice president Dave Palmer's son was able to get paid as a full time Teacher's Assistant or Aide while still attending college full time to get his teaching degree according to Missouri DESE records. It's odd that MO DESE CORE data had him flagged as a Full Time Equivalent (FTE) of 1.0 meaning a full time employee. This data was entered into CORE data by our school district while he was working for the district prior to obtaining his bachelor's degree which he earned in 2009. He earned his associates degree in 2007. Perhaps Mr. Palmer can explain this to the public.
  • I wish Linda Nash would resign from our school board for even allowing her daughter-in-law to apply for the job of Director of Food Service since she was not even remotely qualified for the job. Superintendent Dianne Critchlow said she didn't even realize that Kelly Nash had even applied for the job. She said she called Linda Nash to see if she was even aware that she had applied for the job after our Superintendent found out she had been recommended for the position out of all of the candidates.
  • I wish Linda Nash's Daughter-In-Law would resign from her position as Director of Food Service so someone who has the proper education, credentials and experience can fill the position. Our former Food Services Director did not know that she needed to be knowledgeable in Section 504 Law. That's why our school district and the entire state of Missouri was found Non-Compliant by the USDA Office for Civil Rights (USDA OCR) in August 2011. When USDA OCR recently visited our school district to conduct a Compliance Review our school district refused to meet with them. That's why the case has now been turned over to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). Our school district made this into a Federal Case.
  • I wish I knew what the $3 Million Dollars Alcohol Prevention Education Grant Money was spent on. I do know that COMTREA received quite a bit of the money according to 2009-2010 Bill Payment public records.
School Board Meetings
  • I wish the school district would have included the list of names of the other candidates that applied for the Food Service Director position in the November 2012 Board Meeting Packet in Section 8.0 Closed Session. This high paying position was given to Linda Nash's daughter-in-law while Linda Nash was the School Board President. If you compare the November 2012 Board Meeting Packet to the February 2013 Board Meeting Packet you will find that in February the school board was informed about how many candidates applied for the Assistant Superintendent position, how many they screened them down to before interviewing the candidates and it listed the members of the interview committee. Why wasn't this information provided to the school board for the Food Service Director position?

    It certainly seems odd that there wasn't a list of names in the publicly posted version of the November 2012 Board Meeting Packet posted online on Friday May 3, 2012 for this position. The list of candidates is public record and should have been included in the board meeting packet as the district has done for other positions.

    Superintendent Dianne Critchlow and Assistant Superintendent Todd Scott informed the media that there was a committee formed and interviews were conducted for the Director of Food Service. Why was this position documented differently than the Assistant Superintendent position? Were the school board members not interested in knowing who the other potential candidates were?

    You can now download the Board Meeting Packets from the district website for the 2012-2013 school year from here to see how this was documented: Fox C-6 School Board Meeting Packets

    Here is the information that was provided to the school board in the February 2013 Board Meeting Packet for the Assistant Superintendent position:
    Backgound: There were 10 candidates for the position (6 internal and 4 external); the applicants were screened down to 4 to be interviewed. The interview committee consisted of: Luann Domek, Monica Montgomery, Carla Duffey, Todd Scott, Bill Steis, Lorenzo Rizzi, Margie Passmore, John Laughlin, and Dianne Critchlow.

    The four candidates that were interviewed were: Don Grimshaw, Liz Anderson, Tammy Cardona, Andy Arbeitman.

    Recommendation: Approve Andy Arbeitman as presented.
  • I wish Public Comments were accurately documented in our school board meeting minutes so the public would know what was really going in our school district. "Concerns within the district" or "Commented on School Calendar, School Board Policies, etc..." doesn't keep the public informed very well about what concerns our community has about our school district.
  • I wish our school board meetings were video recorded or audio recorded so the public could watch or listen to board meetings at anytime if they weren't able to make it to the meetings. Many other school districts already do this. I've been asking for this for nearly two years and my requests have fallen on deaf ears. Could it be that our Superintendent doesn't want the public to know what really happens at school board meetings?
  • I wish our school district teachers could attend school board meetings without being called into their supervisor's office and questioned as to why they attended a school board meeting.
  • I wish more than 3 minutes were allowed for speaking during Public Comments at school board meetings.
School Board Policies
  • I wish our administrators and school board members would read and correct our school board policies and regulations. There are typographical and grammatical errors that have existed in them since they were adopted in 1997.
  • I hope it doesn't take another year or more for the school board to finish reviewing the newly updated and completely overhauled board policies before they get adopted. The United Stated Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (ED OCR) required our school district to make corrections to certain sections of our board policies to meet federal laws. The original deadline for those changes to be submitted to ED OCR was August 2009 according to the Resolution Agreement the district signed and agreed to in May 2009. After nearly 4 years, our school district still hasn't updated those policies as required by the Resolution Agreement. ED OCR is also at fault for extending deadline after deadline for the last 4 years.
  • Our current school board policies such as Policy 311 refers to Policy and Regulation 0342 "Nepotism, Conflict of Interest and Financial Disclosure". There is no Policy or Regulation 0342 in our current set of policies and regulations. This makes reading finding those policies difficult. There is Policy and Regulation 0334 "Conflict of Interest and Financial Disclosure". Perhaps that is what they are referring to. The new Draft Policies contains a 0342 and 0342.1.
  • I wish our Board Policies still included the requirement to list the names of ALL candidates who applied for a position in the board meeting minutes where the spouse of a school board member was hired by the district. This requirement has been removed form our policies. However, it is contained in the standard policies supplied to our district by Missouri Consultants for Education.
    (http://www.moconed.com/policy.php?action=ind&polID=3&catID=1)
Schools
  • I wish that Lone Dell Elementary would delete the 2010 bus route from the school website so parents aren't confused by the information since it is not correct. Our superintendent and several assistants were made aware of this issue while we were discussing some issues after the August 2011 board meeting. Nothing was conveyed from the assistant superintendents even though it was a concern for them. This has been a frustration for many parents in our district for quite a few years. Asking our school board members to look through our district website hasn't resulted in improving the problem. Parents can find the correct Bus Schedule information on the District's Transportation page. Simply ignore the one listed on the Lone Dell page until they remove it.
  • I wish Lone Dell Elementary had an Archery Team along with other schools that don't have them in the school district that have been wanting to have one.
Legal Counsel
  • I wish I didn't have to audio record meetings. But, when meetings aren't accurately documented, you must have some sort of documentation to back you up if it's going to be your word against theirs. I've pointed this problem out to our school board in the past. But, since most of our school board members have employees working for the district, they don't want to jeopardize that income and so my concerns have been ignored. Why else would the school district attorneys be so mad and make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the USDA so they could get a copy of our transcript of our meetings with the school district. If the school district's documentation doesn't match what actually occurred in the meeting, that would pose a problem for our school district now wouldn't it. Honesty is always the best policy!
  • I wish the former school district attorney Mike Hodge hadn't told us during a 504 Meeting that we could always revoke our consent to an independent evaluation by a school district doctor if we didn't feel comfortable with a test he might want to do. Mr. Hodge gave us an example, "For example, if the school doctor wanted to hang your daughter upside down by her ankles for 3 weeks." He then explained that we could always revoke our consent to the Independent Evaluation if we didn't wish that test to be performed. He made it quite clear to us that if we DID revoke our consent, the 504 process would end here and now! I never knew that hanging children upside down by their ankles for 3 weeks was one of the tests that school district doctors performed during independent evaluations in our school district. When I asked Assistant Superintendent Dan Baker while he was under oath during our Due Process Hearing if he remembered the attorney making that comment during our meeting. Mr. Baker said he remembered the comment. He said it was "only a figure of speech".  That certainly seems like an odd "figure of speech" for someone to make about what tests school doctors may want to perform for Independent Evaluations.
U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights
  • I wish the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (ED OCR) enforced the laws that they are charged with upholding rather than allowing extension after extension of deadlines to school districts. No wonder ED OCR has such a backlog of cases. I was told by Karl Menninger from the Kansas City ED OCR office that the running joke is that ED OCR has so many cases on appeal that it would take ED OCR 5 years to catch up if they were to process 10 case per day.
  • I wish ED OCR followed their Case Processing Manual that was referred to in their recent Dear Colleague Letter on Retaliation. By not following through with enforcement actions when a Recipient such as Fox C-6 doesn't fulfill the requirements set forth in their Resolution Agreement after more than 4 years costs both the local community taxpayer dollars in legal fees and is a waste of federal tax dollars as well.
On The Lighter Side:
  • I'm hoping more people start reading my blog so they could become better informed as to how our school district has been conducting business. They can also learn about how other school districts in our state operate compared to Fox to see where improvements can be made to our school district.
  • I wish Carol Kessler would quit signing her name on comments that were written as if they were written by our Superintendent. I don't know how many parents go around talking about the "flawed education funding formula" that our district has had to contend with.
  • I hope that our school district has movie nights using the new $278,000 Jumbotron scoreboard at Fox High School since it has "stadium seating". This would be much better than watching 16mm movies in the old Fox High gym on weekends without air conditioning.
  • I wish Fox had tennis courts like they do at Windsor, Mehlville, Oakville, Parkway and Rockwood. Fox used to have tennis courts at the Fox High campus and the Seckman campus.
  • I wish our school district always did the right thing. Then, I wouldn't have had to spend so much time researching our school district policies and federal and state laws over the past several years.
  • I wish Fox had a snow ski team since they could practice in the higher elevation areas that our Superintendent referred to in her Superintendent message in 2011. I didn't realize that there was such a large elevation change in the southern portion of our school district. I now know that it can be snowing in the higher elevation areas (950 feet) in the southern portion of our school district while it is raining in the lower elevation areas (350 feet) at the river bank in the northern end of our district. Yes. The temperature does decrease between 2.7 and 3.2 degrees for every 1000 feet of change in altitude.