Wednesday, May 1, 2013

U.S. Department of Education Issues Another Monitoring Letter to Fox C-6

Is it simply incompetence? Does our school board not do proper oversight? Is our superintendent not keeping our school board informed of Federal investigations and simply using taxpayer dollars to fend off federal agencies? Is it a matter of the federal agencies not properly enforcing the laws? Or is it all of the above?

The United States Department of Educations's Office for Civil Rights issued another "monitoring" letter on April 25, 2013 to the Fox C-6 School District in reference to the Resolution Agreement the school district signed with the U.S. Department of Education (ED OCR) in May 2009.  The letter was supposed to issued in November 2012. Then it was supposed to be issued in January 2013. Then it was supposed to issued by March 2013. So, even Kansas City ED OCR can't seem to get their act together as well. However, after dealing with them for years and observing their patterns of practice and lack of response, it seems that this is being done to push it off to the end of the school year so another school year has gone by and nothing gets done.

The monitoring letter to our school district states that the District still hasn't fully complied with the May 2009 Resolution Agreement. The district has now been given another new deadline of June 25, 2013 to comply with the agreement. ED OCR has been sending monitoring letters to our school district since December 8, 2009 after the district didn't meet the August 2009 deadlines that were set in the May 2009 Resolution Agreement. So, the process continues. Some of the items listed in the agreement is to update their 504 Procedural Manuals as well as update school board Policies and Regulations which currently do not meet federal non-discrimination laws and Civil Rights Acts. So, far the district has refused to make these changes and school district attorneys have been fighting ED OCR. As a National District of Character, one would think that our school district would properly follow federal laws even more so when a federal agency has specifically reviewed school documentation and pointed out the pages, paragraphs in our Policies and Regulation that must be revised in order to meet federal laws.

One would also think that it would be important to our school board members that our school district follows federal laws as well. Making sure that our district follows the law is part of what our school board members swore to do when they took their oath of office. So, have our school board members become complacent? Or have they not been kept informed by our school superintendent. It is our school superintendent's job to keep our school board informed. If she is not keeping them informed and the district is spending tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars because she is not keeping them informed, that would be a violation of her contract and she should be dismissed. I would certainly like to see an explanation from our school board as to why after 4 years our school district has not been able to fulfill an agreement signed by our district with ED OCR in May of 2009.

I spoke to Dan Kroupa about this on election day before the ballots were counted and before he took office. So, Dan has been fairly well informed about what has been happening with the federal agencies and that they have been monitoring and investigating our school district for nearly 5 years. He even asked me why our district just doesn't comply. I told him that's a very good question.

Our superintendent DOES NOT want the public to know about the investigations that have been going on in our school district. She used taxpayer dollars to have a school district attorney send me a letter a couple of years ago to inform me that the district may be under investigation but that there is nothing to tell the public until ED OCR completes their investigation. The investigation the district attorney was referring to in that letter is a completely different one. It is a District Wide Compliance Review being done by ED OCR. It was opened in March of 2010. You can even find references to it by other attorneys across the country using Google. Attorneys in other states refer to it as things to watch out for when they are teaching their school districts about the law.

Falling Through The Cracks
You might wonder why it takes ED OCR so long to investigate. Well, for one reason, the ED OCR Kansas City office has quite a reputation for allowing things to "fall through the cracks" as Mr. Dan E. Smith our current school board president liked to say in his campaign bid for State Representative.

I have been in touch with parents across our state and in other states that are served by the Kansas CIty Office for Civil Rights. Many of them have had the same experience that we have had with this office. In fact, their office has had cases open for as long as 10 years and laughed about that during a phone conference with them. The school district attorneys are very well versed in how the cases are handled in the Kansas City OCR office. This is all explained in training seminars on Education Law teaching school administrators and school board members. There are ways to get around the system. It's just a matter of waiting them out. The federal agencies will continue to extend deadline after deadline despite ED OCR's Case Processing Manual stating that after refusing to comply they can reopen an investigation and move forward with enforcement. We have been in contact with the Washington D.C. OCR office as well. In fact, our U.S. Senators have as well. Our senators are very well aware of the issues with ED OCR and the fact that there is a lack of enforcement or for that matter a lack of response from the agency as a whole. It sounds rather familiar to the lack of communication from our school board. You can write our school board but chances are slim to none that you will get a response. It seems that this is the standard way of doing business in the Department of Education. In fact, the State of Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education MO DESE passes the buck back to the local school district. This way nothing gets done and the taxpayers keep paying the price.

Mistakes in 504 Procedures Manuals and School Board Policies and Regulations
The recent monitoring letter from ED OCR identifies many errors in our school board 504 Procedures Manual as far as the language not properly following the ADA and ADAAA. These documents were supposed to be corrected and supplied to ED OCR back in August 2009. So, why has it taken our school district so long to do this simple task? Why has ED OCR extended deadline after deadline year after year as our district has failed to do so? Why hasn't our school board stepped in and done their job to make sure that our school district complies with the law and the request of federal agencies? Where is the breakdown of communications between our school board and our superintendent? What about holding the people accountable who's responsibility it is to update these documents?

ED OCR has specifically pointed out that contact persons are incorrectly or are not even identified in our school board Policies and Regulations. ED OCR has also identified language that applies to employees of the school district as well in regards to discrimination and civil rights that is missing. Our school superintendent likes to brag that our district is a "School of Excellence". This may be true when it comes to many of the great teachers we have in our district. However, our upper management team seems to be sorely lacking in this area. I pointed out issues with our school board policies to former board member Ruth Ann Newman in February 2011 and she was quite defensive for my doing so. If the board is unable to recognize or even admit that there is a problem, then our community has a problem and board members need to step down so others in our community can do the job that they are supposed to be doing. I read online posts made be people defending our school superintendent and school board members and telling what a wonderful job they are doing. In my opinion, those people posting must be family members or they are our superintendents and school board members themselves. The community is well aware of the problems that have been occurring within our district. However, most of them are afraid to say anything for fear of retaliation. Hopefully, now that the Department of Justice has become involved thanks to the USDA with whom our school district recently refused to meet with for a Compliance Review, things will begin to change.

Retaliation and Defamation By The District
Personally, I don't take these matters lightly given the fact that that my family and I have put up with a considerable amount of retaliation, libel, defamatory comments and attacks made on my character over the past several years. I decided to stand up for what is right and bring this to the attention of our community and to our school board after I learned that our district wasn't following the law in my own case. If they weren't following the law in that matter, there was a good chance that there weren't following the law in other matters in our district. And, I was correct! And because I have learned the law and have been voicing my concerns, our Superintendent has worked hard to discredit me. She continues to tell people that my information is "false or inaccurate" or that much of what I write on my blog is false. Who are you going to believe? Who knows, maybe TROOP will make some more defamatory and slanderous and untrue statements about me over on Topix again. Just to be clear again for everyone, I don't post on Topix and haven't since January of 2011. But, you can bet that our Superintendent's supporters have. I found it very interesting how TROOP seemed to disappear off of Topix after several posters made comments that they thought TROOP was our Superintendent's husband. Wouldn't that certainly be a shock to our community considering the vulgarity of TROOP's language. TROOP certainly had a lot of inside information that would only have been known to a few individuals in our district.

I certainly never thought that I would spend so much time learning about education and civil rights law as an engineer. But, when your reputation is attacked by school district personnel and school district attorneys, you tend to want to set the record straight. Because there is so much to learn, our school district has been able to get away with things for years. That and the fact that our Superintendent has been able to keep their wrong doings out of the public eye and out of the media. Not only has our school district's actions affected me and my family in a negative way. But, they have affected many in our community negatively due to their abuse of power and limitless amounts of money that they can spend on attorneys in an attempt to quite those who speak out. Many in our community can't take on our district because they work for the district and others simply don't want the grief. Hopefully, this will all change in the near future after we have a change in leadership and a change in school board members. One can definitely hope!

Our District administrators and district attorneys like to throw out a lot of statements that misrepresent the law hoping that you don't know the law. Some of it is the simple fact that our own superintendent and assistant superintendent as well as principals and staff don't know the law or have been incorrectly taught the law. I would certainly expect that our Superintendent Dianne Critchlow who makes nearly $250,000 a year and Assistant Superintendent Dan Baker who makes nearly $150,000 a year and do this as their full time job would know the law. Dianne Critchlow has been working in education for more than 20 years and Dan Baker has been working in education for 18 years. I have to ask. How long does it take to learn the laws that they are supposed to follow? Dan Baker is responsible for knowing 504 Law. That is part of his job. Our Superintendent is responsible as well. So, you have to add to their salaries the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars that our district is spending in legal fees to correct the problems. It's definitely costly to the taxpayer when laws aren't followed due to lack of knowledge.

How Many Years Before ED OCR Does Their Job?
So, how many more years will this continue before our school district fulfills the requirements they agreed to in the May 2009 Resolution Agreement with ED OCR? How many more years will our school district be undergoing a District Wide Compliance Review by ED OCR? How many more thousands of dollars will it cost the taxpayer? These are questions you should start asking our school board members because they approve the Bill Payments each month when those checks are sent to the school district law firm. At least you can now find out for yourself how much our school district is spending in legal fees because the Bill Payments are now being included in the Board Packets on the district website. These are supposed to be the same Board Packets that are sent out each month to our school board members for review prior to school board meetings. Our school district's law firm is Mickes Goldman O'Toole. Or, you can look for payments made for Legal Services in the description.

How Much More Money Will Our District Waste?
In August and September of 2012 combined, our school district doled out more than $103,000 to the school district law firm. Of course, the school district was having meetings with the USDA OCR office back then dealing with their other Non-Compliance issue. I will have to make a Sunshine Law Request to obtain copies of the invoices from the school district law firm in order to find out exactly what those legal expenses were for. I'm sure that almost everyone in our community would rather see that money being spent on books for our kids rather than paying school district attorneys. I'm sure that statement may have our Superintendent spending more money on another "Cease and Desist" letter sent to defame my character. If any of the facts above are incorrect regarding ED OCR and the USDA OCR, please let me know so I can correct them. The documenting of their misdeeds continues. The best thing is that we now have the Department of Justice working on the case thanks to the USDA OCR. You can be assured that they are being provided with complete and accurate information.

I think our school board needs to start looking for a new Superintendent and a new Assistant Superintendent. What do you think?