Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fox C-6 Has a New Website But It Has The Same Old Problems! Who Reviews Our Website?

One of the recent news items posted on the Fox C-6 School District website was that the district has a NEW Website. Fox recently moved it's website from Edline to SharpSchool. Hopefully SharpSchool works much better than Edline and our district learns how to use it.

In reviewing the new website, it appears that some of the same old problems that we had on the old site have cropped up again. There are now a lot of typographical errors as well because of copy and paste with HTML. It appears as if no one is checking their work. I pointed out issues about our district website in the past to our school board and administrators and I received quite a bit of backlash from our Superintendent for doing so. She told me that many of my concerns were "False and Inaccurate" and that "no one else has complained". Rather than attacking me for pointing out issues, she should have just made the corrections. Perhaps she thinks that Fox doesn't have to check their work because Fox is a "School of Excellence". I just know that by speaking up, you will be a target of attack by our Superintendent.

I asked our school board in the past to review our district's website and it's very obvious that they didn't. It's obvious that our administrators and staff didn't review our district website either. Perhaps they did but were afraid to say anything to Superintendent Critchlow because they didn't want the backlash that she usually dishes out! The errors and mistakes on the website ultimately reflect on her and our school board for not doing their job. She's certainly not earning the $250,000 that our school board is so generously paying her with our taxpayer dollars. For that kind of money, I would expect her to know the law, our board policies as well know that our school district only covers 74 square miles and not the 104 square miles that's listed on the district website. She mentioned this incorrect fact in her February 10, 2011 Superintendent message titled "Snow Days" when she told the community that "The school district covers nearly 100 square miles.". It's funny at first. But, when you think about how much we pay her, she should know how big our school district is. I told Dan Baker at the April 2011 board meeting about Dianne's "Snow Days" message being incorrect and asked him to pass it on. But, it never got corrected. Fox has less than half the square mileage of the Rockwood school district. Maybe after she reads this article she'll correct the information on the district website and educate herself a little more.

So, who's responsibility is it to review and maintain our district website?

I was confronted by Superintendent Dianne Critchlow after I spoke at the August 2011 school board meeting when I asked the school board to publish the school board meeting packets and financial data on the district website like they do in other districts such as Wentzville. Superintendent Critchlow made it a point to tell me that Fox didn't have a full time person to maintain the district website like they did at Wentzville. She told me that she called Wentzville and found out that they had 2 full time people to maintain their website. To make it sound as if she really cared about the kids in our district, she told me that the district chooses to put its money into the classroom rather than paying someone to maintain our website.

If she wants to make the community feel as if she really cares, she should ask the school board to reduce her salary to a more appropriate amount and hire two full time people to maintain the district website like they have at Wentzville. Putting $100,000 of her salary back into the classroom would go a long way towards showing the community that she cares about the kids and the community. Actions speak much louder than words!

Can Our Superintendent Ever Tell the Truth?
I found out after receiving school board meeting packets from the district via a Missouri Sunshine Law request that Superintendent Critchlow's statement about not having a full time person to maintain the district website was false. The district has had a full time web designer for more than 7 years. Telling me that the district didn't have a person to maintain the website was just her way of creating an excuse to not publish the district data for the community. I don't think she wants everyone to know what's going on behind the scenes in our school district. If she can keep the financial data and other information from the public, people aren't going to question about why things are being done as they are.

After years of being told lie after lie, it's starting to catch up with her and others in our district. The truth is finally being uncovered and she's probably "thoroughly enraged" about it. I guess that's why one of her biggest fans, Carol Kessler, attacks me and others in the Arnold-Imperial Leader and The Rock newspapers. Ms. Kessler said she was "thoroughly enraged reading manipulated selective 'facts'". Perhaps Ms. Kessler should read more to learn about the many facts that aren't manipulated but are thoroughly documented on this website. I'll just consider Ms. Kessler's comments to be bullying and retaliation by the school district since she is an employee of the district. That's just how our superintendent does things. Everyone who works for the district knows how she works.

When you get a chance, ask Superintendent Critchlow about the investigations being conducted by the federal agencies and why the United States Department of Justice is now looking into things. Recently, the USDA asked the Department of Justice for assistance after MO DESE and Fox refused to comply with the USDA's August 2011 Final Agency Decision which found both MO DESE and Fox C-6 non-compliant with Section 504, ADA and the ADAAA. A recent email from Kris Morrow an attorney at MO DESE documents the fact that MO DESE doesn't believe that the USDA has jurisdiction. Thanks to Kris Morrow for documenting this in writing for the Department of Justice. It will be interesting to see how this turns out for our district and MO DESE and all of those involved in trying to get around the law. Perhaps our school board members should have read up on the law a few years ago when I tried to educate them rather than relying on our Superintendent for information. The truth can only be hidden for so long before it becomes public. If you ever have any issues with our district, make sure you document everything. It comes in handy when it's your word against their word. It's even more helpful to have when the Department of Justice begins asking for evidence. There's a reason why our Superintendent doesn't want to record our school board meetings or allow other meetings to be recorded.

So, back to the school district's NEW website, here was what the district posted on the new website on June 25, 2013 the day of the last school board meeting:

Welcome to Our New Website!  
Posted on 6/25/2013
Things are looking different on the district and school web site for the Fox C-6 School District!  We are proud to announce our partnership with a new web hosting company named SharpSchool.  As the new school year unfolds, we will be rolling out some exciting new tools for our staff, parents and the community to forge even stronger bonds of communication and interaction.
As we make the transition, please be patient if you encounter broken links or missing content.  We have been working hard with Sharp School to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.  It is our hope that this web site will be simple to navigate and use while being filled with content that is both timely and informative.

I have asked our school board members in the past to look at the district website because there have been several problems such as missing files, 3 year old school bus schedules that were wrong, incorrect information, typographical errors and image files that should have been resampled to a smaller size before being published on the website. When I mentioned some of the issues at school board meetings during public comments, I was told that the files were there even though they weren't. I was told that no one else had "complained" about the problem but they would look into it. Some of the problems I mentioned were corrected but not until I emailed the board again which was followed up by a snarky email response from our superintendent.

If our superintendent doesn't care to receive constructive criticism, then she should look for another job. I'm sure that our community can find a superintendent that will be much more affordable and care more about the community, kids and employees in our school district. I wonder how many superintendents in other school districts threaten citizens with Cease and Desist letters for providing factual information to the public. Perhaps she will post Cease and Desist letters on the new website hoping to forge stronger bonds of communication with the community. It's just not what I would expect from a "National District of Character".

It's time for our school board and our community to start looking for a new school superintendent who can be trusted to tell the truth and handle themselves in a professional manner.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Have You Seen A Copy of Fox C-6's 2013-2014 Annual Budget?

The Fox C-6 school board approved the district's 2013-2014 annual budget at the June 2013 school board meeting. After the meeting I asked our school board secretary to post a copy of the 2013-2014 Fox C-6 budget on the district website. I was told that it would probably be a few weeks before it would get posted if it was allowed to be posted. Fox has not published their annual budget on the district website yet but I am hopeful that they will. Also, the district did not publish the salary schedules for the administration and the teachers yet in the June 2013 board packet like they did last year. So, hopefully that information will get added as well.

When I asked our school board to post the budget on the district website in the past at school board meetings, I was informed by Superintendent Dianne Critchlow that the information was on MO DESE's website. There is very limited data on the MO DESE website. It does not provide any detail as to how your taxpayer dollars are being spent by our school district. That's why the annual budget that the school board approves each year should be published on Fox's website like they do in other school districts such as Rockwood.

Rockwood publishes a very extensive report and provides their community with a great picture of what is going on in their school district.

The Fox C-6 school board members were provided a copy of the budget in their last minute board meeting notes prior to the June 2013 school board meeting. However, the board meeting packets posted on the district website have not been updated with this information. Therefore, I am making another request to our school board that they publish this document on the district website for the community.

Fox's budget document should be published annually on the district website like they do in other school districts in order to be more transparent. This is part of keeping the public informed about how their taxpayer dollars are being spent.

Demographic Comparisons With Rockwood
For comparison's sake, Rockwood's Total Expeditures is twice that of Fox. Rockwood has nearly twice as many schools (30 vs 18) and nearly twice the number of students (22,268 vs 11,614).

I would like our school board to explain to the community why they approved increasing Superintendent Dianne Critchlow's salary to an amount higher than that of Rockwood's former superintendent. Her 2013-2014 salary was originally scheduled to be higher than Rockwood's new interim superintendent who will be making $250,000 for the 2013-2014 school year. But that salary amount is based upon her salary schedule from last year.

Superintendent Critchlow's salary amount is even more distorted by the fact that Rockwood's Median Household Income is 50% higher than that of Fox residents and a Median Home Price of nearly double that of Fox.

So, how did Superintendent Critchlow's salary get so out of line?

Fox C-6 School District Demographics and Data 
Superintendent Dianne Critchlow's 2013 Salary:  $246,824
Head Nurse Gee Palmer's Salary:  $76,553
Median Household Income:  $62,649
Median House Price:  $165,900
Total Expenditures:  $135,958,354
ACT Composite Score: 22.3
ACT Percent of Graduates Tested: 55.98%
Land Area: 74 sq. miles (It's not 104 sq. miles as shown on Fox's website)

Rockwood R-VI School District Demographics and Data
Superintendent Bruce Borchers 2013 Salary:  $230,000
Head Nurse Salary:  $64,564
Median Household Income:  $94,139
Median House Price:  $291,900
Total Expenditures:  $271,432,719
ACT Composite Score: 23.7
ACT Percent of Graduates Tested: 96.25%
Land Area: 154 sq. miles

Knowing that Rockwood has double the number of students and nearly double the number of schools, why would Fox's District Head Nurse Gee Palmer's be paid more than $20,000 more than her counterpart at Rockwood?

Could Gee Palmer have a higher pay due to the fact that she is the wife of current school board vice president Dave Palmer?

The community should be highly concerned about these salary comparisons. These salaries definitely don't make sense. Both Gee Palmer and Rockwood's district head nurse have the same number of years of service in their school district's according to MO DESE data. Maybe our school board can explain the difference to our community.

For an example of an annual budget document from another school district, I have included a link to the Rockwood R-VI School District's 2012-2013 Annual Budget. Rockwood received an Excellence in Financial Reporting award for their budget presentation. You will see why after you download and review their budget document.

Rockwood recently hired an interim superintendent to replace Dr. Borchers who recently left the school district after pressure from the community. Just like Fox, Rockwood has a couple of new school board members this year as well.

Please take the time to download and review Rockwood's budget information as an excellent example of an annul budget report.

Please tell your Fox C-6 school board members that you would like this same type of information for our community. With as much as we are paying Superintendent Critchlow, we should have the same quality document if not better for our district!

Rockwood R-VI School District 2013-2014 Annual Budget

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Will You Be Earning More Than $15,000 Per Month For LIFE When You Retire?

Will You Be Earning More Than $15,000 Per Month
For LIFE When You Retire?

That's how much money Fox C-6 Superintendent Dianne Critchlow will be getting paid when she retires thanks to our School Board's generous salary raises over the last 7 years. Your taxpayer dollars pay for educator salaries and retirement benefits. Currently, educators contribute 14.5% of their salary to their retirement and the school district contributes an additional 14.5%.

The problem here is that the Fox C-6 School Board has nearly doubled Superintendent Critchlow's salary since she became Superintendent in July 2005. Her salary has increased from $137,589 for the 2005-2006 school year to $246,824 for the 2012-2013 school year!

Prior superintendents were making roughly 25% more than assistant superintendents. Currently, Dianne Critchlow is making 55% more than the next highest paid assistant superintendent. Our school board sets her salary. Our school board is supposed to represent the community that elected them. I think you will have a tough time finding anyone in our community that would have ever approved of paying our superintendent the salary she is currently getting paid.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch recently published the 2012-2013 Missouri Educators Salary information on their website. You can select Fox C-6 and then choose between Position types such as Admin, Supervisor, Principal, Teacher, Aide, etc.:

Is Dianne Critchlow really worth $246,824?

Many people that I have talked to don't think so! In fact, I believe that Superintendent Critchlow has done far more damage to our district than good by far. Ask any teacher or employee in the district that isn't related to her or aren't one of her close friends what the morale is like in our district. They may not tell you for fear of losing their job. But morale is certainly not as good as it should or could be. I know there are employees in our District that appreciate any and all efforts being done to bring about a positive change to our District. So, your help is needed by contacting and speaking with our school board.

I think the best thing our school board could do for our school district and our community would be to relieve Superintendent Critchlow of her duties and hire a new Superintendent. That one change alone would be probably be the best thing to have happened to our school district and community in the last 10 years!

So, how much will our Superintendent's retirement benefits cost you?

Based on full retirement benefits, Superintendent Critchlow will be earning at least 75% of the Average Salary Amount of the 3 Highest Consecutive Years of Salary Earned. That salary amount includes employer paid medical, dental and vision health premiums. Therefore, she will be earning at least $15,000 per month for LIFE when she retires and those benefits will increase with a Cost of Living Adjustment.

Superintendent Critchlow's 
Highest 3 Years of Salary Earned So Far!
2011 - $215,276
2012 - $228,573
2013 - $246,824

Ask your school board what Superintendent Critchlow has done for our district to deserve those pay increases?

You can find details on page 6 in the Missouri Public School Retirement System Brochure on Missouri's PSRS website regarding the formula for retirement.

On page 2 of the Missouri Public School Retirement System Brochure you can see more benefits of the PSRS.
Lifetime Retirement Benefits With Five-Year Vesting
As a PSRS member, once you have earned five years of credit with PSRS, you are vested and can receive lifetime retirement benefits when eligible. In most cases, the retirement benefits paid to PSRS members greatly exceed the funds they contribute to the System while working.
In fact, most PSRS retirees recover all their contributions within the first five years of retirement.
If an educator works for more than 30 years, they will receive a slightly higher amount than the 75%. If an educator works more than 3 years beyond normal retirement, they have the option of a one time lump sum payment with reduced lifetime benefits.

There was a recent article written by James Shuls of the Show-Me Institute titled, "Salary Spikes Boosts Pensions, But Cripples Taxpayers" that was re-published in His article discusses how the recent hiring of recently retired Wentzville Superintendent Terry Adams by the Rockwood School District as interim superintendent for $250,000 will boost Mr. Adams retirement benefit by $15,000 per year for life. So, over the next 20 years, Mr. Adams will receive an additional $300,000 thanks to his extra year of work at Rockwood.

So, how does your retirement compare to what our school board is going to be providing to Superintendent Dianne Critchlow when she retires?

The school district didn't publish the administrator's salary schedule in the last board meeting packet like they did last year. So, we don't yet know what Superintendent Critchlow will be making for the 2013-2014 school year yet.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Documentation Contradicts Superintendent Dianne Critchlow's Statements at June 2013 Board Meeting!

After I spoke during Public Comments at the June 2013 Fox C-6 School Board meeting regarding an open Resolution Agreement with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (ED OCR) and a Final Agency Decision from the USDA Office for Civil Rights (USDA OCR) finding Fox C-6 and Missouri DESE non-compliant with Section 504, ADA and the ADAAA, Superintendent Dianne Critchlow made the following statement:
"We are in compliance with every complaint to date and one is in litigation and we cannot discuss it." 
If you read the Monitoring Letters issued by the ED OCR and the Final Agency Decision from USDA OCR using the links below, you'll find that Superintendent Critchlow's statement was FALSE.

Why would our Superintendent say that we cannot discuss these issues?

The ED OCR Monitoring Letters and USDA OCR's Final Agency Decision don't reflect well on her, the school board or our district. And, if she made a statement at the school board meeting it must be true.

If Superintendent Critchlow is truly keeping our school board informed on these issues, I would think that the board would want to know why it has taken our District more than 4 years to meet the obligations of the Resolution Agreement they signed with ED OCR in May of 2009. Our school board should also be asking why our District is spending tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees rather than correcting their documentation and complying with the law.

I'm sure our Superintendent had no idea that ED OCR would find a lot more problems in our District than just not wanting to properly follow Section 504 law. If you read the ED OCR Monitoring Letters below, you'll find that there are a number of problems with the district's policies and handbooks complying with Section 504, ADA and ADAAA. It was such a systemic issue that the Washington D.C. Office for Civil Rights decided to conduct a District Wide Compliance Review of Fox C-6.

The District Wide Compliance Review was initiated in March of 2010 by ED OCR. Fox's attorneys argued that ED OCR was picking on our District and harassing them. Needless to say, ED OCR denied their request to rescind the District Wide Compliance Review. However, the District has done a very good job of dragging things out while spending a lot in legal fees.

Nearly 4 Years and Counting Despite Reassurances
It should be noted that Fox didn't accomplish what they originally agreed to do by August 31, 2009. By reading through the original Resolution Agreement and then the Monitoring Letters and attorney responses, you'll find that our District informed ED OCR that it would have the policies and procedures updated by July 31, 2010 after the district didn't meet the original 2009 dates.

In 2012, the District informed ED OCR that they planned on having the updated policies and procedures completed by July of 2012. Well, that didn't happen either! So, here we are in July of 2013 and the District still hasn't updated their documentation.

Now that the USDA OCR has asked the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for assistance in bringing Fox C-6 and Missouri DESE into compliance, it appears to demonstrate the fact that our school district and many like ours simply ignore the federal agencies. I think this is mostly due to the fact that ED OCR "allows" the District to "voluntarily comply". And, since ED OCR just issues new deadlines and doesn't actually perform any enforcement, school districts ignore them. It will be interesting to see how much money our school board plans to allow our Superintendent to spend on these issues before they decide to comply with the rulings and fulfill their obligations of the Resolution Agreement.

Below you will find some of the documentation showing the District's compliance problems. Our Superintendent has a tendency to just throw out statements thinking or hoping everyone believes her.

I provide the documentation that shows that what she says isn't always true!

Letters from the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (ED OCR) and the USDA OCR document the fact that our district is NOT in full compliance.

Fox and Missouri DESE Found Non-Compliant by USDA OCR
The complaints I spoke of at the June 2013 board meeting are not in litigation. Only the Department of Justice can litigate a complaint with the District. Currently the USDA is working with Missouri DESE hoping that MO DESE will bring our district into compliance with the USDA's Final Agency Decision. If MO DESE fails to do so, the DOJ will then step in to bring about compliance. At that time, the District may possibly end up in litigation. But, at the moment, these complaints are not in litigation. Superintendent Critchlow throws out the litigation claim to so she can keep things behind "closed doors" rather than speaking about them in the public session of the board meetings.

UPDATED: On Friday July 12, 2013, Missouri DESE's assistant legal counsel Kris Morrow sent an email stating that "It remains DESE's position that 504 Compliance within the public schools falls under the purview of the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights." following questions sent to Karen Wooton, Missouri DESE's Food Nutrition Director regarding the USDA's August 2011 Final Agency Decision that found MO DESE non-compliant.

Apparently, Ms. Morrow hasn't read the legally binding agreement that Missouri DESE signs with the USDA each year in order to receive their federal funding from the USDA. Ms. Morrow would be well advised to read the April 2011 memo from the USDA OCR office which MO DESE has posted on their website.

Not to rule out any possibilities! But, perhaps Superintendent Critchlow is simply having a difficult time accepting the fact that the Monitoring Letters from ED OCR and the USDA Final Agency Decision aren't accolades for our District. If you're curious, give them a read and see what you think. How would someone document this on their resume as an accomplishment?

The links below open the documents from ED OCR, USDA OCR and our school district attorneys to get an understanding of how compliant or non-compliant the Fox C-6 School District really is with these agencies. Our school district has certainly invested a lot of money in legal fees just to keep from filling out paperwork like 504 Plans for students in our District!

Documentation From Federal Agencies Contradicts
Superintendent's Statements

May 1, 2009 Fox C-6 School District Resolution Agreement with ED OCR

December 8, 2009 ED OCR Issues First Monitoring Letter to Fox C-6 for May 1, 2009 Resolution Agreement

August 18, 2011 - Fox C-6 and MO DESE Found
Non-Compliant with Section 504, ADA and ADAAA

This ruling was handed down from the USDA after reviewing the Due Process Hearing that was put on by the District and heard by the District attorney's former law associate who was hired by the District as a Due Process Hearing Officer. The same attorney was hired by the District in January 2009 as a Due Process Hearing Officer for another case in the District and the hearing officer ruled in favor of the District on that case too. I wonder how truly "Fair and Impartial" former law associates are in hearing cases? You'll have to read the USDA's take on the Due Process Hearing Officer's decision.

August 18, 2011 USDA OCR Final Agency Decision Finding Fox C-6 and MO DESE Non-Compliant

March 13, 2012 - Fox C-6 Still Non-Compliant per ED OCR
ED OCR points out a lot of flaws in our District's student handbooks and school board policies that need to be updated. They also point out the fact that there are at least 7 different people identified in the District documentation as the District's 504 Coordinator on page 12. One of the persons listed hasn't worked for the District since 2008. I have to say that ED OCR is fairly thorough in their reading over of  our District's Policies, Procedures and Student Handbooks.

March 13, 2012 ED OCR Monitoring Letter Update Sent to Fox C-6 Documenting Obligations Still Not Satisfied per the May 2009 Resolution Agreement

August 3, 2012 - Fox C-6 Still Non-Compliant per ED OCR
More of the same but with a little more detail of what needs to be corrected starting on page 10 of the document.

August 3, 2012 ED OCR Monitoring Letter Update Sent to Fox C-6 Documenting Obligations Still Not Satisfied per the May 2009 Resolution Agreement

April 25, 2013 - Fox C-6 Still Non-Compliant per ED OCR
The following April 25, 2013 ED OCR Monitoring Letter informed the Fox C-6 School District that it still has not met its obligations from the May 1, 2009 Resolution Agreement signed by Dan Baker. There have been 4 monitoring letters sent to the district since May 2009. Deadlines for were given and never met. Therefore Fox C-6 IS NOT in compliance as Superintendent Critchlow stated at the June 2013 board meeting.

It seems that our district has a serious problem with being able to update its school board policies and regulations. It has now been 3 years since our district informed ED OCR that it would complete the updates of board policies and regulations.

How long does it take to update documentation?

ED OCR is still waiting for board policy updates and changes to its manuals. ED OCR has allowed the District to "voluntarily comply" for more than 4 years. The District has still not complied. Why not?

Perhaps it is time for our school board to ask Superintendent Critchlow why the District under her leadership hasn't been able to meet the obligations of their May 1, 2009 Resolution Agreement with ED OCR.

It has also been nearly 3 years since District attorney Teri Goldman informed ED OCR that they should be completing the board policies and procedures updates by July 31, 2010. Taxpayer dollars are being spent by our District and ED OCR for failing to comply with the May 1, 2009 Resolution Agreement. Perhaps it's time for our school board to start looking for new leadership in our school district.

Due Process Hearing Officer Selection Concerns
Would you be concerned if you were going to be forced to go through a Due Process Hearing against your school district and the school district gets to choose the Due Process Hearing Officer to hear the case? Would you be concerned if the school district chose a Due Process Hearing Officer that was a former law associate of the school district Attorney representing the school district in the Due Process Hearing? How about if you found out that the attorneys co-represented school districts together at law firms against parents? Would you be concerned if you found out that the two attorneys were presenters at a convention answering questions on the rules of Due Process and discussing topics such as "Testifying in Due Process Hearings"?

Section 504 Procedural Safeguards typically state that the parent or the school district can request a Due Process Hearing to resolve disputes with Section 504 decisions. The safeguards state that the school district will choose the Due Process Hearing Officer. The Due Process Hearing Officer is typically an attorney who acts like a judge to hear both parties on a matter and render a decision. A hearing officer is supposed to be "Fair and Impartial". A quick Google search of the hearing officer chosen by the District immediately raised red flags because the hearing officer chosen by the District was Mr. John Brink who was a former law associate of District attorney Teri Goldman in two different law firms. The choice of a hearing officer can easily sway the outcome of a hearing. I know that hearing officers are supposed to be "Fair and Impartial". But, as proof of my concern, I found several cases where Mr. Brink and Ms. Goldman while working for the same law firms co-represented school districts on cases. What was more troubling was the fact that Mr. Brink and Ms. Goldman were listed together as presenters at the 2007 Missouri Speech Language Hearing Association (MSHA) convention speaking about the rules pertaining to Due Process with one of their topics listed as "Testifying in Due Process Hearings". This is why we filed a complaint regarding our concerns over the school district's choice of the Due Process Hearing Officer with ED OCR.

District attorney Teri Goldman responded to ED OCR investigating our concerns. In her response to ED OCR she stated, "Since 2002, Ms. Goldman occasionally sees Mr. Brink at professional conferences (perhaps 1-2 times per year) and does converse with him at such conferences. Beyond that, she has no personal relationship with him. Since 2002, Ms. Goldman and Mr. Brink have not served as co-presenters contrary to the Simpson's representation. Neither Ms. Goldman nor the District know the basis for the Simpson's assertion in that regard." That's why I submitted the convention schedule brochure PDF document from the 2007 MSHA conference to ED OCR documenting our concern along with a photo of Mr. Brink and Ms. Goldman seated together at the conference luncheon. These documents were found on the MSHA website along with the URL links. Shortly after ED OCR reviewed our complaint and responses from the District, Ms. Goldman and Mr. Brink, the documents were removed from the MSHA website where they had been posted for nearly 3 years. I found it odd that the documents disappeared so quickly after ED OCR investigated our concerns.

So, is Ms. Goldman's statement true about not serving as co-presenters with Mr. Brink? I kept a copy of the MSHA Convention brochure and photo from the luncheon just in case. The session description can be found on page 24 of the program schedule from the following link:

Below is District attorney Teri Goldman's response to ED OCR regarding our concerns of the Due Process Hearing Officer selection. Mr. Dan Baker stated that he was originally concerned after I brought it to the attention of the District and ED OCR that Mr. Brink and Ms. Goldman were former law associates. However, after speaking with District attorney Teri Goldman and she assured Mr. Baker that Mr. Brink would be fair and impartial, Mr. Baker was no longer concerned about the choice of the hearing officer. Apparently, Mr. Baker didn't know that Ms. Goldman and Mr. Brink were former law associates during a January 2009 Due Process Hearing that Mr. Baker was involved in with another family at Fox that was decided in favor of the school district.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Why Did Fox C-6 Stop Recording School Board Meetings?

I told my parents I had an audio recording of the recent June 2013 school board meeting. I wanted them to hear what Superintendent Dianne Critchlow's response was to my Public Comments and the fact that she kept me from responding to her statements. This is how our Superintendent handles things which allows her to throw out information that is false or misleading in order to keep the truth from the public.

After I played the audio of my public comments and Superintendent Critchlow's response for my parents, I played some of the audio from David "SuperDave" Day's Blog Talk Radio Show so they could hear his impression of the school board meeting. I told me parents that I didn't see the "arrogant looks on Ms. Critchlow's face" or the "ridiculous looks" that Super Dave said she was making as I spoke at the board meeting. I wasn't looking at our Superintendent as I was speaking. I was reading from my notes as quick as I could. You only get 3 minutes to address to board during Public Comments. According to board policy 0403, "A period of thirty minutes will be allotted to residents of the School District and staff at the beginning of the meeting to give the Board the opportunity to listen to citizens. The Board is very interested in citizen viewpoints and problems." With 30 minutes allotted for Public Comments and only 1 or 2 people speak at most board meetings, you would think the 3 minutes could be increased to allow for more comments to be made. Our board policy states that the Board is very interested in citizen viewpoints and problems. For some reason, I just don't get the feeling that they care to really hear about those viewpoints and problems or do anything about them.

I told my father that I always record school board meetings I attend because the minutes aren't always accurate or lack detail. Therefore, the public doesn't know what really happened at the board meeting or what was really discussed or commented on to the board. The public only gets our Superintendent's version of what occurred at the meeting. That's when my father told me that he used to audio record all school board meetings when he was an assistant superintendent and while he was on the school board at Fox. He said he kept the recordings for at least a year before getting rid of them. I found that very interesting considering the fact that I have been asking our school board to audio or video record Fox's board meetings for more than 2 years now. I've never received a response to that question from our board. Nor, have I seen any effort made towards posting recordings of board meetings on the district website.

On May 17, 2011, I sent an email to then board president Ruth Ann Newman asking for a response to the questions I asked at the April 2011 board meeting as well as questions I asked at the December 2010 board meeting. School board policy states that "All questions will be responded to by an appropriate person within the week whenever possible."

Apparently, our school board doesn't follow this policy. I received an arrogant email response that same day from Superintendent Critchlow (Brown at the time) regarding my concerns. One of my concerns was how poorly my Public Comments were documented in the December 2010 board meeting minutes. Critchlow responded to this concern with the following, “The Board secretary contacted MSBA's legal counsel the following day after the April meeting. They informed her that the district was in compliance in the manner in which the BOE minutes are reported.”

According to our Superintendent, someone checked on my concern but then didn't bother to respond to my concern until I emailed nearly a month later asking for a response. Certainly the manner in the which the BOE minutes are reported would comply with the law because they are posted for the public on the district website. However, I doubt the public would agree that documenting a Public Comment as "Concerns within the district." doesn't meet the requirements of our board policy that states, "The minutes of all Board meetings shall be accurate, complete and meet all legal requirements." It raises questions such as, what were my concerns? The district's response in reviewing their minutes would have to be "Concerns within the district." because that is how they documented it. Does that sound "accurate" and "complete"? I don't think so. That's why our board meetings need to be audio or video recorded.

The public needs to know what the concerns are of citizens in our school district and not just what our Superintendent wants to provide to the public. The minutes as they were documented for the December 2010 board meeting gives the appearance that the school is trying to hide citizen's concerns from the public. It's not just our Superintendent's fault because the school board approves the minutes each month at the beginning of the board meeting. So, they are aware of what was written in the meeting minutes before they approve them.

Why and When Did Fox Stop Recording School Board Meetings?
I've been asking our school board to audio or video record the board meetings for at least 2 years now and publish them on the district website like they do in other school districts. I've never received a response to that question from our school board. Is that because our Superintendent doesn't want that to happen? The public doesn't even know that I asked the school board this question because it was never documented in the board meeting minutes.

I've provided transcripts of portions of our board meetings from my audio recordings to our board and Superintendent when things weren't done as they were stated they would at board meetings. If there isn't a recording of a board meeting, there's no way to hold our Superintendent or our school board accountable for what was said at the meeting. That's why the taxpaying public should demand that the district record and publish these recordings on the district website. If other school districts can do this and the city of Arnold and Jefferson County Council can do this, then Fox can do it as well. Having an audio recording of the meeting makes it difficult for our Superintendent to give just her version of what occurred at the board meeting.

Contact Your School Board Members
Contact your school board members and tell them that you would like our school district to start video or audio recording school board meetings and publishing them on the district website. That's the only way you are going to get an accurate account of our school board meetings.

Who knows? Maybe Fox is recording our school board meetings. My father said he used to record all of the meetings when he was an assistant superintendent for the district. Perhaps they just don't want the public to have the recordings. No one has answered my questions as to why we can't record our board meetings and publish them on the district website. Mehlville records their meetings. Parkway records their meetings. Francis Howell records their meetings. Why can't Fox?

Perhaps it's because a district attorney once told a parent advocate that she didn't want them recording their conference call with the school because, "Tape recordings are notoriously unreliable". Really? How is an audio recording "notoriously unreliable"? The school district records and transcribes Due Process Hearings. Are those audio recordings "notoriously unreliable"?

School District Wants A Double Standard
Dan Baker, Gee Palmer and Luann Domek audio recorded their phone call to a doctor without informing the doctor that they were recording the call. Was that a private conversation? The district attorney deemed that audio recording reliable enough to submit as evidence in a Due Process Hearing. Perhaps the district just doesn't want to be recorded. However, it's OK for the district to record their conversations with others and not inform them.

Superintendent Critchlow recently proposed the possibility of making a change to our school board policies at the May 2013 school board meeting to prohibit the public from recording private conversations. Her proposed policy change gives the appearance that the district wants a double standard. It's alright for the district to record private conversations but it's NOT alright for the parents or citizens to record private conversations or meetings. Our Superintendent knows that Missouri is a "one party" consent state. That means that if you are a party to the conversation, you don't have to inform the other party that you are recording the conversation.

Perhaps audio recordings from private citizens wanting to accurately document meetings and conversations is causing a problem for our Superintendent and district administrators. It seems that audio recordings sometimes contradict the district's version of what happened. Maybe it would be a good idea for our Superintendent and administrators to always the truth when informing the board and the public on what is going on in our school district. Is the district truly in compliance and properly following the law? It reflects poorly on them when audio recordings and documentation shows otherwise.

Requesting Corrections To Board Minutes
When I asked for corrections on board meeting minutes in the past from my recordings, our school board secretary Debbie Davis responded via email with the following statement, "The minutes that were transcribed are reflective of what I heard at the meeting.  The minutes are not a verbatim recording of the meeting."

Our school board meeting minutes should be accurate and complete as required by our school board policies. With all the problems going on in our school district, you need to know what's really happening in our school district and not just what our Superintendent and board members want you to know?