Saturday, August 24, 2013

Fox C-6: More "Memory Holes" In August 2013 Board Meeting Packet

It took nearly 3 years of requests to our school board to get school board packets for Fox C-6 posted on the district website. They were first posted on the district website in February 2013. See my February 23, 2013 post regarding Progress Is Being Made Towards Transparency! Since then, I've made numerous requests for the district to post the board packets dating back to the 2008-2009 school year on the district website. So far, the board has not responded to my request nor have they posted the packets. Posting those packets would correspond with the school board meeting minutes that already exist on the district website.

Why should the district post the older board packets? It's a very simple fact. The community needs to do its own oversight of the district and the school board.

The school board has been failing to do their job for nearly 10 years and has been relying on our Superintendent for answers. Therein lies the problem. Our Superintendent is prone to providing false or misleading information or only half-truths. She will say anything in hopes that you will believe her. I have documented this problem many times. Our Superintendent's friends or "inner circle" as some people call them will write to the local newspapers or in online forums stating that my information is false or that my information is only from some "select facts". The research I do is very thorough and well documented. Documentation obtained from federal agencies and from MO DESE is irrefutable. If a mistake is made in my documentation, it will be corrected. So far, no one from the district or the school board has asked for any corrections. They are simply hoping that you don't come across this information. Our superintendent sent out Cease and Desist letters to individuals in our district in an effort to deter people from informing the public about problems in the district. You need to know the Truth and the Whole Truth.

Just for your information, the last state audit of the Fox C-6 school district was in March 2002. It might be a good time for a state audit considering the limited amount of documentation that the district has been willing to supply to the public. A state audit is much more thorough than the annual audit done by the firm the district hires to review their financial records. To no one's surprise the district receives glowing reviews on their local audit. You can find the last state audit report here:

You can find a copy of the June 30, 2011 Fox C-6 Audited Financial Statements performed by the Daniel Jones company here for comparison:

This is OUR school district. We elect people from our community to sit on the school board and watch over the district. It IS the school board's job to make sure that our Superintendent is doing her job and that our district IS following state and federal laws and our school board policies and regulations. If that doesn't happen and no one is watching out for the community, things will happen that shouldn't and no one will know a thing. That means that your tax dollars might not be getting used as well as they should in educating our children. Without our oversight, it makes it very easy for someone to take advantage of the system. This has already happened many times. 

Our district spent $135,935,354 in 2012. How well was that money spent? If you don't watch over things, you may end up not knowing what happened for years and by then it's too late. This recently happened in the Rockwood school district when the State Auditor discovered that the contractor where a former school board president worked had been inadvertently overpaid by $1.2 million dollars over the course of several years. Then it was determined that the district would not be able to recover the funds. Do you want the same thing to happen to your tax dollars?

Our Superintendent can tell you how great a job our school board does of watching over your money. But, should you believe what she tells you?

August 2013 Board Meeting Packet
Everyone in our community is very aware of the fact that the district has had several recent issues which didn't look good for our district, the school board or our community. The school board and the community are responsible for making sure that our superintendent is doing her job and is acting responsibly. If our Superintendent is withholding or not reporting information or is making it difficult or expensive to obtain, then you should be very concerned as to what is going on in our school district.

I highly recommend that you go to the Fox C-6 website and download the August 27, 2013 School Board Meeting Packet. It appears that the new website is allowing direct file links to documents such as the board meeting packets. So, you can click on the link above to download the file. The previous website didn't allow for direct links to many files on the Edline district website.

Below I have gone through and highlighted some of the important things that stood out in the most recent board meeting packet.

Missing Administrator Salary Schedule
This latest board packet is 332 pages long. It contains the Salary Schedule for Teachers and Classified Staff. However, it does not contain the Salary Schedule for our Administrators. It's quite convenient of the district to leave out the salary schedule for administrators. That would have given the public a clue as to how much the school board agreed to pay our Superintendent for the 2013-2014 school year. Our board paid our Superintendent $246,824 for the 2012-2013 school year. Our board members need to be made aware of the fact that the Administrator Salary Schedule is missing. It needs to be made available to the public for review. Remember, you are paying their salaries.

There are a lot of issues that need to be discussed and resolved with our school board regarding the information (or lack thereof "memory holes") that is being made available to the public for review. You probably never thought much about what goes on in our school district. But, when you start to see a lot of waste and issues that need to be addressed, you start reviewing things more closely. As many people have stated, there are many problems and what was highlighted by Fox 2 News was just the tip of the iceberg.

Salary Increases for Classified Staff of 2.5%
How is it that the salary schedule increases listed in the latest school board meeting packet show a 2.5% increase for many of the Classified positions while Superintendent Critchlow received a nearly 8% increase from 2012 to 2013? As you review the Classified Salary Schedules, take note as to how many of them state that there is a 2.5% Increase from the 2012-2013 school year to the 2013-2014 school year. Then read across the salary schedule and compare the salary amounts between 2013 and 2014. Either the description is incorrect for many of the entries or the formula for the increases are incorrect because many of the salary amounts are decreased. The spreadsheet file name at the bottom of the Salary Schedules show them as being C:\Users\Scott\Documents\Classified 13-14 salary schedule 062513.xls.

Memory Holes in Board Meeting Minutes
There are "Memory Holes" in the latest school board meeting minutes. At the June 25, 2013 school board meeting, I asked our school board about the open Resolution Agreement with ED OCR and the USDA Final Agency Decision ruling that was handed down to the district on August 18, 2011 which found Fox C-6 and Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Non-Compliant with Section 504, ADA and the ADAAA. Any reference to those questions were left out of the June 25, 2013 school board meeting minutes contained in the August 2013 board meeting packet. How convenient for our Superintendent to leave out that information and hide it from the public. Your Superintendent's job is to keep the public informed. Not misinformed!

This has been an ongoing problem ever since I first spoke at a school board meeting in December 2010. The board meeting minutes for that meeting documented my Public Comments as "Concerns within the district.". I wrote to our school board and asked that my comments be documented in more detail because the public has no way of knowing what problems were addressed to the board when they're only listed as "Concerns within the district." Superintendent Brown responded to my request to the school board via email. She informed me that the school board secretary had called the Missouri School Board Association the next day and was told that our board meeting minutes met state law. Our Superintendent DOES NOT want the public to know what is going on in the district if it is going to reflect poorly on her or the school board. That's probably why our school board meetings aren't being audio or video recorded. I have asked numerous times for this to be done as well and have never received a response. That should be a "red flag" for the community.

Bill Payments Review
This month the school board is being asked to approve $10,168,423.25. Every once in a while there are checks that stand out when reviewing the bill payments that the school board is asked to approve each month at the board meeting. This month was no exception. Perhaps seeing some of the following Bill Payments below will prompt you to start reviewing what our school board approves each month at school board meetings in a quick vote of approval.

Checks to Kelly Nash?
There were two payments to board member Linda Nash's daughter in law who was hired in November 2012 as the district's new Food Nutrition Services Director for $65,000. The two checks to Kelly Nash are flagged with asterisks. Since Linda Nash is a school board member and is related to Kelly Nash, she must abstain from voting and approving the bill payments.

The checks being presented to Kelly Nash are as follows:
07/31/2013 - Nash, Kelly D *** -     $37.55
08/08/2013 - Nash, Kelly D *** - $2744.00

What do you think the $2744 check to Kelly Nash was for?

I can venture to guess that the $37.55 check was for mileage reimbursement. The new Bill Payments report DOES NOT provide any detail regarding what the payments are for like the old Bill Payments Report. This will need to be corrected! The old report would include comments such as Mileage Reimbursement or Legal Fees, etc.

Motivational Speaker Flip Flippen Cost - $10,000
When I first saw Superintendent Dianne Critchlow tweet on August 13, 2013, "Flip Flippen, New York Times Best seller & motivational speaker, addressed the entire Fox C-6 staff to kick off the new year.", I immediately wondered how much that cost the district. Well in the Bill Payments from the August Board Packet, there is a check dated  07/25/2013 for $10,000 to The Flippen Group. I certainly hope everyone was very motivated for that amount of money.

07/25/2013 - The Flippen Group - $10,000.00

Who approved the spending of $10,000 to motivate district staff?

I would bet that hiring a new Superintendent would have proven to be Much More Motivating for our teachers and staff instead of paying $10,000 for Flip Flippen to "address the entire Fox C-6 staff to kick off the new year".

I wonder how much copy paper that would have purchased for our school district?

Credit Card Payments Without Details
This is one of those big checks to pay off a credit card. Certainly it is legitimate and the school gets a percentage of their money back in "cash back" offers. However, Fox doesn't include the credit card statements in their board meeting packets like they do in other school districts. So, you really don't know what the payments were actually paying for. Fox needs to include a copy of the credit card statements in our board meeting packets. The school board has been approving payments like this for years. This needs to be documented much more thoroughly.

07/11/2013 - SAM'S CLUB DISCOVER -  $11,027.10
07/16/2013 - CARD SERVICES              -   $11,290.59
08/13/2013 - CARD SERVICES              - $118,925.73
07/23/2013 - AMERICAN EXPRESS     - $233,231.50

Missing 2013-2014 School Budget
At the June 2013 school board meeting, each member of the school board was given a copy of the 2013-2014 School Budget for review and approval. After the meeting, I asked Debbie Davis the school board secretary and custodian of records to post the 2013-2014 budget on the district website. She told me it would be a few weeks before she could get to it if she was allowed to post it. Well, the budget hasn't been posted and it wasn't included in the board meeting packets like it should have been since it was provided to the school board members at the board meeting.

Fox C-6 hasn't been publishing school budgets on the district website like they do in many other school districts of our size. Why is that? The district doesn't want you to know how they are spending your money. If you knew, you would start asking questions and that would lead to more accountability. If the public can be kept in the dark, that makes it all the easier let money slip through the cracks. As I documented in a previous post about the June 25, 2013 board meeting, Rockwood does an excellent job of documenting their school finances for their patrons. Fox needs to have the same. Our superintendent and school board should be able to provide the same documentation as Rockwood considering that we are paying our superintendent more than Rockwood's superintendent.