Sunday, September 1, 2013

August 2013 Fox C-6 School Board Meeting - More Lies, More Deception and More Willful Blindness!

The August 2013 Fox C-6 school board meeting was truly an experience to remember listening to Superintendent Critchlow run through her presentation that she has been giving to the staff around the district. Her presentation was like a "State of the District" address to the board.

Superintendent Critchlow should be complimented as to how well she did in presenting her version of the information. However, accuracy, completeness and honesty is important as well. Giving a letter grade on her presentation could be rated as follows:

Exaggerating the Truth and Enthusiasm - "A+"
Accuracy, Completeness and Honesty - "F"

Exaggerating the Truth and Enthusiasm must be what the Board of Education (BOE) basis their pay raises on for Superintendent Critchlow. You'll want to see how Superintendent Critchlow's salary compares to the superintendent she listened to from North Carolina who is responsible for 75,000 students and 170 schools covering 864 sq. miles compared to Superintendent Critchlow who is responsible for 11,695 students and 19 schools covering 74.03 sq. miles. Click on the link below to listen to her presentation for a better understanding of why Fox C-6 had the 4th Highest Paid School Superintendent in the state of Missouri last year. As you're listening to her presentation, read through the transcript of her presentation below to see what is Fact and what is Fiction in the [red comments]. Much of it is like listening to a fairy tale!

This is one of those articles that you should share with your friends and neighbors within our district.

There are many things that she conveniently leaves out of her presentation each year to the BOE. Leaving out key facts gives the "appearance" that things are really great. But without those key facts and without the BOE doing their own research appears to be rewarding our superintendent with much more than she deserves and needs to be called into question by our community. Hopefully more and more people in our community will begin to see how much money is being wasted on her salary for very little return. Being honest with the BOE and the community should be an important part of a superintendent's job.

Shortly into her presentation she touted how much the district's ACT Composite Score has improved since she became the Superintendent. But she failed to point out the fact that the district still ranks in the bottom 25% of the state for the Percentage of Graduates taking the ACT. She missed pointing that fact out last year as well.

She eventually spoke about the recent Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP 5) Scores that were released by Missouri DESE to the public the Friday before the board meeting.

That's when she made the claim that
Fox ranked "The Highest in Jefferson County!"


Fox scored a 92.1%

Festus scored a 96.4%

It's the Superintendent's job to make sure the district is seen in a positive light but not at the expense of making UNTRUE Statements. Her claim stood out like a sore thumb to those of us that knew her statement wasn't true. No one on the board said a thing. No one questioned her false claim that Fox had the Highest Score in Jefferson County. She asked the board if they had seen the article in the Post Dispatch that highlighted our district. If she had read the article, she would have known that Festus scored higher than Fox. So, why would she make such a claim?

Her UNTRUE Statement stood out even more when the school district MSIP 5 Scores and Rankings were published on the front page of the August 29th edition of the Arnold-Imperial Leader newspaper.

As the Superintendent of schools, she continuously reminds everyone that Fox is a National District of Character. According to the District Statement of Commitment to the Character Education Program in our school board policies, "the role of the school is to support the family by upholding the highest example of morality, ethics, and integrity". Shouldn't our Superintendent be setting the example as written in our board policy?

It would seem that lying to the board and to the public contradicts many of the Character Education traits that Fox is teaching to our students such as: Honesty, Integrity, Trustworthy, Responsibility and Respect. As a community, we should be questioning our board as to whether our Superintendent is expected to be HonestTrustworthy and Responsible to the taxpayers as part of her job especially considering the amount of money that they are paying her.

Does our school board not know the truth?

Is this more Willful Blindness on the part of our school board?

Shouldn't the board hold our Superintendent accountable for her statements?

How many times will she be allowed to deceive the public before she is fired?

If you didn't attend the board meeting you didn't get a chance to hear her presentation or view the slides from her presentation. Her slides weren't included in the board meeting packet as they should have been. My father used to record all school board meetings when he worked for the district and while he served on the school board. The district is no longer doing this. I audio record the board meetings whenever I attend in order to have an accurate depiction of what occurred.

I have asked the board many times over the last several years to record the meetings like they do in other districts. They have never responded to my request. The public needs to know what is really going on in the district and not just the information that the district chooses to document in the board meeting minutes or allow the newspapers to publish.

Another problem that needs to be corrected is the fact that board meeting minutes aren't made available to the public for nearly a month after a meeting. Our school board members should be insisting that draft copies of the board meeting minutes be posted on the district website the same week of a board meeting like they do in other districts. Better yet, post an audio or video recording of our board meetings within a few days of the meeting like they do in other districts. This will keep them from hiding things from the public.

More information about the August 2013 board meeting will be forthcoming as there was a lot of misinformation to cover. The community can review a transcript of our Superintendent's presentation below. You can click on the link below to listen to her presentation in her own words. My comments have been added in red throughout the transcript of her presentation on items that stood out during her presentation.

Superintendent Critchlow's Presentation
to the School Board (transcribed)
"If you recall it was either last June or maybe it was May. I can't recall. We talked about how important we believed as a board and as administration that we needed to tackle some items with our staff. Um. In the last week and I think I started, August. I think on the 19th. I've done two or three presentations. If you'll just flip the lights for me Dan. I'm just going to go through you very quickly. What I've been addressing the staff every morning and afternoon. 
OK. So, an overview of the district, where are we now? We all know we're a National District of Character. We've been a Missouri Distinction of Performance for 13 years. The last, the last 11 years it was awarded by DESE and then MASA took over awarding Missouri Distinction of Performance. Our ACT right now is 22.3. [NOT THE WHOLE TRUTH: Critchlow left off of her slide the fact that ONLY 56% of Fox's graduates take the ACT compared to the state average of 74% as listed on DESE's Top 10 by 20 Dashboard (which includes private schools) or the state average of 66% that is listed on DESE's School Report Cards (which only includes public schools). Fox's percentage is so low that Fox ranks in the bottom 25% of the state. Critchlow left this fact off of her slide from last year's presentation as well.] When I came in the office, we were 20.5. [NOT TRUE: According to DESE, Fox had a score of 20.8 in 2005 and 20.7 in 2004. She became superintendent on July 1, 2005.] We were below the state and National Average. It is very difficult to raise it even by 1%. We've raised it by 2. Dr. Rizzi and I keep setting the standard higher. [INTERESTING COMMENT: How does a 2% raise in our ACT Scores correlate to her 80% raise in salary over the last 8 years? How will their "setting the standard higher" boost ACT Composite Scores?] Our goal right now is 23%. [CONFUSED: Does Fox plan to raise our ACT Scores by 23%?] 
Our dropout rate as of the first day of school was 1.98. If we had 1.98, we'd still be one of the lowest in the state. This will not remain the same. This is why you won't get a drop out rate this month. It always is high at the beginning of the year and then we get our kids back in September. And, we usually average, what Dr. Rizzi, 1.25 to 1.5? Which is phenomenal for a district of 11,600 without the early childhood kids. [NOT TRUE: Data obtained from DESE's website show's Fox's Dropout rates as follows:  2013 - 2.0%, 2012 - 1.8%, 2011 - 1.2%, 2010 - 1.2%, 2009 - 1.4%, 2008 - 1.6%, 2007 - 2.0%, 2006 - 3.6%, 2005 - 2.9%, 2004 - 3.5%. It appears as if Fox has been losing ground in this area over the last couple of years. Our board should take a look at Clayton, Francis Howell, Kirkwood, Ladue, Lindbergh, Mehlville, Parkway, Rockwood and Webster Groves for districts that have much lower dropout rates than Fox. Our superintendent's claims need to be backed up with data and not just words.] 
Our graduation rate is 93.9%. That does not mean that only 93% of our seniors graduate. They are basing that now on the kids that we get as freshman and if they finish all the way through with the Fox school district. Some of our demographics. K-12 we're 11,695 as of the first day and this may change. If as you noticed in our board materials, we are down about 80 kids. Hopefully that will change. With early childhood we gain anywhere between 200 and 400 children throughout the year. So really, we have over 12,000 students. We have 995 certified, 606 classified. We have 19 schools with 21 buildings. 
This sheet is telling. And, if you've ever read any of the articles I've written, we have shown this probably the last 5 or 6 years. [OOPS: Superintendent Critchlow's slide contains the same mistake that has been there for years. Her slide shows that Fox has 270 Administrators Per Student rather than Students Per Administrator. 270 Administrators Per Student would be a little top heavy administratively! No one has noticed this mistake for the last several years.] These are school districts around our area, probably all the way out to Jeff City that have been Distinction 13 years in a row. If you look at what we spend per pupil and what the rest of them that have been Distinction 13 years in a row spend per pupil, we are the lowest. [EXPENSIVE ADMINS: What Superintendent Critchlow fails to point out is the fact that Fox had the 2nd Highest Average Administrator Salary in the state last year for school districts that had more than one administrator. Fox's Average Administrator Salary was $125,569 for 39.5 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) Administrators (2013 DESE data). Total Administrator Salary for 2013 was $4,959,956. Fox's Average Administrator Salary is $14,648 more than Parkway, $23,979 more than Wentzville, $24,117 more than Rockwood and $24,856 more than Mehlville. Fox's Average Administrator Salary is more than twice the median household income in our district. 
Could this be why Fox's administrator salary schedule was left out of the school board packets?]
And as I'm telling the teachers as we go through this, it's not because of myself, the board of education or the principals. It is the teachers in the classroom. Because when that door closes, we hope we've provided them the tools to make our students excel. [QUESTION: Does having enough books for all students in the class count towards having the tools to make our students excel?And obviously if you look who we're going against and the amounts of money we spend, we do a fantastic job in educating our students.
This is the newest 2013 Annual Performance Report. This is MSIP 5. We used to be graded on 100 points. We are now graded on 140 and this is what I'm explaining to the staff. We ARE very proud of the 92.1%. I was attending and if you read the Post Dispatch earlier this week and they had so many schools highlighted. We were one of them they highlighted. [VERY MISLEADING: All schools in the St. Louis area were listed in the Post Dispatch article and all of the schools listed were highlighted. Superintendent Critchlow's statement was not false. But, it was very misleading. It seemed as if she was implying that the Post Dispatch was depicting Fox as an exception which was not true.] 
In addition, I was at a Jefferson County meeting and I shared this with all of the staff that I met with thus far. Jefferson County students are like building principals. They're like athletic coaches. Everybody is competitive. So, we decided lets go around the table and share our score. We were the highest in Jefferson County. [NOT TRUE: If you don't count Festus as being in Jefferson County then Fox would be the highest. Perhaps Festus wasn't at the meeting. But to tell the board that Fox was The Highest in Jefferson County after reading the article in the Post Dispatch is FALSE and MISLEADING! MO DESE shows Festus was ranked higher than Fox with a score of 96.4% compared to Fox's 92.1%. Her next statement was FALSE as well. None of the other school districts in Jefferson County had a score in the 70's and obviously Jefferson R-7 was NOT the only other district in the 90's. Was she stating this in order to justify the amount of salary the board is paying her? This simply confirms the fact that she is willing to mislead the board and the public. Making False Statements like these destroy her credibility and shows her lack of Integrity and lack of Honesty. It is not very representative of a National District of Character.] Everyone else was in the 70's or 80's. If you wanted to compare county to county, which is really the county we're in. And, the only other school district that was in the 90's was Jefferson R-7, but they have not had a fully accredited high school yet. Every year, you'll notice they keep adding high school. Great for Clint down there. They're doing a fantastic job. 
So, the five things that are really important, go back one Dr. Rizzi please. Um. As, you can see our academic achievement was 96.4. Our kids are getting a great education. The sub achievement is 89.3. We know we have areas we need to improve upon. We have College and Career Readiness and we have Attendance. Now, the state has frozen whatever accreditation you have at this point in 2013. It remains with you until 2015. So, we're accredited with distinction. We'll be accredited with distinction until 2015. In 2015, they start labeling again. It's either high achievement, achievement and I don't even bother to know the bottom two because Fox is never going to get there. And that's what I tell the teachers. And guess what? If we were accredited today, we would be high achievement. So, the two areas I'm going over with the staff are number three and number four. Look at our attendance. We only got 7.5%. College and Career Readiness, we can fix. And the difference with MSIP 5 and the rest of the MSIP is you have to show improvement. We can. We can still have really high scores, but if they don't improve or if our attendance doesn't improve, you don't earn the points. So attendance, we want to improve by 1%. 
College and Career Readiness is gonna be easy for us. There are more AP classes we can add and we can't wait to do that. [QUESTION: Why hadn't Fox done this years ago under her watch? This is related to the same problem that I have been pointing out to them for years regarding and that how low the Percentage of Graduates taking the ACT is in our district. Rockwood pays for each student to take the ACT test one time. You never know when a student may receive a scholarship based upon their ACT scores. Every student should have the opportunity to take the test.] So you add 2 or 4. Then the next year you add 8. Then you add 12. That one we can fix easier than our attendance. 
So, why does attendance matter? And this is what I put together for the staff. This is where I'm asking the staff. We need your help. We currently maintain a little under 95% attendance. When you think about that, that's pretty darn good. However, that 5% loss cost the district $3.8 million dollars a year and, if I tell the teacher, that's supplies we can put in the classroom. That's adding additional teachers. That's your raise. So, one hour of attendance and we're graded by hours is about $6 bucks, $5.75. When 200 students are absent first hour and having two high schools of 4,000 students, that happens. Right there you're losing $1000 dollars, almost $1200. If a student's absent all day in our school district, it costs about $40 bucks. Six hundred students absent all day is very feasible when you have 11,600 students. We're losing $22,000 a day. In two days that's another teacher. We can lower class size. So, what I'm asking the staff and they've had some great ideas. I need you to tell me how we can increase by just 1%. One percent will make us make $760,000 more. Just one percent. And you know when you ask, these teachers can tell you. And, they have some great ideas. I'll share a story. I was at Ridgewood Middle. She had no idea what my talk was gonna be about. And, she took over last January and apparently and I don't know if Ms. Pelster started this. But, the kids love, they love iPod Fridays. Well every week they're going to her saying can they have an iPod Friday, or smartphone. So, Ms. LaVanchy gets on there and she said at the end of August since all of you've been bugging me, if we have 98% attendance, I will allow you to bring in your iPod and your smartphones. We'll use them educationally. She's found what motivates her kids. So, I want to find what motivates all the other kids in all the other buildings. This is how we show the staff attendance matters. 
Going on with that and letting them know how important we think attendance is and APR. I just want to talk about where we're headed in education in the future and what our challenges are. Our challenges are right now, this year, are we did deficit spend in order to give raises this year. Everyone's aware of that. In addition to that these teachers are being thrown the Common Core, MSIP 5, End Of Course, MAP, and Teacher Evaluation. Here's one thing I tell the teachers. I grew up at Rockport. They put a hundred of us in the cafeteria and we took the Iowa Basic Skills Test. Then when I became a teacher, we took the MMAT. Then, after I became a principal there was the MAP. Now there's the End Of Course, there's Common Core. But you know what, that doesn't worry me. Fox teachers, Fox staff has always found a way to make our students do well on less money and this is what I'm out there telling the teachers. Now, the Principals may cringe a little with me because, I'm saying guys don't worry, I know you're going to perform. 
But, we have two key areas that we need to focus on as a staff, attendance with the students, attendance with the staff and our health insurance. We probably have one of the best health insurances going. We pay full board pay. But as you know, we all made the decision to deficit spend. I tell them the story. I have a son that has epilepsy. I go to get his medicine. It's like a $1.23 and I tell this every time to every staff. It's shocking to me. That can't be right. I don't take the best insurance. I take the second one because I think it's the better one. And so what I'm telling them is we're going to put a health insurance committee together. We're going to look at insurance. We're going to want their input. But, you know if I had to pay $10 or $20 for Jimmy's medicine, I'm OK with that. [COMMENT: With a 2012-2013 salary of $246,824, I'm sure that raising her son's medicine cost to $10 or $20 per refill is probably OK with her. The school board has raised her salary so much over the last 8 years that everyone in the community is in disbelief when they learn how much she is making. The difference between her salary and 99.9% of the rest of the citizens in the Fox C-6 district shows how out of touch our school board is with the community. Yes. SHE is probably OK with having to pay a little more.We need to come up with ways that if everybody pays a little and it affects no one greatly. They're on board with that. That's we're trying, that's the message we're trying to send. 
So, we're asking for them. What are incentives that will make you come to school? What are ideas that you have? And I can tell you, but I've only been through half the schools right now. One school had a great idea. But, their idea was, if you, if we have 100% attendance, and one thing I want to do is, spend a little money to make a little money. So, show the next slide if you would Dr. Rizzi. And I'm sorry if I had my back to you. Um. Last year, we spent $1.6 Million dollars on substitutes. Yes. We grant teachers and aides and all those so many days, for their benefits. But, I said how many of you really, on the day that you needed a mental health day, or went shopping, or went deer hunting, could you really have been there? 
And the other thing that we talked about is let's give an incentive to the teachers. What if we gave them a $100 bucks for perfect attendance. Um. So, we're throwing ideas around but I want the teachers to tell me, what motivates you to come to school? So, I've been to most of the middle schools and they raised their hand and the principal said at Antonia Middle , I'll take five because they have hours. If they have perfect attendance, I'll take 5 hours of their classes. Um. So then I, I took that to Fox Middle after Antonia said it and he upped it to 6 and by the time I got to Seckman Middle it was 7. It would be great to give teachers a day off free. But, it kind of circumvents the whole process. But, one teacher came up with what I thought was really clever, but she wanted to allow us them not to have to come in on a PDC day if they had perfect attendance. (laughter heard) Which it really would save for subs and I thought wow, that's thinking out of the box. However, we value PDC, so. 
But one had a great idea too, uh, let us go to lunch. Teachers can never go to lunch. They get 30 minutes. Let the principal or whoever cover their class and go to lunch with a co-worker, to wherever it may be. So, we're look at those ideas to save money. One thing we are doing. We know you have to replace teachers. You have to replace bus drivers. I mean there's just no way out of that. But, there are some things out there that cannot be replaced if it's a one time day sub and we can save about $600,000 or $700,000. If you have four custodians at night and one's out, your buildings gonna  have three. And, the trash will get emptied and the bathrooms will get cleaned unless it's long term. So, we are looking at every way not to deficit spend. This is what I'm sharing with the staff. Um. The next slide is the year before that which is $1.5 Million, which is pretty close to the slide before it. 
And then I kind of um, switched focus because I wanted to talk to them about where are we headed in education as a school district, as a state, you know in the nation. And these are just some things that I found really interesting. Not in our school district, but in the United States. If you have an entering freshman, all our freshman, they're the most racially and ethnically diverse group in the United States. They grew up without Romper Room and I think we've probably had some teachers grow up without Romper Room and I tell them that and they all laugh. They've never seen an actual airline ticket. If you have kids. I think, my kids think my ticket is a boarding pass. Pretty much it is right now. Most of them never had a pencil library card. They see no use for encyclopedias, library terms such as the dewey decimal system, micro fiche are likely greek to them. The advent of smartphones and tablets has further facilitated their appetite for instant gratification. It's facilitated everyone's appetite, including mine. Having the website out there and yes we were new in starting it and we might not have everything perfect. But, honestly I can agree with you. That's the society that we're in. We want that information and we want it right now. Well think about our kids and who are better than us at it. Um. 
The next slide, they've always. They think there have been blue M&M's. They do not think of Amazon as a river. History's always had a channel. There's no need for TV, rooms. TV's can be watched anywhere. I didn't realize this until on of my sons went away to college called. Wanted the DirecTV number and password. I'm like what are you talking about? Apparently right now if you belong to DirecTV or anything else and you have an iPhone or an iPad, it can be watched anywhere at anytime. I had no clue. 
But, the most intriguing thing I think and most people are never going to be able to say this. Their lives have spanned 3 decades, two centuries, two millenniums. Few people in industry have been able to claim such a feat. So, with that being said and what we know about our students. This requires a strategic transformation, I had the opportunity to hear the Assistant U.S. Department, Secretary of the U.S. Department of ED. And, she had, she just had a compelling thing, "Prepare the students of today for a world that is yet to be created, for jobs yet to be invented and for technologies yet undreamed." And I know that we have a lot of people in this audience that work in this technology and educators are the worst and she agrees. We need to prepare the kids for the future that are in 9th grade to walk out of here and college and by our state testing and the tests we have to give we're truly just preparing them for the present. We're preparing them for a test they have to take in 6 or 8 months. Also, I challenge and I'm challenging the staff to ponder these questions. How can schools meet our kids in their world? How can we redefine learning so that it's not limited to the classroom, bell schedules, pre-determined acceptance tests, etc? How can we keep them tuned in and on? And, how can we give credit for learning outside the classroom? 
I had the chance to hear a superintendent speak from North Carolina. 75,000 kids in his school district. [INFO: He is from the Wake County Public School System. Last year the Wake County superintendent's salary was $250,000 compared to Superintendent Critchlow's salary of $246,824. The Wake County superintendent was responsible for a $1.3 BILLION DOLLAR BUDGET compared to Fox's $135 MILLION DOLLAR BUDGET. Wake County has 170 schools and 75,000 students compared to Fox's 19 schools and less than 12,000 students. Critchlow's salary appears to be incredibly out of line when comparing responsibilities between the two superintendents. 
Is the lack of transparency in the Fox C-6 District allowing our school board to overpay Critchlow?
Compare the openness and transparency of Wake County to that of Fox C-6 by reviewing Wake County Finance webpage. Wake County's website has School Budgets and Finance Reports dating back to 2007 as well as their 2013-2014 proposed budget.
Their 2012-2013 Adopted Budget is 338 pages.
Can you find any of those documents on Fox's website? Fox C-6 taxpayers should be requesting the same information. It seems to be keeping Wake County Public Schools in check. Transparency is everything!] Five of their high schools partnered with a Junior College and those kids are graduating with an Associates Degree and their High School Diploma at the same time. I know we have students that can do that. We send our students to Jeffco for the vo-tech. Why are we not sending our students for that associates degree? So, I called Jeffco. What are you going to offer our students so that they can compete in that world that everybody knows is out there? I mean, my kids think that the Internet has always existed and there are so many things that have changed. And, like I've said, I know that we have so many kids that can do this. So right now, we are going to try to partner with Jeffco to see if we can have kids not only graduate with an associates, but graduate with their high school diploma. 
So, relevance makes rigor. I like this quote, I wanted to share it with the staff, "Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve." And then we threw a little fun in here and this is truly what we think. When I think about educators, they're super heros. And, depending on what building I'm in, I call the principals Superman or the principals Wonder Woman. I'm also telling them we are all frustrated in education. We're being asked to do huge transformations. But, it's also an opportunity for our teachers to be super heros for our kids. And then this one I just love. And, and, we typed on all these things. But, you know what? On any given day, I'm pretty sure that's how we feel in our office. I'm pretty sure that's how the teachers feel. You're going to throw something else at us. But guess what? They are super heros when they keep up with the demands. So, this is what I leave them with. My wish for them as we continue our important work. Be extraordinary. Our kids deserve our best, to be their best. So, this is what I've been presenting to the staff to let them know the challenges we're facing and hopefully they're forward thinking."