Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Little Digital Archaeology Documents Fox's Spending Spree!

How would you like to become a Digital Archaeologist and peer into the past of the Fox C-6 School District from the comfort of your home? It might not be ancient history. But, it's a historical record that allows you to look back into what's been happening in the Fox C-6 School District over the past 16 years. It's a window into our district's past that not too many people know about and it's an interesting one at that.

For example, you can go back in time and read articles that were published on Fox's website or view pictures of past administrators or school board members or old board meeting minutes as far back as 2001 simply by using the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. The Wayback Machine is a digital archive or snapshot of websites at the time the snapshot was taken. It's your portal to the past. It allows you to see a snapshot in time. You can find information that would have been difficult or maybe impossible to find or too expensive to obtain using Sunshine Law requests. Some of the information might even shock you. Wait till you find out how much our district our district was spending each year when Superintendent Critchlow became Superintendent compared to what we are spending now.

The Wayback Machine gives you the ability to travel back in time just like Google Earth gives you the ability to view older satellite imagery allowing you to see how things have changed over time in your neighborhood or just about anywhere on the planet.

I've already posted quite a few interesting links to older Fox C-6 website pages on the Fox C-6 Watchdog Twitter page which you can find here:

Traveling Back In Time
The Wayback Machine is a website much like Google's search engine that allows you to look up and review snapshots of websites by typing in the domain name for the website into the Wayback Machine. In order to see previous snapshots of Fox's website you'll need to go to the Internet Archive's website ( and type in Fox's web address or URL which is: Or you can click on the link below to be taken directly to the Wayback Machine's historical record of the Fox C-6 website.

Once you arrive at the Wayback Machine, you'll see a timeline at the top of the page which shows vertical lines on the timeline for each of the snapshots taken of Fox's website. The very first snapshot was taken in 1998 and the most recent one in 2014. In order to view one of the snapshots simply click on one of the vertical lines on the timeline and the Wayback Machine will transport you back in time to an archived version of the district's website. Not all of the links, images or documents may have been captured from that time. However, there's a lot of information that has. It allows you to review what happened back then and compare it to what's happening now in our district. It gives you an easy way to see if the district's been doing what it said it would do. Has Fox been a good steward of our taxpayer dollars? Or, have they been able to find ways to increase spending without anyone really noticing that the district has nearly doubled the amount of money being spent each year over the last 8 years?

2005 - Fox Approves $88 Million Budget
2013 - Fox Approves $137 Million Budget
Using the Wayback Machine to pull up snapshots of Fox's website from 2005, you will find an article written by Kim Robertson for The Leader titled "Fox Approves $88 Million budget" which talks about the board approving the 2005-2006 budget for $88 Million dollars. The budget that was just approved last year for the 2013-2014 school was approved for $137 Million dollars. That's quite an increase in just 8 years given the fact that the school district's student count has remained roughly the same over the past 8 years. The district's student count for this year was in the 11,000's as it was back in 2005. It's scary to think that the cost of education has increased that much over the last 8 years. 

So, how has Fox been able to increase it's amount of spending so much in 8 years?

According to records obtained from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's website (MO DESE), Fox had the 2nd Highest Average Administrator Salary for the entire state of Missouri last year. Fox also had the 4th Highest Paid Superintendent Salary in the entire state of Missouri. But at the same time, Fox's average teacher salary was the 2nd Lowest Amount of the 9 District's of Distinction that Superintendent Critchlow compared our district to in her annual State of the District address to the board last fall. There are a lot more teachers than there are administrators in the school district, but over time Fox has increased the number of administrators in the district significantly while the number of students remained nearly the same.

Board Members Are Elected Officials and Don't Get Paid
School board members are elected officials and they don't get paid for their work in overseeing the district. This could also be one of the reasons why so many things have been getting the "rubber stamp" of approval from our school board over the years. It takes a lot of time to review board packets and look at the thousands of checks that the district writes each year. That is a lot of work and over time I believe the board has just come to trust that Superintendent Critchlow and her assistants are doing what they are supposed to do without question. That can lead to problems like we have now.

It also helps the superintendent to have happy school board members. It makes them much more willing to go along with her decisions. One great way to help influence board member decisions is to make sure that the board members feel like they are doing a great job for our district and for our kids. She tells the community repeatedly that they are doing a great job and thanks them at all of the board meetings. There's no better way to say thank you to a school board member than the promotion of their spouse or the hiring of their daughter in law to a high paying position in the school district. School board members aren't allowed to vote on decisions where there might be a conflict of interest. So, they step out of the room when votes are taken that involve their spouses or family members. This way everyone in the community knows that the decision made by the board does not give even the slightest hint that there was any possible conflict of interest.

Board Members With Benefits
In 2006 while Mr. Dave Palmer was the president of the Fox C-6 School Board, his wife was promoted to the district head nurse position. She received a 75% pay increase for that promotion. However, her new promotion required her to work more hours. In the past, head nurses only worked on a 9 month contract. Gee Palmer's new contract was a 12 month contract instead of a 9 month contract which made up for that 75% pay increase. The 25% increase in contract length was able to justify the 75% increase in pay.

Also, let's not forget that back in 2012 while Linda Nash was the president of the Fox C-6 School Board, her daughter in law was hired to be the new Food Nutrition Director. That position paid $65,000 per year and was able to be filled by a person with a high school diploma because she had worked at McDonald's for 17 years and had become an assistant manager. Since she didn't have the degree or the certifications that the district was looking for at the time, Superintendent Critchlow and Assistant Superintendent Todd Scott were willing to give her 2 years to obtain her degree and certification because Linda Nash's daughter in law was very enthusiastic about the job. However, in order to help her out with her new job duties the district had to promote to more people in the district to cover what was used to handled by one assistant in the past. So, there was a little more expenditure than expected due to the lack of experience in running a public school district's food nutrition program.

More interesting things to see on the Wayback Machine for Fox?

In Praise of the Board of Education
It was interesting to read former Fox C-6 Superintendent Jim Chellew's 2004 article titled "In Praise of the Board of Eduction". In his article, he mentioned that "Board members are some of the most accessible elected officials." Really? I'll have to disagree with Mr. Chellew on this point. Superintendent Critchlow tends to control access to our school board. A person isn't allowed to mention names during Public Comments at school board meetings. She's told the board not to speak with people. She's sent out Cease and Desist letters to individuals who try to bring things to the school board's attention. I have spoken at many school board meetings over the past several years and have sent emails and letters to our board and hardly if ever receive a reply. It doesn't appear to me that our school board is very accessible. 

So, I find Mr. Chellew's article quite humorous after trying to work with our school board over the years. I know it's the school superintendent's job to promote their school district and tell the public what a great job the district is doing in educating our kids. But, telling the public that the board is accessible when the public knows otherwise is sad.

Brown Hired as New Fox Super
Another very interesting article is the November 2004 announcement of Dianne Brown being chosen as the next Fox C-6 School Superintendent. The 2004 article titled "Brown hired as new Fox super" was written by Kim Robertson for The Leader newspaper. The article states that "The school board advertised the position only within the district, and Brown was the only candidate. The school board interviewed her Monday and voted unanimously to hire her. Chellew said he had hoped Brown would get the job."

Superintendent Salaries Then and Now
The above article also mentions that Superintendent Brown (now Critchlow) would be paid at least $135,217 for the 2005-2006 school year. Her salary as superintendent back then pales in comparison to the $256,131 that she is now being paid for the 2013-2014 school year.

Some More Interesting Links from the Wayback Machine

2007 Photo of Fox C-6 Central Office Administrators

July 2001 Fox C-6 School Board Meeting Minutes - No Tax Increase Bond Issue and Dianne Brown appointed as Section 504 Coordinator
So check out the Wayback Machine and see what else has gone on in our school district over the years. You might be surprised at what you can find. It might even make for a good research paper for some of our students. It's similar to digging up the time capsule that was buried under the flag pole next to the administration office back in 1976. It can reveal a lot about our district's past. Hopefully the information can help steer our district down a better path in the future.