Sunday, March 9, 2014

Fox C-6's Revised School Board Policies - A District of Excellence?

So, why has it taken Superintendent Critchlow and the Fox C-6 School Board more than 3 years to update our school district Policies, Regulations and Forms?

That seems like a valid question. I wouldn't think that updating and revising Polices and Regulations would take more than a year. It's been 2 years since Superintendent Dianne Brown (now Critchlow) announced that the overhaul of the district policies were ready to be reviewed and were going to be placed on the district website. From my audio recording of the March 2012 board meeting, here is exactly what Superintendent Brown (Critchlow) told the public at that meeting:
"We are finally ready for the forms and manuals and policies to be reviewed.  This would be an overhaul of all of the school district policies. They will be placed, I believe tomorrow night, Debby, on the website? And, sent out to staff or we will have a place that staff can log into. We’re not sure if we can send that big of documents for download. And we’re going to leave them up until June so that staff can make recommendations and the public can make recommendations.  Then we’ll bring those recommendations back and my guess is....”
In 2012, it sounded like the policies would probably be approved sometime that fall if the district was going to "leave them up until June so the staff can make recommendations and the public can make recommendations". Those documents have been on the website now for nearly 2 years and haven't been updated during that time according to their PDF Creation Date.

However, the overhauled policies weren't originally posted on the district website like Superintendent Brown (Critchlow) said they would. I had to email the board secretary and former school board member Ruth Ann Newman asking when the revised policies would be posted for the public to review a week after the board meeting. The response I received from Superintendent Brown (Critchlow) wasn't at all what I expected considering what she said at the March 2012 board meeting. Her email stated that the draft Board Policies and Regulations were NOT for public review at this time. That's definitely not what she said at the school board meeting.

This is what Superintendent Brown (Critchlow) emailed to me on March 29, 2012 regarding the updated board policies:
"The draft of the Board Policies and Regulations are sent via email to the staff for comments (not for public review at this time in the process).  Policy review and adoption has always been handled in this manner. They then will be placed on the district web site after they have been adopted by the board."
Her email response contradicted what she said at the school board meeting. I was glad that I had an audio recorded of the meeting so I could quote back to her what she said at the meeting. Otherwise, it would have just been my word against her word as to what she actually said at the board meeting. Now you know why I record board meetings and it's probably why Superintendent Critchlow won't record board meetings like they used to in the past.

Superintendent Brown (Critchlow) sent me the following response on March 30, 2012 after I quoted to her what she said at the March 2012 school board meeting:
"Hello Rich! Debby will gather all of this information and shoot it to you electronically today. 
Please let us know if it all doesn't transmit."
Without my audio recording, there's a good chance that the public wouldn't have been able to review the revised policies for the last 2 years while the district and the board worked on making revisions.

I still had to make another request to get the documents posted onto the district website like Superintendent Brown (Critchlow) originally said they would.

I'm not really sure what Superintendent Critchlow's aversion has been for the last 4 or 5 years to posting documentation on the district website like they do in other school districts. Our school board policies state that she's responsible for keeping the board and the public informed. Making the public call and request documentation like bill payment descriptions gives the impression that she's trying to hide things from the public. Developing school district policies is a community effort. She even said at the board meeting that the public would get the chance to review them and provide recommendations. So why would she say one thing and then say something different after the fact?

With the amount of salary that Superintendent Critchlow and her assistant superintendents are getting by our school board, wouldn't you have expected a lot quicker turn around in reviewing and updating our district's Policies and Regulations?

Fox C-6 had the 4th Highest Superintendent Salary in the state of Missouri in 2013 and the 2nd Highest Average Administrator Salary in the state of Missouri in 2013 according to records found on Missouri DESE's website.

If the Fox C-6 school board is paying such high salaries, they must believe that Superintendent Critchlow and her assistants are doing a great job. Based on their salaries, they should be doing one of the best jobs in the state. So, why would it take so long to update and revise our district's policies?

After 3+ years of work on revising and updating Fox's School Board Policies and Regulations, why would the latest revision still have someone listed as a point of contact who retired from the district in 2008?

Shouldn't someone have noticed this mistake after 3 years of reviewing and updating the documents?

You can download and review the latest revision of Fox's School Board Policies from the Missouri Consultants for Education website here:

When the first draft was posted on the district's website in March 2012, I emailed the district and gave them a list of contacts that I found in the Policies and Regulations that had been retired from the district for years that needed to be updated. I also supplied several grammatical and typographical corrections as well. Many of those items have been corrected. But, it's now been 2 years since I notified the district about retirees being listed as contacts and they're still in the latest revision. It makes you wonder if anyone has ever fully read our Policies and Regulations.

So what are we actually getting for Superintendent Critchlow's $256,131 salary?

I think that's a really good question and one that everyone in our community should be asking our school board since the board is responsible for setting her salary.

Her salary doesn't include her other benefits and the additional 14.5% that the taxpayers put into her retirement account each year. If you are paying someone that much money to lead your school district, shouldn't they be making sure that people are doing their jobs and and checking their work? After all, Fox is a District of Excellence!

I'm not really sure how our school board has been able to justify Superintendent Critchlow's raises year after year when there are things that just never get done. I've asked them but I've never gotten a response. Superintendent Critchlow usually has an excuse as to why Fox can't do what they do in other districts. But when does it end and the Fox C-6 taxpayers start receiving the benefits that taxpayers are getting in other school districts?

I think the majority of people in our community are in agreement that Superintendent Critchlow's salary is outrageous and that she is way overpaid. My father always tells me that it's the school board's fault for paying her too much!

I think that her over the top salary has caused her to have an over the top attitude towards anyone questioning her salary, her conduct or the job that she's been doing as a school district superintendent. It's also created a lot of resentment and morale problems within the district for employees as well as the community. It's hard to believe that our Fox C-6 School Board members can't see that this is a problem or that they haven't had any complaints from people in the community.

If Fox was ranked as high as Lindbergh in academic performance or if Fox had the ACT Scores and the same high Percentage of Students Taking the ACT like Rockwood or Parkway, then there might be a reason to possibly pay her more than $200,000 per year. But, when speaking with people in the community, all I've heard is complaint after complaint about how high her salary is.

Perhaps, our school board doesn't realize that Fox's demographics, annual budget and academic performance don't warrant the salary increases that they have given Superintendent Brown / Critchlow since she became superintendent in 2005.

I've written numerous articles over the last several years concerning Superintendent Critchlow's salary. I've compared her salary to other superintendents across the state and provided demographic comparisons for those other district's and communities as well.

Superintendent Critchlow may not think that her pay is out of line. But people in the community talk quite a bit about how much she's getting paid with taxpayer dollars. Our school district is not a "For Profit" corporation. It's a publicly funded entity. Therefore, the public has every right to question our school board as to how much they are paying her and they deserve to have the school board respond and not Superintendent Critchlow or Assistant Superintendent Andy Arbeitman.

The community expects Superintendent Critchlow to do the job that our school board policies document that she is supposed to be doing. The community also expects the school board to do it's job and provide proper oversight of our school district and be held accountable for their work. If the board just "rubber stamps" everything and they don't ask questions then we get into the situation that we're in now where Superintendent Critchlow is just raking in the money and not getting a lot done.

Perhaps, everyone in our community should start calling the anonymous hot line to report to the school board what they think about Superintendent Critchlow's salary and how much they've increased it over the years. If the community was given the chance to speak anonymously without retribution and retaliation and without fear of being sent Cease and Desist letters, they might speak out more often.

If you read the recent state audit of the Hickman Mills School District, you will get a sense of understanding as to why this occurs. An article in the Kansas City Star said, "That's what happens when not enough people are watching." It also occurs because people don't speak up when they see problems.

Speaking to our school board for 3 minutes a month doesn't mean that they're going to listen or respond. They just say, "Thank you!"

Superintendent Critchlow or now Assistant Superintendent Andy Arbeitman responds for our school board even on matters that only our school board can answer. So, without more voices from the community, everyone will have to continue to watch our school board overpay Superintendent Critchlow for not doing the job that she is supposed to be doing per our school board policies.

According to Superintendent Critchlow and her supporters, the district is doing great and there aren't any problems. According to a recent letter from one supporter, 99.9% of the people think things are great. My father recently told me that I'm not the only one complaining as Superintendent Critchlow would like everyone to believe. He called her comments "propaganda" to try and discredit me.

My father recently heard enough complaints from some of his friends at a trivia night that it was the first time I really heard him voice his concerns about the district. He was really concerned that the school board wasn't asking questions about bill payments especially if there weren't any descriptions on the bill payments. He said if the school board isn't asking questions then they should be voted out. I told him that there are a couple of board members that have been helpful with improving transparency and that they shouldn't be voted out. It's just a matter of time before we get enough responsible board members on our school board that don't have spouses or daughter in laws in supervisory positions to make a difference.

Superintendent Critchlow isn't going to allow the community to know what questions I bring to our school board when I speak at school board meetings. She's not going to document Public Comments in board meeting minutes with enough information to let you know. My Public Comments are documented as "Concerns within the district." or commented on this or commented on that.

Since the school board votes to approve the board meeting minutes each month, it doesn't appear that they are following the school board's Code of Ethics policy that states, "As member of the school Board, I shall: Maintain the public trust through full and open communication."

The board is responsible for approving the generically written minutes for the Public Comments that our board secretary writes each month documenting what I said at the meeting. However, if someone comes and praises the district, there will be quite a bit more detail for those Public Comments. Their letters will even get included in the board meeting packets. My letters to the board have never been included even though they were handed to the board and requested to be included as a matter of public record. Superintendent Critchlow is purposely failing to include them. That's how she can give the appearance that she's doing a great job and that everything is great within our district.

I have even emailed and asked for board minutes to be corrected to include more details after they were posted the month after a meeting. Superintendent Critchlow responded and informed me that the Missouri School Board Association told the board secretary that the board meeting minutes follow state law and won't be changed. It sounds to me like Superintendent Critchlow isn't doing her job of keeping the pubic fully informed.

If you want to see changes occur, it's time for you to start contacting your school board and showing up at school board meetings and start asking questions. After all, it's your school district and the Fox C-6 School Board represents you as a taxpayer.

Please be sure and tell your friends and family what's been going on with the leadership in our school district so they can contact our school board members as well. Your voice can make a difference!