I told Mr. Arbeitman that his email made it pretty clear that the school board was not going to respond to my questions with anything other than a "Thank You" unless I first called him with my questions. He told me that's not what it said. He said that it said "If". I again told him that his email sad IF I didn't contact him first that the board wasn't going to answer my questions. It was quite clear. He again tried to explain that I was taking his email the wrong way and that I just needed to give him a chance.
I recommend that you read Mr. Arbeitman's email that he sent me last month below and read my response to him. I'm fully aware of how the Mickes Goldman O'Toole law firm and the Missouri School Board Association trains school boards to basically remain silent. There is the belief that the board doesn't have the knowledge needed to respond to patrons on their own. They encourage the boards to have the superintendent or another school district designee respond for them. It's best for the school district to respond to patrons so the board doesn't say something that they shouldn't.
Mr. Arbeitman told me Tuesday night that the school board asked him to respond to my questions. I don't recall seeing anything documented in Fox's school board minutes stating that the school board has asked Mr. Arbeitman to speak for them.
How can Mr. Arbeitman answer questions for the board? He does not approve the Bill Payments. The school board does.
How does the school board approve the Bill Payments without knowing what the payments are for?
Does the district expect school board members to call the Central Office and ask about every check that seems questionable such as The Bridal Shoppe or the numerous monthly payments to restaurants, etc?
It appears that our school board isn't representing our community very well since they won't respond themselves. So, I ask again, why does Fox C-6 have a school board?
I recommend reading this article on the Missouri Education Watchdog's website:
According to Assistant Superintendent Arbeitman's email last month, there is only one person requesting information from the school district. Therefore, the district has no reason to publish public records such as school district budgets, bill payment descriptions or credit card statements like they do in other school districts.
The residents and taxpayers of the Fox C-6 School District can continue to call the Central Office if you want to know why the district spent another $24,000 this month at The Bridal Shoppe. Or perhaps you might want to ask the Central Office why the district paid all of the following restaurants this past month in the area as documented in the March 18, 2014 school board packet.
Without credit card statements, there's no way of knowing what was purchased on the credit cards by the card holders in the district. It's odd that the total credit limit of the 25 VISA card holders as documented by the board packets is only $44,000. However the district continues to have bills nearly double that amount. Review the 2013-2014 Bill Payments which lists the 25 VISA Credit Card Holders on page 2 of the report.
Pomodoro's - $362.70
Panda Express - $350.00
The Dough Depot - $264.00
Detour Grill and Bar - $350.00
Bandana's Barbecue - $470.00
Gator South Beer & Wine Garden - $750.00
The Dough Depot - $456.00
Little Ceasars Pizza - $275.00
Panda Express - $358.00
The Dough Depot - $319.00
Waffle House #1324 - $392.00
CREDIT CARD PAYMENTS
American Express - $29,260.06
VISA Card Services - $79,186.67 (The total credit limit of card holders is: $44,000)
Sam's Club Discover - $20,501.19
My responses are in RED. Mr. Arbeitman's email was very clear in which he stated, “If you choose not to contact me in advance, all further responses from your public comments will be a “thank you” response and that we look forward to responding to you in the future when you are willing to communicate with district employees first.”
However, it is possible that Mr. Arbeitman may have not fully understood what he wrote to me. There is a high probability that the Mickes Goldman O'Toole law firm wrote the email for him. Therefore, he may not have fully understood what he sent me. The law firm has been writing emails for the district for years since federal agencies have been investigating the school district. Even more so since the USDA found the District Non-Compliant with federal laws and was caught trying to subvert the complaint process last fall.
The law firm wants to make sure the district doesn't get into any further trouble. A few years ago, Assistant Superintendent Dan Baker, who is the District's Section 504 coordinator, accidentally sent us an email that he meant to send to the district attorney. He was asking the attorney to respond to one of our emails when he had time "Ha Ha". I forwarded the email back to Mr. Baker and told him that I think he intended to send it to the school district attorney Mike Hodge since he addressed it to Mike.
The Mickes Goldman O'Toole law firm handles emails for districts across the state like down in the Camdenton school district. It's a win for the law firm as they continue to bill month after month. Fox pays nearly as much per year in legal fees to the Mickes Goldman O'Toole law firm as it costs to add another Central Office Administrator to the payroll less their retirement benefits. Training school boards that they don't have the knowledge necessary to speak with the public, the law firm has a good chance that they'll be able to bill quite a few hours to school districts across the state helping them stay out of trouble.
It's time that we have some parents and taxpayers go to the Central Office and start scanning invoices and credit card statements to see where all the money is going. We've been told the district doesn't have enough money and that's why they really needed to pass the bond issue. I'd also recommend making copies of invoices from the law firm just to see how much they've been billing the district for the last 6 years. In the past, I've been told that our law firm doesn't provide the district with detailed billing. It's hard to believe that our district doesn't get detailed billing. You just never know what kind of excuse you will hear when you ask questions as our administrators hope to keep you from knowing the truth!
I believe that it's time for a State Audit of the Fox C-6 School District prior to Superintendent Dianne Critchlow's retirement!
Here is my email response to Mr. Arbeitman that I sent Tuesday March 18, 2014:
To: Arbeitman, Andy - Assistant Superintendent
Cc: Davis, Debby - CO Secretary; Critchlow, Dr. Dianne; Dan E. Smith; David Palmer; Steve Holloway; John Laughlin; Cheryl Hermann; Linda S. Nash; Dan Kroupa
Subject: RE: Response to public comment at the February 18, 2014 board of education meeting
Sent: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 1:09 PM
To: Rich Simpson
Cc: Davis, Debby - CO Secretary; Critchlow, Dr. Dianne; Arbeitman, Andy - Assistant Superintendent
Subject: Response to public comment at the February 18, 2014 board of education meeting
“Although no member of the community shall be denied the right to petition the Board of Education for redress of a grievance, the complaints will be referred through the proper administrative channels for solution before investigation or action by the Board. Exceptions are complaints that concern Board actions or Board operations only.”
- the School Board may refuse to respond to a public question/concern about Board actions unless the resident “first” submits their concern to you
- you, Andy Arbeitman, an employee of the school district, hold the authority to prescreen questions and concerns from members of the public to determine if, in your assessment, the concern is “valid” or not “valid” for consideration by the Board
- the Board has made the decision to abdicate its responsibility and has expressly delegated its authority to you to determine if questions/concerns from the public are “valid” or not “valid” and deserving of a reply from them
Mr. Arbeitman's Response to My March 18, 2014 Public Comments:
Below is the response I received from Mr. Arbeitman. It appears that our school district doesn't acknowledge the fact that we have elected school board members to represent the community. It would also seem as if he didn't hear Linda Nash's parting message in which she told the few people in attendance at the March school board meeting that it is the school board's job to hire (or fire) the Superintendent.
Perhaps we should provide an Organizational Chart like they have in other school districts to Superintendent Critchlow and Assistant Superintendent Arbeitman which when properly drawn shows the Board of Education above the Superintendent and not the other way around.