Saturday, April 5, 2014

Still Waiting for Answers to My Questions from the February 2014 Fox C-6 School Board Meeting Public Comments

The Fox C-6 School Board still hasn't answered my questions from the February 2014 school board meeting. No one from the Board of Eduction has even responded to my follow up emails requesting answers to my questions.

Perhaps our board members aren't familiar with our School Board's Code of Ethics that states, “As a member of the school Board, I shall: Maintain the public trust through full and open communication.”

The Code of Ethics also states, “As a member of the school Board, I shall: Insist that school funds be spent prudently and effectively to provide maximum educational benefits.”

Since I hadn't received a single response from my March 28, 2014 email to the board, I sent the email at the end of this article on Friday April 4, 2014 reminding the board about the Code of Ethics that they swore to uphold when they took their oath of office.

The only response I received yesterday was an email from Superintendent Critchlow telling me that, "I will forward to Ms Davis as a custodial request."

You'll have the opportunity to vote on April 8, 2014 to elect 3 school board members. They will be responsible for approving payments of more than $120 Million dollars per year of your taxpayer dollars. Should board members know what your taxpayer dollars are being spent on? Our school board policies state that they should.

Fox C-6 has a school board policy on Fraud Prevention. It is Policy 3106 in the Financial Management section of our board policies. Policy 3106 defines Fraud and Corruption and states that the District is committed to protecting the public funds with which it has been entrusted. Here is part of Policy 3106 from our most recent draft copy of our school board policies. If the board isn't provided credit card statements in the board packets as a supporting document, how can they ensure the public that our taxpayer dollars are being used for the purpose for which they are intended?

Policy 3106  
Financial Management 
Fraud Prevention 
The District is committed to protecting the public funds with which it has been entrusted. Minimizing the losses to fraud and corruption is an essential part of ensuring that all of the District's resources are used for the purpose for which they are intended. 
The public is entitled to expect the District to conduct its affairs with integrity, honesty and openness, and demand the highest standards of conduct from those working for it and with it.
Definition of Fraud and Corruption 
Although there is no precise legal definition of fraud, the term is used to describe a multitude of offences, including deception, forgery, theft, misappropriation, collusion and false representation of material facts. 
Corruption arises when a person receives any benefit which influences them and causes them to act differently when conducting District business.

Certainly you want school board members that are going to communicate with the public and answer questions. You also want a school board that realizes that it's their responsibility to run the school board meetings as documented in our board policies. The board needs to know that the superintendent works for the board and ultimately Fox C-6 taxpayers. The school board DOES NOT work for the superintendent. Therefore, if our school board is asked to provide documentation to the public, they should convey this request to the superintendent and they shouldn't accept excuses as to why the district can't easily and openly provide such documents to the public.

When your school district superintendent has a salary of $256,131 and your district's administrators have the 2nd highest average salary in the state, there really shouldn't be ANY EXCUSES as to why Fox can't do what so many other school districts across the state routinely do for their patrons.

April 4, 2014 Email to the Fox C-6 School Board
Date: April 4, 2014 7:49:32 AM CDT
To: Arbeitman, Andy - Assistant Superintendent, Dan E. Smith, David Palmer
Cc: Crutchley, Tim - CO Admin., Davis, Debby - CO Secretary, Critchlow, Dr. Dianne, Steve Holloway, John Laughlin, Cheryl Hermann, Linda S. Nash, Dan Kroupa
Subject: Questions for the Fox C-6 School Board and Missouri Sunshine Law Documents Request
Last week on March 28, 2014, I emailed everyone on the Fox C-6 School Board my questions which I posed at the February 2014 school board meeting. I have not received a response to my questions as required by school board policy. 
I didn’t even receive any acknowledgements that anyone in the district or on the school board received my email. I did receive two Auto Replies stating that Superintendent Critchlow and a school board member were out of the office. 
In last week’s email, I renewed my request for answers to my questions from the February 2014 board meeting and the questions posed in my March 18 email to the board. I also made a request for electronic copies (PDF) of the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 Administrator Salary Schedule as well as electronic copies (PDF) of the credit card statements for the 2013-2014 school year that the school board approves payments for each month as listed in the Bill Payments. 
Please consider this email a Missouri Sunshine Law request for electronic versions of the documents requested above as well as the requests for information that I emailed to the board on March 18, 2014. 
I also requested from Mr. Arbeitman a copy of the board policy that states that persons wishing to speak to the school board must follow a “chain of command” for questions that are board actions. My review of our board policies was documented in my March 18 email. Please provide the policies as requested that states a “chain of command” requirement for board actions.
I also renew my request to the school board to post the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school district budgets on the school district’s website like they do in many other school districts such as Northwest, Parkway, Rockwood, Camdenton and many more. It takes less than 30 seconds of time to publish the documents on the district website. Hearing Superintendent Critchlow state that there is no state law or mandate that requires our school district to even have a website is not a good excuse for not publishing the data. As a school board, you should be requesting that this data be made available to the public on the district website.
As Fox C-6 school board members, you were elected by the community to represent us. You took an oath and are required to follow the Code of Ethics as documented in our school board policies. You are required by the Code of Ethics to “maintain the public trust through full and open communication” and “Insist that school funds be spent prudently and effectively to provide maximum educational benefits.”
Can you please explain how failing to respond to emails from parents or patrons or failing to respond to Public Comments follows our school district’s Code of Ethics which state, “As a member of the school Board, I shall maintain the public trust through full and open communication.”

Thank you, 
Rich Simpson
Date: March 28, 2014 7:34:53 AM CDT
To: Arbeitman, Andy - Assistant Superintendent, Dan E. Smith, David Palmer
Cc: Davis, Debby - CO Secretary, Critchlow, Dr. Dianne, 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 
Thank you for delaying the decision to approve the school board policies at the March 2014 school board meeting and for posting a link to them on the front page of Fox’s website.

Since the March 2014 school board meeting, I discovered that the entire section of Employee Evaluations was left out of the board policies Forms section even though they are listed in the Form’s Table of Contents. I was able to locate the Employee Evaluation Forms in the 2012 draft version of the board policies on the district website and review them. These should be added back into the Forms section of the document.

Contrary to Superintendent Critchlow’s statement at the November 5, 2013 board workshop, all questions from Public Comments are not answered. Many questions have gone unanswered.

At the February 2014 Fox C-6 school board meeting I asked the following questions that are still unanswered despite renewing my requests in my previous email:

How can the school board approve Bill Payments when there are no payment descriptions documenting what each payment is for? 
How can the school board approve paying the credit card bills when they aren’t provided with the credit card statements to document what was purchased with the credit cards? 
I also asked where I could find a copy of the Administrator Salary Schedule? Could it be found on the website? The copy from last year’s board packets for the 2013-2014 school year only had “X”’s for the Administrator Salary amounts. 
I haven’t received answers to these questions. I was simply told by Mr. Arbeitman in his email that if I wished to have him look into the matter that I should give him a call.

Fox has now paid more than $2 Million in credit card bills for the 2013-2014 school year and the board packets did not include credit card statements. There needs to be accountability for this spending. Fox’s board policies states that Bill Payments need to be supported by Invoices, Purchase Orders and Vouchers. Those aren’t provided in the board packets. If a board member wants to know what a payment is for, they must make a request for the documentation. If there aren’t any descriptions on the payments, it’s difficult for them to know what to ask for.

Please email me electronic copies in PDF format of the Credit Card statements for the American Express, Visa and Discover card for the 2013-2014 school year.
Also, please email me a PDF copy of the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 Fox C-6 Administrator Salary schedules that include salary amounts. 
The Fox C-6 school board needs to request that the district post the school district budget on the district website like they do in other school districts. If Northwest, Camdenton, Rockwood and Parkway can afford to take the 30 seconds that it takes to copy the documents to their district website, Fox should be able to do the same as well.

I haven’t received a response from Mr. Arbeitman documenting the policy that he alluded to about following the “chain of command”.  Mr. Arbeitman spoke about this at the November 5, 2013 school board workshop.  At that workshop, when Mr. Arbeitman suggested that the district put a policy in place, Superintendent Critchlow stated that the district already had rules in place. Board member Cheryl Herman said that “It’s not a must.” that the community has to contact district administrators prior to speaking to the school board.

Please review our school board policies and provide me with the section that states that questions concerning board actions or decisions requires patrons to first speak with district employees prior to speaking to the board.

I look forward to your response.

Thank you,

Rich Simpson 
From: Rich Simpson
Sent: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 7:24 AM
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 
From: Arbeitman, Andy - Assistant Superintendent
Sent: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 1:09 PM
To: Rich SimpsonCc: 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 
Mr. Simpson, 
Thank you again for your time and public comments at our board meeting last night.  With regard to your requests to; 
-include more information in our board packets online
Yes, my request to the Fox C6 School Board on 2/18/14 included that all the credit card statements (full originals less account numbers) be included in board packets. 
-more detailed credit card bills
Actually, this statement is not completely accurate.  My request to the Board of Education on 2/18/14 was that the Board make available to the public the actual original credit card invoices/statements.  I asked the Board to provide the original statements from the credit card company to the public by including them, in their entirety, in the board packets that are then made available to the public on the District's website. By copying this correspondence to Dan Smith, I renew my request to the Board and ask that a member of the Board respond to my request.  
-the district budget online
My request to the Board of Education on 2/18/14 was that the Board publish the district’s budget(s) on the District’s website. The district recently provided the Board with the 2014-2015 district budget. Please publish the 2014-2015 budget on the district website like they do in other districts such as Rockwood. 
-more descriptions of payments
Again, this is not completely accurate.  My request to the Board of Education on 2/18/14 was that the Board include a description for each line item payment/disbursement.  Currently there is no description at all, so it’s not accurate to state that I am requesting "more descriptions" when none currently exist. The only information that the Board currently makes available to the public is the name of the Payee to whom payment is made.  No information regarding what the payment is for is included and, therefore, the information is not useful to the average citizen.  My request to the Board on 2/18/14 was that the Board provide information about the intended purpose for each payment.  The example I provided was the recent payment of $24,000 to "The Bridal Shop" which may seem unusual to the average resident but would be immediately clarified if accompanied with a simple description statement indicating that this payment was for  "choir robes". This was practice in our District previously and it currently is the standard in other area school districts. Since the Board that approves spending based on this information, my request is directed to the Board. Board policy 3150 states that list of bills for approval, “will be supported by invoices, approved purchase orders, properly submitted vouchers, or in accordance with salaries and salary schedules approved by the Board.” Therefore I renew my request to the Board 
-the statement according to your calculations the district has approximately $2,000,000 in credit card bills to date 
The district actually has $1,993,799 in credit card bills to date and a lot of schools utilize credit cards/purchasing cards to pay bills for added cash back rebates.  This allows for more value of the school district dollar.  Most of the credit card bills during the current year are electric bills district-wide, monthly copier costs, and as much of our office/teacher types of supplies when the credit card was still allowed for those types of charges. We have received approximately $35,000 in rebates to date. 
Thank you for this information; however, to clarify, my concern was and is not that the District utilizes a credit card(s).  My concern is that the Board provides no descriptive information about credit card purchases to the public and does not include credit card statements like they do in other districts in their board packets.
In order to better meet your needs, thoughts, and questions, we would like to be more proactive with your monthly public comments rather than reactive.  That said, I am requesting that if you know what your questions, opinions, thoughts, or desires are prior to our board meetings, that you to please call me in advance so that we can better serve you and your comments.  This will in no way stop you or prevent you from making monthly public comments, but rather it will allow more validity and affirmation for our board of education that you are following the proper chain of command as per board policy.  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.  At this time, your request for more detailed credit card bill descriptions, the district budget posted online, and more detailed descriptions of monthly payments are being requested from only one individual and we can make those available to you upon request.  The board appreciates your comments and they will continue to be taken under consideration. 
This is where we disagree, and where I seek your further very specific clarification. Please provide me with a copy of the Fox C6 school board policy to which you refer above.
Perhaps you may be referring to school board Policy 1480 regarding “School/Community Relations - Public Complaints”. It states: 
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.” 
Obviously, Policy 1480 is not applicable here since my concerns meet the stated exception, i.e. the concerns I addressed at the 2/18/14 school board meeting are about “Board actions” and “Board operations” and I am therefore not subject to any “chain of command”.  My concerns/questions were not about student or personnel issues, instruction, discipline, or learning materials.  But perhaps there is another policy that applies of which I am unaware? 
Furthermore, I find it shocking that you have made a threat to me on behalf of the school Board-- “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.” 
Therefore, at your earliest convenience, please provide me with any school Board policy, documentation, or correspondence that supports your claims that:
  • 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  
Finally, you added a comment about administrative salaries that was not on your public comment request sheet.  I will be happy to look into this for you upon receiving a return phone call.  My number is listed below.  I look forward to your call. 
Your request seems silly since my only availability for phone calls is outside of regular business hours when you would not normally be in your office.  My question, as asked to the School Board on 2/18/14 is that the School Board of Education include the administrative salary schedule on the district website. It should also be included in the board packets with actual salaries and not just “X”’s for the salary amounts. It doesn’t provide the public with any information to only place an “X” for a salary amount. Generally, I can be reached by phone at home between the hours of 6 and 7 a.m. or between 8 and 10 p.m.  Or, if it's more convenient, please simply include this information, along with your responses to my other questions contained in this email, in your response 
I also request that the Board of Education delay approving the Board’s updated Policies, Regulations and Forms until the April 2014 Board meeting. The District and the Board should have properly notified the public that they were available for review and recommendations. No announcements or notifications were posted on the district website or in the local paper notifying the public that the updated Policies and Regulations had been posted for the public to review. 
Prior to approving the updated Polices, Regulations and Forms, please remove Vickie Hanson as a point of contact. She retired from the district in 2008.

Thank you, 
Rich Simpson