Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A New Era in the Fox C-6 School District

The June 30, 2014 Fox C-6 school board meeting was very different than the board meetings that I've attended over the last several years. First, there were more than 200 people in attendance at the meeting. This was the largest turnout of citizens that I've ever seen at a school board meeting.

For many people attending the board meeting, this was the first time they've ever attended a school board meeting. It's important to stay involved in your school district and ensure that your concerns and suggestions are heard. Thank you for attending and showing your support and desire to see changes in our school district.

Controversy and Budget Concerns Awaken Community
A little controversy and budget concerns within our school district appears to have awakened the community to the problems that have been plaguing the Fox C-6 School District for quite some time. It's going to take time to get things turned around but I believe we have enough new and concerned school board members to lead the school district in a positive direction. Board president John Laughlin addressed the public on many issues of concern during the meeting.

Public Comments
Four individuals made Public Comments at the board meeting. Kevin Harding, Rich Simpson (myself), James Osia and Matt Hay. It was good to see more people from the community voicing their concerns to our school board. I believe that the concern of the community is making the school board more responsive. The school board is realizing that they work for the citizens and taxpayers of the school district and not for the superintendent.

During my public comments I renewed my request to the school board to have open public discussions with the school board prior to board meetings like they do in the Rockwood School District.

I suggested that the school board and/or our acting superintendent request a State Audit to ensure that our district is following good accounting procedures and processes.

School Board Members Respond to State Audit Request
Board president John Laughlin and board member Cheryl Hermann responded to my public comments about requesting a state audit. Cheryl Hermann told the public that the district had a state audit before and that they "didn't find anything out of place". Perhaps Mrs. Hermann hasn't read Fox's 2002 State Audit Report for quite some time.

I've posted a link to the 2002 state auditor's report below her response to my public comments. The first sentence starting on page two of the 2002 Fox C-6 State Audit Report, states:
"The following problems were discovered as a result of an audit conducted by our office of the Fox C-6 School District." 
Here's what Cheryl Hermann told the public at the school board meeting in response to my request that the district ask for a State Audit:
"Yes, I would like to point out that we have had the state auditor here, and that was back when we had a lot of concerns about our operating procedures. Even before she came we cleaned them up. As a school board and as a district when she came in she didn't find anything out of place. Since then we continue to have a yearly audit to make sure that our procedures are done above board and honestly."
It's obvious that Mrs. Hermann doesn't understand the difference between the yearly audit the district pays for and the rigor at which a State Audit is conducted. I don't believe that Mr. Laughlin has read many of the state audit reports to understand how in depth they really are compared to the district's annual audit. However, he said that he would look into the possibility of having a state audit. Cheryl Hermann's lack of understanding of the district's annual audit probably contributed to her surprise about the financial state of our school district at the June workshop.

After reading the 2002 State Audit, do you think Cheryl Hermann's comments about Fox's last State Audit are accurate?

It would appear that Cheryl Hermann was not aware of the fact that the 2002 audit did in fact discover problems as a result of the audit. It was a nice statement to toss out for the public. However, her statement was not accurate.

It would also help the community and the school board if they reviewed the Rockwood School District's Annual Budget Report. The Executive Summary in Rockwood's Annual Budget report explains things very well. Fox needs to have a similar report and perhaps we will be getting one in the future from Fox's new Chief Financial Officer John Brazeal.

Audio of Public Comments at the June 30 Board Meeting
You can listen to my audio recording of the Public Comments from the Monday June 30 Fox C-6 school  board meeting by clicking on the link below. The audio levels were adjusted to help you hear everyone's comments since everyone doesn't speak into the microphones at school board meetings.

Some notable points about the meeting:
  • More than 200 citizens attended the school board meeting.
  • School board president John Laughlin answered patron's questions during Public Comments.
  • The school board procedurally approved the 2014-2015 budget but plans to be making amendments to the budget over the next several months.
  • School board president John Laughlin responded to Kevin Harding and informed the public that the school board did not request/authorize sending out Cease and Desist letters to citizens in the community. (NOTE: Board policy allows the superintendent to use legal counsel for school matters without prior authorization for most issues.)
  • The board has been operating without a Chief Financial Officer for several months.
  • The new CFO (John Brazeal) will start on July 9th.
  • No administrators told the audience that they could leave prior to Public Comments. (Typically Dianne Critchlow would inform the audience that now was their chance to leave the meeting just prior to Public Comments.)
  • KSDK, KMOX and Fox 2 News were at the board meeting and interviewed board president John Laughlin and citizens attending the meeting.