Do they respond?
You may wonder why Superintendent Critchlow was the only person to provide responses to my questions and requests. You may also sense some hostility in her responses to answering questions that the school board should have been answering, especially with regards to doing her job as a superintendent. It's the superintendent's job to keep the school board and public informed.
It took years to get individual email addresses for our school board members posted on the district website. It also took years to get school board packets and financial data published on the district website so the public could review the same information provided to our school board members just like other school districts have been doing for years.
It was almost as if Critchlow didn't want the public to know what was going on in our school district. Did her actions violate school board policy?
The real question is why hasn't the school board been able to stand up to Superintendent Critchlow and demand answers and demand that the data is published on our district website?
Due to the recent change in leadership, things have changed. The school board is running our school board meetings as they should be. Dr. Rizzi no longer states before Public Comments that you cannot mention names or positions during your Public Comments. Our new Chief Financial Officer John Brazeal told me that he is very interested in improving transparency and keeping the community informed about the district's financial picture. Yesterday he responded to my email request for legal fees dating back to the 2007-2008 school year. Mr. Brazeal also informed me that he plans to "have multiple years of audited statements uploaded to the website disclosing past financial activity."
As you read through the exchange of emails below, you will see that Superintendent Critchlow flat out refused to publish financial data and told me that I could make Sunshine Requests for that data. I was also told, I would have to pay for data many times that should have already been published on the district website like credit card statements. Credit card statements should have been included in school board packets each month for board members to review. They do it in other school districts.
Years of emails and Public Comments thoroughly document refusal after refusal or excuse after excuse as to why our district couldn't post data for the public. Perhaps if our community would have been kept apprised more on our financial situation, the district might not have gotten into the financial crisis that it's currently in.
The last email in this exchange of emails has Superintendent Critchlow washing her hands of communicating with me and passing that job off to Assistant Superintendent Andy Arbeitman. Since then, that job was passed off to Dr. Rizzi.
For the amount of money that the taxpayers of the Fox C-6 School District (52%) and the taxpayers of the state of the state of Missouri (41%) were paying to support our superintendent's salary and the salaries of our administrators, she should have been willing and able to provide the information being requested, that so many other school districts have been providing to their taxpayers for years. But in doing so, it would have empowered the community to ask questions about what was going on in the Fox C-6 School District, thus ending her reign of control.
Now the public is asking questions and looking for answers!
- Please address the problem with respect to responding to emails from citizens in the community. It is disrespectful that Mr. Dan Smith our school board president does not respond to or acknowledge emails from citizens in the community. Fox C-6 needs to develop a protocol similar to what Rockwood has adopted that covers how its school board responds to the community. Fox already has school board policy in place stating that Public Comments will be responded to within a week of a board meeting when possible but this policy is not followed. This protocol should address emails or letters to the board. I provided a link to Rockwood's protocol in my September 17th email to the board. The document is located on Rockwood's district website on the Sunshine Law Request page. Mr. Smith stated at the end of one of the board meetings this year that he would like to see more citizens in the community involved in the school district. If Mr. Smith expects citizens to become involved, then Mr. Smith should be expected to respond to their requests for information or suggestions as the president of the school board. The school board has been elected by the community to represent the community. In order for the school board to represent the community, the school board needs to respond to their constituents.
- Superintendent salary and administrative salaries in general. The recent Leader newspaper article regarding school district administrative pay was definitely a wake up call for the community to see Superintendent Critchlow's salary. It is unrealistic that Fox's Superintendent would have the 4th Highest Superintendent Salary in the state of Missouri for last year. It's also unrealistic that Fox C-6 would have the 2nd Highest Average Administrator Salary in the state of Missouri for last year as well. Based upon comments and feedback from people in our community, they had no idea how much our superintendent was getting paid. Many of them thought she was making around $150,000 to $175,000. They certainly didn't think that our superintendent would be making $256,131. Many have commented that her salary should be reduced so the district can hire more teachers or staff especially if she is going to make statements such as "we try to put all our dollars into the classrooms for the students"and "We simply just do not have the staff to accommodate all requests and suggestions." as she responded to me in her email. Having given her a salary that is so out of line with our demographics causes a lot of resentment in both the community and school district personnel. It would be interesting to see what the community really thinks about the salaries in our district by having the school board conduct a survey of the community.
- The salary concerns also apply to a couple of school board member's family members that were promoted or hired by the district into positions where more qualified candidates were passed over in favor of their spouse or family member. This has reflected poorly on those school board members that were on the board when these decisions occurred. Obviously, the community expressed enough concern for the that the school board modified their policies so this would not happen again in the future. However, there are currently board members spouses and family members in supervisory roles that are being overpaid and not meeting the expectations of those positions.
- The school board should do a survey of the community like they did in Lindbergh for feedback as to how they and the district is doing on topics such as the website and salaries for the administrators and how they are doing in general as a school board. It might be an eye opening experience for the school board.
- Please ensure that Late Materials are also published on the school district website on the same day as school board meetings. This information should also be provided to the public so the public can review them and ask questions during Public Comments prior to board members voting on those items. This is covered in our school board policies as well. All materials that the school board receives that is public information needs to be made available to the public as well.
- Please ensure that School Budgets are posted on the district website for the public similar to the examples I provided in my September 17th email.
- It is unacceptable for the school board to accept excuses from Superintendent Critchlow as to why things can't be accomplished in our school district when they are being done in other school districts in the area and across the state. Superintendent Critchlow responded to my email sent to the board stating that "We simply just do not have the staff to accommodate all requests and suggestions." in respect to providing the late materials updates on the website or into the board meeting packets after the board meeting. It is her job to ensure that these materials are provided to the public. You need to hold her accountable and make sure she is doing her job. Providing year after year pay raises while making excuses for not being able to accomplish things does not look good to the public.
- In speaking with an accountant friend of mine and former state auditor, he stated that writing checks to individuals for startup cash lunches and concessions stands would throw up a big red flag during and audit. His recommendation during an audit would be that those checks be written to the banking institution for cash and then dispersed to the schools.
- Board member Cheryl Herman teased at the August board meeting about having an App for access to the new Tyler SIS system. The Tyler SIS system should include some sort of App or mobile access to the website for the price paid by the district.
- School board meetings need to be video and/or audio recorded so that board meetings can be accurately documented. I have asked this question several times of the school board and have never received a response as to why board meetings cannot be recorded until Superintendent Critchlow responded to my September 17th email. This is done in other school districts and the City of Arnold and Jefferson County Council are able to accomplish this feat with much less technology staff than Fox has.
- I have had responses from both Superintendent Critchlow and Dr. Rizzi stating that board meeting minutes meet state law. It would be helpful for the school board and district staff to read the state law to see that the minutes are to be a journal of what was discussed at the meeting. It is understood that board meeting minutes are not a verbatim of the meeting. However, any topics that are presented to the school board are to be documented in the minutes. When topics are left out of the minutes, it leads the public to believe that the school district is hiding or covering up concerns that our Superintendent or the school board does not want the public to know about.
- Public Comments should lengthened to 5 minutes noting that the district sets aside 30 minutes to address issues but has rarely had more than 1 or 2 speakers at a board meeting.
- Public Comments rules regarding speaking of positions or names needs to be removed for addressing issues with the superintendent. The superintendent is hired and fired by the community and school board and citizens will be allowed to voice their concerns with issues regarding the superintendent.
- The public should be allowed to respond to comments made by our superintendent or assistant superintendents to citizens after making a public comment. It was quite disrespectful of Superintendent Critchlow not to allow me to respond to her false and misleading accusations at the August 2013 school board meeting. Those actions do not meet with the character traits our district promotes.
- Shortage of books in middle school and high school. This was addressed by Superintendent Critchlow to the news channel 5 reporter last year however, her answer was not factual. You would need to ask teachers and principals why there are not enough books for ALL of their students. This question was also addressed to me by Ms. Pelster in an email when I brought this topic up in an email to the board and at the December 2012 board meeting. In her email she responded to the book shortage stating that, "Teachers do not give out textbooks because we do not have enough; they don't give them out because they are just a resource for the class. This cuts down on students lugging around heavy books every day that may or may not be used." Ms. Pelster acknowledged the fact that there aren't enough books for teachers to hand them out for all students. Several parents have already informed me this year that students are having to share books in some middle school and high school classes because there aren't enough books for the entire class. If they are using the books and they are having to share them, the parents seem to believe there is a book shortage.
- Ridgewood football field bleachers need to be demolished or replaced. They are currently a safety hazard and an eye sore. It probably would have been much more cost effective to move a section of the old Fox High football bleachers to Ridgewood rather than selling them as scrap to another district.
- Please download and print the school lunch menus from the district website to see what the parent was speaking about at the August board meeting with respect to the font size and the layout of the menus. Please visit other school district websites such as Lindbergh, Windsor and Rockwood and review their lunch menus as a comparison.
- Please takes some time to review the links on the individual school websites for our district. Also, please update the school board member page to reduce both the file size and the resolution of the photos for school board members. This same problem occurred when the district moved to the Edline system a couple of years ago and I brought it to the board's attention.
- Late Materials Packets that were not originally provided in the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years. This would include checks that are missing from the currently published board meeting packets that are on the district website. There are numerous checks missing that were included in late packets for the 2012-2013 school year as well as the checks that were included in the late packet materials at the September 2013 board meeting.
- Please publish the 2013-2013 as well as the 2012-2013 and 2011-2012 School District budgets on the district website.
- Please, republish an updated copy of the Budget and Expense for all of the projects and expenses from the recent Bond Issue. The Bond Issue Budget was published just a couple of weeks prior to the bond issue election last year after I made a request to publish the documents on the district website. Within days of passing the bond issue, that document was removed. I emailed a request to have them republished on the district website shortly after they were removed but they were never republished. There are signs throughout the district touting the progress as promised at each of the schools. Providing the budget information for those projects on the district website will allow the community to see how their taxpayer dollars were spent.
- Please begin publishing "draft" copies of board meetings on the district website by the close of business the week of a school board meeting.
- School Board Meeting Packets dating back to the 2008-2009 school year. These packets are missing from the district website and would match the current board meeting minutes that are currently listed on the district website. The new copiers and scanners should be able to quickly scan these to PDF if they have not already been scanned. The district has already provided me with board meeting packets dating back to April 2010. The district charged me to scan some of those packets and supply them via my Sunshine Law requests. The board meeting packets that are currently published on the district website include the yellow page notice for board member action. Those pages were missing from the documents that were previously supplied to me via Sunshine request. Please provide those pages when publishing the prior year board packets onto the district website.
From: Smith, Dan - Board Vice President
Sent: Sunday, November 03, 2013 9:07 PM
To: Rich Simpson
Subject: Not read: RE: Questions for the Fox C-6 School Board