Monday, July 28, 2014

How the Fox C-6 School Board Handled Questions and Suggestions?

How does your school board handle Questions and Suggestions?

Do they respond?

Below is a compilation of emails I sent to our school board members last fall along with the responses I received if a response was sent. This doesn't include questions I may have asked during Public Comments unless they were mentioned in my emails. The emails below provide you with an idea of what I have been asking our school board to do for several years. The responses did not come from our school board. My requests or suggestions were denied by Superintendent Critchlow or it was recommended by the district's legal counsel that the district not do things such as hosting open discussions with the public.

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!

Fall 2013 Emails Sent to the Fox C-6 School Board
and Responses from the District
From: Rich Simpson
Sent: Sunday, September 08, 2013 7:35 AM
To: John Laughlin
Subject: Administrator Salary Schedules
Importance: High


Did you ever receive the Administrator Salary Schedule for 2013-2014?

I'm sure you would have in order to approve it. The one that was included in the board meeting packets for the public didn't have any amounts in the schedule. It had "X"s for the amounts.

I also made a request to Debbie Davis to provide the 2013-2014 Budget on the district website at the June board meeting but nothing has been posted. 

I think the real issue for our district is the lack of transparency. We also have a real issue of sweeping the problems under the rug and hiding them from the public like in the board meeting minutes when recording Public Comments topics. Dr. Rizzi stated at the August 2013 board meeting in response to my concern that Fox follows the law and that all the district has to record is a Motion, a Second and a Vote. Well, that's not true. The minutes are supposed to be a "journal" of the meeting. I know why things are left out of the minutes but the public doesn't. Doing this doesn't provide a good example of a National District of Character.

For an example of incredible transparency, you can take a look at Wake County Public Schools in North Carolina. This is the school district that Dianne Critchlow spoke about at the August board meeting where kids can earn their associates degree and high school diploma at the same time.

The Wake County Public Schools has 75,000 students, 170 schools, a budget of $1.3 BILLION Dollars and 864 square miles. Compare those numbers to Fox.

Their superintendent's salary for 2012-2013 was $250,000.

Here is Wake County Public Schools Finance page on their website. 

The Wake County school's finance page has budget reports dating back to 2007 on their website as well as their 2013-2014 budget.

The Fox C-6 community needs this type of information available to them so they can help keep our salary schedule in line with the community's expectations. Almost anyone that finds out that Fox's superintendent makes over $250,000 reacts in total shock. Who would have thought that we would be able to be handing out pay raises as high as 17% since she started as superintendent. Her salary is quite out of touch with reality. Even when comparing our administrative salaries in general, Fox had the 2nd highest Average Salary for Administrators in the state. Dianne Critchlow's salary was the 4th highest in the state. When you compare the demographics of our school district, it doesn't make much sense. I understand the whole Public School Retirement System issue that the average of the highest 3 consecutive years of of pay is averaged for computing retirement amounts. This means that Dianne Critchlow will be a huge burden on  the system for many years to come pulling in over $15,000 per month in retirement thanks to the generous pay raises she has received over the years.

Fox still doesn't have a Project Lead The Way program for science and engineering and only 56% of the graduates students at Fox are taking the ACT test. Fox is in the bottom 25% of the state in Percentage of Graduates taking the ACT. Dianne fails to mention that fact in her presentation each year. Compare that to Rockwood and Parkway where 95% to 96% of their graduates take the test. Rockwood and Parkway pays for each of their students to take the test one time. The cost of the test is $35. 

I was also quite disappointed with the fact that no one spoke up when Dianne stated that Fox had The Highest Score in Jefferson County on the MSIP 5 test. She also said that other districts in the county had scores in the 70's and 80's. Neither of those statements were true. Honesty, Trustworthy and Integrity are emblazoned as watermarks on many of the documents from Fox. However, Superintendent Critchlow doesn't set a very good example for those traits even during board meetings. 

There are so many things wrong with this picture. Things really need to change. The school board needs to start listening to and communicating with the community. Our district needs an advisory committee like they now have at Rockwood and other school districts in order to get things turned around and going in the right direction. It's very disappointing and embarrassing to see what has happened over the years since Dianne was appointed as Superintendent of Fox C-6.


Rich Simpson

From: John Laughlin
Date: September 8, 2013 12:30:34 PM CDT
To: Richard Simpson
Subject: RE: Administrator Salary Schedules

Thanks for the info

John Laughlin, CTS

From: Rich Simpson
Sent: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 7:22 AM
To: Smith, Dan - Board Vice President; Kroupa, Dan - Director; Hermann, Cheryl - Director; Nash, Linda - Board President; Laughlin, John - Director; Holloway, Steve - Director; Palmer, David - Director
Cc: Davis, Debby - CO Secretary; Superintendent; Rizzi, Dr. Lorenzo - CO Admin
Subject: Questions, Concerns and Suggestions for the Fox C-6 School Board
Importance: High

Dear Fox C-6 School Board,

Thank you for your service to our community. As you are aware, I have presented several concerns to the board over the past several years. Some issues have been addressed but many have not. One of those concerns was one that I addressed at the August 2013 school board meeting again regarding what is recorded in board meeting minutes for Public Comments. Dr. Rizzi responded with a statement that wasn't completely accurate regarding what is required by state law for board meeting minutes.

Missouri Sunshine Law states as shown below states that a "journal or minutes" shall be taken and retained by the public governmental body, including but not limited to a record of any votes taken at such meeting. It is not accurate to state that board meeting minutes are only required to reflect a motion, a second and a vote. The board minutes shall be a journal of what occurred at the meeting. Leaving information out of school board meeting minutes gives the appearance that the district or the board is trying to hide things from the public. It reflects poorly on the board when you approve board meeting minutes knowing that there is information that has not been documented.

A journal or minutes of open and closed meetings shall be taken and retained by the public governmental body, including but not limited to a record of any votes taken at such meeting. The minutes shall include the date, time, place, members present, members absent and a record of any votes taken. When a roll call vote is taken, the minutes shall attribute each “yea” and “nay” vote or abstinence if not voting to the name of the individual member of the public governmental body.

The board has been asked several times to audio or video record Fox C-6 board meetings like they do in other districts. This would preclude any problems or concerns with the way the board meeting minutes are being documented. Many other school districts, the City of Arnold and the Jefferson County council video record their meetings.

Why doesn't Fox audio or video record its school board meetings and post them for the public to view or listen to like they do in other districts?

My father told me that he audio recorded all board meetings when he worked for the district and when he was on the school board.

When did the school district stop audio recording school board meetings?

Another ongoing issue is about concerns being brought to the school board that are not addressed. Several people have informed me that they have emailed our board president Mr. Dan Smith and have not received a response or even an acknowledgement, myself included. Our school district is a community effort. The community elected you to represent us and deserves a response.

The Rockwood School District has gone through similar issues. Rockwood has a group of concerned citizens that have been bringing about positive changes in their district. One of those recent changes is more community involvement. As I mentioned to several board members prior to the August 2013 board meeting, Rockwood now sets aside 30 minutes prior to some of their board meetings for open discussion with the community. Fox should have the same type of meetings if it wants to regain respect and trust from the community.

Mr. Dan Smith stated at one of the recent board meetings that he would like to see more people in our community get involved with the school district. In order to get involved, the school board and the board president will need to respond to the community. Our board policies state that someone will respond to Public Comments within a week whenever possible. It appears that this policy is rarely followed. Perhaps, open discussions with the community could correct this problem. 

Below are some links regarding Listening Times and Community Conversations from the Rockwood School District website:

Board listening times information for the Rockwood School District:

Rockwood School District Community Conversations:

Another item to note on the Rockwood School District website is a web page that documents how to file a Sunshine Law Request with the school district. The webpage also lists Sunshine Requests received by the district, who made the request and a downloadable copy of the documents provided per the request in PDF format as a service to the community. As a school board, you should also want this same type of information for the Fox C-6 community as well. Please consider this as a formal request for a similar webpage on the Fox C-6 website. This would include the requests that I have made in the past for board meeting packets and information such as administrative salary schedules.

Transparency and open government is a very important part of building a strong school district. Below is a link to Rockwood's website for Public Records as well as a few examples of some of the documents on the page.

Rockwood School District Request for Public Records page:

Rockwood School Board Responsibilities and Training Information:

At the June 2013 board meeting I asked Debby Davis to post the 2014 Fiscal Year school budget on the district website that was provided to the board in their late materials for approval. The 2014 budget still hasn't been posted to the district website or added to the board meeting packets. The August 2013 board meeting packet was updated on the district website to include the checks that were provided in the boards late materials for approval at the board meeting that were not in the original board packet. However, the 2012-2013 board meeting packets have not been updated as of yet. Please update the 2012-2013 board meeting packets to include the missing checks that are currently posted on the district website. There are several hundred checks possibly more than a thousand that are not accounted for in the 2012-2013 board packets.

Another current concern is that the board packets contain a new Bill Payments report that doesn't include a description as to what the checks are for. The new check register report only provides the payee name. This will cause people to question why district employees such as Brad Duncan or Kelly Nash are receiving checks for several thousand dollars. Without descriptions such as on the old check register, this could become a problem and a cause for concern.

It would also be helpful if a file naming convention was used to name files that are being published in the new Document Containers on the district website so they are displayed in date order. Currently they are displayed in alphabetic order. The previous district website had the documents manually placed in date in order. A suggested naming convention would be to start the name of the document with a numeric year, month, day (for example: ”2013-09-17 Fox C-6 Board Meeting Packet-website.pdf”).

Thank you for your time. I look forward to your response.

Richard Simpson

From: Critchlow, Dr. Dianne
Sent: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 10:02 AM
To: Rich Simpson; Smith, Dan - Board Vice President; Kroupa, Dan - Director; Hermann, Cheryl - Director; Nash, Linda - Board President; Laughlin, John - Director; Holloway, Steve - Director; Palmer, David - Director
Cc: Davis, Debby  CO Secretary; Superintendent; Rizzi, Dr. Lorenzo - CO Admin; Administrators - CO
Subject: RE: Questions, Concerns and Suggestions for the Fox C-6 School Board

Mr. Simpson,

Thank you for your comments and suggestions.  I have looked at some of the sites from Rockwood School District and do think you have shared some good ideas.  I would like to explore these links in some more depth and share with my administrative team and the BOE.  Thank you for sharing.

In regards to the request of the 2014 Budget, Debby does not recall you asking for the budget at the June meeting, but will provide you with a copy tonight. 

If you asked in your public comment, you did not share a copy of your comment so she did not have any recollection nor did she receive a Sunshine Law Request.

The checks for Ms. Nash were the start up cash for all 19 buildings to make change for lunches for the first day of school.  Mr. Duncan’s check was the startup money for the concession stands for the fall games.

Dr. Rizzi’s statement regarding recording for Public Comments came from the council of Missouri School Board Association(MSBA). They indicated that if the date and time were on the agenda, that would suffice.

Per MSBA council, minutes are not verbatim, it is merely an account of the meeting through the board secretaries eyes.

The board meetings were audio recorded in 1996. Then it stopped, reason unknown. It began again in 2001.  The last recoding was June 2005 per the direction of the Superintendent Jim Chellew.

As far as videotaping the board meetings, the district has never accomplished this task due to the small technology staff.  It would be up to the board as a whole, if they wish to do so.  I do believe this was explained to you when it was first asked.

In regards to your last paragraph, the new Tyler SIS system will assist the Debby in file naming.  Our last system she had to do so manually.  She has not received the training,  but is scheduled to do so. However, thank you for your suggestion but she will find a system that works best for her and our new system.

Items that are presented in the original board packet are not added to the website after each meeting.  These are late materials. It is not normally Debby’s practice to go back and change them due to time constraints.  However, it is recorded in the attachments and you can request to view them at any time.  We simply just do not have the staff to accommodate all requests and suggestions.  I wish we did, but we try to put all our dollars into the classrooms for the students.

I believe I have addressed every issue that you have brought forward.

Mr. Simspon, as we have always stated, our door is always open for you to schedule a meeting with anyone in our office to address any area of concern.  Please provide a list of the concerns that you believe have not been addressed and we will gladly provide a response.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Dr. Dianne Critchlow

From: Richard Simpson
Date: 10/01/2013 8:04 AM
To: Smith, Dan - Board Vice President; Nash, Linda - Board President; Hermann, Cheryl - Director; Kroupa, Dan - Director; Palmer, David - Director; Laughlin, John - Director; Holloway, Steve - Director
Subject: Some Issues, Concerns and Suggestions for the Fox C-6 School Board to consider for discussion during their workshop 

Dear Fox C-6 School Board,

Please review the following concerns and suggestions as items of discussion in your school board workshop this evening. If they cannot be addressed or discussed this evening, hopefully they can be addressed directly or in a future meeting or workshop. I previously emailed the school board on September 17, 2013 with some issues and concerns. The only response I received was from Superintendent Critchlow to my concerns. I did receive a PDF copy of the 2013-2014 School Budget yesterday from board secretary Debbie Davis. As I mention below, Fox C-6 needs to develop or perhaps it already has a protocol for addressing concerns from citizens in the community. If the district already has a protocol perhaps the board is not aware of it or it simply isn't being followed. Rockwood has a protocol regarding this topic which I point out below and also pointed out in my September 17 email to the board.

Thank you,

Rich Simpson

Topics and Concerns for the Fox C-6 School Board:

  • 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.

From: Rich Simpson
Sent: Wednesday, October 02, 2013 7:29 AM
To: Smith, Dan - Board Vice President
Cc: Nash, Linda - Board President; Hermann, Cheryl - Director; Kroupa, Dan - Director; Palmer, David - Director; Laughlin, John - Director; Holloway, Steve - Director
Subject: Questions for the Fox C-6 School Board

Mr. Smith,

Please confirm receipt of my email dated Tuesday October 1, 2013 which was sent to all Fox C-6 school board members using the email addresses provided on the Fox C-6 school district website.

Did you receive my email?

My email listed issues, concerns and suggestions for the Fox C-6 school board to review and consider for discussion at the school board workshop or at the next school board meeting.

There are questions from previous emails to the board that have gone unanswered for a couple of years.

When will you be able to respond to those questions?

What is the school board's policy or protocol for responding to emails from citizens in the community who you represent?

Can you please explain why you haven’t responded to emails sent to you or the school board or to questions presented during Public Comments from citizens in the community?

The National School Board Association and the Missouri School Board Association websites as well as many other organizations explain what the role of a school board is and what its responsibilities are to the community and the school district. One organization explained the role of the school board as follows:

As elected officials, school board members represent the educational values and priorities of the members of their communities, including students, school system employees, parents, business leaders, civic leaders and taxpayers. School boards provide a forum for community members to be heard, key issues to be debated and public votes to take place. In principle, school boards provide stewardship and direction for public education in a community.

Additionally, a school board is responsible for hiring, evaluating and, if necessary, dismissing the superintendent. As part of this process, a school board enters into a contract with a superintendent that includes explicit goals and performance standards for the superintendent along with the criteria to be used in evaluating the superintendent’s performance.

As the Fox C-6 School Board President, please provide a copy of the goals and performance standards and other criteria that the Fox C-6 school board uses to evaluate our superintendent(s) and school administrators. Please explain how their performance evaluations relate to the salary schedule?

As an education advocate and concerned citizen, I look forward to your response.

If Mr. Smith is unable to respond, will another school board member please respond to my questions?

Thank you,

Rich Simpson

From: Hermann, Cheryl - Director
Sent: Thursday, October 03, 2013 8:33 AM
To: Rich Simpson
Cc: Critchlow, Dr. Dianne
Subject: RE: Questions for the Fox C-6 School Board

Hi Mr Simpson,

I just wanted to tell you that I received this email, have read it, and will take it into consideration.

Cheryl Hermann, M.Ed.
Fox School District School Board Director

From: Rich Simpson
Sent: Friday, October 04, 2013 8:04 AM
To: Hermann, Cheryl - Director
Cc: Critchlow, Dr. Dianne; Smith, Dan - Board Vice President; Kroupa, Dan - Director; Palmer, David - Director; Laughlin, John - Director; Nash, Linda - Board President; Holloway, Steve - Director
xSubject: RE: Questions for the Fox C-6 School Board

Mrs. Herman,

Thank you for your response.

It's quite disappointing to think that our school board president cannot or will not respond to citizens in the community. Mr. Smith stated at the end of a school board meeting this year that he wished more people in the community would get involved in their school district. I'm sure the community would like to see his thoughts reciprocated as well.

School board policy states that "The Board is very interested in citizens concerns and viewpoints." Given the lack of response from our school board over the last several years, the words in our school board policy really don’t seem to have that much meaning. I certainly hope those words begin to have more meaning to the community in the near future.

Hopefully, the board workshops can provide more interaction between the community and the school board and allow for more "concerns within the district" to be heard and responded to by our school board.

It's difficult to make improvements or solve problems if no one is willing to acknowledge that there is a problem. It’s even more difficult if no one even acknowledges that they received your emails. I really do hope that everyone on the school board gets a chance to read the protocol for communicating with the public from the Rockwood School District.

Thank you,

Rich Simpson

From: Critchlow, Dr. Dianne 
Sent: Friday, October 04, 2013 8:31 AM
To: Rich Simpson
Subject: RE: Questions for the Fox C-6 School Board

Mr. Simpson.

I did take your suggestions to the board on the workshop Tuesday evening.  I copied and pasted the info from Rockwood’s website that you provided. The board is going to host listening sessions beginning in November before each board meeting.

Have a great day!

From: Rich Simpson
Date: October 9, 2013 8:03:37 AM CDT
To: "Cheryl Hermann", "Dan E. Smith", "Dan Kroupa", "David Palmer", "John Laughlin", "Linda S. Nash", "Steve Holloway", "Davis, Debby - CO Secretary"
Cc: "'Critchlow, Dr. Dianne'"
Subject: School District Board Packets, Late Materials and Documents on the District Website

Mr. Smith,

As the school board president of the Fox C-6 School District, it is your job to ensure that the school district superintendent keeps the school board and the public informed on district business. Over the past several years, I have made numerous requests for documents to be published on the district website so the public has easy access to the documents. Other school districts do this. Fox should be able to do this as well. Superintendent Critchlow replied to my September 17, 2013 email stating that “the district does not have the staff to accommodate all requests and suggestions” in reference to my request to update the documents on the district website to include checks that were provided in later materials but not posted on the district website. My requests to publish documents onto the district website and keep them up to date is part of the district’s duty of keeping the public informed.

I ask that you please include this letter to the school board in the October 15th board meeting minutes so the public is aware that this request has been made of you and the school board.

I would also like to thank the school district for providing board meeting packets on the district website prior to board meetings over the past several months. This has been very helpful.

In the spirit of keeping the public fully informed and providing the community with the ability to ask questions and provide input to the school board prior to board member votes, all public materials that are made available to the school board prior to board meetings must be made available on the district website prior to the start of board meetings and workshops. This would include documents that are provided as Late Materials.

If the public has access to the wireless network in the Service Center, please publish directions on how to access the wireless network so documents that are available on the district website can be downloaded just prior to or during school board meetings.

As I stated in my September 17, 2013 email to the school board and also discussed with Ms. Debbie Davis at the September 2013 school board meeting, printing documents directly to PDF that will be published on the district website will save time as well as reduce the size of the documents significantly. It will also improve the readability of the documents. Documents with small fonts that are scanned at resolutions less then 200dpi are sometimes illegible. Ms. Davis recently emailed me a copy of the 2013-2014 school budget that was scanned as well as provided me a hard copy of the document at the September 2013 board meeting. The size of the document was over 10MB. Printing the budget directly to PDF will produce a much smaller document and will make it much more readable.

Please note that I also spoke with Mr. McCutchen about including a description field on the check registers as well as noting that in my previous email. Providing a description field should cut down on questions as to why individuals are being paid separate checks above beyond their normal salary. I also noted that printing checks directly to individuals for cash for change for the cafeterias and concessions stands should be avoided as it would be frowned upon by state auditors.

As board president, please ensure that by close of business on Friday October 11, 2013 that the following documents are published on the district website and made available to the community. 
  • 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.

Please ensure that the following documents are published on the district website by the close of business Friday October 25, 2013.
  • 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.

Thank you,

Rich Simpson

From: Rich Simpson
Date: October 14, 2013 7:40:44 AM CDT
To: "Cheryl Hermann", "Dan E. Smith", "Dan Kroupa", "David Palmer", "John Laughlin", "Linda S. Nash", "Steve Holloway", "'Davis, Debby - CO Secretary'"
Cc: "'Critchlow, Dr. Dianne'"
Subject: Request for Board Meeting Minutes Correction and Board Response

Dear Fox C-6 School Board,

Attached, please find the copy of the statement I read aloud at the September 17, 2013 School Board meeting during Public Comment.  Please review my statement as it contains a specific request I made to you regarding my parental rights under Section 504:

            “Therefore, I formally request that the District immediately issue a “Notice of 504 Action” to accurately reflect that the District now acknowledges this student is eligible under and protected by Section 504.  Please reflect my request to the Board in the minutes.”

As of today, I have not received the “Notice” from the Board nor from Mr. Baker.  I therefore renew my request for such “notice” as afforded to me under Section 504 and reflected in our school board policy #2110.  

Similarly, I also requested that the meeting minutes reflect my request to the School Board for “notice”.  The board packets that were posted online on Thursday (October 10, 2013) with the minutes of the September 17 board meeting do not reflect my request to you for “notice”.  Please revise the school board minutes to accurately reflect my request for “notice”.  If you refuse to do so, please provide me with the specific policy that is the basis for denying my request.

Lastly, as I provided a copy of the USDA letter to each individual School Board Member that letter should also be part of the board packets the same as any other letter received by the school board.  Since it was provided as part of a public school board meeting, please add that September 12, 2013 letter from David Youngblood, Civil Rights Director, USDA to the board packets as part of public record.

Thank you,

Rich Simpson

From: Rich Simpson
Date: November 4, 2013 7:21:05 AM CST
To: "'Smith, Dan - Board Vice President'"
Cc: "Cheryl Hermann", "Dan Kroupa", "David Palmer", "John Laughlin", "Linda S. Nash", "Steve Holloway", "'Davis, Debby - CO Secretary'" , "'Critchlow, Dr. Dianne'"
Subject: Formal Request for Topics of Discussion at Fox C-6 Board Workshop or November School Board Meeting

Mr. Smith,

I would like to request for a topic of discussion at tomorrow’s board workshop or at the November school board meeting regarding several issues that have been ongoing for quite some time.
First, I would like the board to discuss with the public or respond to the issues that I brought up at the October board meeting regarding lack of response from our school board. I haven’t received a single email response from you. I did receive this message last night from you which may have been an automated reply. I received 2 more of the same messages last month. Perhaps you can explain what your responsibilities are as a school board president to the community. Perhaps, you can explain what Policy #0403 really means in terms of responding to the public.

I would also like the board to respond to my questions regarding the publishing of school district budgets as well as prior years of board meeting packets on the district website. It’s very important for the community that our school district and school board is transparent. Hiding information from the public does just doesn’t seem to be a good way of building trust within our community.
Hopefully this will give the school board an opportunity to provide the public with information as to how our school board and the school district wants to work with our community.
I’m looking forward to your response.

Thank you,
Rich Simpson

From: Smith, Dan - Board Vice President
Sent: Sunday, November 03, 2013 9:07 PM
 Rich Simpson

Subject: Not read: RE: Questions for the Fox C-6 School Board
Your message was deleted without being read on Monday, November 04, 2013 3:07:19 AM UTC.

From: "Critchlow, Dr. Dianne"
Date: November 7, 2013 10:58:02 AM CST
To: Rich Simpson
Cc: Administrators - CO
Subject: Second time I have responded!!!

Mr. Simpson,

Once again, here are the answers to all the questions you asked.  So I did answer you – please read below, obviously you had forgotten.  You were incorrect the other night when you stated that I did not answer you and everyone in the room knows that because they were all copied on this email back in September.

If you would like the budget, you can request a copy from our office.  They are not on the web site.

The bills will be presented as they have been since the new system has been in place.   

As responded to several times before, the district will not go back and put old board packets on the website.  The current packets are on there now and will continue to be, but we will not be posting all old packets as you requested.  You can obtained these from our office per a sunshine law request.

All responses have been handled.  If there is something that has not been then let me know. As I asked below and never heard from you so it is easy to assume that all questions were answered.

From this point on, you will receive a response from Mr. Arbeitman within a week after the board meeting if you make a public comment that warrants an answer to something.  

Many times you just attack and really do not ask questions, so expect no response to your attacks.  

As you have been invited numerous times to come to our office and speak to any of us at any time, the offer still stands.

From: Rich Simpson
Sent: Friday, November 15, 2013 6:28 AM
To: Critchlow, Dr. Dianne; Smith, Dan - Board President
Cc: Hermann, Cheryl - Director; Kroupa, Dan - Director; Palmer, David - Board Vice President; Laughlin, John - Director; Nash, Linda - Director; Holloway, Steve - Director; Davis, Debby - CO Secretary
Subject: RE: Questions for the Fox C-6 School Board

Does the school board still plan on hosting a listening session at the November 19th board meeting like you stated they would in your email below?

If not, then when was it decided that they would not be hosting one?

Thank you,

Rich Simpson

From: Critchlow, Dr. Dianne
Sent: Friday, November 15, 2013 8:00 AM
To: Rich Simpson; Administrators - CO; 'Cheryl Hermann'; Critchlow, Dr. Dianne; Dan Kroupa; Dan Smith; Davis, Debby - CO Secretary; Laughlin, John; Linda Nash; Dave Palmer; Steve Holloway
Subject: RE: Questions for the Fox C-6 School Board

Mr. Simpson,

I believe that you were at the workshop on Tuesday, Nov. 5th when this was discussed. 

After further discussion and advice from the attorney, the district will not be hosting listening posts. 

You are welcome to continue making your public comments as explained in the last email you sent.

Have a wonderful weekend.  Enjoy this great weather with your family before winter strikes.


From: Rich Simpson
Sent: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 7:09 AM
To: Critchlow, Dr. Dianne; Administrators - CO; 'Cheryl Hermann'; 'Dan Kroupa'; 'Dan Smith'; Davis, Debby - CO Secretary; Laughlin, John; Linda Nash; Dave Palmer; Steve Holloway
Subject: RE: Questions for the Fox C-6 School Board

I'm quite disappointed in the school board's decision to not have open discussions with the school community prior to school board meetings like they do in the Rockwood school district. I think it's very important that our school board has the opportunity to hear from more people in community. Cheryl Herman stated at the board workshop that she would like to hear from more people in the community. Reality is, that many people are too afraid to come and speak in front of the school board because they know that they will be attacked for doing so if they say something critical about the school district or our superintendent. That's just how things are done at this point in time. It serves as a reminder of the lack of respect that our school leadership has for the community and their concerns.

You really should hear what people are talking about in the community. What are their concerns? Well, a lot of what you might overhear is discussion about how high Superintendent Critchlow's salary is. The vast majority of the community was in shock when they found out how much she was making when it was published in the Leader newspaper article. The salary schedules for this year were never published in the board meeting packets. There was a salary schedule but it was filled with X’s rather than real numbers.

Many people ask me who sets her salary? They also ask me, what can we do about her salary because they feel it is way too much? I tell them that they need to contact their school board. The school board sets her salary. I tell them to go to school board meetings and call or email our school board members. I also tell them that I email the school board somewhat often but I never get a response. Well, with the exception of Cheryl Herman who finally answered after I had to ask if ANYONE could reply to my email so I even knew if they were receiving them.

I've also had a lot of people approach me at school functions and in the community over the last several weeks and applaud me for my comments in my letters to the editor in the Leader newspaper. This is in stark contrast to what Dianne stated at the board workshop when she said that she is having to field phone calls from people that are upset because people are attacking the district in the newspaper. I did write another letter to the editor about Project Lead the Way, Khan Academy and TED Talks in hopes of providing educational information to the community but it never got published. That’s quite a shame that something helpful for the community gets filtered like that by the newspaper.

Everyone has their own opinion on how things are going in our school district. Apparently, we have a difference of opinion. I do a lot of research looking to see how other school districts operate to find ways of improving things here at Fox. But, my findings are usually taken as an attack by Superintendent Critchlow. She's told me in the past that I'm always comparing Fox to other districts. Well, she does the same thing. She just doesn't provide all of the information to do a complete and thorough apples to apples comparison. She only provides the facts that she wants the board to see to make herself look good. So, we may differ in that area as well. That’s why she never mentions the fact in her presentation that only 56% of Fox graduates take the ACT compared to the state average of 75% and Rockwood and Parkway that has 96%. That information is never shown in her annual presentation. Many people are also shocked to learn that the percentage of students taking the ACT is so low. In fact Fox is almost in the bottom 25% of state in this category. Every child should be given the opportunity to take the ACT like they do at Parkway and Rockwood.

I did want to mention that I had concerns about the fact that the school board tabled the topic about discussing board meetings at the recent board workshop and took it into Closed Session at the suggestion of the district attorney. This was done after Dan Smith suggested to the board that maybe they could provide feedback to the public at the next school board meeting from questions at the last school board meeting. Mr. Smith said this shortly after Dianne had just finished telling the board that she has provided feedback to everyone that's ever spoken at a school board meeting within a week which is what school board policy dictates. However, everyone on the school board should know that her statement wasn't true. I've sent the board numerous emails asking for answers from questions posed at school board meetings and in emails over the past several years with no response from the board. Dianne did say that she may have fail to always tell you when she has responds but that's because many times she simply didn't respond. I’m still working on gathering all of the questions that I have posed in emails and at board meetings over the last several years that have that have gone unanswered.

I’m really concerned with the fact that the board tabled the open meeting agenda item covering Board Meetings at the November 5th board workshop and took it into Closed Session. In doing so, the district violated Missouri Sunshine Law.

Thank you for reading.

Rich Simpson

From: "Critchlow, Dr. Dianne"
Date: November 19, 2013 7:44:56 AM CST
To: Rich Simpson, Administrators - CO, 'Cheryl Hermann', 'Dan Kroupa', 'Dan Smith', 'Davis, Debby - CO Secretary', 'Laughlin, John', 'Linda Nash', 'Dave Palmer', 'Steve Holloway'
Subject: RE: Questions for the Fox C-6 School Board

Mr. Simpson,

Good morning! Once again you and I will agree to disagree. I am certain your probably have some good ideas about educating our students.  However, it seems to get lost because you personally would rather attack me.  However, I do not take it personally.

Project Lead the way is a goal of the districts and is currently being researched in depth by our career readiness director. We would love for you to come in and discuss this issue.  In addition, come in and talk to Dr. Rizzi about your thoughts on ACT. He will provide you with accurate data on the ACT and the Fox school district.

Many times I have invited you to come in and speak to me or my assistants.  You never take us up on our offer.  Obviously, I am not the person you wish to address so meet with any of my assistants. The offer still stands.

I think everyone would benefit if all energies are focused on doing “what’s best for kids.” Personal attacks benefit no one.

Lastly, every district has room for improvement but the data does not lie.  We have not received Missouri’s highest honor “ Distinction in Performance” every year it has been given because “ She only provides the facts that she wants the board to see to make herself look good.”  Our teachers and staff work very hard to achieve these great results and simply do not deserve this attack. The data speaks for itself.

Consider this a response! Also,  consider this my last response to you. I will no longer communicate when you personally attack. I also feel that my stepping aside will possibly open the lines of communication with this office.

Again, if you would like to focus your energies in a productive way on benefiting our students or district, we would welcome your insight.  Anyone in this office would meet with you at any point.

As I stated in my last email.  Mr. Arbeitman will contact you with your responses to public comments after meeting if it warrants a response.  Personal attacks will not be responded to. He will only respond to direct questions. 

Have a great day!