Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Was the Fox C-6 School Board Misled by the Bakers?

Everyone makes mistakes. What’s important is that we recognize when we make a mistake so we learn from it, thereby increasing the likelihood that we won’t repeat it. I'm not really sure that Fox C-6 Assistant Superintendent Dan Baker and his wife Fox C-6 Director of Federal Programs Angie Burns Baker learned much from their mistake.

I question whether or not the Bakers fully disclosed their online activities with the Fox C-6 Board of Education (BOE) in order to keep their jobs. It does not appear that they did.

Also, Mr. Baker didn't apologize for his transgressions as Mr. Crutchley would like you to believe. Mr. Baker didn't apologize to the people that he made derogatory comments about.

Mr. Baker read a very well crafted statement at the August 4, 2014 Fox C-6 school board meeting in which he admitted NO wrongdoing or culpability. He apologized for getting caught!

Mr. Baker was not remorseful to his victims. He was checking a box to save his job!

Without honestly taking responsibility for our mistakes, and learning from them, it’s very difficult to genuinely move forward.  I’d say that’s especially true for those who were injured by someone’s “mistake".

Dan and Angie Baker apparently made “a mistake” when they wrote derogatory posts about me and others on a public online forum. At the time the posts were made, Dan Baker was Fox C-6's Section 504 Coordinator. That's an important fact because my wife and I had been advocating for our daughter’s right to have a Section 504 plan in the district for over 4 years when online comments were being made by the Bakers.

Mr. Baker originally provided our daughter with a 504 plan in May 2008, but then revoked it a few months later. For the next 6 years, including the time period during which “the Baker household” made the derogatory posts, we continued to pursue with the District our daughter’s right to have a 504 plan.

We firmly believed the District (i.e. Mr. Baker) was not fulfilling their obligations to our daughter, and we repeatedly sought the help of our school board to rectify this mistake. When the school board refused to help us, we sought the assistance of federal agencies to investigate the District’s management or should I say mismanagement of Section 504. It was Missouri DESE's former Compliance Officer who suggested filing a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights because he believed what the district was doing was wrong.

Missouri DESE's former Compliance Officer was correct. Both the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (ED OCR) and the USDA's Office for Civil Rights (USDA OCR) have been investigating and monitoring Fox C-6 since 2008 and 2009 respectively to determine whether or not the District was fulfilling its legal obligations to our daughter and other students in the district properly.

In August 2011 Fox C-6 and Missouri DESE were notified in a Final Agency Decision from USDA OCR that they were found non-compliant with Section 504 and the ADA AA. They were told to correct the problem immediately. It took 3 years after the notification to immediately reinstate the 504 Plan for the district to properly correct the problem. In the meantime, we continued to email the federal agencies to follow up on the progress of their investigations and the progress with enforcing compliance. We also contacted our U.S. Senators and Congressman in hopes of expediting a resolution. Fox's former legal counsel also emailed our U.S. Senators in an attempt to curtail the investigations.

Persistence Leads To Backlash
Apparently, persisting in one's efforts to get your school district to do the right thing can lead to backlash from administrators who aren't properly doing their job and are being questioned in front of the school board.

What truly stands out is the great amount of effort that Dan Baker and Dianne Brown-Critchlow spent in order to avoid writing a 504 plan for our daughter, not to mention all of the time they spent posting in online forums from their homes, cell phones and school district computers.

Now that Dan Baker is no longer the Section 504 Coordinator for Fox C-6, students who were previously denied 504 Plans are now being found eligible and obtaining them.

This fact seems to document that Dan Baker wasn't properly managing and implementing Section 504 in our district for the 6 years that he was the Section 504 Coordinator, yet he continued to receive very large raises just like Dianne Brown-Critchlow and her husband received.

Did our school board not review Mr. Baker's performance as the district's Section 504 Coordinator given all of the money spent in legal fees related to Section 504 issues in our district battling the federal agencies?


Problems at Seckman Elementary School
That leads us to the next problem which involves the appointing of Dan Baker as the interim principal at Seckman Elementary School despite being named in a lawsuit for posting derogatory comments in a public online forum about myself and others.

Perhaps they posted comments because I had been questioning Mr. Baker's gross mismanagement of Section 504 in the district and had to file complaints with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (ED OCR) as well as the USDA's Office for Civil Rights (USDA OCR) as he tried to subvert Section 504 Law for the past 6+ years.

August 2011 USDA OCR Final Agency Decision
In August 2011, Fox C-6 was sent a Final Agency Decision from USDA OCR directing the District to immediately reinstate our daughter's Section 504 plan that Dan Baker removed in September 2008.

The following paragraph was included on the next to last page of the USDA's Final Agency Decision. The language in the paragraph quoted below clearly spells out in fine detail that Section 504 Law PROHIBITS any form of retaliation against any person who files a civil rights complaint.

This is an extremely important paragraph. Dan Baker and Dianne Brown-Critchlow were very familiar with the USDA's Final Agency Decision and had even forwarded it to our Fox C-6 school board members in 2011. Dianne Brown-Critchlow forwarded me the email that she sent the Fox C-6 school board in December 2011 after I questioned her and Dan Baker as to whether or not the school board was even aware of the Final Agency Decision since Dan Smith and Ruth Ann Newman knew nothing about it when they were asked about it.

Here is the paragraph from the USDA's Final Agency Decision regarding retaliation:
No person shall be subjected to reprisal or harassment because he or she filed a discrimination complaint, participated in or contributed to the identification, investigation, prosecution, or resolution of a civil rights violation in or by a recipient of Federal financial assistance from USDA; or otherwise aided or supported the enforcement of Federal or USDA civil rights laws, rules, regulations, or policies. Any individual alleging such harassment or intimidation may file a complaint with USDA.
The language in the paragraph above didn't deter some of our administrators from participating in the online harassment and posting of derogatory comments on Topix that were directed at me and others. We filed complaints regarding retaliation but without have names and proof, nothing could be done. Now we have names and well documented proof.

I wrote an article about the Dear Colleague Letter that was issued by ED OCR in April 2013 to all school districts in the country regarding Retaliation. Here is a link to that article as well:



My pursuit to get the Fox C-6 School District to properly comply with Section 504 Law and the ADA AA and simply do the right thing led to an onslaught of online defamatory and derogatory posts that were traced back to the Bakers and the Critchlows.


Misled By the Bakers?
On July 24, the Arnold-Imperial Leader published an article titled, Bakers will keep Fox jobs. The article explained why the Bakers were allowed to keep their jobs based on a press release sent out by the District. The information provided by the District lead everyone to believe that the Bakers only made one comment from their home computer.

(UPDATED: 01/05/2015 - I've been informed that Fox's BOE was aware of the fact that more than one comment was posted and traced to the Bakers contrary to what was published in the Arnold-Imperial Leader. Then you have to question why the information wasn't properly documented by the Arnold-Imperial Leader. Supposedly, the District informed the paper that only one comment traced to the Bakers rose to a derogatory level. What was published in the Arnold-Imperial Leader with regards to the Bakers posting of comments mislead the public.)

The Arnold-Imperial Leader article stated that:
"School officials investigated the claims made in the lawsuit and decided only one comment was posted from the Bakers' home computer and that the two could keep their jobs, following disciplinary measures, Crutchley said."
The Bakers must not have fully informed school officials about all of their online activities related to Topix. Online posts were traced back to their cellular phone's browser as well. They didn't make just a single post from their home computer as stated in the Leader. They made many posts.


I've published some of the posts traced to the Bakers that are listed as exhibits in the lawsuit. It's interesting to note the language used by our dedicated educators. It's also interesting to note the statements that were made in respect to their children and grandchildren.

I know that Dan Baker's wife's daughter teaches at Seckman Elementary were Dan Baker was recently appointed to be the interim principal.

However, I did not realize that they had grandchildren that were old enough to attend school in our district as stated in one of their online comments.

It should also be noted that the online comments linked to the Bakers spanned nearly two months in time for those comments that were documented in the exhibits. So, the statement from the Leader that "only one comment was posted from the Baker's home computer" was misleading due to the misinformation provided in Fox's Press Release regarding the board's decision that allowed the Bakers to keep their jobs.

So, did the Bakers not tell the board members about all of the online posts that they made?

I documented the derogatory comment that the Bakers made about me in an article I wrote two weeks ago:



Here are some of the online comments posted on Topix that were traced back to a Baker owned cell phone:
Seriously wrote on 01/24/2013 at 7:16AM
The thing is no one says anything about being dissatisfied with any particular situation concerning a student. Because our children are well taken care of! Here is a thought...the main goal of the school district isn't about who did or didn't get the job they wanted. It is are our children able to succeed in the real world upon graduation? I can only speak for mine and mine graduated at the top of their class. And my grandchildren love their school and because of that I am grateful to our district employees from the bottom up.
Seriously wrote on 02/09/2013 at 7:19PM
This is the most stupid thread I have ever read. Not one thing ever gets said about students. It is all about what adult didn't get the job they wanted or who wants to make a jab because they are jealous and bitter. I support our district leaders and teachers. They get a better job done than most districts on a fraction of the cost. If you care so much about kids, step away from the keyboard and go spend some quality time with a child. When's the last time you read to a child, played catch or prayed with one? You want to see a positive change in this world, start with YOURSELF!
Haha wrote on 02/09/2013 at 9:28PM
Imagine "pulling kids into this" you big idiot it should be all about the kids and not what adult was chosen for the job and is all jealous and ticked, or the Hoosier custodian that got fired or the hag ex wife. Imagine, actually thinking about kids in a forum about children's education.
Haha wrote on 03/12/2013 at 9:23PM
If you had something worth real value to say you wouldn't find it on a public, free, anonymous forum. Really, truth be told this is nothing more than thinking out loud. Sorry but even people with screwed up views think a lie is the truth if enough (even anonymous people) agree with them. And just a word of advice to the common posters on here...you could only be backed by 2 or 3 people who are signing on in different names. No offense intended to anyone but really this is like the "National Enquirer" of the Internet.
Haha wrote on 03/12/2013 at 9:54PM
Then send help because I just found out my cousin is an alien.
It appears from one of the post's above, that the Bakers weren't fond of the ex-wife or a custodian at Fox. People are certainly entitled to their opinions. Perhaps I just expect a lot more from individuals who are touted as dedicated professional educators.

Perhaps Fox's Board of Education should have questioned the Bakers and the Critchlows as to why there were making posts on a public internet forum in the first place about school district issues. They were high ranking officials in our school district and were expected to set good example for District employees, students and the community. I think they failed severely in that regard. Especially if you read the comments that were traced back to the Critchlows residence and to school district computers.

It's needless to say that their behavior was completely unacceptable but sometimes you have to state the obvious so people actually get it!

So, should Seckman Elementary School parents and teachers be concerned with the recent appointment of Dan Baker as the interim principal at SES?

Most people in the community I've spoken with want to know why the Bakers and the Critchlows weren't fired from the get go. I've been asked that question numerous times over the last 7 months.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wow! You need to read this response from Tim Crutchley regarding Dan Baker

First, I have to say thank you to Ms. Nikki McClain for voicing her concerns to Fox C-6 school board president John Laughlin regarding last week's appointment of assistant superintendent Dan Baker as the interim principal at Seckman Elementary School.

Mr. Baker is the assistant superintendent at Fox C-6 that had defamatory posts linked back to his and his wife Angie Burns Baker's household and cell phone.

Next, I want to say thank you to Nikki for granting me permission to share with the community the response she received from acting superintendent Tim Crutchley regarding Mr. Baker's appointment.

Nikki didn't receive a response from school board president John Laughlin to whom she originally wrote. She received a response from Mr. Crutchley via Fox's new Communication Coordinator Sam Rayburn. It's also the same thing that happened for years when I would email the board and received responses from Dianne Brown-Critchlow.

As Nikki noted in her email to me, it was a "choreographed" response from the district.

She shared the response with me a week ago Friday night. Needless to say, my adrenaline was really flowing after I read it. It was such an unbelievable response that it really needed to be shared with the community.

It provides an opportunity for the community to see how a message can be spun to shine a light on all of the good things that can come out of doing really disgraceful things as a school educator/administrator.

I really don't want to put too much of my input in on the first release of this document. I'll just let everyone read it and absorb it!

I do want to mention that Mr. Laughlin did email a personal response to Ms. McClain yesterday after she emailed her take on Mr. Crutchley's response to Mr. Laughlin yesterday.

Mr. Laughlin stated in his response to Nikki that "Due to laws and contracts this is a one year issue that we are half way complete with." There was more to his response but the main thing that I and many others have been concerned with is why the board didn't fire Dianne Critchlow and why they haven't fired Dan and Angie Baker.

Mr. Laughlin's response to Nikki regarding the laws and contracts is why I emailed Mr. Laughlin this morning requesting the Missouri and/or Federal statutes and contracts language that has kept the school board from firing district administrators for their egregious behavior and violations of school board policy and/or federal laws. I'm looking forward to reviewing the statutes and the language protecting those that should have been fired.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, internet posts were traced not only to Dan Baker's household but also to either his or Angie Burns Baker's cell phones. One of the posts made from a Baker cell phone was made at 7:16am on a school day.

Internet posts were also made from school computers during the school day but those posts can't be easily linked to a particular person like those that were made using a cell phone.

Below is a copy of the email from acting superintendent Tim Crutchley sent to Ms. Nikki McClain on Friday December 19, 2014 regarding the appointment of Dan Baker as the interim principal at Seckman Elementary School.


Ms. McClain, 
Thank you for sharing your concern. 
The Board of Education is committed to partnering with parents to help every student become successful at school by reaching their potential. Likewise, the Board of Education is committed to the expectation of a respectful and positive culture in school buildings for both students and staff. 
A review of student performance data is evidence that change is necessary at Seckman Elementary to improve educational outcomes for students. Mr. Baker was successful as a former principal at Hodge Elementary. The goal of appointing him on an interim basis as instructional leader at Seckman Elementary is to begin the improvement process. 
True, the internet post being referenced was unacceptable behavior. Mr. Baker acknowledges that transgression. He has apologized publically and has been duly disciplined by the Board of Education with loss of compensation and rank. Today, Mr. Baker fully understands the performance and code of conduct expectations of the school board, and he has demonstrated his willingness to comply with those expectations. 
Fox School District rightfully promotes good “character” traits among students and staff. At the very least, that internet post failed to show “respect” and possibly other character qualities. It is reasonable to promote all aspects of good character. Another good character trait is “forgiveness,” when the offender is contrite. Anyone who has learned from their mistakes, greatly appreciates being given a second chance and typically works extra hard to demonstrate that forgiveness was not misplaced. 
Mr. Baker is a quality educator. Mr. Baker is prepared to work hard to earn back the trust and respect of the community. His contrition and his commitment to hard work earn him the opportunity to take on the educational challenges at Seckman Elementary. 
Give Mr. Baker a chance. Hopefully you will discover why the District trusts Mr. Baker with this responsibility. 
Sincerely, 
Tim Crutchley
Acting Superintendent
745 Jeffco Blvd
Arnold, Mo 63010
636-296-8000
636-282-5170 fax

Achievement - Character - Excellence
National District of Character

Friday, December 19, 2014

Another Extremely Bad Decision at Fox C-6!

Parents at Seckman Elementary in the Fox C-6 School District were informed in a letter on December 17, 2014 from acting superintendent Tim Crutchley that an interim principal was being assigned to their school mid-year.

Below is the text from that letter:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014 
Dear Parents,

Earlier this month, it was announced that Ms. Simokaitis would be transferring from her role as principal of Seckman Elementary to an assistant principal role at another elementary school within the district. Again, I wish to take this opportunity to thank Ms. Simokaitis for her work with students and staff during her tenure at Seckman Elementary.

Creating a change in leadership can be difficult in the middle of a school year. Originally, the district planned to select an interim principal from current assistant principals in the district. Upon closer examination of the situation and needs of our students, we decided to explore another option that will prevent disruption and stress to the other elementary buildings.

Effective January 5th, 2015, Assistant Superintendent Dan Baker will be appointed as interim principal of Seckman Elementary for the second semester of the 2014-2015 school year.

Mr. Baker has extensive experience and dedication as an educator and as an elementary principal. His eagerness to take on the responsibilities of interim principal, along with his proven track record of achieving high student success as an elementary school principal, demonstrate he is the best option for Seckman Elementary students and families.

A permanent successor for the 2015-2016 school year will be hired through an extensive interview process during Spring 2015. Although his start date as superintendent with the district is not scheduled to begin until July 2015, Dr. Wipke plans to be engaged and involved in the process of selecting and hiring an ideal candidate as the next principal of Seckman Elementary.

As always, student learning is our top priority and expectation. I, along with Mr. Baker, and our talented teachers and staff members, will continue to work hard to ensure this transition is as smooth as possible.

Thank you for your time and understanding.


Sincerely,
 
Tim Crutchley
Acting Superintendent

Many people may not know who Dan Baker is. Dan Baker is one of the administrators from the Fox C-6 School District that had online defamatory posts traced back to his home. He and his wife Angela Burns Baker were both put on paid administrative leave by the Fox C-6 school board shortly after it was publicly announced that comments had been linked to their home.

Defamatory Post From the Baker Household
Below is one of the online post that was "associated" with the Baker household on TOPIX.COM. The post below was made just a couple of hours after I spoke at the January 15, 2013 Fox C-6 school board meeting during the Public Comments session.

What's even more impressive about the post below is the fact that I stated during my public comment that night to the Fox C-6 school board and the administrators sitting at the table (which included Dan Baker) that I hoped that no one would post any online defamatory comments after myself and others spoke at the meeting that night.

It's obvious that the Baker "household" didn't respect my request.

01/15/2013 – 9:30PM (local time)
It is amazing how people believe complete nut jobs! Can't believe people would listen to that one crazy guy with the weird eye. I know him from Boy Scouts and he says some really strange things that do not sound right. I am pretty sure he has a closet where he hangs up newspaper clippings of board members and wears clown makeup while cutting up teddy bears. That guy is crazy!

Perhaps educators who are being called out for not properly doing their job and spend numerous hours and legal fees trying to get around Section 504 Law find it therapeutic to post online comments about parents who are calling them out. However, I don't condone posting things online that aren't true and defamatory because they can be traced. 

By the way, Mr. Baker doesn't know me from scouts. He knows me because he was Fox's Section 504 Coordinator. I've never seen him at any scouting events. Although Mr. Baker did make a payment using his school district VISA credit card to a STL BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA on April 7, 2011 for $100. Perhaps it was a donation.

Anyway, I would have to say that claiming to know me from scouts is not an honest statement. What does that say about integrity?

It's certainly NOT the type of behavior that I would expect from a dedicated educator.

I'm a parent who has learned a lot about Section 504 Law over the past 6+ years. I've learned what educators are supposed to do and not do with respect to that law. You expect people to do the right thing and follow the law but that doesn't always happen.

I've spent thousands of hours emailing and speaking with parents in our district, school board members, school employees, retired school employees, attorneys, attorneys at ED OCR, attorneys at USDA OCR, attorneys at the U.S. Department of Justice, Senators, Congressman, state representatives, state senators and parents across the country on the subject. So, I've gained quite a bit of knowledge on the subject over the years. It took 6 years for the district to properly recognize students that qualify for Section 504.

I've documented and written quite a bit about my experiences on this subject. All of my research led me to discover even more problems occurring in our school district which has been nationally publicized. This is definitely not what I was planning on doing for the past 6+ years. But, it has certainly helped reshape our school district over the last several months. Some of our remaining administrators are simply having a tough time dealing with it all and are twisting things however they can to keep from losing their jobs.

So, I'm sure there are probably many parents in our school district that still aren't aware of all of the problems that have transpired over the last several years in the Fox C-6 School District. They may think that having an assistant superintendent step in as an "interim" principal may seem like a good thing especially with all of the experience that was touted by Mr. Crutchley about Mr. Baker in his letter to Seckman Elementary parents. However, you have to weigh Mr. Baker's experience against the facts of what Mr. Baker's "household" posted online during off hours.

Never mind the fact that Fox C-6 is a National District of Character and there all of those "Character Traits" that our school district employees and school board members have agreed to uphold like Honesty, Integrity and Respect as they set the example for our students and our community.

Baker Did Not Apologize!
I want to point out the fact that Mr. Baker pretended to apologize to the public for being linked to comments made online at the August 4, 2014 Fox C-6 school board meeting.

Mr. Baker and his wife didn't really apologize for posting the online defamatory statements. Mr. Baker apologized for the fact that his household was associated with the statements.

Dan Baker more or less said he was sorry for getting caught!

He also sounded nervous for having to read his statement to the public.


Below is a transcript of what Mr. Baker read aloud at the August 4 board meeting.
To the Fox school board and the school community

On behalf of my wife and myself, I would like to this opportunity to publicly express my sincere regret that the Baker household was associated with the recent unrest caused by posts to an internet forum. Even a cursory connection to such events is unacceptable to both of us and is outside of our personal and professional standards. 
We appreciate the Board’s willingness to weigh our combined 34 years of service to the Fox school district as they adjudicate this matter. Most regrettable is the time and energy diverted from the business of educating students in order to deal with the issue. We are grateful for this opportunity to continuing serving this community and look forward to focusing our attention on meeting the needs of our students and their families.


Thank you.

I've had the personal experience of having to deal with Mr. Baker in his professional duties as the former Fox C-6 Section 504 Coordinator for the school district for 6+ years. Knowing Mr. Baker and having to interact with him, I certainly don't believe that Mr. Baker should be appointed as the interim principal at Seckman Elementary. That's just my opinion based upon my own experience of dealing with Mr. Baker.

Most people believe that the Bakers should have been fired and so do I. 

I can tell you that Section 504 law states that it is a violation of the law to retaliate against parents for advocating for their children and others. Perhaps ED OCR or USDA OCR don't consider making defamatory comments in online forums about parents is retaliatory in nature because it's considered "freedom of speech". USDA OCR didn't have anything substantial to act on until we were able to send them court documents such as our defamation lawsuit once names were named.

However, if everyone knew everything that's gone on behind the scenes at Fox over the last 6 and a half years as we dealt with the both the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights and the USDA's Office for Civil Rights in our efforts to get the Fox C-6 School District to properly follow the law to which Mr. Baker was expected to uphold, you may have a better understanding of things.

Needless to say, I believe the community needs to step up and take action by emailing your current school board members and acting superintendent Tim Crutchley about this recent decision. You need to let them know that this decision is unacceptable.

Mr. Baker should not have even been considered for this position.

Dedication and Perseverance are really good character traits to follow when dealing with these types of issues!

Below is the list of character traits from Guffey Elementary's webpage

Perhaps Mr. Baker should have had a framed copy of them hanging in his office or at his house to remind him of what he was expected to follow.

Mr. Baker failed miserably in upholding the Character Education traits that our district has touted for so long. Impressionable students and the community are being taught the wrong thing with all of the incredibly poor decisions in the recent months.



Character Education Words
Cooperation
To work together as a team and allow others to voice their opinion
Responsibility
Being accountable for your own actions
Respect
Demonstrating good manners toward self, others, authority, and property
Peace
Working calmly and cooperatively with others
Caring
Showing kindness, courtesy, and compassion towards others
Dedication
Always working hard to achieve your goals
Integrity
Doing the right thing, even when no one is looking
Honesty
To tell the truth no matter what the outcome may be
Positive Attitude
Always looking for the bright side of any situation
Trustworthy
Taking responsibility for ones choices and commitments
Perseverance
Remaining dedicated to an idea or task and never giving up
Loyalty
To be a reliable and dependable friend

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Many Notable Items! Fox C-6's December 16, 2014 Board Packet Review

Fox posted the December 16, 2014 board meeting agenda and board packet on the district website on Wednesday December 10, 2014. The agenda may state that it was posted on December 9, 2014. But I looked for it on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning and it wasn't there. Plus, the PDF document wasn't created until Wednesday December 10, 2014 at 4:05pm despite the fact that the agenda states that it was posted on Tuesday December 9, 2010. Don't always trust the documentation. Read but verify!

It took several years of asking and prodding the Fox C-6 school board to get the board packets published on our district website. It then took quite a while to get them published on the district website ahead of school board meetings as they should be. That's how the public stays informed of what's going on in their school district. That allows taxpayers to find out what's going on ahead of time so they can ask their 7 board members questions before they make decisions for the taxpayers without public input or concerns.

Currently, the Fox C-6 school board only has 6 members after the resignation of former long time board member Cheryl Hermann due to a spat with the unhiring of her daughter by the board.

Daniel Jones and Associates Annual Audit Report
The December board meeting typically has quite a few important items on the agenda. For one, Daniel Jones and Associates usually presents their annual audit of the Fox C-6 school district for the preceding school year. They will be presenting again at the December 2014 board meeting. However, this is the first time that they are presenting their report after the infamous uncovering of the huge credit card debacle and extravagant vacations professional development trips that some of our top district administrators attended throughout the year.

The board packet notice for the annual audit report has some CYA language from Daniel Jones & Associates documenting some of the things that went on in the district that's finally been uncovered and brought to the public's attention. 

Make sure you read this page of the board packet!

It's certainly worth reading considering the fact that they never noticed any of the credit card issues or professional development meal purchases in their previous audits of our school district for years.

Cheryl Hermann stated at a board meeting that she couldn't understand how these things could have been going on while she was still on the school board since the district was audited every year. That's because the annual audit is MUCH different than the State Audit that's currently being conducted by the Missouri State Auditor's office.

Ignorance Is Bliss!
Not reviewing reports and asking for credit card statements can cause your school district and community a lot of embarrassment like what's occurred in our school district this year.

You can talk to your school board members until your blue in the face about issues during your 3 minutes each month and in numerous emails and letters sent to board members as well as lengthy phone conversations and face to face conversations for years and the board still did nothing. Perhaps they didn't want to hear it. Or, was it because they trusted those in charge and they believed what they were being told? 

Everyone now know what happens when your school board members don't want to hear or listen to what's truly going on and do something about it.

Missing Names on Annual Admin Contract Renewal Report
It's unusual to see a report with a list of administrator names of who's contract is getting renewed for next year in the Fox C-6 School District public board packet . In the past, I had to make a Sunshine Request to get that type of information.

Previous year's reports sent to me contained a listing of administrator names with XXXX's where their salary amounts would be listed rather than an actual salary amount. This year at least there's a report and rather than publishing XXXX's for salary amounts they just left that part off. At least we have a list of names without having to ask. 

So Who's Missing From the Report?
  • Assistant Superintendent Dan Baker
  • Assistant Superintendent Todd Scott
  • Assistant Superintendent Andy Arbeitman
Other notable people missing from the list are former Ridgewood Middle School principal Kristen Pelster and Seckman Elementary principal Christine Simokaitis.

Dan Baker and Todd Scott shouldn't have been listed on the annual contract renewal for obvious reasons. It will be interesting to learn why Kristen Pelster and Chris Simokaitis aren't on the list. Hopefully the community will learn why. But, with as much sweeping of things under the rug that's gone on for years, we may never learn the truth.

2014-2015 Budget Amendment
Take a look at the proposed budget amendment that is intended to more properly fund each school building in the district with Instructional Supplies and Textbooks as well as Copier Paper. 

Fox's former superintendent insisted many times over that our district had enough books for our students. But, everyone in the know and even parents and students knew that her statements weren't true! So, I'm definitely glad to see that our district's budget is being amended to help alleviate this problem.

Other Notable Items
One other notable item missing from this month's board packet was a letter that I sent to the Fox C-6 school board regarding the changes made to the Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program that is now known as the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP) that I specifically asked the board to include in this months packet so the community could read what I asked our school board members. My email to the board was sent as a letter to the board.

This isn't the first time that the district left out one of my letters from the board packet or meeting minutes. This has simply been their standard mode of operation for nearly a decade in keeping information and issues from the public. Of course, letters of praise typically made it in the board packet. But letters of concern just don't seem to make it to the public. This will need to change in order for the community to trust our district administrators and our school board.

I certainly hope that Mr. Arbeitman decides to VOLUNTARILY forego taking ANY Voluntary Separation Incentive Payout from the Fox C-6 taxpayers as he departs our school district. It certainly be the honorable thing to do considering that the changes made to the VSIP program were made to benefit those that didn't deserve the incentive. Plus, the $66,737.50 could be used toward purchasing much needed books for our students that the district hasn't had for years.


Looking Forward To New Leadership
I have very high hopes for Dr. Jim Wipke who was chosen as the next Fox C-6 School District Superintendent. I have had numerous emails, phone calls and conversations with people who have worked with him or have had children attend schools where he was principal. 

Our school district deserves to have a person with high integrity leading our district after enduring the last decade of deception and lack of transparency.

Download and Read the Board Packet
Since the community is able to download and read the Fox C-6 board packets ahead of the school board meetings now, I highly encourage everyone to go to the district website and download the board packet for the December 16, 2014 Fox C-6 school board meeting.

There's a link below that will get you to the folder that contains the file on the district website. Since board packets usually get updated each month which generates a new hyperlink, I am only providing you a link to the folder. You will need to click on the December 16, 2014 Board Meeting Packet link in order to download and review the board packet.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Fox Board Meeting Minutes and Admin Contracts - NO Public Record of Removal of 10 Years of Service Requirement!

According to news reports and articles and Fox's November 17, 2014 To Whom It May Concern letter the Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program was updated at the February 18, 2014 Special Workshop/Board Meeting and several times over the past several years.

I originally wrote and posted this article on Wednesday December 3, 2014. Shortly after the article was posted I received a couple of emails from Fox's CFO John Brazeal with some clarifications and corrections to my article. This article has been updated to reflect those clarifications and corrections.

After re-reading the To Whom It May Concern letter which I have also added to the bottom of this article, Mr. Brazeal did have it noted in his letter that Dianne Critchlow had sent an email on February 19, 2014 to the staff notifying them that the board approved changes to the Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program at the February 18, 2014 board meeting. Mr. Brazeal's letter noted that Cheryl Hermann made a motion to approve the changes to the retirement program during Closed Session as recorded in the Closed Session minutes.

Per Mr. Brazeal's letter, changes to the retirement program should have been made during the Public Session but were not. Since the change was approved during Closed Session the changes were never documented openly for the public.

How was the public supposed to know that a change was made?

Last week I made a Sunshine Law request for a copy of the minutes from the Closed Session of the February 3, 2014 Fox C-6 board meeting since the February 18, 2014 Public Session board meeting minutes didn't document that the 10 Years of Service requirement had been removed from Fox's Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program that is contained in our current school district Policies and Regulations. When I made the request I had the incorrect meeting date as I had been told that the changes were made at a Special Meeting and not at the regular board meeting. I have now requested a copy of the Closed Meeting minutes for the February 18 meeting per Missouri Sunshine Law and will post them when I receive them. I have already updated the link below to the February 3, 2014 Board Meeting Minutes to include the February 18, 2014 Public Session board meeting minutes.

Yesterday I received the documents from last week's Sunshine request that included a copy of the Closed Session minutes from the February 3, 2014 meeting and a copy of the contracts of some of Fox's administrators and directors.

In my Sunshine request email to the board secretary and the Fox C-6 school board members last week, I informed the board that nothing was recorded in the Public Session meeting minutes regarding changes to the Early Retirement Incentive Program and that was my reason for requesting a copy of the Closed Session meeting minutes.

Taxpayer dollars should NOT be handed out to just anyone who is planning to depart the Fox C-6 School District simply because they are vested in the Public School Retirement System. Doing so would encourage anyone to work at Fox for a year and leave with a big bonus.

Paying 50% of someone's salary as a parting bonus/gift should ONLY be rewarded to those who have devoted many years of service to the district and to our community as reflected in current school district policy.

I have posted a copy of the Closed Session minutes from the February 3, 2014 board meeting minutes that were sent to me per my Sunshine request below. I compiled both the Public and Closed Session minutes as well as the pages from the board packet that were referenced in the February 3, 2014 board meeting minutes so everyone can review what changes were documented in the minutes. I have also included the minutes for the February 18, 2014 Public Session.

I will post the meeting minutes for the Closed Session of the February 18, 2014 meeting when I receive them.



Administrator and Director Contracts
My Sunshine request for documents last week also included a request for some of Fox's top administrator's and directors who have been involved with many of the recent issues in the district and nepotism problems.

My Sunshine request included a request for a copy of the contract for Fox's Director of Nursing Gee Palmer as well as Fox's Food Nutrition Service Director Kelly Nash.

Gee Palmer was given the Director of Nursing job in 2006 while her husband Dave Palmer was the president of the Fox C-6 school board. Her promotion included a 75% pay increase. Her promotion would clearly violate the most recent school board nepotism policy that was just approved at the November 2014 board meeting. Her promotion also violated the ethics to which the board was expected to uphold even in 2006. This is the reason why I have asked Dave Palmer to step down from the school board several times over the last several years as well as his wife from her position. Remaining in their positions with the knowledge of how things came to be certainly reflects poorly on one's moral and ethical beliefs.

Another reason why I wanted to review the contracts was because many people have asked why the Bakers haven't been fired since it was discovered that defamatory posts were linked to their home. It's certainly been a mystery to me considering that Mr. Dan Baker was the Section 504 Coordinator for the Fox C-6 School District and is expected to uphold federal laws. Posting defamatory comments against parents advocating for their children's rights definitely violates Section 504 Law which is a Federal Law.

Knowing that comments posted from the Baker home were also false with regards to knowing me from scouts documents the making of false statements as well. Hopefully, our board members finally recognize that this as a problem considering the fact that I have brought this to their attention for many years and now knowing that comments were linked to the home of Dan Baker.

In reviewing the contracts, you'll notice that the assistant superintendent contracts have statements for termination for cause. However, the other contracts do not. There has been plenty of reasons to Terminate for Cause that have been discovered this year and many ask why this contract clause has not been exercised. I have asked the same question as well.

You should also note that Kelly Nash's contract DOES NOT have any language regarding her requirements to earn a degree or certification in nutrition services or any requirements as the public was informed that she would. This is a very serious problem as well!

I have posted copies of the administrator and director contracts below for you to review.

Everyone in the community should be up in arms and should be contacting our Fox C-6 school board members regarding these issues. You should be demanding that NO ONE be allowed to receive a payout from the district if they have not met the 10 Years of Service requirement as documented in current school district policies.

The public should also be demanding that Kelly Nash be fired or relieved of her duties as the Director of Food Services. This was another major blunder both by former superintendent Dianne Brown-Critchlow and Todd Scott.

According to an email received from CFO John Brazeal shortly after I posted this article, Kelly Nash has completed her pre-requisites and has taken the certification test and the district is awaiting the test results.

Mr. Brazeal's email noted that the certification requirements for Kelly Nash were stated in the job posting.

Also, Mr. Brazeal noted that contract language was changed on the August contracts that I posted adding new language in the paragraphs I highlighted that were not on the previous contracts signed earlier in the year. However, district policy required termination for cause language to be in contracts. 

Below are a copy of the Fox C-6 administrator and director contracts that were requested from my Sunshine request last week:


Below are the important statements from the assistant superintendent contracts. I highlighted them in the PDF copies of the contracts that I posted in the link above as well so you can see what could be used to fire or terminate an administrator. The same should hold true for Directors in our district per district policy.

Administrator agrees to devote Administrator's full time, skill, labor, and attention to serving as an administrator in the District during the term of this Agreement and will not engage in any pursuit that interferes with the proper discharge of duties. Subject to the foregoing, Administrators shall be permitted to make presentations at educational conferences and teach at local institutions of higher education with prior notice and the consent of the Board. The Administrator agrees to properly render such services as directed by the Board, all in accordance with the laws of the State of Missouri, including the making of all reports required by law to be made. 
Administrator agrees to comply with all duties and requirements applicable to Administrator's position, as directed by the Superintendent and/or as stated in any performance standards and criteria, policies, rules or regulations of the District, whether adopted or modified before or after the effective date of this Agreement. Administrator has received, read, understands, and will maintain an updated knowledge of the content of the District's written performance standards, policies, rules and regulations. Administrator agrees to comply with all federal, state, and local laws.
This agreement may be terminated during its term for cause and/or as otherwise permitted by law. Should the Administrator seek to leave employment prior to the expiration of this contract, he/she shall be liable for any and all cost incurred in the recruitment and hiring of a replacement administrator. Furthermore, the district will determine the last working day of the contractual agreement.


DATE: November 17, 2014
TO: To Whom It May Concern
FROM: John Brazeal, CFO
RE: Recent history of Voluntary Separation Incentive Program

This is a review of the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program, also known as the Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program, or the Voluntary Leave Program, or the Voluntary Incentive Program. 
Policy vs. Regulation/Procedure
Generally, policy setting is the purview of the board. Policies must conform to law. Generally, establishing regulations/procedures is the responsibility of administration. Regulation/procedure must conform to policy, and therefore also to law. Anytime a regulation/procedure spends money, that regulation/procedure should be board approved rather than approved administratively. 
History
Regulation 4740.1 titled Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program was initially adopted in November 1998, with subsequent re-adoptions in April 2000, July 2000, July 2003, September 2004 and July 2005. As of the date of this report, this Regulation was still posted on the District website. 
The last re-adoption of Regulation 4740.1 in July 2005 coincides with the start of Dianne Brown/Critchlow’s tenure as District superintendent. Since that time, the incentive program has operated with a variety of modifications as described herein. Also since that time, policy and regulations/procedures generally have not been kept current.
Program Eligibility
The incentive program set forth in Regulation 4740.1 defines program eligibility to include: 
     1. Minimum of 10 years full-time service as a District employee; and
     2. Minimum of 20 years of service credit in the pension system (PSRS or PEERS), but not more than 31 years of service credit. 
For many years, courts have held that the upper eligibility limit of “not more than 31 years of service credit” to be discriminatory. 
In an email dated February 17, 2009, Dianne Brown announced changes to program eligibility for the 2008-2009 year to be as follows: 
     1. Qualify under current policy/regulation 4740.1; or
     2. Have more than 31 years of service credit in the pension system; or
     3. Have 20 years service credit in the pension system and minimum of 6 years employment with the district; or 
     4. Have meet Rule of 80 provisions with the pension system; or
     5. Be age 60 or greater with a minimum of 6 years employment with the district. 
If these changes were board approved, that fact has not been confirmed. 
In an email dated January 13, 2010, Todd Scott announced that for the 2009-2010 year, program eligibility would be as stated in Regulation 4740.1. 
In email dated February 15, 2011, Todd Scott announced program eligibility for the 2010-2011 year as: 
     1. Minimum of 10 years of full-time employment with the district; and
     2. Minimum of 15 years service credit with the pension system. 
The discriminatory upper limit was removed. If these changes were board approved, that fact has not been confirmed. 
In an email dated February 14, 2012, Todd Scott announced program eligibility would remain the same for 2011-2012 as the prior year of 2010-2011. Again, if this variance from the regulation was board approved, that fact has not been confirmed. 
In an email dated January 7, 2013, Todd Scott announced program eligibility would remain the same for 2012-2013 as the two previous years. Again, if this variance from the regulation was board approved, that fact has not been confirmed. 
In an email dated January 23, 2014, Todd Scott announced program eligibility for the 2013-2014 would match the eligibility requirements of the regulation as: 
     1. Minimum of 10 years full-time service as a District employee; and
     2. Minimum of 20 years of service credit in the pension system (PSRS or PEERS), but not more than 31 years of service credit. 
That action did not stand long. On February 19, 2014, an email was distributed announcing program eligibility for both the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 years to be: 
1. Employee must be vested (5 years service credit) in the pension system.
The announcement of this change indicated “at the February 18th Board of Education meeting the BOE made changes to the Voluntary Early Retirement Program.” 
Program Benefits
Regulation 4740.1 indicates that eligible program participants will: 
     1. Receive a payment equal to 50% of the applicant’s final year’s salary; and
     2. Be required to provide 35 hours of service to the District during the year following the end of District employment. 
Fewer changes were applied to these provisions, however, there were a couple changes through time. 
In an email dated November 30, 2012, Dianne Critchlow wrote: “I am excited to announce that the district is offering, A ONE TIME ONLY, addition to our early retirement incentive. For the first time in Fox C-6 history, we are not only offering to pay half of you highest year’s salary, we are offering 2 years of Board paid health insurance.” 
In an email dated January 7, 2013, Todd Scott announced “employees will no longer have to put in time of service after they retire.” 
February 2014 Events
On February 3, 2014, the Board met to discuss budgetary issues and also entered closed session to discuss “negotiations.” 
In closed session, the presentation to the board showed a history of the declining fund balances, and an action plan that stated: 
     1. Limit or greatly reduce spending
     2. Offer Voluntary Incentive Program
     3. Limit/freeze hiring
     4. Freeze salary schedules 
In regards to the voluntary separation incentive program, and under the heading “Things We Have Discovered,” the following statements were displayed: 
     1. We can no longer use the term “Early Retirement Incentive”
     2. The VIP (Voluntary Incentive Program) is due to PSRS by April 1
     3. Can no longer put a cap on number of years – discriminatory 
Two options were suggested by the superintendent to the board: 
Option A: Increase the incentive to 65% of final salary to employees separating in 2013-2014; 60% of final salary to employees separating in 2014-2015; and 55% of salary to employees separating in 2015-2016. 
Option B: Keep the incentive at 50% of final salary, but add 2 years of district paid health insurance to employees separating in 2013-2014; add 1 year of district paid health insurance to employees separating in 2014-2015; and no health insurance to employees separating in 2015-2016. 
The proposal stated “employees must be vested in the retirement system to be eligible,” but made no mention of minimum employment with the district or any other minimum amounts of service credit with the pension system. 
On February 18, 2014, the Board held its regular meeting and also entered closed session to discuss “negotiations.” 
The minutes of the close session state: “After discussion Mrs. Hermann made a motion and was seconded to approve the recommendation from the committee to continue the Voluntary Leave Program for the 2013-2014 and the 2014-2015 school year as presented. After the 2014-2015 school year the District will no longer offer the Voluntary Leave Program.” The motion was approved 6-1. 
Directors voting in favor of the motion: Palmer, Hermann, Laughlin, Nash, Holloway and Smith. Directors voting against the motion: Kroupa. 
Motive And Intent
It is impossible to fully assess motives and intentions, but here are a few observations. 
The concept of incentivizing higher cost staff to separate employment as a method for lowering payroll costs can have merit. However, by offering an incentive every year, the program had become more of a retirement bonus with major cost to the District rather than an incentive with cost savings to the District. 
As the District’s financial condition deteriorated, Dianne Critchlow sought to boost the incentive, while members of the Board sought to end the costly program. Some back and forth pushing on the issue exposed some motives. 
When Board members attempted to end the program sooner than later, Dianne Critchlow vehemently objected, potentially due to her own pending retirement date. With her retirement date already announced, she pushed for boosting the program benefits and pushed for expanded eligibility. 
The push for expanded eligibility coincides with the planned separation for Jamie Critchlow. The push for increased benefits coincides with the planned separations for both Jamie and Dianne Critchlow. 
November 2014 Events
I joined the Fox District in July 2014. As the program parameters had been set in February 2014 and announced to staff, I did not attempt to modify the either the eligibility criteria or the program benefits. However, upon noticing that the district was not receiving any benefit from the employee in return for the incentive payment, I did propose there be a separation agreement wherein the separating employee would waive any and all claims that person might have against the District. In this way, the District gains protection from potential employment related liabilities. 
Due to the fact the plan would be ending after the 2014-2015 school year, the program was finally an incentive. In an effort to boost participation and enable employees to leave before they otherwise might, I did propose paying the incentive payment before employment ended so that this payment could be used to purchase service credit in the pension system. 
At the November 3, 2014 board meeting, the program was modified to include payment of the incentive at an earlier date and require a waiver of claims in exchange for the incentive payment. No proposal was made regarding eligibility since that had already been announced to staff as being applicable for the current school year. 
Open Session vs. Closed Session
The discussion and action related to the incentive program took place in closed session during February 2014. The closed session topic was listed as “negotiations.” It is acceptable for the Board to enter into closed session to discuss negotiations in relation to negotiating with employee groups. Normally, the negotiation matters discussed by the Board in closed session proceed to the negotiating table with employee representatives. Later when agreement has been reached between the parties, the resulting agreement is presented to the Board in open session for approval. 
During February 2014, the Board was within its rights to take up the topic for discussion in closed session. Dianne Critchlow contended that a decision was required prior to April 1, 2014. Thus, a vote that should have been taken in open session was taken in closed session. Additionally, the topic was never taken to the negotiating table, which eventually convened in May 2014. 
Policy/Regulations/Procedures on Website
Obviously the objective of posting policy/regulations/procedures on the website is to provide a public resource and public notice of District policies and procedures. Naturally, when a policy is revised, there can be a delay between Board adoption of new policy and posting of the revised policy on the website. This delay should be minimized. 
According to Debby Davis, Custodian of Records for the District, she was instructed to leave the unrevised version of Regulation 4740.1 on the website, despite its revision in February 2014. Please note, the incentive program had been revised almost annually, without revised posting to the website. That should not have been the case. If things have been handled correctly, the revised program would have been posted promptly after each revision. 
As pointed out early in this memo, this matter and many other policy matters appear to be out of date. Policy requires almost constant attention and revision in order to avoid obsolesce. Dianne Critchlow allowed many policy matters to go stale. 
Status
The incentive program exists in its current form until it is changed or ended. The incentive program is an offer from the District to employees. Eligible employees are entitled to accept the offer as it exists or is modified from time to time. The Board should be the only entity with authority to authorize the incentive program and/or modification to an existing incentive program.