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.
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.
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.
Mr. Brazeal's email noted that the certification requirements for Kelly Nash were stated in the job posting.
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/ProcedureGenerally, 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.
HistoryRegulation 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 EligibilityThe 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 BenefitsRegulation 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 EventsOn 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 IntentIt 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 EventsI 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 SessionThe 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 WebsiteObviously 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.
StatusThe 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.