Wednesday, January 14, 2015

MO State Rep Rob Vescovo Files Legislation to Prevent Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars

Missouri State Representative Rob Vescovo sent out a press release today announcing the filing of his first piece of legislation.

The Fox C-6 School District has been handing out cash rewards and paid vacations to some of our administrators for unethical behavior, for not following school policies and for bullying parents and patrons in our district.

Being rewarded for this type of behavior does NOT set a good example for a National District of Character!

Thank you Mr. Vescovo for bringing this problem to the attention of our state legislators! 

From the Office of Rep. Rob Vescovo 112th District

January 14, 2015

CONTACT: Rep. Rob Vescovo

State Rep. Rob Vescovo Files Legislation to Prevent Abuse and Waste of Taxpayer Dollars

Legislation would prevent continued abuse of paid administrative leave

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – State Rep. Rob Vescovo wants to protect Missouri taxpayers from footing the bill for ineffective government employees who are placed on paid administrative leave for misconduct. Vescovo today filed HB 519 to end a practice he said is costing Missourians hundreds of thousands of dollars or more each year.

“This is a non-partisan bill that will take aim at ending the ongoing problem of this wasteful practice of paid administrative leave for employees who should be terminated,” said Vescovo, R-Arnold. “This is a practice that would never go on in the private sector where employers would refuse to pay ineffective employees to not do their jobs. However, because there is too little accountability when it comes to how taxpayer dollars are utilized, we have seen this blatant misuse of taxpayer funds far too often in the public sector.”
Vescovo said issues with the Fox School District first drew his attention to the problem. It was in June of 2014 when Superintendent Dianne Critchlow and three other school administrators were placed on paid administrative leave. Vescovo noted that Critchlow made an annual salary of more than $260,000. He said the issue resurfaced again just a few weeks ago when the school district’s food services director, who was hired with an annual salary of $65,000 despite lacking the certifications and education necessary for the position, was also placed on paid administrative leave.
“Folks in my district are outraged by what has gone on here as their tax dollars have been thrown away to people who should have been fired, but instead have been paid to not work,” said Vescovo. “The unfortunate truth is that this goes on all over the state and the nation. As someone who believes in government accountability and sincerely wants to protect taxpayers from abuse, I am committed to doing all I can to bring this wasteful practice to an end here in our state.”


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Events Related to the "Cease and Desist" Letters Were Troublesome!

UPDATED: Monday January 12, 2015 and Wednesday January 14, 2015 
Fox's CFO John Brazeal pointed out errors in my post which I have corrected. 

Below is text from Mr.  Brazeal's email received on January 12, 2015 regarding the errors in my article:
"This is another situation where you are connecting things that are not connected, then making false and misleading statements on your blog about your bogus findings. 
MGO invoices have sections, such as "General", "Special Education", "Lagoons",  etc. Each section of the billing shows a total charge for that section. At the end of the invoice, there is a total for all sections. It is like an invoice with an invoice. 
The figure of $2810.04 I mentioned was the amount of fees charged for the "special Education General" section of the 3/5/2013 invoice. The 3/5/2013 invoice was $4,159.54, which included the $2810.04 charge for "Special Education General" plus $1,394.50 for "General". 
The payment of $2813.00 for February 2013 included $1,984.50 for "General" plus $375.00 for "Special Education General" plus $453.50 for "Special Education" cases, for a total of $2813.00. 
There is absolutely no correlation between the $2810.04 and the $2813.00. One number is for a section total of the invoice in March 2013 and the other for the invoice total for February 2013." 

My sincere apologies for incorrectly "connecting things that are not connected". Having clarification as to what is on an MGO invoice helps tremendously. I have not been provided any invoices from my Sunshine requests to date.

My mistake was certainly not intentional!

Mr. Brazeal has been extremely helpful to the Fox C-6 community in uncovering the fraud, waste and abuse that occurred in our district under our former superintendent. He is working to ensure that our district follows our policies. Policies weren't always followed in the past. Not knowing them was part of the problem.

Mr. Brazeal was instrumental in providing me with the credit card statements so they could be made public. I had asked for the credit card statements in February 2014 but was deterred from obtaining them by being asked to pay $170 to locate and copy them.

In no way were my observations of "Doctoring Invoices?" with hand written comments implying that Fox's new CFO Mr. Brazeal was involved with those hand written comments. He has been doing an excellent job of researching what occurred in the past and analyzing and documenting what he has found.

I strive for accuracy in all of my reporting of data. My incorrect connection of things that weren't connected was based on the information that was originally provided to me at the bottom of this article on January 8, 2013. I was unaware of the other details that were on the March 5 and March 20 invoices.

I have not been provided with any invoices for legal fees from my Sunshine requests to date. Having copies of those invoices would certainly make reporting on them much easier. They public record and taxpayer dollars are paying for our district's legal fees.

Article below with corrections:

For years I've been documenting how much Fox C-6 has spent in legal fees attempting to silence critics and deal with non-compliance issues with the Office for Civil Rights with both the U.S. Department of Education (ED OCR) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Nutrition Services division (USDA OCR).

This past week I renewed my 3 month old Sunshine request for copies of invoices from Fox's former law firm in order to document for the public how much money was spent on these types of activities. 

Fox's new CFO John Brazeal responded to my request with some information related to the February 2013 "cease and desist" letters sent out to 3 patrons in our district which did not include me. The "cease and desist" letter that was sent to me was sent in August 2012.

Fox was in the middle of a legal fees spending spree when the district sent me a "cease and desist" letter in August 2012.

In fact, Fox C-6's Board of Education (BOE) approved payments of $55,891.28 at the August 2012 BOE meeting and another $48,002.01 at the September 2012 BOE meeting in legal fees to Fox's former law firm Mickes Goldman O'Toole (MGO) according to the August and September 2012 board meeting packets. I doubt that Fox's BOE ever saw or reviewed the invoices presented at the August and September 2012 BOE meeting since it wasn't common practice to do so.

Not only do I think that former Fox C-6 superintendent Dianne Critchlow's decision to send out "cease and desist" letters to district patrons was wrong, I also think that spending $103,893.29 in legal fees in just 3 months to be an "unusual amount of professional legal service" for our school district.

So, why did Fox C-6 spend $103,893.29 in legal fees in just 3 months?

That's something that I've been trying to document for years. I know that the district has spent an "unusual amount" in legal fees responding to non-compliance issues with both ED OCR and USDA OCR as well as putting two different families in our district through Due Process Hearings. From what I could determine from board packet payments, the district spent at least $125,000 in legal fees related to the Due Process Hearing that we were forced into back in 2010.

I would venture to say that district administrators don't want to freely share copies of invoices for legal services with the public when they spend taxpayer money sending out "cease and desist" letters to patrons who are critical of the district or when they spend taxpayer money related to non-compliance issues with the Office for Civil Rights.

Sunshine law allows government bodies to charge reasonable fees to obtain documents such as invoices for legal services.

Sunshine law also states that the Custodian of Records may waive the fee if it is determined that a waiver or reduction of the fee is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations and activities of the school district and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.

Charging fees to obtain documents is one way that Sunshine law can be abused in order to hide the activities of a school district. Most citizens aren't willing to pay hundreds of dollars of their own money in order to expose questionable behavior and spending in their school district.

I asked the district to waive the $170 fee they wanted to charge me to obtain the district credit card statements in April 2014 and the district (Dianne Critchlow) refused. The public knows now why Dianne Critchlow didn't want district credit card statements made public.

The same thing has gone on for years related to the amount of money that the district's been spending on legal fees related to non-compliance issues with the Office for Civil Rights. Dianne Critchlow doesn't want the public to know how much money has been wasted on legal fees simply to avoid doing what it was obligated to do by law. The amount of legal fees spent in trying to get around the law is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding as to why our district and many others don't want to write 504 plans. That's why I asked the district to waive the fees.

The media can afford to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on Sunshine Requests. However, the media hasn't tackled the big issue as to why our district fought so hard to avoid writing a 504 plan and fulfill their Resolution Agreement with ED OCR and avoid a District Wide Compliance Review from the Office for Civil Rights. Taxpayer dollars have been used to pay the attorneys to keep ED OCR and USDA OCR at bay for years. Just how much money was spent is only an estimate at this point since I don't have copies of the invoices. But, that amount is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

District Policy 0360 documents the use of a School Attorney. The question is whether or not former superintendent Dianne Critchlow advised the board when the district spent $103,893.29 in legal fees in just 3 months in 2012. Would you consider that an unusual amount of professional legal services?
District Policy 0360 - School Attorney
The Board recognizes that the increasing complexity of School District operations frequently requires procurement of professional legal services. Consequently, the Board may employ an attorney and/or law firm for purposed of systematically securing such services. The Board shall prescribe the duties, compensation and term of service for the attorney and/or law firm. It shall be the duty of the council to advise the Board and to make recommendations concerning specific legal problems submitted. 
A decision to seek legal counsel or advice on behalf of the School District shall normally be made by the superintendent or by persons specifically authorized by the superintendent.It may also take place as a consequence of formal Board direction.

Many types of legal assistance to the district may be considered routine, and may not require specific Board approval or prior notice. However, when the administration concludes that unusual types or amounts of professional legal service may be required, the Board directs the administration to so advise it, and to expeditiously seek either initial or continuing authorization for such service.

Now that you're aware of board policy and why I've been asking for copies of invoices from Fox's former law firm dating back to 2008 brings me back to the Sunshine request I made more than 3 months ago. My Sunshine requests and information from this blog have led to many other Sunshine requests from the media and others which takes up district time. If district administrators had followed the Character Traits they so heavily touted, perhaps there wouldn't have been a need for people to make Sunshine requests.

I'm glad that Mr. Brazeal decided to do some research into the legal fees related to the "cease and desist" letters. The costs related to the "cease and desist" letters is minimal compared to the cost of Due Process Hearings and filing appeals with the ED OCR and USDA OCR and responding to monitoring letters year after year.

Mr. Brazeal stated the following in his response:
The events related to the “cease and desist” letters were troublesome.
Mr. Brazeal pointed out in his response to me that board meeting minutes documented that I mentioned the "cease and desist" letters during my Public Comments at the March 19, 2013 board meeting. I explained to him in a response to his January 8 email that my "cease and desist" letter was sent out in August 2012 and that he would need to review invoices from 2012 to find the cost of my "cease and desist" letter and that my comment at the March 2013 board meeting was a general comment concerning the use of "cease and desist" letters.

Below is a portion of what I told Fox's Board of Education during my Public Comment at the March 19, 2013 board meeting regarding the Cease and Desist Letters:
I think it is very important for the community to know that using taxpayer dollars to send out cease and desist letters to individuals in the community who voice their concerns at board meetings and in the community is unacceptable. It is also very unacceptable for individuals who are very well in the know of actions being taken by our administration prior to them even being public to be making slanderous comments about individuals in online forums anonymously. Well, actually they use a variety of different names all within minutes of each other but spreading the same message. This type of conduct will eventually lead to the dismissal of educators within our district if proven to be who everyone now believes to be the person or persons posting these messages.
It's definitely interesting to see what I had to say back then knowing what we know now.

I highly recommend reading my March 19, 2013 Fox C-6 board meeting report article. That article contains the full text of my Public Comments made at that meeting.

What's interesting is the fact that Mr. Brazeal's research found an invoice dated March 5, 2013 for $2,810.04 with the following 3 entries:
  • 2/5/2013 EGT-Correspondence from Dr. Dianne Critchlow regarding proposed correspondence to District patron
  • 2/5/2013 EGT-Review/revise proposed correspondence to District patron
  • 2/26/2013 EGT-Correspondence from R. Herman, attorney, regarding cease and desist correspondence
I told Fox's Board of Education and the public at the March 19, 2013 that it was unacceptable for the district to use taxpayer dollars to send out Cease and Desist letters to individuals who voice their concerns about the district. I believe that most taxpayers would agree with me that doing so is not a good practice.

It appears that my comment at the March 19 meeting must have caused concern about using taxpayer dollars to send out cease and desist letters because MGO sent Fox an invoice the very next day on March 20, 2013 as noted by Mr. Brazeal listing the same 3 entries from above regarding proposed correspondence to District patron with a "star" by each of the entries and a note at the end of the invoice stating "changed to No Charge".

And, in order for the public to believe that the district wasn't charged for the Cease and Desist letters an article appeared in the Post Dispatch on March 23, 2013 with the following remark:
 "The letters did not cost the district anything extra beyond its regular contract with the firm.”
So it appears that, the "cease and desist" letters DID cost the district $2,810.04 until I expressed my concerns at the March 19, 2013 board meeting about using taxpayer dollars to send out "cease and desist" letters to silence district critics.

It was certainly strange how an updated invoice appeared the very next day?

Mr. Brazeal noted in his response that the March 5, 2013 invoice was paid in full and receipted by Fox's former law firm Mickes Goldman O'Toole (MGO) on March 18, 2013. The problem with this scenario is the fact that a March 5, 2013 invoice shouldn't have been approved for payment until the March 19, 2013 Fox C-6 BOE meeting and the check for the March 5, 2013 invoice shouldn't have been sent until after being approved at the March 19, 2013 meeting.

Another interesting quote from the March 23, 2013 Post Dispatch article was the following from former Fox C-6 Superintendent Dianne Critchlow.
“You don’t have the right to make up lies and defame someone’s character,” Critchlow said.
It was certainly an interesting comment for Dianne Critchlow to make considering the content of the online comments that were traced back to her home during that time period. Her comment is a true statement. However, I think she was hoping that everyone would think that the lies and defamatory statements were coming from her critics and not from district administrators.

Everything Has To Be Verified
For years I've had to verify everything I was told by some of Fox's administrators because many times the information was false. 

(Updated) When I informed Mr. Brazeal that he will have to reconcile all of the invoices in order to determine whether or not the fees for the "cease and desist" letters were truly changed to "No Charge" I was unaware of the detail information on the 3/5/2013 invoice.  

There were so many legal fees paid out during the 2012-2013 school year, that producing paperwork to give the appearance that a bill was refunded with a "No Charge" would be easy to do. So, without reviewing every single invoice and associated payment to MGO that year makes it difficult to know whether or not the "cease and desist" letter fees were truly written off.

At least we know that the district originally paid the invoice for the "cease and desist" letters and didn't get an updated invoice until the day after I commented about using taxpayer dollars to send out "cease and desist" letters.

A "cease and desist" letter sent to another patron on February 12, 2013 but was noted in the information that I was provided surrounding the "cease and desist" letters. There's no mention of it on the March 5, 2013 invoice.

2012-2013 Check Payments to MGO
Below are the payments made to MGO for the 2012-2013 school year gathered from Fox's board meeting packets. As you can tell, Fox C-6 spent a lot in legal fees during the 2012-2013 school year: $145,064.80

07/10/2012  - $20,622.74
07/12/2012  - $17,237.26
08/10/2012 -  $18,031.28
09/07/2012  - $47,277.01
09/12/2012  -      $725.00
10/09/2012  -   $5,982.50
11/12/2012  - $10,125.47
12/13/2012  -   $3,762.00
12/20/2012  -   $5,840.00
02/14/2013  -   $2,813.00
03/12/2013  -   $4,159.54
04/09/2013  -   $3,480.50
05/21/2013  -   $1,170.00
06/11/2013  -   $3,838.50

How much did it cost the district to send out a Cease and Desist letter to me in August 2012 when the district spent $103,893.29 in legal fees between July and September 2012?

It's going to take some time to discover just how much money was wasted in legal fees by Dianne Brown-Critchlow and her assistants.

Brazeal's Legal Fees Research
Below is the information Mr. Brazeal assembled and sent to me on Thursday January 8, 2015 related to the 2013 Cease and Desist letters: (NOTE: EGT - attorney Ernie G Trakas)
The events related to the “cease and desist” letters were troublesome. I spent some time today reviewing those events. I have the following observations in date order:

1. A MGO invoice dated March 5, 2013 includes the following entries:
     a. 2/5/2013 EGT-Correspondence from Dr. Dianne Critchlow regarding proposed correspondence to District patron
     b. 2/5/2013 EGT-Review/revise proposed correspondence to District patron
     c. 2/26/2013 EGT-Correspondence from R. Herman, attorney, regarding cease and desist correspondence 
2. MGO apparently billed the District on an hourly basis, however, their invoices do not include any time on task data nor any hourly rate for services data. In any event, the March 5, 2013 MGO invoices shows a fee of $2,810.04 for professional services rendered, which includes the three items shown in Item 1 above. The $2,810.04 fee was paid in full. MGO receipted the payment on 3/18/2013. 
3. The minutes of the March 19, 2013 BOE meeting indicate you made a statement about the “cease and desist” letters. 
4. A MGO invoice dated March 20, 2013 was issued with the identical listing of professional services as the March 5, 2013 invoice. The three entries enumerated in Item 1 above remain listed on the March 20, 2013 reissue of the invoice. Beside each of the three entries there is a hand-written “star”. On the last page of the invoice there is more handwriting consisting of a “star” followed by the words “changed to No Charge”. The invoice amount is reduced to $2,535.04. Since the 3/5/2013 invoice was already paid, the payment of $2,810.04 (receipted on 3/18/2013) is recorded, thereby creating a $275.00 credit balance on the 3/20/2013 invoice. 
5. A March 23, 2013 Post Dispatch article authored by Leah Thorsen outlines the letters well, and includes this text: “The letters did not cost the district anything extra beyond its regular contract with the firm.” 
Just an FYI…...

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Happy Birthday!! Missouri DESE's Section 504 Guidance Turns 22 This Month!

It was 22 years ago this month that the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MO DESE) published their Section 504 Guidance for Missouri School Districts.

As of January 2015, MO DESE's guidance hasn't been updated since January 1993. That's pretty amazing!!

Section 504 is a civil rights statute which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Section 504 is enforced (supposedly) by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

I say "supposedly" because the Kansas City Office for Civil Rights has allowed the Fox C-6 School District to remain non-compliant with the Resolution Agreement that assistant superintendent Dan Baker signed on May 1, 2009 for nearly 6 years. OCR sent 4 monitoring letters to the district between December 2009 and May 2013 detailing what the district needed to do in order to become compliant with the May 1, 2009 Resolution Agreement.

Allowing a school district to remain non-compliant for nearly 6 years DOES NOT give the appearance of enforcement. In 2010, I asked attorneys at OCR handling our complaint if they thought the district would fulfill the Resolution Agreement before my child graduated. The attorney laughed when he told me that OCR has been monitoring some Resolution Agreements for nearly 10 years. It seems that OCR's interpretation of enforcement is quite different than what most people would consider enforcement of the law.

Both the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) each have an Office for Civil Rights.

Any school district that accepts federal funds is required to comply with Section 504 and the ADA AA or they risk losing their federal funds.

School districts are not funded for Section 504 like they are for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) so there is no incentive for school districts to implement Section 504 other than the risk of losing their federal funds. Therfore, it's pretty easy to see why it's been so difficult for parents in the state of Missouri to obtain 504 Plans for their children that are eligible.

Each year Missouri DESE is required to sign an assurance agreement with the USDA's Food Nutrition Services (FNS) division stating that they will comply with Section 504 law and USDA's Regulations and Guidelines. 

School districts in Missouri sign an assurance agreement each year with Missouri DESE stating they will comply with Section 504 and the USDA's Regulations and Guidelines and MO DESE is responsible for ensuring that the school districts in Missouri properly follow the law.

Missouri DESE not being able to update their guidance in 22 years reminds me of the same problem that's gone on at Fox C-6 for the last decade. Fox hasn't able to update their board Policies and Regulations for nearly a decade other than the ones required by state statute.

Even though Fox was required by law to update their policies, it didn't always get done properly. In 2011, I pointed out to Fox's Board of Education that the district's new Allergy Prevention and Response Policy that was adopted in June 2011 didn't meet state law. Of course, Fox's former superintendent Dianne Brown-Critchlow and assistant superintendent Dan Baker argued with me that it did meet state law and that the district's attorneys approved the policy and so did the board.

Eventually Dan Baker resubmitted the Allergy Prevention and Response policy to Fox's Board of Education (BOE) in November 2011 and it was re-adopted at the December 2011 board meeting.

The original policy submitted by Dan Baker to Fox's BOE stated that the District "will develop a policy" and was only 8 sentences long. The model policy from the state was 4 pages long.

I sent a copy of Mehlville's policy (where Dianne Brown's brother was an administrator) to the board as an example of what the policy was supposed to include. This is just another example of how getting things done at Fox has been a burden for the last decade.

Back to Missouri DESE's Section 504 Guidance, if you search Missouri DESE's website for "Section 504", the first document listed in the search results is the one linked to below.

The second document is MO DESE's Section 504 Coordinator Responsibilities Guide which is the document linked to below:

Nowhere is it stated in MO DESE's Section 504 Guidance that Section 504 prohibits retaliation for filing an OCR complaint or for advocating for a right protected by the law, and harassment of students or others because of a disability as it does in South Dakota's Section 504 Guidance that was written in 2010.

I highly recommend downloading South Dakota's Department of Education's Section 504 Guidance document. Compare it to the document that Missouri DESE has on their website. It's a night and day difference!

In 2009, Missouri DESE talked about updating the document when my wife discussed it with Missouri DESE's former Compliance Officer. The document on MO DESE's website is the same one that my wife downloaded in 2008. Obviously it never got updated.

Our district didn't need Missouri DESE's Section 504 Guidance because they were trained on Section 504 by Fox's former law firm and there was usually training every year at the Annual School Law Seminars sponsored by some of Missouri's law firms that specialize in education related law.

If you are a parent in Missouri looking for information on Section 504, don't bother looking at Missouri DESE's guidance. Go download the Section 504 guidance from South Dakota. It puts Missouri's guidance to shame. Other states have similar documents that are up to date like South Dakota's so you may find others that are even better.

Perhaps someone at MO DESE will read this article and start working on updating the state's guidance on Section 504 considering that it was written 16 years before the 2009 ADA Amendment Act!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Fox C-6 Administrators Dan Baker, Todd Scott and Andy Arbeitman have applied for Early Retirement!

According to the December 19, 2014 edition of The Countian - Jefferson County newspaper, Fox C-6 assistant superintendents Dan Baker, Todd Scott and Andy Arbeitman have all applied for Early Retirement.

Mr. Arbeitman had previously submitted his request to retire early to Fox's Board of Education (BOE).

You can expect to see Dan Baker, Todd Scott and Andy Arbeitman walk away from our district with 50% of their current salary due to the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP).

Based upon their current contract amounts:

Dan Baker will walk away with: $74,167.50

Todd Scott will walk away with: $72,693.00

Andy Arbeitman will walk away with: $66,747,50 (despite only working for Fox for 2 years)

Both Dan Baker and Todd Scott had each completed 20 years of service with the Fox C-6 School District at the end of the 2013-2014 school year according to Missouri DESE records.

Dan Baker's Contracts
Dan Baker's current contract has his salary listed at $148,335.00 for the 2014-2015 school year which reflects the 5% Voluntary Pay Cut he agreed to take.

Dan Baker's February 2014 contract had his salary listed at $156,142.00 for the 2014-2015 school year.

On June 4, 2014 Dan Baker and his wife Angie Burns Baker were placed on paid administrative leave after derogatory comments directed at district critics were traced to the Bakers' home computer and cellular phone.

However, in July, acting superintendent Tim Crutchley told the media that only one comment was posted from the Bakers' home computer. Mr. Crutchley's statement was incorrect.

Mr. Crutchley's incorrect statement gave the public the impression that what the Bakers had done wasn't that bad and that's why the Bakers got to keep their job.

Below is Mr. Crutchley's statement that appeared in the July 24, 2014 Arnold-Imperial Leader:
"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 job, following disciplinary measures, Crutchley said."
Not only was Mr. Crutchley's statement incorrect about the number of posts, but it didn't reflect the fact that multiple posts were traced not only to the Bakers' home computer but also to their cellular phone.

Mr. Crutchley should have also pointed out the fact that when the online comments were posted by the Bakers, Dan Baker was Fox C-6's Section 504 Coordinator. As the 504 Coordinator for the District, Mr. Baker was responsible for ensuring that the District properly followed Section 504 Law.

In fact, Mr. Baker was responsible for signing an Assurance Agreement each year stating that the district would comply with Federal law including Section 504 Law as documented in board meeting minutes.

Section 504 Law prohibits retaliating against anyone that files an OCR complaint or advocates for a right protected by Section 504 law. Since one of the derogatory comments traced to the Baker's was directed at me and I had filed complaints with OCR as well as advocated for a right protected by Section 504, the Bakers violated Section 504 Law.

According to the exhibits in the amended lawsuit petition filed on November 14, 2014, multiple posts were made on the Topix forum from the Bakers' home computer and cellular phone. I covered this issue in more detail in the following article which lists some of the comments posted by the Bakers:

Dan Baker had a Loss of Compensation and Rank?
Also, Mr. Crutchley stated in his December 19 response to Nikki McClain that Mr. Baker had "a loss of compensation and rank" when he responded to Ms. McClain's concerns about Dan Baker being appointed as the interim principal at Seckman Elementary School.

If Mr. Baker had a loss of rank why wasn't his salary reduced?

Was Mr. Baker's salary reduced at the December 16, 2014 Fox C-6 BOE meeting?

Mr. Baker's most recent contract was provided to me by the district on December 2, 2014 and it is only 5% less than his previous contract.

Mr. Baker is expected to start working as the interim principal at Seckman Elementary School on Monday January 5, 2015. This was a very bad decision by the District. Mr. Baker should not have even been considered for the position at Seckman Elementary School.

Todd Scott's Contracts
Todd Scott's current contract has his salary listed at $145,386.00 for the 2014-2015 school year which reflects the 5% Voluntary Pay Cut he agreed to take.

Todd Scott's February 2014 contract had his salary listed at $153,038.00 for the 2014-2015 school year.

Friday, January 2, 2015

What's considered "Immoral Conduct" with respect to the Teacher Tenure Act?

The past 6+ years have been like writing a thesis in terms of research and documentation development. However, the purpose of my "thesis" has been to uncover and expose the corruption and wrong doing that's been going on in the Fox C-6 School District for nearly a decade and hopefully putting an end to it for a very long time!

It's been a very time consuming project that's finally starting to pay off as more and more people are becoming educated from my articles as to what's been occurring behind the veil of deception in our district for years.

You won't find the same type of in depth research in our local newspapers or media like you will here. There are just too many problems and too much information to put into a newspaper article or a news cast.

One of the comments I hear all of the time is, the Critchlows and the Bakers should have been fired for all of the things they've done to embarrass both our school district and our community.

I completely agree. Educating our school board on how to make that happen has been difficult especially since they needed good hard evidence.

However, it didn't take too long once we got a hold of the credit card statements and were able to document more problems than just the derogatory online comments and Section 504 issues. We started finding out about all of the meals and personal items purchased with school district credit cards as well as the extravagant trips to Florida, Colorado and elsewhere. Then everyone started to wonder what else are we going to find?

District's Commitment to Character Education
I've pointed out the following paragraph from Fox's school board policies several times before on the district's commitment to Character Education . It states what the community expected from Fox administrators and from our school board over the years but didn't happen.

The district recognizes the home as the primary source of moral, ethical, and religious instruction; the role of the school is to support the family by upholding the highest example of morality, ethics, and integrity. A policy on character development is for the benefit of all students and is written with respect and sensitivity to the diversity of religions, cultures, creeds, and beliefs.  

The Critchlows and the Bakers certainly didn't follow the district's policy on Commitment to the Character Education Program as stated above.

Tim Crutchley and Todd Scott demonstrated their own share of extremely poor decisions in their use of credit cards and hotel and meal choices and the appointment of Dan Baker as interim principal at Seckman Elementary School.

Everyone reaches a point when you just have to say enough is enough and people are shown the door!

Unprofessional, unethical and immoral behavior has gone on in our school district far too long. But, due to the Teachers Tenure Act and contracts, our board members have been afraid to stand up for the community and fire tenured administrators/teachers.

It takes an educator 5 years of working in the same school district in order to obtain tenure. Once a teacher or administrator has earned tenure, it's much more difficult for them to be terminated.

One of the reasons that a tenured teacher or administrator can be fired is due to "Immoral Conduct". I've discussed this before in previous articles.

For years I've questioned how things being done in our district were allowed to continue as individuals appeared to be violating the "Immoral Conduct" rule. I took my concerns to our school board informing them of what was going on and nothing was done. Their Willful Blindness allowed the behavior to continue for years. Without the board's leadership and willingness to enforce board policies along with state and federal laws, our administration has been able to take advantage of the school board and our community both financially and emotionally.

Making sure our children receive the best education possible is ultimately what everyone in our community wants. However, the numerous distractions due to financial mismanagement, cyber bullying, nepotism and more has cost the students, teachers and taxpayers a great deal of time and money over the years. That's one of the reasons that we DO NOT need to give failed administrators like Dan Baker a "second chance" as Mr. Crutchley has asked us to do.

As the District’s Section 504 Coordinator from June 2008 until he was put on paid administrative leave on June 4, 2014, Dan Baker was the person responsible for ensuring that the District was compliant with the laws regarding non-discrimination, including Section 504.

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (ED OCR) investigated Fox and determined that the District was non-compliant with several issues pertaining to Section 504. As a result, ED OCR and the Fox C-6 School District entered into a "Resolution Agreement” to bring the District into compliance.

As the person responsible for the District’s Section 504 compliance, Mr. Baker signed the agreement on May 1, 2009 on behalf of the District. Over the course of the next 5 years as Fox’s Section 504 Coordinator, Mr. Baker never fulfilled all the terms of the Resolution Agreement items to which he agreed.

ED OCR corresponded many times with Mr. Baker regarding the District's progress. Mr. Baker received 4 monitoring letters from ED OCR between December 2009 and May 2013 listing the items that he had still not completed along with new deadlines. Mr. Baker never met all the terms in his agreement with the ED OCR. I believe Mr. Baker has been given enough "chances" to do the right thing. He has proven that he is unable to do so.

Similarly, another federal agency conducted a separate independent investigation and also found the District non-compliant with Section 504. As I’ve shared many times before, USDA's Office for Civil Rights (USDA OCR) notified both the Fox C-6 School District and Missouri DESE in August 2011 that they were found non-compliant with Section 504 and the ADA AA. They were told to correct the problem “immediately”; however, it wasn’t until Dr. Rizzi replaced Mr. Baker as the District’s 504 Coordinator in 2014 that the District corrected their mistakes. I think it’s pretty obvious that Mr. Baker has been given enough "chances" to do the right thing, and that he has proven that he is unable to do so.

USDA OCR Letter to US Senator Roy Blunt
Here is one interesting letter of correspondence from USDA OCR Food Nutrition Services to our U.S. Senator, Roy Blunt, from May 2013 updating him regarding Fox’s “refusal” to come into compliance during the time period when Mr. Baker was our District’s 504 Coordinator.

The letter from USDA OCR to Senator Blunt stated that:
"As a result of the Fox C-6 School refusing to come into compliance, FNS is now discussing options with the Department of Justice for enforcement assistance to resolve this matter."

The letter was sent to Senator Blunt's office shortly after the anonymous online comments were posted on the Topix website that were eventually traced back to the Baker household and cell phone in May 2014.

A derogatory post directed at me only hours after I spoke at the Fox C-6 school board meeting during Public Comments on January 15, 2013 was traced to the Baker household. There were also online comments directed at me earlier that same day that were traced to computers at Fox C-6 as well as to the Critchlows home that night. What an excellent example of Integrity and Respect shown by some of our District's administrators.

You can't ignore the fact that Dan Baker and his wife Angie Baker were caught posting derogatory comments in an online forum while he was the district's Section 504 Coordinator and his wife was the district's Director of Federal Programs, They DID NOT set a good example for our students who are taught not to cyber bully other students.

The Bakers will continue to be a distraction to this district and the community until they are terminated or leave on their own accord.

Knowing the Laws, Policies and Regulations
I've learned that it's impossible to expect school board members to know all of the laws, policies and regulations that a school district must follow. For one, there are relatively few qualifications to run for a position on the board, and two, Missouri Statutes only requires school board members to complete 16 hours of training within one year of their election. We currently have some smart and caring people on our board. There's just too much for them to learn and I don't know if they're getting the full story.

It certainly doesn't seem our board members got the full story from the Bakers as to how many times they posted on Topix. They were allowed to stay because the community and the board was told that only one post was linked to their home computer which wasn't true. Posts were also linked to the cell phones as well.

I can guarantee you that new school board members aren't going to learn enough about Sunshine Law, Board Policies and Regulations and the numerous state and federal laws in just 16 hours of training to know when their not being told the truth. That's why it was so easy for Fox's former superintendent Dianne Brown-Critchlow to take advantage of our school board for years.

There are relatively few qualifications necessary to run for a position on a local school board of education in most school districts in the state. A candidate must be a citizen of the United States, a resident taxpayer of the district, a resident of Missouri within one year and at least 24 years old. 
Successfully elected board members are further required to complete sixteen hours of orientation and training for within one year of their election (RSMo.162.203).

Because there are relatively few qualifications and only 16 hours of training required to serve on your local school board, our school board has to rely a lot on its legal counsel. However, as I've also learned, you can't always trust your District's legal counsel to do the right thing either. I've documented way too many examples over the past 6+ years where the District's former legal counsel abused their power, the law and the board blindly trusted them too many times. That's why it's so important to become very well educated in the laws, policies and regulations as a parent/citizen.

Since most people, myself included have wonder why the Bakers and the Critchlows weren't fired in the first place, I've been researching the issue on my own because I've learned not to trust the information given to me until I verify it myself.

Last week, Fox C-6 board president John Laughlin responded to Nikki McClain after she questioned acting superintendent Tim Crutchley's infamous response about why Dan Baker should be give a "second chance". Mr. Laughlin told Nikki that "Due to laws and contracts this is a one year issue that we are half way complete with.".

After being informed of his response, I sent Mr. Laughlin an email asking for the specific statutes and contract language that have kept the board from firing the Bakers. I haven't received a response yet from Mr Laughlin. So, in the meantime, I started searching for answers myself using Google and found some very informative articles from our district's former law firm regarding "Immoral Conduct" and the Teacher Tenure Act. I've posted links to those articles below along with some quotes from the articles as well. The articles cite cases in Missouri.

It's taken thousands of hours of research and study to learn about Section 504 Law, Sunshine Law and review our District's Board Policies and Regulations over the past 6+ years.

Documenting and bringing that information to the masses has been key to opening everyone's eyes in our community and across the state and country as to what's been going on and how to keep it from happening again in the future.

Articles Related to "Immoral Conduct"
Below are some of the really important quotes from the articles that I mentioned and have linked to.

After reading the articles below I recommend contacting our school board members to ask them why they haven't been able to fire the Bakers?

Or, why they weren't able to fire Dianne Brown-Critchlow rather than allow her to take $130,000 with her as a parting gift?

I highly recommend reading each of the articles I've linked to in their entirety. You'll find the information contained in these articles very informative. It will most likely have you asking why Dianne Brown-Critchlow wasn't fired and why the Bakers haven't been fired as well. You should also peruse some of the articles on the firm's website with respect to Sunshine Law and Acceptable Use Policies:

Under the Missouri Teacher Tenure Act, Section 168.114 RSMo, there are six enumerated grounds upon which an indefinite contract with a permanent teacher may be terminated. One of these grounds is “immoral conduct.” Although there is no singular definition for what constitutes “immoral conduct” under the law, “immoral conduct” contemplates behavior “sufficiently contrary to justice, honesty, modesty or good morals, or involving baseness, vileness or depravity…” Youngman v. Doerhoff, 890 S.W.2d 330, 341 (Mo. App. E.D. 1994).

The Court noted that, “it is not the amount of money improperly spent that raises concern, it is the act of using taxpayer funds for an improper purpose that is at issue.” The Court declined “to restrict the Board’s authority to act in such a situation carrying serious negative repercussions.” 
Accordingly, the Court of Appeals found that the Director’s conduct constituted “immoral conduct” under the Teacher Tenure Act and affirmed the District’s courageous decision to stand up for the citizens of its school community.

Missouri courts have also held that immoral conduct includes theft of school property. In Cochran v. Board of Education of Mexico Sch. Dist. No. 59, 815 S.W. 2d 551 (Mo. App. 1991), the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld the termination of a teacher from the Mexico School District for immoral conduct.

Under the Missouri Teacher Tenure Act, an indefinite contract with a permanent teacher may only be terminated for one of six enumerated reasons. Section 168.114 RSMo. One of the six reasons permitting termination is if the teacher engages in “immoral conduct.”