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.”