Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Dan Baker Probably Doesn't Want the Fox C-6 Community to See the Invoices for Legal Fees!

It was announced that Dan Baker was selected as the new principal at Seckman Elementary at the March 17, 2015 Fox C-6 Board of Education (BOE) meeting.

I voiced my concerns about Dan Baker being selected as a finalist for the Seckman Elementary School principal position to Fox C-6 board president John Laughlin and Dr. Wipke in an email early Monday morning March 16, 2015. Then after not receiving a response I sent another email to all of the Fox C-6 board members at 6:30am Tuesday March 17, 2015.

I also voiced my concerns to the Fox C-6 BOE meeting during Public Comments. Click on the link below to listen to my Public Comments. There were a total of 7 Public Comments made at the BOE meeting. There were two public comments in support of hiring Dan Baker for the principal position at Seckman Elementary which was made by teachers from Seckman Elementary. I wonder if Mr. Baker will give them any special treatment now that he's been selected principal?

Dan Baker's selection reminds me very much of when the community was told that Kelly Nash was the best candidate for Fox's Food Nutrition Director in December 2012 by Todd Scott even though she didn't possess the certification and schooling required for the job as required by board policy.

Dan Baker, possesses the proper certification for the principal job. He was a principal at Hodge Elementary School prior to being promoted to the position of Assistant Superintendent and Section 504 Coordinator for the Fox C-6 School District in the Central Office.

Unlike Kelly Nash, Dan Baker has to face scrutiny from the public for his involvement in the internet scandal that made national headlines at Fox C-6 in 2014 after it was discovered that derogatory posts were linked to the home and cell phone of Dan and Angie Baker as well as to the home of former superintendent Dianne Brown-Critchlow and her husband Jamie Critchlow who was fired by the district in June 2014.

Dan Baker was the Section 504 Coordinator for the district at the time the posts linked to his home were made in 2013. Mr. Baker was also involved in our Section 504 case and had been since May of 2008. Having derogatory comments linked to his home that were made against me could be considered retaliation by the Office for Civil Rights because we had filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (ED OCR) and the USDA's Office for Civil Rights (USDA OCR) back in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

Section 504 law prohibits retaliating against any individual who files a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights or advocates for someone's civil rights. Therefore, it's very important that everyone understands what the law says on Section 504. It's also very important to know that it was Mr. Baker's job as the district's 504 Coordinator to ensure that Fox C-6 complied with Section 504 law and the ADA AA.

Had the public been properly informed of the district's run in with ED OCR and USDA OCR six years ago, Dan Baker may not have been considered for the principal position at Seckman Elementary School.

Dan Baker, Dianne Brown-Critchlow and Todd Scott have been working hard for years to keep the district's non-compliance issues out of the news and hidden from the public. Board meeting minutes didn't document my questions or letters about the OCR issues. In fact, the district's former law firm sent me letters telling me that the public had no need to know about the Resolution Agreement that Dan Baker signed on May 1, 2009 with ED OCR or the 2010 District Wide Compliance Review investigation until ED OCR released their findings.

The Resolution Agreement signed by Dan Baker has been open now for nearly 6 years and the District Wide Compliance Review has been open for 5 years. 

How long does it take ED OCR to complete an investigation and report their findings?

That means that for nearly 6 years, Dan Baker and the district were unable to meet the terms of the agreement that Dan Baker agreed to in order for the district to be compliant with Section 504 law and the ADA AA. It certainly doesn't seem that Dan Baker was doing his job as Section 504 Coordinator.

I would think that not being able to meet the terms of an agreement with a federal agency for nearly 6 years would weigh heavily on Mr. Baker's job performance reviews over the years. But, since Dianne Brown-Critchlow and the former law firm kept ED OCR at bay for years as well as the USDA OCR, no one knew that Fox was non-compliant with federal law. The Resolution Agreement and District Wide Compliance Review and Monitoring Letters were never documented in the board meeting minutes or board packets.

I don't believe that Dr. Jim Wipke has been fully informed of all of the non-compliance issues with ED OCR and USDA OCR. I spoke with Dr. Wipke this evening after the board meeting about my concerns of hiring Dan Baker as the principal at Seckman Elementary School and Todd Scott as the new principal at Seckman High School. Dr, Wipke offered to get together and discuss my concerns further regarding this issue and that he would like to work with me on this issue.

I think it's time for the public to get involved and make a Sunshine Law Request and demand that the invoices from the district's former law firm be released to the public. Your taxpayer dollars were used to pay legal fees to keep ED OCR and USDA OCR at bay for years. In fact, one of the training sessions by the district's former law firm was titled, "OCR Is Gaining On You! How to Run Faster!".

It's seems quite obvious that someone in the district doesn't want the legal fee invoices to be made public. I've asked for copies of them for years via Sunshine Law Requests and the district still hasn't provided me a single copy of an invoice. 

As a Fox C-6 taxpayer, wouldn't you want to know why the school board approved paying more than $103,000 in legal fees between the August 2012 and September 2012 board meetings?

By the way, the $103,000 in legal fees corresponds time wise with emails we received from USDA OCR informing us that they were in discussions with the district and their legal counsel regarding the USDA's August 2011 Final Agency Decision that found the district non-compliant with Section 504 law and the ADA AA. It also corresponds with the time I was sent a cease and desist letter by the district to keep me from speaking with the public and school employees and former employees about my concerns with the district.

If Dan Baker and Dianne Brown-Critchlow were responsible for being found non-compliant with Section 504 law and the ADA AA in the USDA's August 2011 Final Agency Decision, shouldn't the public have been told about that?

Spending $103,000 in legal fees in just two months in 2012 was two times more than what the district paid the same law firm for legal fees for the entire year in 2005 from information recently provided to me by Fox's CFO John Brazeal.

It seems to me that paying out that much in legal fees in just two months in 2012 would have raised red flags for our school board members. In fact, we sent a letter to Dave Palmer and other board members back then asking them about the amount of money that the district was spending in legal fees because it appeared that the district wasn't following board policy on legal fees. We never received a response from our letter. You may want to make note of that since Dave Palmer is running for school board again this year.

I've made numerous Sunshine Requests for actual copies of the invoices for legal fees but I've only been given the dollar amounts for the invoices. Why is that?

Transparency is what keeps your school district and school board accountable. If there's a lack of transparency then there will be a lack of trust and lack of accountability in both the district and and the people in charge of running and overseeing the district.

Back in August 2010, the Post Dispatch wrote an article in which Dan Baker was quoted as saying, "the district had spent a lot in legal fees during the dispute, but he did not know an exact amount." What Mr. Baker didn't tell the newspaper was that the district decided to bring their legal counsel to a 504 meeting in August 2008. We asked why an attorney was need for a 504 meeting. The explanation given by the attorney was to ensure that the district was doing things properly. Well, it took from September 2008 when Dan Baker removed a 504 plan until August 2014 to get the 504 plan properly restored by the district. Restoring the 504 would not have occurred if the the district hadn't changed law firms.

Between 2008 and 2014 my wife and I worked to get the district to properly follow Section 504 law and restore what was improperly removed in 2008. However, some of our administrators decided to resort to bullying tactics using the internet as well the media in an attempt to halt our efforts to expose what was going on in the district.

So now, nearly a year after it was discovered that derogatory comments were traced to the home and cell phone of Dan and Angie Baker, Mr. Baker was selected as the principal of Seckman Elementary School despite his being linked to the internet scandal and to large sums of money being spent defying ED OCR and USDA OCR.

What do you think motivated the Bakers to post derogatory comments online?

In order for the community to believe that Dan Baker was the right person for the job, the district needs to release the invoices from the former law firm dating back to 2008 since he worked closely with the former law firm to get around the law.

Who Were the Other Job Candidates?
The district also needs to provide the public with the list of other candidates that applied for the job as well as the members of the selection committee that narrowed down the field of candidates. Without full disclosure of that information, the public is never going to believe that Dan Baker was the best candidate for the job!

Please contact you school board members and request that they release the invoices for legal fees from the Mickes Goldman O'Toole law firm.

Also ask the school board to publish the list of candidates that applied for the Seckman Elementary School principal position and the names of the selection committee members for the job.

Perhaps a community of requests for how your taxpayer dollars were spent on legal fees will finally encourage the district to release the invoice information. Other school districts publish that information, why can't Fox?