Sunday, April 5, 2015

Don't Forget to Vote on April 7 for Two "New" Fox C-6 School Board Members!

On Tuesday April 7, 2015, the Fox C-6 community must vote for two NEW board members to serve on the Fox C-6 school board for the next 3 years.

There are 6 candidates running for the Fox C-6 school board. Two of them are graduates of Fox High School. Another candidate is married to a Fox High graduate.

The Fox C-6 School Board Candidates are:
  • Mark Jones (1985 Fox High Graduate)
  • Dr. Robin Hanson (attended high school in Kansas)
  • Drew Kriese (1997 Crystal City Grad, married to 1994 Fox High Grad, Endorsed by MSTA)
  • Chris Hastings (Endorsed by NEA)
  • Sherry "Chellew" Poppen (1961 Fox High Graduate)
  • David Palmer - (Incumbent 4 term board member)
Also check out Jefferson County Penknife's endorsement article of Fox C-6 school board candidates using the link below in which he lists his reasons as to why is voting for or not voting for each of the individual school board candidates:

You may also want to read my previous article discussing the Hodge Elementary PTO meeting with the Fox C-6 board candidates using the link below after reading this article:

You can also read more about the candidates in the Voter's Guide from the March 26, 2015 Arnold Imperial Leader using the link below. There was incorrect information in the original Arnold-Imperial Leader Fox C-6 Board Candidate Guide regarding Dr. Hanson which was corrected in the April 2, 2015 Arnold-Imperial Leader.

Fox C-6 Board Candidate Information

Mark Jones
Mark Jones is a 1985 graduate of Fox Senior High School. He does not have any family members or relatives working for the school district.

Mark has a son that graduated from Fox High School in 2013. Mark also has a son who currently attends George Guffey Elementary school.

Mark Jones is a senior consultant for Intervolve Inc., a software company that services beer distributors and energy companies across the country. Mark is also the owner of Jones Creative. Mark served in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Mark Jones ran for the school board in 2013 and 2014 and wasn't well known back then. Since then, Mark has spoken to the board several times during the 3 minute Public Comments time regarding various issues in the district. I believe there have been fewer than 5 people who have spoken more than once during Public Comments in the past 5 years at Fox C-6 board meetings.

Mark Jones is also an advocate for transparency and has reviewed board meeting packets and Bill Payments Reports.

Mark Jones voiced his concerns about the changes to the Voluntary Separation Incentive Plan (VSIP) at the November 18, 2014 Fox C-6 school board meeting. You can listen to his Public Comments and others by clicking on the link below which links directly Fox's Board Meeting Audio on YouTube at the time Mark asked the board to make changes to the Voluntary Separation Incentive Plan.

Mark has also taken the time to personally speak with several of our current board members to discuss issues after board meetings. He has met with bus drivers and other staff to listen to their concerns in order to gain a better understanding of the district as a whole. Mark is very well spoken and would be an asset to our school board.

Dr. Robin Hanson
Dr. Robin Hanson does not have any family members or relatives working for the school district. Dr. Hanson teaches American history, American government, cultural anthropology and sociology part-time at Jefferson College and St. Louis University.

Dr. Hanson stated at the Hodge Elementary PTO meeting that she personally ordered 4 new lab books online to send in with her daughter since her daughter's lab book was in such disrepair. She also spoke about teaching students at Jefferson College and St. Louis University and seeing the number of students that need to take remedial classes in college. She would like to see that change.

Dr. Hanson discussed the need for transparency at the Hodge PTO meeting which is necessary for accountability.

Drew Kriese
Drew Kriese has 4 children attending schools in the Fox school district. He is a 1997 graduate of Crystal City High School. His wife Christy is a 1994 graduate of Fox High School.

Drew is an area director for Taco Bell Missouri. His wife Christy was on the selection committee for the Seckman Elementary School principal position.

Drew Kriese was not able to attend the Hodge Elementary PTO meeting for the candidates because he was out of town. So I did not get a chance to meet him in person.

Chris Hastings
I've spoken to Chris Hastings a few times via email and in person since he first decided to run for school board in 2014. Chris has two young children who will be attending school in the district in the future. He is employed by ICS Construction Services.

ICS Construction Services did some of the 2013 bond issue work for the Fox district. Chris responded to questions presented to him from JC Penknife regarding his relationship with ICS and whether or not he expected ICS to bid on future work at Fox.

JC Penknife shared Chris's response with me regarding ICS after I independently pointed out possible concerns to JC Penknife after review board meeting packets.

Chris Hastings stated in his response to JC Penknife that he is only an employ of ICS and does not own the company or have any shares as an owner in the company. He is just an employee. Chris stated that ICS bid the work on the open market in the public sector and that ICS was the low bidder.

Chris requested to oversee the project since it was in his school district and so close to home. Chris wanted to work on the project because he had a vested interest since he lives here and it's his school district. Chris stated that if any work comes up in the near future, and he is voted onto the board, he will request that ICS does not bid on the work so there will be no issues or conflicts of interest.

According to Bill Payments Reports obtained from school board meeting packets, Fox C-6 paid ICS Construction Services LTD $3,018,829.18 for the bond issue work they performed in 2013. I have posted the pages from the bill payments reports from the board meeting packets online.

It's important that the community knows what Chris's relationship is with ICS Construction Services and that he responded to the concerns presented to him.

The Rockwood School District saw board member Steve Smith resign days after the release of their state audit that concluded that Mr. Smith should not have voted on projects that helped the construction company where he was employed.

Sherry "Chellew" Poppen
Sherry "Chellew" Poppen graduated from Fox High School in 1961. She has a son who teaches at Seckman Middle School and a daughter who is a secretary at Seckman Middle. Mrs. Poppen didn't mention that she had a son and a daughter working for the district when she spoke to the Lone Dell parents club. I knew she had a daughter who was a secretary at Seckman Middle School but did not know that her son was a teacher as well. Sherry "Chellew" Poppen is the sister of former Fox C-6 superintendent Jim Chellew.

At Monday's meet the board candidates at Hodge Elementary School, Sherry Poppen said she would like to see more information made available besides just the agenda for board meetings like they used to have.

Updated: 6:05PM 04/05/2015
I received a phone message from Sherry Poppen at 3:24PM about my comments regarding the board meeting agendas additional information that she talked about in the meeting after her son had read this blog post.

I called Sherry back around 4:45PM and talked to her about the additional information besides the agenda. The additional information is the board packets that get supplied to the board members each month prior to the meetings. She remembered her brother taking them around to board members each month. She also remembered getting emailed copies of the board meeting minutes each month. I told her that when her brother was superintendent that you could sign up to get notified about the board meeting minutes.

Sherry wanted to let me know that she knew about the board meeting packets being available online. Sherry told me that she knew I had been instrumental in getting the board packets posted online and that's how she knew they were available online.

It took nearly 3 years of my asking the board to post the board packets online before the district finally began posting them. That delay was mainly due to our former superintendent providing different excuses as to why it couldn't be done.

Anyway, Sherry said that what she mentioned at Hodge Elementary was that she would like to have printed copies of the board meeting packets available at board meetings for people who don't use or have computers.

My apologies for the confusion about knowing about the board packets being available online.

I told Sherry that I checked some of the board packets before writing this article to see how many pages they contained because I knew she had talked about having printed copies available. One of the board packets I checked contained 354 pages. Sherry didn't realize that the board packets had that many pages in them.

I did more checking since I spoke to Sherry. The board packets for the 2014-2015 school year vary in size between 168 pages to 324 pages. Several of the board packets contain more than 300 pages.

Dan Kroupa pointed out to Mrs. Poppen that the district recently purchased BoardDocs for posting board meeting information like the board packets online. Many school districts have been using BoardDocs for years. Many of the school districts break up their documents into smaller sections using BoardDocs making it easier to download specific sections of the board packets each month. Not everyone may want to read all of the bids for a project. They might just want to download the Bill Payments Report.

Having BoardDocs should also make it much easier to search payments rather than the currently scanned Bill Payments Report as long as the documents are printed to PDF rather than being scanned. I've asked several times to have the Bill Payments Reports printed to PDF rather than scanned so the payments would include searchable text rather than an image of the text. This would make it easier to find checks for specific vendors.

I explained to Sherry that the district started charging me for copies of the board packets because Sunshine Law allows them to. However, the board should have made sure that the board packets were available to the public for free. John Laughlin made sure that I wasn't charged for the board packets after he found out I was getting charged for them. John Laughlin and Steve Holloway made sure that the board packets were posted online. So thank you for their help in improving transparency.

Sherry "Chellew" Poppen is a very nice lady. She wants to restore our district's image. I believe that restoring the district's image is important. However, I'm concerned that issues may get overlooked or swept under the rug as they have been in the past. The community needs to know what's gone on to keep from repeating them in the future.

We need board members who are going to hold people accountable for their actions as well as ensure that the superintendent and other administrators are following district policies, regulations and state and federal laws.

David Palmer
Incumbent David Palmer's wife Gee Palmer has been the Director of Nursing for Fox C-6 since she was promoted to that position in 2006 and given a 75% pay increase rather than a stipend. Mr. Palmer was school board president when his wife was promoted.

Mr. Palmer has a son and a niece who teach in the district as well.

Mr. Palmer has been willfully blind to the issues going on in our school district for years. He never replied to a single email that I sent the board.

Mr. Palmer did not even respond to Hodge Elementary PTO's invitation to attend the meet and greet with parents.

I brought it to the boards attention in 2012 that the district didn't have enough books for all students to take books home to study. Kristen Pelster pointed this out in an email regarding stating that teachers don't hand out books because the don't have enough. In Mr. Palmer's response to the Arnold-Imperial Leader, he said, "We must give kids the supplies, books and technology they need to be successful." Mr. Palmer didn't do resolve the book shortage for nearly two years and now he says we must give kids books. Interesting!

Hopefully, the community has become better educated over the past couple of years about what's been going on in our school district while Mr. Palmer served on the school board. He served on the board while former superintendent Dianne Brown-Critchlow's salary skyrocketed to being the second highest superintendent salary in the state before she took "early retirement".

Mr. Palmer also wasn't interested in having open discussions with the public as he pointed out at the November 5, 2013 board workshop. I wrote about this issue in November 2013.

I certainly hope everyone remembers what happened to our school district during David Palmer's 12 years as a school board member when you cast your vote on Tuesday April 7th, 2015!

Who you elect for to the Fox C-6 school board can either help or hinder moving our school district in a positive direction when you vote on Tuesday April 7, 2015.

Honesty and integrity are very important character traits for those serving on our school board.

School board members are elected to represent the community.

From the Missouri School Board Association's Principles of Effective Governance guide:
The school board is supposed to engage in ongoing two-way conversation with the entire community. The purpose of the conversation is to enable the board to hear and understand the community’s educational aspirations and desires, to serve effectively as an advocate for district improvement and to inform the community of the district’s performance.
Effective community engagement is essential to creating trust and support among community, board, superintendent and staff.
It's also the school board's job to do proper oversight of how your tax dollars are being spent and ensure that the community is kept well informed. For years our school board members did not review credit card statements. I also doubt that they have reviewed the legal bills from the district's former law firm.

Open Government and Transparency
In order to serve the best interest of the community and the taxpayers who elect them, our school board members must believe in open government.

Open government is the governing doctrine which holds that citizens have the right to access the documents and proceedings of the government (ie. our school district) to allow for effective public oversight. In its broadest construction it opposes reason of state and other considerations, which have tended to legitimize secrecy.

Former Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich tweeted the following on February 18, 2015 after publicly releasing the St. Joseph School District audit, "If we want accountability in or schools, we must demand transparency."

Transparency has been an issue in the Fox C-6 School District for nearly a decade. Transparency has improved but not to the level that it needs to in order for the community to fully trust the decisions of our school board and administration.

Full disclosure by school board candidates is also very important in maintaining a healthy level of trust. Withholding information from the public should be cause for concern as to why it may have been withheld.

As a community, we want our school district to do a great job at educating our children. We want a school district that our children and students can be proud of when they are asked the question everyone in the St. Louis area always asks:
"Where did you go to high school?"
Our school board members need to make good decisions that represent the concerns of the community in order to restore the integrity and reputation of the Fox C-6 School District.

The recent unanimous decisions of (6-0) by our school board to hire assistant superintendents Dan Baker and Todd Scott as principals in the school district has certainly cast doubt in the community that our district is headed in the right direction.

The screening of candidates for the positions for the positions at Seckman Elementary and Seckman High were biased despite what our board members told the media.

How many of the 59 candidates for the Seckman Elementary School (SES) principal position were linked to online derogatory comments made against parents in their school district?

How many of the 59 candidates for SES principal are currently named in a libel suit for making derogatory comments against parents and patrons in their school district?

How many of the 59 candidates for SES principal played golf using taxpayer dollars while they should have been attending the educational conference they traveled to Orlando, Florida to attend?

How many of the 59 candidates for SES principal had their school district supplied credit card taken away from them due to misuse?

How many of the 45 candidates for the Seckman High School (SHS) principal position had their school district supplied credit card taken away from them due to misuse?

How many of the 45 candidates for the SHS principal position had appeared on the news for hiring an someone who didn't possess the credentials for the job but was very enthusiastic?

Those are valid questions that should have been asked and considered when candidates were being screened for those positions.

School Board Member Ethics
It's worth taking the time to read the Missouri School Board Association's Sample Policy on School Board Member Ethics. It will give you an understanding of what should be expected of our school board members.

Here are a few of the more important points listed in the School Board Member Ethics Policy:
  • Remember that the first and greatest concern must be the educational welfare of all students attending the public schools.
  • Render all decisions based on the available facts and independent judgment rather than succumbing to the influence of individuals or special interest groups.
  • Encourage ongoing communications between Board members and stakeholders.
  • Obey the laws of Missouri and the United States.
  • Become informed concerning the issues to be considered at each meeting.
  • Refrain from using their Board position for the benefit of family members, business associates or themselves.

One of the items listed in the Ethics Policy states that school board members are to follow the laws of Missouri and the United States.

Does that imply that school board members are to ensure that our school district follows federal Civil Rights laws such as Section 504, the ADA and ADA AA as well?

If so, then how do we educate our school board members on these laws so they aren't willfully blind to the Non-Compliance notices that the district has received over the years?

It was the Non-Compliance issues that led to the discovery of all of the wrong doing going on in our school district that has been uncovered and made public in recent years.

It's too bad that it took so many years to expose the problems going on in our district to the public because past school board members sat silent as questions and concerns were brought to their attention for years.

Hopefully you have done your research and you've had the opportunity to meet our school board candidates so you can make an informed decision when you cast your vote for Fox C-6 school board members on Tuesday April 7, 2015.