Thursday, May 19, 2016

While You're Waiting for Fox's State Audit To Be Released!

While you're waiting for the Missouri State Auditor's office to release the results of the Fox C-6 audit, you may wish to read the state auditor's report of the Lee's Summit School District which was released in February 2014. The Lee's Summit state audit will give you an idea of what an audit report looks like. The last state audit of Fox C-6 was completed in 2002. I wrote about that audit back in 2013. The link to that audit on the Missouri State Auditor's website has been moved and is no longer valid.

Why check out the Lee's Summit school district audit?
Well, the Lee's Summit superintendent and school board president and several board members are currently under fire by the citizens of Lee's Summit. Citizens are upset after it was brought to their attention that the superintendent was dating one of the attorneys for the school district and the superintendent was given a new 3 year $400,000 a year contract.

Citizens Voice Their Concerns During Public Comments
The April 2016 Lee's Summit school board meeting was refreshing to watch as the community rallied and citizens came to the board meeting to voice their concerns. However, many of them were shutdown by a district attorney asked to attend the meeting by the school board president. You'll want to read about the attorney hired by the district in the online opinion article posted by a Lee's Summit school board member on the Lee's Summit Tribune website which I have linked to further down in this article about keeping the public informed.

The April 2016 Lee's Summit school board meeting was video recorded by a parent in the district and at least 3 news stations. The video recording of the board meeting is definitely worth watching. Members of the community were there to voice their concerns about what they believed to be a "conflict of interest" with the law firm since the principal attorney of the law firm and the superintendent were dating. The attorney had helped negotiate his contract for the 2015-2016 school year in which he received a significant salary increase.

Watch the community's reaction as a different Lee's Summit's attorney stopped the citizens from voicing their concerns about their superintendent's new 3 year $400,000 a year contract because, it wasn't on the agenda using the links below. The first video link was recorded by a Lee's Summit resident. The second video link was a news story posted by Kansas City KSHB 41 Action News.

One of the interesting things about Dr. McGehee's salary was that he was receiving deferred payments which weren't openly reported in his salary disclosure to the community. He was being paid much more than the community thought he was being paid. Once the community found out about this and the relationship of the superintendent and the school district's attorney, they were very willing to voice their concerns to the Lee's Summit school board.

Read more about Dr. McGehee's contracts and deferred payments on the Lee's Summit Tribune website here:

Luckily, for the citizens of Lee's Summit, there has been a school board member who has been willing to stand up for the citizens who elected him rather than sit back and remaining silent. He was responsible for informing the citizens about concerns he had with what was going on in the Lee's Summit school district.

Lee's Summit Superintendent Placed on Paid Administrative Leave
According to an article in today's Kansas City Star newspaper, Dr. David McGehee has been place on "paid" administrative leave and Lee's Summit board president Terry Harmon has stepped down as the board president. Below are links to an article in the Kansas City Star and news reports from KHSB 41 Action News:

Remaining silent and allowing Fox's former superintendent to run the district is what led to the loss of respect of Fox's school board and administration under former superintendent Dianne Brown-Critchlow's reign. Concern after concern was brought to the attention Fox C-6 board members for years and nothing was done about them. Eventually, the community recognized that there was a problem and board members were voted out of office.

It appears that the same thing has been occurring in the Lee's Summit School District for some time, just like what had happened at Fox C-6. The school board was being told about all of the awards and accolades that the district was receiving and the board kept increasing Dr. McGehee's salary without looking at the numbers. Lee's Summit citizens who have pointed out MAP and ACT score results which don't appear to rank the district where their superintendent deserves to be the highest paid superintendent in the state of Missouri.

Former Fox C-6 superintendent Dianne Brown-Critchlow continuously tossed out similar statements about awards and accolades which weren't necessarily academically related. Fox's ACT scores and the number of students taking the ACT had Fox ranked in the bottom half of the state. Voicing my concerns in this area were always met with snide remarks from our former superintendent. When the facts aren't as impressive as they want the public to believe, some superintendents will deflect the criticism and make it appear as if those voicing the concern aren't properly informed. Anyone, including our former school board members could have verified the data themselves on Missouri DESE's website.

Keeping the Public Informed
The Lee's Summit Tribune has an open online Opinion/Letter to the Editor section on their website. This is where Lee's Summit school board member Bill Baird has been able to expose some of the issues occurring in their district to the public. I commend the Lee's Summit Tribune for allowing citizens in their community to voice their concerns in an open and professional and manner in as many words as are needed. That is something that is severely lacking in our community.

It's good for the public to hear about some of the things that go on behind the scenes in school districts in our state. There are some very close relationships between some school superintendents and some of the attorneys representing school districts in our state. It reminded me of the documentation written up by former assistant superintendents Tim Crutchley and Todd Scott regarding their meetings with former Fox C-6 superintendent Dianne Brown-Critchlow and her husband Jamie Critchlow on May 27, 2014. Dianne Critchlow had called a meeting with Mr. Crutchley and Mr. Scott after an article was published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on May 23, 2014. Their notes documented that Dianne Critchlow knew that her husband Jamie Critchlow was posting on Topix but that she didn't say exactly what he was posting.

I found it interesting that Mr. Crutchley also documented that Dianne Critchlow contacted Tom Mickes of Fox's former law firm, Mickes Goldman O'Toole shortly after informing Mr. Crutchley and Mr. Scott about her husband's postings on Topix. A portion of Mr. Crutchley's documentation was redacted where he mentioned her phone call with attorney Tom Mickes.

While searching for the date that Fox's CFO John Brazeal requested an audit of the district, I came across the following article on The Missouri Volunteer Movement website. This article referenced several of my articles on this blog.

In August 2013, I had voiced my concern about the lack of details in our school board meeting packets and the payments to credit cards without providing any credit card statements. In that article I linked to the 2002 state audit of the Fox C-6 School District conducted by State Auditor Claire McCaskill. Below is a link to the August 2013 article where I had been voicing my concerns about the board packets and getting access to them. It had taken nearly 3 years of making requests to get the board meeting packets posted onto Fox's website.

It was February 20, 2014, when I wrote an article titled, "Why Does Fox C-6 Have a School Board?" in which I wrote, "Perhaps the community needs to request a state audit of the school district."

I'm glad that Mr. Brazeal requested an audit of the district. However, when audits take nearly 2 years to complete, memories begin to fade and people lose faith in the system. It's similar to waiting for nearly 7 years for the district to update and adopt a new set of school board policies and regulations. It was May 2009, when the district agreed in a Resolution Agreement with the U.S Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights to update their school board Policies and Regulations to comply with federal law. There were several years spent rewriting the old policies which was never completed before having to switch over to the Missouri School Board Association's set of Policies and Regulations. This was done after the district fired the Mickes Goldman O'Toole law firm which was responsible for drafting and updating our school district's previous Policies and Regulations. 

School district administrators and school board members should be accountable for their actions. School board policies and regulations document their responsibilities and ethical standards they are expected to uphold. Any perception of impropriety or conflict of interest should be avoided.

Continue to check the Missouri State Auditor's website for the status of the audit using the link below:

You can review the 2002 Missouri State Auditor's report of the Fox C-6 School District using the link below. The link has changed since posted a I link to the report in 2013: