Monday, January 2, 2017

Welcoming In 2017 By Looking Back In Time

2017 has arrived and Fox C-6 students don't have to go to school today like they did in 2012 when New Year's Day fell on a Sunday and students had to go to school on the Monday following New Year's Day. In fact, this year students don't have to go back to school until Thursday January 5, 2017.

So, it's a nice start to the new year having an extra day to spend time with the family. It would have been even nicer if it hadn't already been raining at 6AM while getting ready to go for a run. So, in the meantime I thought a quick post was in order to welcome the new year and reflect back on some of the changes that have occurred in the district since 2005 when Dianne Brown began her tenure as superintendent of the Fox C-6 School District.

One of the first things that came to mind was the opening paragraph from the Charles Dickens' novel, A Tale of Two Cities. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, ..." I'm sure you can find a few things that may relate to the phrase above and the past decade of our school system.

I've spent a lot of time over the past 6+ years writing about some of the problems and issues that have plagued our school district for a number of years hoping to bring about change within the district by waking up the community as to what was going on. The community certainly wasn't alerted to any problems by what was documented in school board meeting minutes as to what I was questioning the board about at school board meetings during Public Comments. School board meeting minutes would document my comments as, "Concerns within the district".

Thankfully, things have greatly improved for the students and families in our school district since former superintendent Dianne Brown Critchlow "retired" on October 31, 2014. However, everyone will always remember the fact that Dianne Critchlow received a $130,299 payout for leaving the district. Luckily, her husband was fired and didn't receive a payout as well.

At the time of Critchlow's retirement, her base salary for the 2014-2016 school year was $267,468 as reported by the Post Dispatch in June 2014. In just a short time, Critchlow had risen to one of the top salaries in the state of Missouri for school superintendents thanks to the overly generous group of former Fox C-6 School District board members. They thought she was doing a great job and they rewarded her well. Critchlow's "retirement" salary was a far cry from where she started when she was hired as superintendent to succeed Jim Chellew when he retired after the 2004-2005 school year.

Critchlow was having one of those "best of times" situations in terms of salary when she retired.

The community, on the other hand, was having one of those "worst of times". The community wasn't happy about the amount of salary that the board had approved over the years. And, it was one of the most embarrassing moments for our community in the history of the district after the internet scandal became public in May 2014.

The salary and the internet scandal along with the hiring of a former board member's daughter as director of food service were some of the things that led to the "worst of times" for the many former board members who had been on the school board since Dianne Brown (prior to becoming Critchlow) had been promoted to the position of superintendent in July 2005.

It took several years for the community to wake up and vote out those board members who seemed to believe that they worked for the superintendent rather than the other way around. Critchlow's "retirement" and the removal of the long standing board members was one of the best things for our students, staff and the community.

It just took a long time for the community to realize that they weren't getting their money's worth. Dianne Brown / Critchlow did an exceptional job of hiding information from the public and was very good at making generalized statements at board meetings and to the press that gave the appearance that the district was doing great.

Improvements in Transparency
During Dianne Critchlow's reign as superintendent, getting access to school board meeting minutes, board packets and bill payments was a painful task. On top of that, the district billed me to obtain copies of those documents which should have been made available to the public on the district website like they are now. However, by keeping them off the website, the public was easily kept in the dark. Today, the district uses BoardDocs which makes school board meeting documentation and board member votes easily accessible and available prior to board meetings.

So, in that regard, transparency has greatly improved since the Critchlow era and the community now has a much better ability to monitor what's going on in the district and hopefully keep things from getting as bad as they did during Critchlow's heavy handed rule of the district.

Still Seeking Accountability
One of the major wishes for the community this year is to see former superintendent Dianne Brown Critchlow be held accountable for her actions during her tenure as superintendent. Taxpayers want more than just having Critchlow repay the taxpayer dollars that she used improperly or paid out improperly to her and her husband as documented in the May 2016 State Auditor's report. Taxpayers want to see justice served and not just a slap on the wrist like they've seen thus far.

It's very easy for anyone to find the numerous articles documenting the many wrongdoings of former superintendent Dianne Critchlow and her husband using Google. Hopefully the St. Charles Prosecuting Attorney will review the many articles and documents when reviewing Critchlow's case. Not providing credit card statements to the school board to review in their board packets or refusing to provide them to the public certainly raised "red flags".

The internet scandal is what really helped open everyone's eyes as to what had been going on in our school district for quite some time. Traffic to all of the problems I had been documenting for years on my blog all of a sudden shot up dramatically when it was linked to by the Post Dispatch. It was difficult for most people to believe that this was the way that some administrators in our school district had been handling things. But, our district is not alone in this sort of behavior. I have been contacted by others over the years who have had similar issues of being bullied by their districts as well after reading my articles. Bullying is just one way of keeping things status quo and from being held accountable.

Looking Back in Time
For the new year, I thought you might find it interesting to look back in time at the Fox C-6 School District by reading the article referenced at the end of this post. In a February 2014, I documented how to use the Internet's Wayback Machine to look at snapshots of websites over the years.

It's quite interesting to look back in time to see how Fox's website has changed over time. The Wayback Machine allows you to look back at snapshots of the Fox C-6 website dating as far back as 1999. Fox's website has radically improved since Dianne Critchlow "retired" and the district hired a communications coordinator.

2004 - Brown Hired as New Fox Super
One of the most interesting things to note from my February 2014 article was a reference to an Arnold-Imperial Leader article written by Kim Robertson on November 24, 2004 that was published on the district's website back then. The article was titled, "Brown hired as new Fox super". The article talked about assistant superintendent Dianne Brown being hired to be the district's next superintendent after Jim Chellew retires on July 1, 2005.

The 2004 article mentioned that Dianne Brown will be paid at least $135,217 for the 2005-2006 school year. That's a long way from the $267,468 base salary that Dianne Critchlow was being paid when she retired in October 2014.

Below is a link to the article I wrote in February 2014: