Fox C-6 Watchdogs: Getting Answers to Questions from the Fox C-6 School Board Is Extremely Difficult!

Fox C-6 Watchdogs: Getting Answers to Questions from the Fox C-6 School Board Is Extremely Difficult!

It seems as though Lee's Summit and Fox C-6 have a lot in common.  Read my past posts.

Getting Answers to Questions from the Fox C-6 School Board Is Extremely Difficult!

Should the Fox C-6 school board answer questions from Public Comments per school board policy?

Asking questions during Public Comment or emailing the Fox C-6 school is like speaking to or emailing a brick wall. I emailed the board on Friday March 28 the questions that I asked at the February 2014 school board meeting that still haven't been answered. It's been almost a week since I sent that email and I haven't received a single response or acknowledgement from the board or the administrators that they even received my email. I did get two Auto Replies. One was from Superintendent Critchlow stating that she was out of the office and another from a school board member stating that he was out of the office.

As taxpayers who elect school board members to represent the community, I believe that we are being poorly represented by our school board. The board president should respond for the board. However, Assistant Superintendent Andy Arbeitman told me that our school board has asked him to respond for them.

So, if there is no response, who should the public blame? The school board should request that Mr. Arbeitman respond to the questions through the superintendent or acting superintendent.

In my March 28 email, I made another request for a copy of the administrative salary schedule for this year and next year. Mr. Arbeitman informed me in a previous email that I would have to make another request for the administrative salary schedule because it wasn't on my list of topics that I submitted for Public Comment at the February 2014 school board meeting when I asked the question verbally during my Public Comment.

So far there haven't been any answers to my questions despite what Superintendent Dianne Critchlow stated at the November 5, 2013 board workshop. You can listen to her comments below from that workshop. Her statement about responding to questions at Public Comments was simply political showboating and false. Cheryl Hermann asked the district to notify the board when the district responds to questions. That still doesn't happen either.

The school board or the district simply doesn't respond to questions that they don't want to answer. There have been numerous questions that have gone unanswered for years such as, why won't the district audio or video record board meetings? Or, why won't the district post the budget on the school's website? Superintendent Critchlow did state that Fox doesn't have a full time person to maintain our website as an excuse as to why the district can't post our budget online at the November 2013 board workshop. She also stated at that workshop that there's NO state law or mandate for the district to even have a website as another reason why the district's budget isn't online. You can read more about the November 5 workshop in my previous posts here.
"I can go on record saying that every single person that's made a comment has received feedback. It may not always be the feedback they want to hear. ... But, never is there a public comment, unless they're really just not asking anything and just stating a comment. But, if they ever want answers, they get them! We have a policy that says we'll get back to them within a week. The only thing that we probably fail to do all the time is to tell you."

At the end of this post is a copy of the email that I sent to our school board and administrators on Friday March 28. In that email I also included the email that I sent to the school board and administration on Tuesday March 18, 2014 since I never received a response to that email. The email sent on March 18 had my comments in red in response to Mr. Arbeitman's February 19, 2014 email.

Perhaps no one on the board or in the district noticed my requests for documents and requests for answers to my questions in my March 18, 2014 email. Therefore, I tried to make my questions and requests stand out more clearly in my March 28, 2014 email. Maybe I should have highlighted my questions in yellow and used red text to make them stand out even more.

According to school board policies, questions during Public Comment are supposed to be responded to within a week. As professional educators, I expect to at least receive an acknowledgement response from our school district or central office. Since, my email was copied to a several members of the school board, it is Public Record and can be obtained via a Missouri Sunshine Law request to the district.

Perhaps the school board secretary didn't respond to my request for documents within 3 business days as required by law because I didn't mention Missouri Sunshine Law in my request. It appears that I'll have to resubmit this email again and more clearly state my request for documents via Sunshine Law in order to obtain copies of the credit card statements for the 2013-2014 school year and administrator salary schedules.

Wouldn't you like to know what the Fox C-6 School District spent more than $2 Million dollars on so far this year with district credit cards?

The school board approved the payments but aren't supplied the credit card statements in the board packets.

So, how did they approve the payments?

Wouldn't you also like to know how the board approves check payments when there aren't any descriptions on the bill payments as to what the payments are for?

March 28, 2014 Email to the Fox C-6 School Board
Date: March 28, 2014 7:34:53 AM CDT
To: Arbeitman, Andy - Assistant Superintendent, Dan E. Smith, David Palmer
Cc: Davis, Debby - CO Secretary, Critchlow, Dr. Dianne, Steve Holloway, John Laughlin, Cheryl Hermann, Linda S. Nash, Dan Kroupa
Subject: RE: Response to public comment at the February 18, 2014 board of education meeting 
Thank you for delaying the decision to approve the school board policies at the March 2014 school board meeting and for posting a link to them on the front page of Fox’s website.

Since the March 2014 school board meeting, I discovered that the entire section of Employee Evaluations was left out of the board policies Forms section even though they are listed in the Form’s Table of Contents. I was able to locate the Employee Evaluation Forms in the 2012 draft version of the board policies on the district website and review them. These should be added back into the Forms section of the document.

Contrary to Superintendent Critchlow’s statement at the November 5, 2013 board workshop, all questions from Public Comments are not answered. Many questions have gone unanswered.

At the February 2014 Fox C-6 school board meeting I asked the following questions that are still unanswered despite renewing my requests in my previous email:

How can the school board approve Bill Payments when there are no payment descriptions documenting what each payment is for? 
How can the school board approve paying the credit card bills when they aren’t provided with the credit card statements to document what was purchased with the credit cards? 
I also asked where I could find a copy of the Administrator Salary Schedule? Could it be found on the website? The copy from last year’s board packets for the 2013-2014 school year only had “X”’s for the Administrator Salary amounts. 
I haven’t received answers to these questions. I was simply told by Mr. Arbeitman in his email that if I wished to have him look into the matter that I should give him a call.

Fox has now paid more than $2 Million in credit card bills for the 2013-2014 school year and the board packets did not include credit card statements. There needs to be accountability for this spending. Fox’s board policies states that Bill Payments need to be supported by Invoices, Purchase Orders and Vouchers. Those aren’t provided in the board packets. If a board member wants to know what a payment is for, they must make a request for the documentation. If there aren’t any descriptions on the payments, it’s difficult for them to know what to ask for.

Please email me electronic copies in PDF format of the Credit Card statements for the American Express, Visa and Discover card for the 2013-2014 school year.
Also, please email me a PDF copy of the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 Fox C-6 Administrator Salary schedules that include salary amounts. 
The Fox C-6 school board needs to request that the district post the school district budget on the district website like they do in other school districts. If Northwest, Camdenton, Rockwood and Parkway can afford to take the 30 seconds that it takes to copy the documents to their district website, Fox should be able to do the same as well.

I haven’t received a response from Mr. Arbeitman documenting the policy that he alluded to about following the “chain of command”.  Mr. Arbeitman spoke about this at the November 5, 2013 school board workshop.  At that workshop, when Mr. Arbeitman suggested that the district put a policy in place, Superintendent Critchlow stated that the district already had rules in place. Board member Cheryl Herman said that “It’s not a must.” that the community has to contact district administrators prior to speaking to the school board.

Please review our school board policies and provide me with the section that states that questions concerning board actions or decisions requires patrons to first speak with district employees prior to speaking to the board.

I look forward to your response.

Thank you,

Rich Simpson 
From: Rich Simpson
Sent: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 7:24 AM
To: Arbeitman, Andy - Assistant Superintendent
Cc: Davis, Debby - CO Secretary; Critchlow, Dr. Dianne; Dan E. Smith; David Palmer; Steve Holloway; John Laughlin; Cheryl Hermann; Linda S. Nash; Dan Kroupa
Subject: RE: Response to public comment at the February 18, 2014 board of education meeting 
From: Arbeitman, Andy - Assistant Superintendent
Sent: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 1:09 PM
To: Rich SimpsonCc: Davis, Debby - CO Secretary; Critchlow, Dr. Dianne; Arbeitman, Andy - Assistant Superintendent
Subject: Response to public comment at the February 18, 2014 board of education meeting 
Mr. Simpson, 
Thank you again for your time and public comments at our board meeting last night.  With regard to your requests to; 
-include more information in our board packets online
Yes, my request to the Fox C6 School Board on 2/18/14 included that all the credit card statements (full originals less account numbers) be included in board packets. 
-more detailed credit card bills
Actually, this statement is not completely accurate.  My request to the Board of Education on 2/18/14 was that the Board make available to the public the actual original credit card invoices/statements.  I asked the Board to provide the original statements from the credit card company to the public by including them, in their entirety, in the board packets that are then made available to the public on the District's website. By copying this correspondence to Dan Smith, I renew my request to the Board and ask that a member of the Board respond to my request.  
-the district budget online
My request to the Board of Education on 2/18/14 was that the Board publish the district’s budget(s) on the District’s website. The district recently provided the Board with the 2014-2015 district budget. Please publish the 2014-2015 budget on the district website like they do in other districts such as Rockwood. 
-more descriptions of payments
Again, this is not completely accurate.  My request to the Board of Education on 2/18/14 was that the Board include a description for each line item payment/disbursement.  Currently there is no description at all, so it’s not accurate to state that I am requesting "more descriptions" when none currently exist. The only information that the Board currently makes available to the public is the name of the Payee to whom payment is made.  No information regarding what the payment is for is included and, therefore, the information is not useful to the average citizen.  My request to the Board on 2/18/14 was that the Board provide information about the intended purpose for each payment.  The example I provided was the recent payment of $24,000 to "The Bridal Shop" which may seem unusual to the average resident but would be immediately clarified if accompanied with a simple description statement indicating that this payment was for  "choir robes". This was practice in our District previously and it currently is the standard in other area school districts. Since the Board that approves spending based on this information, my request is directed to the Board. Board policy 3150 states that list of bills for approval, “will be supported by invoices, approved purchase orders, properly submitted vouchers, or in accordance with salaries and salary schedules approved by the Board.” Therefore I renew my request to the Board 
-the statement according to your calculations the district has approximately $2,000,000 in credit card bills to date 
The district actually has $1,993,799 in credit card bills to date and a lot of schools utilize credit cards/purchasing cards to pay bills for added cash back rebates.  This allows for more value of the school district dollar.  Most of the credit card bills during the current year are electric bills district-wide, monthly copier costs, and as much of our office/teacher types of supplies when the credit card was still allowed for those types of charges. We have received approximately $35,000 in rebates to date. 
Thank you for this information; however, to clarify, my concern was and is not that the District utilizes a credit card(s).  My concern is that the Board provides no descriptive information about credit card purchases to the public and does not include credit card statements like they do in other districts in their board packets.
In order to better meet your needs, thoughts, and questions, we would like to be more proactive with your monthly public comments rather than reactive.  That said, I am requesting that if you know what your questions, opinions, thoughts, or desires are prior to our board meetings, that you to please call me in advance so that we can better serve you and your comments.  This will in no way stop you or prevent you from making monthly public comments, but rather it will allow more validity and affirmation for our board of education that you are following the proper chain of command as per board policy.  If you choose not to contact me in advance, all further responses from your public comments will be a “thank you” response and that we look forward to responding to you in the future when you are willing to communicate with district employees first.  At this time, your request for more detailed credit card bill descriptions, the district budget posted online, and more detailed descriptions of monthly payments are being requested from only one individual and we can make those available to you upon request.  The board appreciates your comments and they will continue to be taken under consideration. 
This is where we disagree, and where I seek your further very specific clarification. Please provide me with a copy of the Fox C6 school board policy to which you refer above.
Perhaps you may be referring to school board Policy 1480 regarding “School/Community Relations - Public Complaints”. It states: 
Although no member of the community shall be denied the right to petition the Board of Education for redress of a grievance, the complaints will be referred through the proper administrative channels for solution before investigation or action by the Board. Exceptions are complaints that concern Board actions or Board operations only.” 
Obviously, Policy 1480 is not applicable here since my concerns meet the stated exception, i.e. the concerns I addressed at the 2/18/14 school board meeting are about “Board actions” and “Board operations” and I am therefore not subject to any “chain of command”.  My concerns/questions were not about student or personnel issues, instruction, discipline, or learning materials.  But perhaps there is another policy that applies of which I am unaware? 
Furthermore, I find it shocking that you have made a threat to me on behalf of the school Board-- “If you choose not to contact me in advance, all further responses from your public comments will be a “thank you” response and that we look forward to responding to you in the future when you are willing to communicate with district employees first.” 
Therefore, at your earliest convenience, please provide me with any school Board policy, documentation, or correspondence that supports your claims that:
  • the School Board may refuse to respond to a public question/concern about Board actions unless the resident “first” submits their concern to you
  • you, Andy Arbeitman, an employee of the school district, hold the authority to prescreen questions and concerns from members of the public to determine if, in your assessment, the concern is “valid” or not “valid” for consideration by the Board
  • the Board has made the decision to abdicate its responsibility and has expressly delegated its authority to you to determine if questions/concerns from the public are “valid” or not “valid” and deserving of a reply from them  
Finally, you added a comment about administrative salaries that was not on your public comment request sheet.  I will be happy to look into this for you upon receiving a return phone call.  My number is listed below.  I look forward to your call. 
Your request seems silly since my only availability for phone calls is outside of regular business hours when you would not normally be in your office.  My question, as asked to the School Board on 2/18/14 is that the School Board of Education include the administrative salary schedule on the district website. It should also be included in the board packets with actual salaries and not just “X”’s for the salary amounts. It doesn’t provide the public with any information to only place an “X” for a salary amount. Generally, I can be reached by phone at home between the hours of 6 and 7 a.m. or between 8 and 10 p.m.  Or, if it's more convenient, please simply include this information, along with your responses to my other questions contained in this email, in your response 
I also request that the Board of Education delay approving the Board’s updated Policies, Regulations and Forms until the April 2014 Board meeting. The District and the Board should have properly notified the public that they were available for review and recommendations. No announcements or notifications were posted on the district website or in the local paper notifying the public that the updated Policies and Regulations had been posted for the public to review. 
Prior to approving the updated Polices, Regulations and Forms, please remove Vickie Hanson as a point of contact. She retired from the district in 2008.

Thank you, 
Rich Simpson 


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