It was a packed house at tonight’s Fox C-6 school board meeting. Many people had to stand because all of the chairs were full – and there were a lot of chairs. It was good to see the community showing up en masse to notify the board that the people are paying attention.
Among the notable attendees that I saw were district critic and superintendent rant target Rich Simpson, former board candidate Mark Jones, Arnold councilman Paul Freese, and Fox 2’s Elliot Davis:
Hundred pack Fox C6. school board meeting. New budget includes layoffs and higher health care costs for employees pic.twitter.com/gSxu1k7ySr
— Elliott Davis (@ElliottDavisTV) June 30, 2014
Several residents spoke during the public comment section. Simpson said that recent scandals proved the board needs to be more transparent. He also suggested that the board ask for a state audit. Board president John Laughlin said he would look into it, but that some audits are worthless. While that may be true of most of the annual audits that government organizations get, like the ones procured by Arnold and Fox C-6, I can assure Laughlin that the state’s audits, which go into practices and procedures, are much more thorough and are well worth it. Who knows what Critchlow and her cronies have been hiding all these years with the benefit of a pliant school board.
Laughlin stated that he is embarrassed by what is going on in the district and that change has been slower than he would like. He attributed this in part to having a bad CFO in the past. Without naming him, he said that former CFO Mark McCutchen took a bunch of leave and retired, and implied that he abandoned the district at a crucial time. He also said that now, with four new members, the board is ready to reform things. This implies, not incorrectly, that past board members were part of the problem. This is backed up by statements from former board member Ruth Ann Newman defending disgraced superintendent Dianne Critchlow’s exorbitant pay in yesterday’s great Post-Dispatch article:
When Critchlow was hired in 2004, she was paid a “very modest amount,” said Ruth Ann Newman, a retired Fox teacher who was a board member from 2001 to 2013 and was president when Critchlow was hired.
“Any more, you find that superintendents tend to go to a district and stay there three or four years, then leave. When somebody has been there as long as Dr. Critchlow has, they’ve earned that much more salary,” Newman said.
Newman said Critchlow’s pay jumped so much because she has been there 10 years.
“Like teachers, they’re paid for experience,” she said.
On the other hand, there seem to have been a lot of unanimous votes in the past three years, including the Nash vote. So where was the dissent then?
The board had to pass a budget at the meeting, Laughlin said, because June 30 was the state-imposed deadline. He said it would be a “procedural” vote, and that the board could (and probably would) amend the budget down the line. So we don’t know yet what type of pay freezes, health insurance hikes, and/or layoffs will actually occur. Laughlin does not anticipate layoffs.
It also seemed, though, that not all board members were not fully versed on the budget, for some reason.
I did not attend the entire meeting, so please comment with any important happenings I may have missed.