Critchlow’s Scholarship Slush Fund

2 Sep

It appears that disgraced Fox C-6 superintendent Dianne Critchlow, on top of her other scandals, has been controlling certain scholarships that the district awards and giving them to her children and to the children of a relative, a school board member, and other Fox administrators, according to information from the district that was acquired by Sunshine Law request or published online.

At the end of the 2012-13 school year, Critchlow’s son (from a previous marriage) was one of 12 recipients of a Fox C-6 Golf Tournament Scholarship (funded by an annual golf tournament), one of nine recipients of a Fox/Seckman High School Showcase Scholarship (he got both the Basketball and Football scholarships), and one of three recipients of a Jim Salsman Scholarship (he was Dianne’s father). His total “earnings” from these scholarships was $4,935.25. The golf tournament scholarship account was liquidated in 2013 with extra payments to the 12 winners, and no golf tournament was held in 2014.

In 2010, another son of Critchlow was awarded the Golf and Showcase scholarships. I do not have the amounts for these awards.

When asked how these scholarships were awarded, an official in the guidance office said merely that both are “awarded through our central office.” While I know that the Golf Scholarship required a transcript and two letters of recommendation to apply, I’ve seen nothing about the Showcase Scholarship, but despite its name it does not appear to be awarded based on athletic performance. Fox C-6 CFO John Brazeal stated that, while winners of these two scholarships were once selected by a committee, Critchlow “appears” to have taken over sole responsibility a few years ago. The use of the word “appears” would suggest that Critchlow did not keep good records of her activities in this capacity (perhaps intentionally?).

Here are some other recipients of the Golf and Showcase Scholarships:

2013 – A Golf Scholarship went to the daughter of assistant superintendent Todd Scott (2012-13 salary $147,994). District scholarship winners for 2013 can be found here (page 6).

2012 – Golf Scholarships went to the son of Fox High assistant principal (since at least 2012) Gina Buehner (2011-12 salary $107,813) and the daughter of William Steis (2011-12 salary $96,776), assistant principal of Ridgewood Middle School (since at least 2012). District scholarship winners for 2012 can be found here (page 6).

2011 – I have no information on scholarships awarded in this year.

2010 – Golf scholarships went to the daughter of school board member (since 2000) Cheryl Hermann, the son of Seckman Middle School principal (since 2009) Tammy Cardona (2009-10 salary $106,173), who also got a Showcase Scholarship, and to Critchlow’s niece. District scholarship winners for 2010 can be found here (page 6).

2009 – A Golf Scholarship went to the daughter of William Brengle, who was assistant principal at Fox High (2008-09 salary $113,609). You may recall that Brengle, now retired, was implicated in the online posting scandal. The Post-Dispatch reports that he said he was very careful in his posts not to be libelous, and that “I was only defending the district. I wasn’t bashing anyone.” District scholarship winners for 2009 can be found here (page 6).

Let me state that I don’t know anything about the academic abilities of any of these recipients. They could very well be qualified for these scholarships, and many of them won other scholarships from the colleges they enrolled in or from other sources. I also don’t know about the relationship between Critchlow and some of these administrators. We do know Scott is a crony, and Brengle must be close to her, given his internet comments. But it should be noted that Cardona was passed over in 2013 for an assistant superintendent position that went to Andy Arbeitman. Finally, I am not suggesting that other recipients of these two scholarships (those without connections that aren’t named here) are not legitimate.

But think about what you are told when you enter any kind of contest or promotion: “Employees of [entity holding contest] or their relatives are not eligible to participate.” Shouldn’t that be the case with Fox district scholarships, too? Even if the award process is legitimate, which it clearly was not in recent years, how can applicants be fairly evaluated when their parents are co-workers of members of the award committee? And no matter what steps such a committee may take to eliminate bias, who in the public is going to believe that the process was indeed unbiased? It is just like the nepotism hiring that has been rampant at Fox. Does anybody believe that all the relatives that work at Fox were really the best people for the job in every situation? No. Just like nepotism hiring has been restricted at Fox (somewhat), children of district administrators and school board members and their relatives should not be eligible for scholarships that the district hands out.

Besides, look at the salaries they make (included above). Critchlow herself makes enough money (about $260,000) to pay tuition for five kids at Harvard (at $39,000 per year) and still have the median income in Arnold (about $62,000) left over for her own use. And she has to funnel $5,000 to her kid for college!?!? There are middle- and lower-class students that will have to take out loans and end up in debt to get a degree, and meanwhile Critchlow is taking money that could go to lighten their burdens and giving it to her own kids, who both got football scholarships from their colleges? It’s bad enough that she can’t buy her own lunch, but she can’t write tuition checks either?

And the appearance of Cheryl Hermann’s name on this list raises questions. Hermann is the longest-serving current board member, and she’s been there all along as Critchlow’s salary has skyrocketed, her relatives have filled the district’s employee rolls, and she has used the district’s credit card like a teenager at the mall. Is this how Hermann gets rewarded for her loyalty/blindness? Same question with Todd Scott, who, to be fair, could only afford to put two kids through Harvard if he wants to keep Arnold’s median income to support himself.

When will we get to the bottom of this cesspool that was the Critchlow administration? There’s a lot of digging left to do.

Update: School board member Vern Sullivan was director of the scholarship golf tourney for many years. I wonder what his insight into/response to this news would be.

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3 Responses to “Critchlow’s Scholarship Slush Fund”

  1. Anonymous September 3, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

    SEND THIS TO FOX TWO NEWS STATION!

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  1. Come on, Cheryl | Jefferson County Penknife - September 27, 2014

    […] to create. She didn’t even resign because of the revelation that Critchlow apparently gave Hermann’s daughter a scholarship in what could be interpreted as a back-scratching, thank-you gesture. No, she quit the board in a […]

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