Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Fox Superintendent to Be Named, but Unfinished Business Remains; District Seeks Repayment of Nearly $2,300 from Critchlow

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Fox Superintendent to Be Named, but Unfinished Business Remains; District Seeks Repayment of Nearly $2,300 from Critchlow

Article excerpt

ARNOLD * The Fox School Board is set to name the district's new superintendent next week, a move many hope will signal a new direction after months of accusations of wrongdoing.

But questions continue to linger about spending in the district. Letters sent in recent months to former superintendent Dianne Critchlow shed some light on what a district investigation is uncovering at the same time state auditors are doing their own examination.

In recent weeks, the district has mailed five letters to Critchlow seeking repayment of nearly $2,300 for purchases she billed to the district, including eyeglasses, a $606 "taco and nacho bar" for administrators for a party at her home after a football game and for a traffic ticket.

The district also is seeking $420 in fees to enter a golf tournament. Critchlow submitted a check for reimbursement that she said she had used to pay for the tournament fees. But John Brazeal, the district's chief financial officer, wrote in a letter to Critchlow that the check was "mocked up for the sole purpose of seeking a reimbursement" and never cleared her bank.

Her attorney, Chet Pleban, said Critchlow had done nothing wrong, which is why she is eager to answer questions by state auditors and why she hasn't paid back any of the money the district is seeking.

"They want to disparage her," he said of district officials. "That is their game plan."

The district has come under fire since nasty comments on a Topix website about district critics were traced to the home of Critchlow and her husband, and to other administrators as part of a libel lawsuit.

Critchlow, 48, agreed in June to retire but denied she had made the comments. She had led the district since 2004. Her husband was fired from his job as director of the Bridges Alternative School, and other administrators were reprimanded.

She retired with a $267,468 salary, among the highest in the state.

Brazeal characterized the spending cited in letters sent to Critchlow as the "tip of the iceberg" and said the district had an active investigation that needed to run its course.

"It proves the point that we have issues," Brazeal said of the allegations outlined in the letters.

Among the items the district is seeking to be repaid is an apparent double reimbursement for Critchlow's driving her district vehicle to the Lake of the Ozarks for a conference in March 2013. She submitted, and was granted, a mileage reimbursement of $175. Credit-card receipts show she charged gas to the district during that same trip, Brazeal alleges.

He said she did the same thing on another trip a month later, seeking $210 while charging gas to the district.

The district is also seeking $399.05 for eyeglasses she bought in 2012 that she sought reimbursement for and received.

"It is certain the district has never been obligated to provide vision benefits in excess of paying premiums for your vision insurance coverage," Brazeal wrote. …

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