Friday, October 24, 2014

Who gave R-8 Board lawyer the order to stop Debbie Fort interview?

The stories on KZRG and the Joplin Globe about KZRG's aborted interview with Joplin R-8 Board of Education member Debbie Fort raise some serious questions.

As both news sources noted, KZRG's Joe Lancello was interviewing Dr. Fort after Tuesday night's board meeting about some questions on professional development, a subject which came up during the session.

At some point, John Nicholas, the board's attorney, interrupted the interview and said all questions for the board should be directed to Board President Annie Sharp. Nicholas told the Globe it was a "decade-old protocol" and it is designed so the board can speak as one entity.

If we wanted the board to speak as one entity, we should elect a seven-person slate. We elect individuals who we think best reflect our own opinions on education and who we think are the ones who will do the best job of serving the children and the taxpayers of this district.

The questions that need to be asked?

-Who gave Nicholas the order to cut the interview short? Was it Annie Sharp? Was it C. J. Huff?  Someone else?

-Since there is no written policy and there are no laws preventing school board members, whether they hold the position of president or not from speaking to the media, why would a lawyer be the one to intervene?

-Is this really a smart thing for someone who is about to be elected as a judge in Jasper County (Nicholas) to be doing?

-If this was the City Council and not the School Board, wouldn't the Globe be burning up the phone lines, asking Missouri Press Association lawyers whether an elected board can control which of its members can be interviewed by the media? (I am pleased, however, that the Globe wrote an article about this.)

-Why should members of the media not be allowed to go directly to an elected official to ask a question? What sense does it make to have them have to go through the district's P.R. flak to question someone who is right there in the room with them?

-Isn't this another example of the same type of intimidation that has been used to keep any R-8 employees from getting out of line and expressing anything that may question the belief that the Joplin R-8 School District is the best of all possible worlds? While I am not expecting this to keep Dr. Fort from questioning practices and actions that do not meet her definition of responsible or ethical, this appears to be another move by the Huff Administration and the old guard on the Board to isolate Dr. Fort and try to bully her into toeing the line.

-And finally, if C. J. Huff and the old guard are willing to take such a drastic, unnecessary action to stop a board member from talking to to the media, can there be much more doubt that the end is near for their reign of terror?

Joplin R-8 Board- No one talks to media except Annie Sharp

If there was any doubt that the Joplin R-8 School District has gone into bunker mentality, it has been erased.

KZRG is reporting that reporter Joe Lancello's interview with R-8 Board of Education member Debbie Fort after Tuesday night's board meeting was interrupted by the board attorney- because it is board policy that the only person who can speak for the board is Board President Annie Sharp.

Only it isn't board policy, at least no policy that has been written, voted on, and approved by the board.

"Typically, the board president is the designated spokesperson for the board. This has been the procedure for as long as I have worked for the district. The board president can also designate another board member to speak on his or her behalf. All of our board members are aware of this procedure (this is something the board agreed to - not a district procedure). I did not witness the incident so I can't speak to what happened. I certainly don't want Joe or any reporter to feel like they are being blocked from asking questions. That is one of the reasons I attend the meetings. I try to facilitate any interview requests," Price said.

The Price referred to in the preceding paragraph is Kelli Price, the district's public relations supervisor, or the way C. J. Huff hands out titles, she is probably the district's executive director of public relations.

Another example of C. J. Huff's attempts to control the media. Officials who are directly elected by the people do not need to have permission from a board attorney or a PR flak to answer questions from the media.

We also do not need to be spending taxpayer money for someone to "facilitate any interview requests."

It is also obvious from the KZRG account that it is not board policy, but an agreement that is designed to protect the board from public scrutiny. There was no reason at all for the board's lawyer to become involved since it was not a formal board policy.

It has become painfully obvious over the past six years that C. J. Huff either does not know anything about the First Amendment or does not care.

The people of the Joplin R-8 School District should have every reason to hope that the people they elect are not going to hide behind "board agreements" to keep from having to answer to the public- or in this case, to prevent the public from learning the truth.

Golden City man charged with murdering mother

A report from KOLR News

Mike Huckabee in Springfield, seriously considering 2016 run

A report from KOLR's Matt Lupoli

Arrest made in McDonald County home invasion/murder

A report from KOLR News

Video- HB 1490 Social Studies K-5 Work Group, Part 2

Video- HB 1490 Social Studies K-5 Work Group, Part 1

Video- HB 1490 Math K-5 Work Group

Video- HB 1490 English 6-12 Work Group Part 2

Video- House Bill 1490 English 6-12 Workgroup, Part 1