Saturday, April 25, 2015

Taxpayers pay for book to help C. J. Huff become a leader

 When I landed my first teaching job in the Diamond R-4 School District in the summer of 1999, I came across a sale that Missouri Southern State University students were having at Northpark Mall.

Among the items, to my surprise, were about a dozen books designed to help people teach writing. Since I had been hired to teach creative language arts (mostly writing), I bought the books for a bargain price of $130.

This came at a time when I had been unemployed for nearly three months and was entering a job that would pay me $21,450 a year.It was something that would help me with my work and it was worth the investment.

I would never have thought of trying to get the taxpayers to foot the bill for it, and most likely if I had tried, I would have been turned down.

Apparently, I did not understand how the system works.

When the Joplin R-8 Board of Education meets Tuesday night, one of the bills it will be asked to approve is an expenditure of $24.54 for the book Grounded: How Leaders Stay Rooted in an Uncertain World by Bob Rosen. The documentation reads, "Book for Dr. Huff."

The book is described on its Amazon page:

A provocative, personal approach to leadership based on in-depth research with hundreds of executives around the world

Confronted by disruptive change and economic turbulence, many of today's leaders find themselves ill-equipped to manage the hazards they now face. They must contend with chronic uncertainty, cynical employees, and personal burnout. Most are poorly served by the prevailing paradigm that obsessively focuses on what we do to produce short-term results while sabotaging who we are as healthy human beings. Few have seen alternatives, until now.

Grounded proposes a new approach that's designed for actual humans who must grapple with these forces. This new paradigm speaks to our better selves. Based on the author's Healthy Leader model, it focuses on the six personal dimensions that fuel—and refuel—the world's top leaders: physical, emotional, intellectual, social, vocational, and spiritual health.

The book argues that leaders at every level can be more self-aware, develop their untapped potential, and drive significantly better results—for themselves, their teams, and their organizations.
Shows readers how to build a personal leadership model that works with their values, goals and capabilities
Features fresh stories from leaders in a variety of organizations including the New York Fire Department, PricewaterhouseCoopers, The Lego Group, and Medstar Health
Gives leaders practical tools to face their toughest challenges with greater skill, confidence, and impact

By developing themselves and mastering the six dimensions, readers can gain the stamina and strength to not only weather tough times but to achieve much, much more.


With job prospects uncertain, it is not surprising that Huff, pulling down $177,000 a year, not counting his speeches, decided to pass along the $24.54 cost of his book to the taxpayers.

As usual, though, C. J. Huff did not bother to look for the lowest price. The Amazon page shows he could have received a "like-new" copy of the book for four cents, plus $3.99 postage.

Those of us who do not have millions of dollars in taxpayer money to play with takes these choices seriously.

Still, isn't it refreshing to know that after seven years as the leader of the Joplin R-8 School District, C. J. Huff is trying to learn how to be a leader?

Trips to Atlanta, Las Vegas casino on tap for Joplin R-8 officials

In the past few months, the Joplin R-8 School District has borrowed $74 million to keep afloat as it awaits payments (which are not guaranteed) from FEMA and SEMA, but that is not stopping Superintendent C. J. Huff from okaying trips to Atlanta and Las Vegas.

Bills included in the documentation for this month's R-8 Board of Education meeting indicate the Huff Administration is continuing its practice of recent years of attending the annual Model Schools Conference, sponsored by the International Center for Leadership in Education. This year's conference is being held June 28-July 1 at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.

The registration fee, which will be submitted for the board's approval Tuesday night, is $595 per person, and Joplin is sending five people for a total of $2,795. Of course, this is just the registration fee. A considerable amount will be added for meals, travel, and other expenses.

What will our educators learn from the conference?

According to the event's advertising, they will accomplish the following:

-Hear firsthand from teachers who have embraced rigor and relevance

-Build vision and leadership capacity systemwide

-Use technology to create relevant learning environments

-Embrace rigor, relevance, and relationships to prepare students for the skills they will need for tomorrow's careers

-Create a school culture that prepares students for our modern world by embracing diversity

-Encourage flexible thinking and celebrating creativity

If you are looking for evidence that many of the ideas that have been implemented in the Joplin R-8 School District come from this and similar conferences, a quick look at some of the sessions that are being offered should suffice:

-Communication Strategies to Increase Community Engagement (yes, it's about marketing the school)

-Increasing Rigor and Relevance

-How to be an Effective Instructional Coach

-Creating Rigorous and Relevant Simulated Workplaces for Student Success

Las Vegas

Not much information is available on the conference in Las Vegas, The board documentation shows $576.80 being spent for "convention and travel" for professional development at the Venitian/Palazzo Resort Hotel and Casino.

The documentation provides no details about what type of conference is being held or when, but a conference is being held at the Venitian July 6-10 and the amount the district lists would cover sending 10 people to that particular conference.

Other Bills

Among the other bills that will be presented to the board Tuesday night:

-$140 to Cloud's Meat, Carthage, for honey barbecue snacks, listed as "supplies"

-$371.52 to Embassy Embroidery for supplies for Bright Futures employees

--$895 for five people to attend something called "Summit," listed under convention and travel

-$385 for Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce membership

-$321,30 to Lodge of the Four Seasons under "convention and travel"

$233.78 to Rib Crib for a meal for the Board of Education at its March 24 meeting

-$500,000 for new laptops for all Joplin High School students

-$2,295 for Community Link- Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce Directory, listed as "supplies"

-$79.90 to Domino's for "miscellaneous administration orders"

There are some interesting large and small expenditures that I will be writing about in upcoming posts
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Friday, April 24, 2015

Missouri House passes municipal court reform

Video- Speaker Diehl discusses past week in Missouri House

Missouri General Assembly passes 2016 budget

Billy Long: We must create a safe, secure online environment

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

Americans now live in an online world. Many interact with friends and family on email or Facebook, bank and shop online, and store important information on computer networks. Unfortunately, we have come to face the ugly reality of criminals who steal personal information, hack into business and government files or, worse, leverage online infrastructure vulnerabilities for terror. Southwest Missourians know this all too well with recent hacks into Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and Target.

Our ability to secure the web has been held back even with the great technological advancement made in the past 10 years. The House passed this week two bills directly addressing the need to bolster cybersecurity and would remove unnecessary hurdles to creating a safe, secure online environment without infringing on Americans’ privacy.

The Protecting Cyber Networks Act (PCNA) would allow private companies to share threat information with each other, whereas private entities are currently prohibited from doing so, and allow voluntary sharing of threat information with the federal government. Keeping Americans’ privacy concerns in mind, neither the National Security Agency (NSA) nor the Department of Defense would receive the reports. Companies would be required to remove all personal data before sharing intelligence, and federal agencies receiving the reports would automatically conduct an additional removal of any private information before investigation.

The National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act would grant private companies legal protections to fight threats and share threat information with the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, an integration center within the Department of Homeland Security working with the federal government, intelligence community, and law enforcement for cyberattack response and prevention. Privacy protections like those in PCNA are included in this bill. The only information shared with the federal government is cyber threat indicators. No personal information would be shared.

I voted in favor of these strong, bipartisan bills to ensure businesses have the tools necessary to fend off online threats. The House has taken the lead on cybersecurity bills in recent years, but most died in the Democrat-controlled Senate. I look forward to the Senate’s action on these critical bills and giving Americans a greater sense of security and peace of mind.

Sawyer Shepherd suspension: Necessary or just guns and neurosis?

The suspension of Carthage High School senior Sawyer Shepherd for having a disassembled shotgun in his vehicle has created a considerable amount of controversy, with students protesting the suspension Thursday before school.

Carthage Police acknowledge there was no intent of criminal activity, yet school officials say they are bound by the Missouri Safe Schools Act, which  mandates his suspension.

On KZRG this morning, Carthage R-9 Superintendent Blaine Henningsen says he does not think the incident will keep Shepherd from receiving a diploma or graduating, but he never specifically says that Shepherd will be able to participate in his class' graduation ceremony.

The following explanation of what happened was posted on Facebook by Sawyer Shepherd's sister, Haley Marie Carter:

“Tuesday morning, he went hunting before school,” Carter posted. “After he was finished, he unloaded and disassembled his shot gun, put it in the case and then put it under his seat. Then he went home, unloaded his hunting stuff, grabbed his baseball equipment and went to school. Unfortunately, he forgot to take the gun out from under his seat.

“At some point, the school had an anonymous tip that there were Ak-47s being traded in the parking lot. After questioning students, somehow, Saw's name got brought up. So, of course the school brought him in to question him. At first, he himself couldn't even recall if it was in his truck or not. But after thinking, he thought it could still be under his seat and told them that. His gun was in his truck. Locked. Under the seat. In its case. Unarmed. And disassembled.”

Carter said in her post that she understands that the district was following federal law and that the strict policies have been put in place to protect students.

“I understand the hands of the administrators are tied,” Carter said on Facebook. “My question is this. Why is there not a way around it for special circumstances? Even the school knows that there was zero chance Sawyer was a risk. Now, you have a student who was 17 school days away from graduation being removed from school. Keep in mind he has not had any behavioral issues or disciplinary occurrences in school, ever. Also, under suspension rules he is not allowed to make up homework (that doesn't make sense to me). He cannot participate in baseball. Whether he will be allowed to graduate is still unknown”

The following report is from KSN:

Severe weather possible this afternoon for Joplin area

(From the National Weather Service)

KSZ073-097-101-MOZ055>058-066>071-077>083-088>098-101>106-250945-
BOURBON-CRAWFORD-CHEROKEE-BENTON-MORGAN-MILLER-MARIES-VERNON-
ST. CLAIR-HICKORY-CAMDEN-PULASKI-PHELPS-BARTON-CEDAR-POLK-DALLAS-
LACLEDE-TEXAS-DENT-JASPER-DADE-GREENE-WEBSTER-WRIGHT-NEWTON-
LAWRENCE-CHRISTIAN-DOUGLAS-HOWELL-SHANNON-MCDONALD-BARRY-STONE-
TANEY-OZARK-OREGON-
433 AM CDT FRI APR 24 2015

THIS HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK IS FOR PORTIONS OF THE MISSOURI
OZARKS AND EXTREME SOUTHEAST KANSAS.

.DAY ONE...TODAY AND TONIGHT.

WEATHER HAZARDS EXPECTED...

  LIMITED TORNADO RISK.
  ELEVATED HAIL RISK.
  ELEVATED THUNDERSTORM WIND DAMAGE RISK.
  ELEVATED LIGHTNING RISK.
  LIMITED NON THUNDERSTORM WIND RISK.

DISCUSSION...

  SCATTERED THUNDERSTORMS WILL EXPAND IN COVERAGE THIS
  MORNING AND MOVE EAST ACROSS MUCH OF THE OUTLOOK AREA. WHILE
  SMALL HAIL WILL BE POSSIBLE WITH THIS ACTIVITY...WIDESPREAD
  SEVERE WEATHER IS NOT EXPECTED.

  ADDITIONAL THUNDERSTORMS ARE THEN EXPECTED TO DEVELOP LATE THIS
  AFTERNOON INTO THIS EVENING ACROSS OKLAHOMA AND KANSAS...AND
  MOVE EAST INTO THE OUTLOOK AREA THIS EVENING INTO TONIGHT. AT
  THIS TIME...IT APPEARS THAT THE SEVERE WEATHER RISK WILL MAINLY
  OCCUR ALONG AND WEST OF INTERSTATE 49...WHERE LARGE HAIL...GUSTY
  WINDS...AND PERHAPS A TORNADO OR TWO WILL BE POSSIBLE. STORMS
  WILL LIKELY WEAKEN LATE TONIGHT AS THEY CONTINUE EAST INTO THE
  REMAINDER OF THE OUTLOOK AREA.

  ALONG WITH THE RISK OF THUNDERSTORMS...SOUTHERLY WINDS WILL GUST
  TO AROUND 35 MPH AT TIMES TODAY.

.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...SATURDAY THROUGH THURSDAY.

  THUNDERSTORMS ARE THEN EXPECTED TO STRENGTHEN AND OR REDEVELOP
  ALONG THE COLD FRONT AS IT MOVES THROUGH THE AREA ON SATURDAY.
  A FEW STRONG TO SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS WILL BE POSSIBLE
  SATURDAY...MAINLY ALONG AND SOUTH OF INTERSTATE 44.

  ADDITIONAL CHANCES FOR THUNDERSTORMS WILL OCCUR MONDAY AND
  TUESDAY ACROSS SOUTHWESTERN MISSOURI.

.SPOTTER INFORMATION STATEMENT...

  SPOTTER ACTIVATION MAY BE NEEDED LATER TODAY OR TONIGHT...MAINLY
  TO THE WEST OF AN OSCEOLA TO CASSVILLE LINE.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Judge: Bajjali has to repay $1.5 million to cheated investors; Wallace is bankrupt

A federal judge says that investors cheated by David Wallace and Costa Bajjali have to be repaid $1.5 million, but Wallace will not have to pay a cent of it.

Because David Wallace filed for personal bankruptcy, the judge on Wednesday ordered Bajjali to repay the $1.5 million.

The money is the settlement reached with the former Joplin master developers after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) fined both men $60,000 for their roles in the BizRadio media scheme.

While both men paid their fines, just a few days before the City of Joplin hired Wallace-Bajjali Development Partners, not one cent was ever repaid to the investors.

In bankruptcy documents, Wallace claims he has $11.5 million in debt, including $4.5 million of the $5 million he borowed from Prime, Inc., a Springfield firm to jumpstart Wallace-Bajjali's work in Joplin.

While Bajjali has filed for bankruptcy on several of the companies connected to Wallace-Bajjali, he has not filed for personal bankruptcy.


Electrical contractor files $6.5 million lawsuit against Joplin R-8


A Lenexa, Kansas electrical contracting firm filed a $6.5 million countersuit against the Joplin R-8 School District Wednesday in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

Included in the documents filed with the countersuit are letters and e-mails which show that P1 warned Superintendent C. J. Huff and Universal Construction that delays in construction plus the push to make sure Joplin High School opened in August 2014 were going to cost plenty, including overtime, but the response was always full speed ahead.

An e-mail sent by Huff to P1 says that the Board of Education discussed P1's request for more money during a closed session in July 2014. If Huff was telling the truth about that discussion, that would indicate that the board acted illegally, since at that time there was no litigation involving P1 and the school district, and other documents indicate the district did not consult a lawyer until September, rhus the request should have been discussed in open session.

But the extra costs seem to have all been caused by the push to open the high school in August 2014, according to the countersuit:

Completion of P1 Group’s work on the Project was materially delayed as a result of actions by Joplin Schools, UCC, Corner Greer and/or other contractors, consultants or professionals hired by Joplin Schools.Joplin Schools was aware of the delays on the Project.

Because of the unavailability of other facilities for the students beginning in the fall of 2014, Joplin Schools could not extend the schedule for the Project to account for the delays. As a result of the delays, P1 Group’s work on the Project was accelerated as it had to perform its work in a compressed time frame.

Beginning in November 2013, P1 Group began working overtime on the Project at the direction of UCC in order to help reduce the impact of the delays on the Project attributable to persons other than P1 Group. P1 Group continued to work overtime at UCC’s direction until the new school opened.

On February 27, 2014, P1 sent a letter to Universal Construction, the company which managed the building project to warn it of the extra costs that were coming due to the construction delays. In an e-mail response, Universal blamed the project architect Corner Greer for delays. In a letter dated April 23, 2014, UCC told P1 that it thought its cost projections were 'OK,"  EIght days later, P1 sent a letter to the Joplin School District containing much of the information it had sent Universal.

Following two meetings with Joplin Schools in June, the company received a message from C. J. Huff, according to the countersuit:

On July 3, 2014, Joplin Schools’ Superintendent, Dr. CJ Huff sent an email to P1 Group advising that he had met with the Joplin School Board’s Facilities Committee and that he had talked with the individual members of the Facilities Committee. (Note: The committee consisted of Mike Landis and Jim Kimbrough.)

Dr. Huff reported that they were “comfortable” taking P1 Group’s request for compensation related to the directed acceleration to the School Board at the July 2014 meeting. On behalf of Joplin Schools, Dr. Huff requested P1 Group to provide a “not to exceed” number for the acceleration impacts through Project completion.

On July 11, 2014, in response to Dr. Huff’s email, P1 Group sent a letter to Joplin Schools, with a copy to UCC and Corner Greer, requesting a change order in the amount of $2,912,000 to cover the anticipated costs related to the delays and acceleration on the Project.

On July 22, 2014, Dr. Huff, on behalf of Joplin Schools, sent an email to P1 Group advising that he was presenting P1 Group’s request for compensation to the Board that evening and anticipated questions from the Board. Dr. Huff also advised that he appreciated P1 Group’s commitment to helping Joplin Schools achieve its goals.

On July 26, 2014, Dr. Huff, on behalf of Joplin Schools, sent an email to P1 Group advising that, as expected, the Board had a number of questions regarding P1 Group’s claim. Dr. Huff explained: “Due to the size of the billing, I think they just want to be comfortable that they can justify the expense when asked by patrons and the media.”

After classes began in August, P1 notified the district that more of its delays were going to increase the costs on the auditorium, which was still not finished.

By letter dated September 10, 2014, P1 Group notified Joplin Schools of delays and interferences related to completion of Area A – the Auditorium for the new High School. P1 Group notified Joplin Schools that P1 Group would seek compensation for these issues.

By email dated September 16, 2014, P1 Group was notified by Joplin Schools that due to the amount of P1 Group’s claims, Joplin Schools had retained a law firm to review P1 Group’s claims.
60. By letter dated October 29, 2014, Dr. Huff, on behalf of Joplin Schools, notified P1 Group that Joplin Schools was denying P1 Group’s request for additional compensation.

In the original lawsuit filed by the school district against P1, the district claims that P! was guilty of shoddy worksmanship, but there is no mention of anything of that sort in its dealings with the company itself.

P1 has continued working on the auditorium project and was still doing punch list items as the countersuit was filed.

P1's two-count suit charges the district with breach of contract and failure to make prompt payment.

Information about the original lawsuit filed by the R-8 School District can be found at this link.