Monday, May 30, 2016

Storms to continue through Wednesday for Joplin area

(From the National Weather Service)

312 PM CDT MON MAY 30 2016

312 PM CDT MON MAY 30 2016













Sunday, May 29, 2016

Links provided to this week's most popular Turner Report, Inside Joplin posts

The most visited posts this week on the Turner Report, Inside Joplin, and Inside Joplin Obituaries are listed below:

1. Report: FBI, SEC investigating Northpark Mall owners

2. Joplin R-8 Board accepts Tina Smith's resignation

3. R-8 Board to C. J. Huff: We're not paying for your travel, lodging

4. The Turner Report needs your help; I need your help

5. Joplin School Board rejects Bright Futures funding request

6. Audit: Superintendent used taxpayers money for groceries, shampoo, expensive video equipment

7 Former curriculum director lands job with consulting firm she pushed on Joplin

8. First bargaining agreement, lands $1,000 raises, promise of discipline support for teachers

9. So you want to be a Joplin R-8 director of human resources

10. Joplin R-8 legal bill on P1 lawsuit- half a million and counting

Inside Joplin

1. Man shot in the chest at 5th Street and Park Ave., Joplin man arrested

3. Two killed in head-on collision near Asbury

3. Jasper County Sheriff's Arrests May 21-24

4. Jasper County Marriage Licenses

5. Driver hits pedestrian in Wal-Mart parking lot crosswalk

6. Diamond teen injured in one-vehicle accident

7. Joplin Police Department Arrests May 23-24

8. Jasper County Dissolution of Marriage Petitions

9. Eight-year-old drowns in Flat Creek near Cassville

10. Joplin Police Department Arrests May 24-25

Inside Joplin Obituaries

1. Vernon Studyvin

2. Cathy Vanslyke

3.Steven Cash

4. Curtis Buxton

5. Dale White

6. Dan Barger

7. Lloyd Miller

8. Randy Brundige

9, Jessie Haynes

10. Carl Childress

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Turner Report needs your help; I need your help

Trying to make a living off blogging is something that only a small percentage of bloggers are able to do. I have been able to do so these past several months because of a number of generous contributions, some loyal subscribers, a small amount of monthly advertising revenue, steady, but not incredibly lucrative book sales and a meager pension from my time as a teacher.

For a time, that was enough for me to either break even or lose a small amount per month, and a few months I was able to make a decent profit.

For the past few months, the amounts have gradually decreased and as a result of my recent health problems, I now have more expenses. My insurance is good, but it does not cover everything and though I will be able to make payments on what I owe, that still will carving out another chunk of the money each month and either decreasing the profits or increasing the deficits.

I hesitated to write this because it is tiresome to see the haters begin commenting about my begging for handouts or making snide comments about why should people bother to pay for something they are getting for free.

The simple fact is that a small number of subscribers have loyally continued to support the Turner Report. With more than 5,000 daily readers for the Turner Report, close to 5,000 a day for Inside Joplin and between 2,000 and 3,000 each day for Inside Joplin Obituaries. If even one-tenth of those readers subscribed, whether for a year at $30 or  monthly for $3, my problems would be resolved.

I might be able to collect more subscriptions by saying that the Turner Report/Inside Joplin blogs might have to shut down if they do not receive more support, but that is not something I have even considered. The Turner Report has been published since October 2003 and Inside Joplin and Inside Joplin Obituaries since late 2013.

Since its inception, Inside Joplin Obituaries has printed more than 3,300 obituaries, including some that never appeared in the Joplin Globe. Grieving family members do not have to pay a cent for this service since it is news. The blog is also searchable.

Inside Joplin has been the workhorse blog, featuring records material- police arrests, sheriff's department arrests, marriage licenses, dissolutions, Highway Patrol DWI arrests, Missouri Southern and Crowder College news, road closings, school announcements, and other news, all on one site.

The Turner Report, meanwhile, has continued to offer investigative reporting, courts coverage, commentary and provided a voice for those who have been left out by the Joplin Globe's focus on the interests (and the bias) of an elite few in the community.

This blog not only has provided a voice, but has also acted as a force for change in Joplin. Without the Turner Report, C. J. Huff might still be Joplin R-8 superintendent. This blog was the first to write about Wallace Bajjali's sordid record of bankruptcies and SEC investigations- even before the city hired the master developer in 2012.

It also was the first news source to really dig into the contents of the Loraine Report and the unethical actions of former City Councilman Mike Woolston.

This week, the blog featured coverage of Joplin area news that was ignored by other media. The Globe is not likely to write about the impending departure of Joplin R-8 COO Tina Smith and unless, I missed it, the Turner Report was the only source to reveal that the company that owns Northpark Mall is being investigated by the FBI and the SEC.

And yes, I will keep track of how much money Billy Long spends in Vegas, at least the amount that he uses from his campaign account.

Besides, would you rather pay $200 a year for the Joplin Globe or pay $30 a year (or $3 a month) to help the Turner Report/Inside Joplin to keep growing and continue to be an irritant to the area's newspaper of record.

That is the end of my spiel (And isn't it about time?). Give it some thought. If you would like to subscribe, there is a button you can use at the bottom of this post. If you wish to contribute a larger amount or a smaller amount you can use the "Donate" button below.

For those who would prefer not to use PayPal or a credit card, you can mail your subscription money or contribution to: Randy Turner, 2306 E. 8th, Joplin, MO 64801.

Thanks for your time and consideration.

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Joplin R-8 legal bill on P1 lawsuit- half a million and counting

The unsuccessful race to get Joplin High School open on time in August 2014, has cost the R-8 district millions and the price tag continues to go up.

Board of Education bills indicate the taxpayers have paid half a million to the Polsinelli PC law firm of Kansas City to sue P1, the Lenexa, Kansas, electrical contracting firm that worked on the high school and to defend against the firm's countersuit.

The district sued P1 shortly after it was hit with a $7 million bill. The lawsuit alleged that P1 did shoddy work. Despite this supposed shoddy work the district has continued to work with P1 and in fact, paid the company $104,524.26 as recently as April. Knowing that a lawsuit was coming, the district hired the Polsinelli firm and filed its lawsuit first. P1 filed a counterclaim asking for more than $6 million.

The company says it incurred that much expense, primarily due to overtime and extra costs brought on by Huff's push to get the school opened to meet his promise of starting school on time, a sort of companion promise to the one he made in May 2011 that school would start on time just three months after the Joplin Tornado.

The board documents indicate taxpayers have paid at least $499,305.31 in the past nine months to Polsinelli, broken down as follows:

May $77,771.36
April $64,851.41
March $28,828.03
February $23,178.71
January $94,914.75
December $40,542
October $78,215.63
September $44,529

The half million figure does not include the $50,000 the district is paying Huff to serve as a consultant on the lawsuit. As the Turner Report noted earlier today, Huff will be deposed by P1's lawyers on June 30 at the Polsinelli offices.

Lenexa firm's lawyers to get crack at C. J. Huff

Attorneys for the P1 Group, the Lenexa electrical contractors who handled the Joplin High School project, will get their shot at deposing former R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff beginning 9 a.m. Thursday, June 30, in the law offices of Polsinelli PC, the firm that is representing the district in its lawsuit against P1.

According to the notice of the deposition, which was filed this week in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, the questions will continue "day to day until completed."

The district brought its lawsuit, which accuses P1 of doing shoddy work, only after it realized that P1 was preparing a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the district, for not paying the money P1 says it is owed.

P1 filed a counterclaim, which says the district owes more than $6 million, primarily because of extra overtime and costs associated with Huff's unsuccessful effort to get the building opened on time in August 2014.

The P1 counterclaim is one of the lawsuits against the district which is covered by the $50,000 consulting fee Huff was paid as part of his separation agreement. It was made clear at the press conference that introcued Interim Superintendent Norm Ridder that the "consulting" would not have anything to do with Huff offering advice to Ridder, but was to cover the lawsuits that Huff attracted during the final years of his seven-year tenure.

Former curriculum director lands job with consulting firm she pushed on Joplin

It did not take long for former Joplin R-8 Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment to land on her feet after being demoted from her position midway through the 2015-2016 school year and resigning effective at its conclusion.

Stevens, whose seeming obsession with keeping the high-priced consulting firm Core Collaborative and his six-figure annual contract in the Joplin schools, is now listed on the Core Collaborative website as director of professional learning.

From the Core Collaborative website:

Sarah Stevens lives in the Midwest with her husband and two children. She is currently the Director of Professional Learning for The Core Collaborative assisting districts across the United States and the TCC team in creating a synergy of systems to empower those who matter most- the students.

In addition to her role at TCC, Sarah also wears many hats in the school improvement and innovation arena. Some of her proudest partnerships include working as a School Improvement Consultant with an education cooperative, Greenbush, that serves over 135 school districts across the state of Kansas, and assisting schools in professional learning around the formative assessment process through the non-profit organization, Northwest Evaluation Association. Sarah is currently assisting the Joplin School District to create a system of continuous improvement, through strategic planning, humble leadership, and by supporting the work of curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

During her career, Sarah served students as an elementary teacher, media specialist, teaching and learning coach, and Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. She holds a master’s degree in Educational Technology and was instrumental in the Joplin School District being named 1 of 8 Future Ready School Districts from the U.S. Office of Educational Technology. She has also taught graduate students at a local university as an adjunct professor for the Teaching and Leading Department.

Sarah's passion is in system thinking and partnering with adults to create a connected environment where students needs come first and learning together makes an impact.

Stevens' dealings with Core Collaborative were detailed in the November 15 Turner Report, published shortly after news of Stevens' resignation had been confirmed:

The resignation apparently brings an end to the meteoric rise of someone who had only two years of classroom experience to a position in upper administration, making $73,000 a year.

Stevens was hired by the R-8 District in 2004 and spent two years as an elementary teacher and one year as a librarian before being tabbed as a teaching/learning coach, a position that served as a springboard for those who wanted to climb the ladder in the school district.

Stevens was promoted to her current position in 2012, after serving four years as a coach. She had no background in curriculum, so the Huff Administration had to hire a "professional learning coordinator" to assist her after that lack of qualifications was cited by state auditors.

Stevens' constant pushing of outside consultant Paul Bloomberg and his Core Collaborative group brought her into the spotlight last year. Not only did Stevens work to get Core Collaborative a full-time gig in Joplin, but she also promoted the group heavily with other school districts.

The district's dealings with the Core Collaborative were approved by the Board of Education at its August 19, 2014, meeting as part of the consent agenda, ensuring that the board never discussed the hiring. As with many things the board approved as part of the consent agenda, it turned out to cost far more than what it said in the original document.

The document said "a discounted cost for the Core Collaborative to provide 12 days of training is $31,260, which includes all travel costs (airfare, hotel, rental car, and meals). We are being billed for 10 days of consultant training and are getting two days training free."

The proposal was submitted by Stevens and initialed by C. J. Huff and Executive Director of Elementary Education Jennifer Doshier.

The curriculum director and her colleagues were so impressed with Bloomberg and company they just had to bring him here and pull teachers out of their classrooms so he could train them.

Not only did they bring the training to Joplin, but they also ordered Common Core materials from Corwin Press, which is connected with Bloomberg and visible learning.

At the December 16 board meeting, another request came from Stevens, again initialed by Huff and Doshier, asking for another $64,680 for Bloomberg and Core Collaborative. This was on the board's consent agenda.

In the documentation for the request, Stevens explained it in this fashion:

Dr. Bloomberg's work this far has been well received and certain areas are asking for more time to collaborate with him. The work will focus on the "formative process" outlined in the professional development plan as well as Visible Learning work around self-regulated learning.

While the request stipulated that the amount will not exceed $64,680, the cost exceeded the total of that amount and the earlier $31,260, with three months to go.

With the election of Jeff Koch and Jennifer Martucci to the board in April, the idea of paying more than $100,000 for a consultant came under opposition and when it came time to renew the Core Collaborative contract, Stevens sent the following e-mail message to principals:

I will be taking the Core Collaborative contract to the board on Tuesday, May 26.
I am asking for a year long contract up to 30 days to include the days principals have asked for, departments have requested, and to finish helping with the bsip plans we have started and the work of self regulated learning. I will be also be including a couple of days for special ed iep work.
This is the same amount of days we used this year between three consultants with the Core Collaborative.

I would like a short blurb from you stating how the work we have embarked on this year with the core collaborative and visible learning has helped, guided, or changed the way your building is working together, performing, etc. If you feel inclined, include what you hope to gain from continuing this focus and support.

Please do not use the verbiage of Visible Learning since that technically was with Corwin, even though Paul (consultant Paul Bloomberg who heads the Core Collaborative) tied a lot of what we were doing all together to make it all fit. I will bring Visible Learning for Teachers to a different board meeting if JPDT votes to have it happen this summer.

If you have teachers that have really taken hold of learning intentions, success criteria, feedback, impact (data) teams, etc. Please ask them to send me an email or quick video explaining. Even better would be to have the students speak (but that is short notice so I understand if that can't happen).

I have several videos of students speaking on their learning, so if you have some great ones with the work you have been doing or want to brag on your school, now is the time!

At that meeting, Board President Jeff Koch asked Stevens if she would be able to provide the training the teachers needed if Core Collaborative was not retained.

Stevens said that while "professional development is my passion," she was "too busy" to do it.

Koch, Martucci and Debbie Fort voted against renewing the Core Collaborative contract, while Mike Landis and Lynda Banwart voted to continue with the group.

Despite the defeat, Stevens was not yet finished with her efforts to keep the expensive consultants employed in Joplin.

At the June 22 board meeting, she pleaded for the board to reconsider its vote. By this time, Landis had resigned and the Jasper County Commission appointed Gary Nodler, Sallie Beard, and Ron Gatz to fill the cacated spots of Landis, Randy Steele, and Lane Roberts.

Stevens said that teacher morale would suffer if Core Collaborative did not return. Under a new deal, the Collaborative would charge "only" $87,000 instead of $103,000.

In her reasons for wanting the board to reconsider its action, Stevens sent a proposal to the board members saying that not only would morale suffer but the district would be forced to pull teachers out of classes more often, teachers would have to take time with after-school professional development or book studies (which would have teachers getting paid rather than consultants), they might have to contract with other vendors which would cost more money and teachers would have to be sent all over the United States to get training which might not be passed on to the rest of the faculty.

The proposal was prepared by Stevens, and okayed by Huff and Doshier.

Stevens clearly thought she would have the support of the three new board members, but that did not turn out to be the case. Nodler rattled her with numerous questions about the need for the consulting firm.

When Martucci suggested that R-8 teachers could be better off providing the professional development themselves and would have more buy-in, Koch quickly agreed and Fort noted that the money that is earmarked for professional development could be spent in that fashion.

When the executive directors insisted the teachers and principals were not ready and needed Bloomberg to guide them through another year, Nodler was not buying any of it. "You don't need a consultant to hold your hand."

The vote was 4-3 with Nodler joining Koch, Martucci, and Fort.

A month later Stevens appeared with Bloomberg at a Visible Learning Conference in Texas, doing a presentation on the success the firm had in Joplin.

Joplin R-8 taxpayers covered the cost of her mileage, lodging, and other expenses.

Even after this, Stevens was not done with Core Collaborative.

In July, after Norm Ridder replaced C. J. Huff, Stevens again pushed Core Collaborative sending out an e-mail to teachers asking them to share what they had learned from the group. Apparently, Stevens must have used those messages to bring back Bloomberg and Core Collaborative for a one-time shot, at a cost of $7,775.

At the October 27 board meeting, Ridder made it clear that there would be no more dealings with Core Collaborative. This took place right around the time Stevens was reassigned.

And now Stevens is working for the same consulting firm she pushed on this district and others.

One year ago today: C. J. Huff retires, Mike Landis resigns

Two key events in the recent history of the Joplin R-8 School District happened one year ago today.

On May 28, 2015, C. J. Huff announced his retirement, while Mike Landis, who had been on the school board for 15 years resigned in a cowardly act that delayed needed changes such as the removal of Chief Operations Officer Tina Smith for another year.

The following are from the Turner Report coverage on that day:

C. J. Huff resigns

C. J. Huff is announcing his resignation during a press conference this morning.

The regular principals' meeting was moved up to this morning to give Huff the opportunity to make the announcement to them before the press conference.

\Reportedly, the Board of Education has reached an agreement with Huff to buy out the remainder of his contract, which was scheduled to run through 2018.
More information to come.

Note: As it turned out Huff's resignation (or firing, if you prefer) turned out to be a "retirement" as part of the separation agreement. Also, no press conference was held. I received a testy e-mail that morning from the district's p.r. person Kelli Price saying there would be no press conference and berating me for getting my facts wrong. I have always wondered why I never received e-mails from her all of the times I was getting everything right.

C. J. Huff: It's time for me to be a dad and a husband again

(From Joplin Schools)

During a gathering with principals and administrators this morning and in a letter to staff, Dr. C.J. Huff announced his plans to retire from Joplin Schools effective June 30, 2015.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Joplin R-8 Board accepts Tina Smith's resignation

When the Joplin R-8 Board of Education approved the first-ever collective bargaining agreement between the district and its teachers Tuesday night, it appeared to be the best news teachers could have.

Though the $1,000 raise is nowhere near what needs to happen to bring the district in line with other area school systems, it is still better than the teachers have seen in quite some time and the teacher negotiating team also won some concessions on a number of areas that should improve things for an important group that was sadly neglected during the C. J. Huff Administration.

With all of these things going on, the best thing that could happen to faculty, past, present, and future, occurred before the regular meeting. During a closed session, the board accepted the resignation of Chief Operating Officer and former human resources director Tina Smith.

Smith, who earned a reputation as the attack dog for Huff and his assistant superintendent, Angie Besendorfer, resigned effective June 24. Reportedly, her resignation, voluntarily or involuntarily, was going to happen at some point in the near future, so Smith is leaving two steps ahead of the posse.

Smith, like her former boss, Huff, has been a magnet for controversy.

Her exploits were written about in previous Turner Report posts, including the following:

Despite safety concerns, C. J. Huff ignored whistleblower's letter

Documents: C. J. Huff, Tina Smith ignored charges of lawbreaking insurance fraud

Million dollar lawsuit filed against Joplin R-8 School District

The books that got me fired

During Tina Smith's reign, those who wanted to report harassment in the workplace, or problems with superiors were dealt with harshly, while those who were the subjects of such accusations, especially if they were employees who were close to Huff or Besendorfer, remained unscathed.

During my termination, Smith interviewed me for four and a half minutes, gave me no chance to explain myself, then asked my students questions that were designed to make them think I had done something inappropriate with one of their classmates. (Nothing of the sort was even suspected and there were no such allegations against me, but by asking the questions, Smith made sure the thought was placed in the students' minds.Then at my hearing, she made the claim that the way my students all supported me showed signs of "grooming."

Performing that kind of service for C. J. Huff enabled her to join a number of other members of Huff's team who were promoted far beyond their abilities. Smith, who was a poor excuse for a human resources director, was promoted to chief operations officer and while she was responsible for studies that made sure workers in the R-8 School District remained underpaid, she was receiving $86,000 a year and thanks to a going away present from Huff, had three clerical workers hired to help her.

In the space of a year, we have seen the departures of Huff, Curriculum Director Sarah Stevens, East Middle School Principal Bud Sexson, and now Smith.

Though there are still remnants of the Huff team in the district, many of those who caused the most damage to the district's credibility and wasted millions in taxpayer money, will no longer be taking the taxpayers for a ride.

Billy Long: Employment for the disabled must be protected

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

When Morgan was born with Down syndrome, her pediatrician told her folks who are friends of mine that they should consider institutionalizing her. Before she left the hospital, they were told she would probably never function on her own and would most likely not live past her early teens. Today, she is a delightful 40 year old woman that enjoys nothing more than working hard at Springfield's SWI Industrial Solutions. It's for all the Morgans of the world that I hope to speak for and about in this column.

Whether it's a family member, friend, or neighbor, most folks know someone who is afflicted with a disability or will become disabled due to certain medical impediments. Families looking after a disabled loved one often struggle with finding employment for these individuals, but persist because they realize that real-life work experience can provide them with a sense of pride and belonging that will improve their quality of life.

Recently, work programs that fulfill this need have come under threat from U.S. Departments of Education and Labor regulation proposals that would bar high schools from referring people between ages 16 and 24 for job placement, and make entities providing work for the developmentally disabled compensate them at or above the federal minimum wage.

While these demands could be well intentioned, they unintentionally threaten the ability for business owners to provide the most severely disabled of workers with a position altogether. At the least, these companies could be forced to cut these workers' hours in order to keep them on their teams at all.

When presented with the reality of meeting their operation’s bottom-line, these employers simply cannot afford to maintain the number of positions they've set aside for the betterment of the disabled in their communities. Furthermore, the inability of employers to work in tandem with the high schools who know each student best would compound difficulties further.

For instance, like many companies across America and the Ozarks, Springfield's SWI Industrial Solutions is worried that they won't be able to maintain their positions for our community's disabled to grow in. There are many success stories of mentally and physically disabled workers bettering their life skills while working at their plant.

They told me the story of a young woman named Mary who had never held a competitive job, but began helping SWI employees with small tasks in production and janitorial services. As she improved in the workplace, her SWI Job Developer was able to help her find employment at her dream job of working with animals, and she now lives in her own apartment and has worked at a veterinarian clinic for over four years.

There are countless stories like Morgan's and Mary's all across Southwest Missouri and America, and these new rules will be detrimental to their employment and ability to realize their dreams. This month, I sent a letter to Secretaries John King and Thomas Perez at the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor demanding that these rules be reworked for these invaluable opportunities for the disabled in our workforce. We have a responsibility to their families, our communities, and these workers to help disabled Americans reach their highest potential, and I will continue fighting on their behalf in Washington.

Joplin R-8 posts 12 positions today, 14 this week

Earlier today, the Turner Report noted that five positions had been posted this week, including three today. Since then, nine more positions have been added, most of them coaching jobs:

Positions posted today include the following:

-Joplin High School In-School Suspension

-South Middle School Head Wrestling Coach

-South Middle School Assistant Football Coach

-North Middle School Assistant Track and Field

-Joplin High School Social Studies/Special Education

-North and East Middle School Head Football Coach

-Irving Elementary Kindergarten Teacher

-East Middle School Special Education

-Columbia Elementary Title One Teacher

-Joplin High School Special Education

-Columbia Elementary- Third Grade Teacher

-Royal Heights Elementary- Third Grade Teacher

Two jobs, an English As Second Language teacher at Franklin Tech and a Title One teacher at Stapleton Elementary were posted Tuesday.