Wednesday, September 17, 2014

C. J. Huff: Six-and-a-half-mile ribbon was my idea

During a recent meeting with teachers, C. J. Huff confirmed what everyone had always assumed to be the truth- the six-and-a-half-mile ribbon was his idea.

The ribbon will be a centerpiece of the grand celebration planned Friday, October 3, when Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be in Joplin for ceremonies commemorating the opening of the new Joplin High School/Franklin Technical Center.

In an effort to gain entrance into the Guinness Book of World Records, the six-and-a-half-mile ribbon will be wrapped around the entire high school complex.

What was uncertain until Huff admitted it to the teachers during  a meeting the week before school opened (at every building except the high school) was who originated the idea.

Huff told the teachers it was his idea and he did it because "I am so proud of this school" and because "I am competitive."

The ribbon idea has been ridiculed by many since it was first revealed in the June 6 Turner Report. Huff has maintained his distance from it in comments made to the media and in a recent "Real or Rumor" blog that he wrote.

In a media interview, R-8 Board of Education President Annie Sharp said the ribbon was a Bright Futures idea.

"We'll have a big kickoff. If people want to be a part of history, we're selling a ribbon we are going to wrap around the whole, entire high school. You can purchase an inch, a foot, whatever and have a part of history.

"We're trying to make the Guinness Book of World Records. It's an activity Bright Futures is doing."

That was quickly denied

Immediately after the idea of the ribbon, which will cost $11,500, was revealed, some said it was the brainchild of Link Crew, a high school organization. That, too, was denied, and later it was said that the idea came from some members of Link Crew, with the indication that they came up with the idea on their own.

The $11,500 was also the source of conflicting messages from the Huff Administration. Depending on when statements were being made, it had been paid for by sponsors or sponsors were being sought to pay for it.

In a comment to the Turner Report, which was later turned into a separate post, someone claiming to be a high school student wrote the following:

Furthermore, to the fine people who have commented, many of you simply have not taken the time to inform yourselves of the situation that has perplexed the high school. The purchase of the ribbon was extremely well researched and done in a way that saved a considerable amount. It was done not just for the school, but for the fine city that helped us take flight once again.
During an interview with KZRG on August 13, Huff failed to take credit for the ribbon idea, making it sound, in carefully parsed words, that he was following the lead of high school students. He said he had been working with a student group, though he never specified which group.

From the August 13 Turner Report coverage of the KZRG interview:

Huff said the ribbon-cutting ceremony is a special event. "Everybody wants to be a part of it." He added that "we have some sponsors for it."

The $11,000 cost is not out of line for the ribbon, Huff said. "We will have well over 10,000 people at that event. We have to have some kind of memento." He said the cost was about $1 a person, though he never explained what that had to do with anything.

On Facebook posts, Huff has been criticized for collecting donations for a ribbon when the district has other, more compelling needs. "We can't tell people who want to spend money on the ribbon that we're going to take their money and use it on something else,"

This should really not even be a controversy, Huff indicated.

"There are some elements of this community who want to see us fail. If I fail, our kids fail. The kids are defending our position."

Huff stressed that no district funds will be spent for the ribbon.

"That would be dumb."

The KZRG interview took place three days after Huff ran the "Real or Rumor" blog in which he purported to give the facts about the ribbon, yet again carefully failed to mention that the idea was his:

Here are the facts:
  • The event is scheduled for October 3 (we just finalized the date and a time has yet to be set - we are still in the early planning stage of this event).
  • The ribbon cutting was never planned for the first day of school.
  • We are hosting the official grand-opening event and ribbon cutting after the start of school to allow our students and staff an opportunity to settle in to their new building. We did this for Irving Elementary, Soaring Heights Elementary, and East Middle School as well. The first day of school for all schools in the district is August 25.
  • We are hoping to break a world record for the longest ribbon used in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.Students helped with the research on how to host such an event, and they will be recognized at the ceremony.
  • The ribbon will be six-and-a-half miles long and will be looped around the JHS/FTC campus.
  • The ribbon cost approximately $11,500, and the cost will be covered by sponsorships. We have secured some of these sponsorships already. The sponsors will also be recognized at the event. We seek out sponsors for many of our events to help keep costs down. 
  • Bright Futures Joplin is not paying for the ribbon and never was paying for the ribbon. The plan has always been to secure sponsors for the ribbon.
  • Bright Futures Councils from our schools will be invited to participate in the event.
  • The community will also be invited to participate in the event and will be able to keep a portion of the ribbon as a souvenir. We also plan to make pieces of the ribbon available for purchase to those who do not wish to participate but want a memento from the event. Details will be shared on our website as plans are finalized.
 
Why the ribbon? We want to celebrate! The opening of this school is a once-in-a-lifetime moment for ourstudents, staff, parents, and community. It symbolizes the end of a long, difficult journey and the beginning of a new era for Joplin Schools. It is a big deal to many, many people who have made sacrifices for the last three years to get to this point - students, staff members, parents, and others. It took thousands of volunteersfrom across the world and the support of our entire community to make this school happen. We wanted to create an event that would allow our entire community to participate if they choose. 
You are invited to join us on October 3 to be a part of this moment in Joplin's history. We hope you'll come and celebrate recovery, resilience, and the future of Joplin Schools.

Ironically, during his tour of all of the district's schools during the week before school started at every building except the high school, Huff took the credit for the ribbon idea at some schools, but continued to leave the impression that students came up with the idea. This was the same tour in which the superintendent spent most of his time asking teachers to help him fight the "lies" that were being spread about him by the Turner Report.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Springfield, Nixa schools stand against Amendment 3

A report from KOLR's Matt Lupoli

Nixon announces more money for Missouri schools

C. J. Huff to speak on "How To Respond to Public Criticism"

Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff will take time out of his busy schedule for a public talk 12 noon Wednesday at Empire District Electric Company,

The topic for his talk, which is sponsored by the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce's Young Professionals Network is "How to Respond to Public Criticism."

I have heard that the first step is to con a group like the Young Professionals Network to sponsor a speech for you, but then again what do I know about public criticism?

Another step is to write a blog post talking about how you got to work at 3 a.m. the morning Joplin High School opened and helped the custodians get ready.

A third step is to put a six-and-a-half-mile ribbon....well, maybe he should stop at two steps.

The speech is free to YPN members. Others will have to pay $5, but that is a bargain, considering they will be charging $20 when he speaks in Chicago next Thursday.


C. J. Huff: On opening day, I went to JHS at 3 a.m. and helped the custodians

Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff is not limiting his blogging to the school district website. The following post appeared on the We Are Joplin blog, which according to what is written on the website is supported by the City of Joplin - Empire District Electric Company - Freeman Health System - Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce - Joplin Schools - Mercy Hospital Joplin - Missouri Southern State University  and Wallace Bajjali Development Partners.

In it, he tells his story about how the Joplin R-8 School District managed to get the "mission accomplished" and open Joplin High School Tuesday, September 2:

On Monday evening, September 1, I had a hard time getting to sleep. Like the night before any big event, I felt excited and anxious. But, this wasn’t any event. This was the finish line in a more than three-year journey for our staff, students, parents, and community. I know I wasn’t the only one tossing and turning in anticipation of this moment, the official opening of the new Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center. I couldn’t sleep and finally gave in to my desire to be at the school. So at 3 a.m. I got out of bed and headed that way to check on the building after a rough night of storms and to help custodial crews who had been working hard all night in preparation for the big day. By 6:45 a.m., students and staff began filtering into the new building, and I began to hear the familiar sounds of a normal school day – voices and laughter in the hallways, zippers opening and closing on backpacks, computers logging in.

Normal. It’s is a word we’ve been working toward since that terrible day in May 2011. In the days following the tornado, we made a promise to build back bigger, better, safer schools and, more importantly, to bring our Eagles home. At the time, we couldn’t imagine how critical and difficult it would be to keep that promise. These last three years have been challenging, thrilling, exhausting, and at times heartbreaking for our staff, students, parents, and community. Not only did we work to physically rebuild our schools, we also worked to turn our community’s vision for better teaching and learning into reality. 

With your help and the help of people from around the world, we hit a milestone this January when we opened the new Irving Elementary, Soaring Heights Elementary, and East Middle School. And, this last Tuesday, September 2, we were able to say “mission accomplished” as more than 2,200 Joplin Eagles came together under one roof for their first day in their new high school and technical school and their first day together in more than three years. The most wonderful thing about the day was how normal it felt. Outside of a few local reporters sharing in the excitement and some first-day (and rainy day) traffic and parking challenges, the day seemed like so many other first days back at high school: new outfits, old friends, nervous freshmen, and helpful teachers and principals.

As familiar as the day felt, there’s no question that this school and the education taking place within it are different. The new JHS/FTC combines a rigorous curriculum with over 60 advanced placement, dual credit, or honors courses along with an integrated career and technical education focus. Students can choose from five broad career paths and numerous opportunities within each path, allowing them to explore their interests and passions while at the same time getting the full high school experience, an experience that includes more than 100 co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.

While the last three years seem like that have been long, it’s truly miraculous that so much has been accomplished in such a short amount of time. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of a committed staff of professional educators and a community that loves its children, the rich history of Joplin Schools lives on within the walls of our new and existing schools. On September 2, 2014, our community celebrated a mission accomplished and the homecoming of all our Joplin Eagles. Now it’s time for a new era for Joplin Schools. The best is yet to come!

Annie Sharp to Joplin R-8 staff' Being on the school board is fun

In a message sent to staff last week, Joplin R-8 Board of Education President Annie Sharp welcomed new board member Shawn McGrew and talked about how much the board cares for everybody.

And being on the board is fun, too.

Good afternoon! I hope you are all having a great Friday. I just wanted to send you a quick note now that the school year is underway. The start of school is always a little stressful, and for some of you who have had to move into a new building this school year, it's a whole lot stressful! As you know, I love to pop into your buildings throughout the year to visit with students, staff, and parents. I'm hearing great things.

I wanted to also take a minute to share some information about your school board. We have several new faces on the board this year. This week, we welcomed our newest board member Shawn McGrew. He replaces Dawn Sticklen who recently resigned her seat. Shawn will serve until next April's election. At that time, he can choose whether he wants to run for election to a one-year term (the remainder of Dawn's term) or one of two three-year terms. Welcome Shawn! He was chosen from four applicants by a 4-2 vote of the current board.

First hearing set in former principal's lawsuit against Huff, Besendorfer

The first hearing in the wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former Royal Heights Principal Larry Masters against Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff and former assistant superintendents Angie Besendorfer and Steven Doerr has been scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, September 23, before Judge David Mouton in Jasper County Circuit Court.

The defendants' motion for access to Masters' word record and any other pending motion will be heard at the time and a trial date set.

Masters accuses the three of conspiring against him and providing false information to the Board of Education after he had already been offered a principal's contract for the 2010-2011 school year  The board rescinded that contract, though Masters, who had tenure as a classroom teacher, remained in the R-8 system.

Besendorfer's response to the lawsuit was filed Monday.

Speaker appoints bipartisan panel to investigate Water Patrol

(From Speaker of the House Tim Jones)

A bipartisan group of state representatives will conduct a thorough investigation into the operation of the state’s Water Patrol Division. Formed by House Speaker Tim Jones at the request of state Reps. Diane Franklin, Rocky Miller and David Wood, the House Review Committee on the 2011 Water Patrol Division Merger will lead a comprehensive review of the way the division is managed; the training received by troopers; and the overall cost benefit the state has realized from the merger that placed the water patrol into the Missouri State Highway Patrol in 2011.

“We were told by the governor when he made the merger a priority that it would save the state millions while making the patrol even more effective in carrying out its duties,” said Jones, R-Eureka. “However, we now have to question whether this merger has put our hard-working patrol officers in a position where they can effectively maintain the public’s safety on our waterways. I know Rep. Franklin and the members of the committee will provide us with the kind of detailed analysis that will give us a clear picture of whether this has been a good thing for Missouri.”

Documents: Great minds think alike when praising Joplin's Race to the Top application

When the Joplin R-8 School District submitted its first application for the federal Race to the Top grants in 2012, a part of the package featured letters submitted by various people in the community.

Some say great minds think alike. I wonder about that when I see that great minds all made the same grammatical error.

Judge for yourself from these excerpts from the letters:

Gary Pulsipher, CEO, Mercy Hospital- The Career Pathways Initiative merging Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center is a perfect next step for the district as they build upon the many positive changes they have implemented over the past ten years.

Rob O'Brian, president, Joplin Area Chamber of CommerceThe Career Pathways Initiative merging Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center is a perfect next step for the district as they build upon the many positive changes they have implemented over the past ten years.

Cary Beasley, Workforce Development Coordinator, Joplin Area Chamber of CommerceThe Career Pathways Initiative merging Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center is a perfect next step for the district as they build upon the many positive changes they have implemented over the past ten years.

Ryan Spriggs, Store Manager, Walgreen'sThe Career Pathways Initiative merging Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center is a perfect next step for the district as they build upon the many positive changes they have implemented over the past ten years.

Brad Graves, lead pastor, Calvary Baptist ChurchThe Career Pathways Initiative merging Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center is a perfect next step for the district as they build upon the many positive changes they have made in the past.

Nancy L. Hutson, president, Cycle ConnectionThe Career Pathways Initiative merging Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center is a perfect next step for the district as they build upon the many positive changes they have implemented over the past ten years.

Lori Scott Dreiling, Human Resources Manager, Modine Manufacturing Company-  The Career Pathways Initiative merging Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center is a perfect next step for the district as they build upon the many positive changes they have implemented over the past ten years.

Kenny Neal, owner and president, Mid-Land Erector CompanyThe Career Pathways Initiative merging Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center is a perfect next step for the district as they build upon the many positive changes they have implemented over the past ten years.

Clive Veri, president, Commerce Bank- The Career Pathways Initiative merging Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center is a perfect next step for the district as they build upon the many positive changes they have implemented over the past ten years.

Christie L. Barnhart, External Affairs Manager, Missouri American WaterThe Career Pathways Initiative merging Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center is a perfect next step for the district as they build upon the many positive changes they have implemented over the past ten years.


Or consider these excerpts:

Rob O'Brian, president, Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce- We believe Joplin Schools' vision is a perfect fit with the ideals Race to the Top represents.

Cary Beasley, workforce development manager, Joplin Area Chamber of CommerceWe believe their vision is a perfect fit with the ideals Race to the Top represents.

Gary Pulsipher, CEO, Mercy Hospital- I believe their vision is a perfect fit with the ideals Race to the Top represents.

Chad Greer, Corner Greer and Associates- I believe their vision is a perfect fit with the ideals Race to the Top represents.

Brad Graves, lead pastor, Calvary Baptist ChurchI believe their vision is a perfect fit with the ideals Race to the Top represents.

Nancy L. Hutson, president, Cycle ConnectionI believe their vision is a perfect fit with the ideals Race to the Top represents.

Lori Scott Dreiling, human resources manager, Modine JoplinModine-Joplin believes their vision is a perfect fit with the ideals Race to the Top represents.

Clive Veri, president, Commerce Bank- I believe their vision is a perfect fit with the ideals Race to the Top represents.

Christie L. Barnhart, external affairs manager, Mid-American WaterI believe their vision is a perfect fit with the ideals Race to the Top represents.

Crystal Harrington, executive director, Homebuilders Association of Southwest MissouriI believe their vision is a perfect fit with the ideals Race to the Top represents.

 
I am curious as to whether any of these people actually read the Race to the Top application before endorsing it, especially since none of them have anything to say about the specifics of the $10 million request.

As noted in an earlier Turner Report, Superintendent C. J. Huff asked representatives of both Joplin teacher organizations, MSTA and MNEA to endorse the proposal, handing them only one page of the report- the page that says they have read the whole report and support it.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Huff to JHS teachers: Arts area won't be ready until spring; you guys deal with it

As plans continue for the October 3 grand opening of the new Joplin High School and the cutting of the record-breaking six-and-a-half-mile ribbon, Superintendent C. J. Huff broke the news to staff in an e-mail over the weekend that the fine arts section of the building will not be totally ready until March.

His suggestion to Principal Kerry Sachetta on how to work through this problem pretty much amounts to "I've got the building open, now you guys deal with it."

The e-mail is printed below:

I continue to hear good things from students about their new school. Thank you to everyone for their good work in making the transition for the students a successful one. As promised, a few updates on construction on your site. Again, there will be a time that we will be asking you to put your eyes on your assigned spaces to give us a final to do list for the contractors.

Construction Timeline: The below is an overall timeline of project completion at the JHS/FTC site. This information is subject to change and should be considered a very conservative timeline. I would ask that the

§ Track and Fields: The softball playing field is finished. The girls actually practiced on it last night. The dugouts are still under construction. They will possibly be playing their first home game on the field this next week. Soccer fencing is going up. Field turf on the baseball field will be going down this next week as well. The asphalt for the track will start being poured on Wednesday and the rubberized track will start going down on the following Monday. All exterior work is obviously subject to weather delays.

§ October 21 – Final punch list items completed in classroom wings.

§ February 15 – Performing Arts Center Classrooms. Dr. Sachetta will be visiting with those teachers this next week to develop a workable plan. I had hoped for better news, but given we pulled all available resources off that part of the building to complete the main part of the building in the two months leading up to the opening, I'm not surprised. We will be pushing for earlier occupancy, but consider 2/15 as a worst case scenario at this point.

§ March 15 – Auditorium

The main gym floor is complete and the rubber track inside the gym will be 100% finished within the next few days. Wireless internet has been installed in 75% of the gym/classroom areas. We have had network issues at the high school since we started school at JHS/FTC. Eric Pitcher has worked closely with the company that installed the equipment and have since added some additionally equipment to speed up the network. As of yesterday the changes appeared to be working well.

Additionally, we hope to have the final punch on the electrical in all areas of the gym soon so we can fully occupy the space. We will be hosting our first volleyball game in the new gym vs. Webb City on Tuesday.

Student & Staff Celebrations: Tess Harmon and Alec Welch have been named National Merit semifinalists. They are among approximately 16,000 semifinalists representing less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors.

The Joplin High School Fashion Class has been recognized for its "Recycle and Redesign Fashion Show," which designed dresses created entirely from recyclable materials. The Missouri Recycling Association (MORA) presented an award for "Outstanding Recycling Education Program" during the MORA conference in Springfield on Sept. 9. Mandi Gash, JHS teacher, accepted the award on behalf of the fashion students.