Saturday, August 03, 2013

Globe whitewashes Joplin teacher turnover problem

The Joplin Globe has posted its promised examination the teacher turnover problem in the Joplin R-8 School District, and as you might have expected, it was a whitewash.

First, the numbers given to the Globe by school administrators seem to be at odds with what a simple head count of teachers who have left this year and comparisons on the DESE website from last year. Hopefully, the Globe reporter had the intelligence to simply ask for a list of teachers from the upcoming year and each of the past two and then made a simple comparison. I seriously doubt, however, that anything like that happened.

Then reporter Scott Meeker called all of the usual suspects- somebody from NEA, somebody from MSTA, C. J. Huff, and a retired teacher who apparently was not pushed out by C. J. Huff or Angie Besendorfer and was happy to say good things about the district.

What is missing, likely because the Globe is not a highly trusted media source by school employees, are quotes from any people below administration level who are still working at the school or anyone besides the one teacher who retired.

How in the world do you expect to find out why the turnover is high if you are not talking to the people who left?

As usual, in the days since Michael Beatty became publisher of the Joplin Globe, the story is designed to make it seem that everything is OK in the Joplin R-8 School District, just as it was at Missouri Southern State University during the Bruce Speck era.

As you might expect, C. J. Huff is not at a loss to explain why so many people are getting out of Dodge and leaving him and Besendorfer to their 21st Century education:

(Huff) said Joplin teachers have left their jobs for a variety of reasons, including the economic downturn.

“The economy really hurt us to a degree,” he said. “We saw people losing jobs here locally. Spouses sometimes had a job that paid more and had to do a job search and then move. But there were also teachers who wanted to try something different.”

He also noted that despite the rise in Joplin’s turnover rate, the number is still below the state and national averages.

Regarding issues raised by teachers who have resigned, Huff said the new classroom reality isn’t always a good fit for every teacher.

“We work really hard to retain our staff, and retention is a big part of our strategic plan,” he said. “But we also have an obligation to our families and children to measure and monitor progress toward meeting our expectations. When we hire teachers in Joplin, they have two years, three tops, to demonstrate they have the skills, attitude and belief system that matches ours to get the job done.

“If they’re not able to do that, there is an evaluation system. If they feel the need to leave or find another district that is a better fit for them, that’s OK. I have no problem with that.”


It is a shame the same evaluation system is not applied to R-8 administrators.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

They forgot to mention the teachers they fired for fighting to keep academics in the schools. And they didn't bother to mention that they eliminated the remedial reading positions in the middle of an academic failure district wide, with so many students reading nowhere near grade level. They might have mentioned that they have so much turnover that two extra people are now needed for the HR office, and that they ran out of applications a long time before they ran out of openings. They got some very good new teachers, but the odds are that they got some that were simply all that were left.

They also forgot to mention that there is no hope under the current administration and school board. The board is totally unapproachable, by their choice, so far as anyone knows, so it isn't like the administration has to fear them. Teachers left not to get better pay or because of the tornado or because they couldn't take the pressure of testing. Joplin has been testing for a long time and was once quite good at it. Teachers left because it's hopeless and success is unattainable. There will be no changes in the classrooms until there are changes in the board and in the Central Office. So expect the teacher flight to continue.

Anonymous said...

I just saw that article and I KNEW you would have to find some way to spin it. All along you claimed the globe wouldn't touch this subject and surprise - they did. Now you say their numbers are wrong. Really? You don't think they have the correct info on how many teachers left? Do you think they just made it up? And the article clearly states the turnover rate is higher than normal right now. (of course it IS still lower than the state ave) the article lists many reasons for this - including the pressure teachers were getting from the admin. It was extremely fair. I can't believe how little objectivity you have left.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you get some quotes from the numerous teachers who were bullied by the admin and ended up leaving the district. They don't work for them anymore. You call out the Globe for using anonymous sources so show us how it should be done. You are the only teacher who has told us about the abuse Huff and co is heaping on the teaching staff. I would think at least 1 or 2 more teachers who no longer work for the district would want to get the truth out. Get some quotes Turner and use their names. So far it's only you.

Anonymous said...

10:34 and 10:35 obviously don't work for the district or they would know the pressure the staff has been under for the past several years and the fear of speaking out by current and former staff and even parents of several students. This district is so corrupt. I am often ashamed to tell people where I work but I need the job and love working with the students and my co-workers.

I read the article in the Globe and it seemed fair although I think Huff lies when his mouth is open. I also think they would not have written the article without the pressure from Randy to cover the District. Funny too how they no longer take comments online at the Globe and they charge to read online. I will never pay for the Globe again.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 11:22 that the article was fair, or making a sincere attempt at fairness, but I also agree that the Globe wouldn't have written this without the attention paid to the topic by Turner and others.

The editor of that newspaper may hold her nose in the air with regards to blogs, the internet, etc., but I see these things as an extension of the tradition of pamphleteering, which was a means of expressing and distributing opinions outside of bigger media sources. Most people know this practice played a role in things like the American Revolution. This isn't to conflate Turner with Thomas Paine, but rather to point out that these blogs fulfill a legitimate function, one that is further legitimized when the Globe's writings become reactionary to the same internet writings they purport to decry.

10:34 and 10:45 appear to be regular visitors, and as much as they invoke charges of bias against Turner, they are equally guilty in the opposite direction. I think it says something, too, that people who disagree with Turner spend as much time reading him as people who agree. This further legitimizes Turner in my eyes, because if you don't take someone seriously you tend to ignore them. For example, most people disagree with the Westboro Baptist Church and consider them "fringe", which is why most of us don't go to their website every day to argue; they are so obviously "wrong" to most of us that it doesn't even occur to us to seek them out.

Anonymous said...

I found the article intriguing in that they touched on the fact that yes, the rate of teacher flight has doubled in a few years (starting BEFORE the tornado), but then they immediately leaped into a diatribe about how good it still is. I'd say that Joplin at one time was quite successful and is now rapidly falling apart. If teacher retention was high before, despite the fact that Joplin teachers have more students per classroom teacher and earn far less than the state average (look on DESE for confirmation of that fact), they must have been content with the progress and success they were feeling. Now that those two factors are gone, there is less reason to stay. No teacher I talked to left just to get more money. Most left because they just couldn't deal with the mess anymore. It isn't because they weren't up to the pressure. They weren't up to sustained failure under Huff and Bessie.

Anonymous said...

Uh, 10:45, I think Mr. Turner was asking the Globe how they could do an adequate job of covering this story by NOT using anonymous sources, something Carol Stark disparaged just a few weeks ago. Turner has given many, many people a place to make comments anonymously, something the Globe quit doing after Huff arrived and they all became so chummy. Many commenters would love to use their names, but to do so is to turn in your resignation. There is no room for dissent or disagreement in R8, even if you have the facts to prove your case. It's silent and total agreement or get out of town. And don't look for the Board to help you--they listen to no one but Huff. You have to wonder who pays who here.

Anonymous said...

I also wanted to agree with Turner that the issues at Missouri Southern with Speck are a clear illustration of how the Globe has been approaching our institutions.

There obviously were real issues with Speck, borne out by his quietly disappearing in the night. The Globe underreported these things, but if you had your ear to the internet you knew there was more to the story. Even if we were to give the Globe the benefit of the doubt, that they felt they didn't have solid enough documentation to report on it, it doesn't change the fact that the internet served a valuable role in making the public aware of these issues even if the form it took was satirical rather than journalistic.

I am still inclined to believe that the Globe made a concerted effort to avoid the issues at MSSU (based on evidence that has been written about elsewhere regarding the Chart and coordinated meetings b/t the institutions), and if the Globe was capable of missing the Speck debacle until it was practically over, there is good reason to suspect the same elsewhere. I think this current story is a step in the right direction even if it doesn't go as far as we'd like, but I also don't think it would have gotten this far if not for the internet and its modern version of pamphleteering. The internet is where the real debate is happening, and I will take that, spin and all.

Anonymous said...

One thing that should be noted about the Missouri Southern situation, Mr. Turner was the one who did what the Joplin Globe should have done and what the selection committee should have done by researching Bruce Speck's past at Austin Peay, where there were accusations against racism against him and where he had damaged that school's international program. Mr. Turner also was the one who defended the Chart when the Joplin Globe would not and brought attention to the letter the Globe's publisher sent to Speck offering advice on how to spin the news. I have heard Globe employees mock Mr. Turner for breaking the rules on his stories. Perhaps the Globe needs to learn how to break the rules as well as Mr. Turner does so they won't have to see so many big stories show up on the Turner Repot first. I am sure I am not the only one who is looking forward to Inside Joplin.

Anonymous said...

Amen, 7:37! We need the news delivered in a straightforward manner. Sometimes the truth is hurtful, but problems cannot be solved unless they are exposed first.

The Globe brought forth some of the teacher situation, but it did not go in depth, even though the information for a more informative article would not have been difficult to obtain. But now they can say they acknowledged the situation, glossed it over as neatly as possible, and they can return to their normal operations as usual. It will be interesting to see how they cover some of the stories that are headed the way of R8.

Anonymous said...

i'm just dying to hear how they worked hard to retain their staff. Please, Globe, do a follow-up article on that one! Go find some of the teachers who left and ask them what steps were taken to retain them. Especially those remedial reading teachers at a time when literacy rates are at an alarming low. Why, how selfish of them to leave the district high and dry at a time like this. And, since we're still getting all of those Title One funds (many of us have studied the budget thoroughly), one can only wonder what that money is going to? I guess we'll find out why those teachers left.

Anonymous said...

The comment from CJ in which he implies that it was mostly young or new teachers who couldn't handle the pressure is bull crap. We lost teachers who had been there from 10-45 years because they just couldn't put up with what has happened to the district.

Some in-depth research on the DESE site would provide the reporter with a list of names of teachers each year and what their qualifications are. The flight started before the tornado but has accelerated now that there are no restrictions on admin and the board is cowering in a corner somewhere. If you're going to write an investigative piece, then please, do some real investigating. If not, go back to reviewing movies or some such. It's about all the Globe is good for these days, other than lining pet cages. And where is the television media, pray tell? Are they bought off, too?

Anonymous said...

What has really been distressing about the Joplin Globe is how it responds to Turner's investigative reporting. Any time Turner comes up with a story the Globe has not had and that happens a lot, the Globe doesn't buckle down and do better, it pretends that there is no story. They did it with Bruce Speck, they are doing it with the Joplin schools, and they are doing it with all of the revelations Turner has had about the bankruptcies, lawsuits, and SEC investigations that Joplin's master developer Wallace-Bajjalli has been through. If I were Carol Stark, I would be thoroughly embarrassed at how often my staff is getting beat by one man.

Anonymous said...

How can you say in one breath that teacher retention is so important to you and one of your strategic goals, but then in the next breath say if the teachers want to go, then you just say okay? How is that working to retain them or support them?

Such ridiculous and contradictory statements should have been questioned by the reporter at the time and by the editor later.

Anonymous said...

8:15, I wondered that, too. I was bullied by 2 principals & Tina Smith...all pals of Bessendorfer...this occurred during the first year school librarians were taken out of the libraries & made to teach keyboarding to K-5th graders from 7:30 to 2:30 , do lunch duty, teach playground exercises, monitor various innovative study skills progams, & told "you not be reading stories anymore"... while still expected to do library work which most of stayed until 9:00 pm & worked week-ends. We were given less than 10 hours of training to transition from librarian to classroom teacher & continually judged harshly we didn't buck ASAP

Anonymous said...

If I were Turner, I'd never hire anyone who worked for the Globe under Stark's tenure there. They would have to be completely retrained in what it means to be an investigative reporter instead of a society club secretary.

Can't wait for Inside Joplin to start!

Anonymous said...

Here's something no one has pointed out yet that seems inconsistent. Supposedly, it was new teachers who left because they just couldn't handle the high standards that the district has (yes, so high that they've allowed themselves to be hanging on to accreditation by a thread--that is raveling faster than CJ can beg DESE for one more chance), yet wouldn't the newer teachers be more adept at technology? We keep being told that the young people of today eat and breathe technology so therefore we must teach the way they learn. The excuse for the more seasoned teachers to leave was that they couldn't handle that transition to technology/21st Century learning. So which of these two positions is true? Is either posit true? I find the amount of spinning to be dizzying, but yet, I'm seeing holes in the story.

Anonymous said...

Besendorfer is a bully, and Huff is no better. They have surrounded themselves with people willing to carry out their bidding, no matter how dishonest or unproductive it is. Of course, in exchange for selling their souls they don't have to actually teach in the hellacious environment they have created, so maybe the temptation to sell out one's peers and the students is almost understandable.

I just wonder if they will all go down together? I don't see how any of them can be seen as not tainted by their environment. Time to clean house and start over.

Anonymous said...

I have several reactions to the previous posts and the Globe article.

First, even if you are no longer employed by R8, you can't have your name published. They can still destroy you professionally. Look at their track record; they are very good at destroying people, right Mr. Turner?

Secondly, that Title 1 money is being used to pay for full time TLCs in the buildings instead of the reading teachers.

Lastly, as a teacher who left, I must say that this article is insulting. Leaving has nothing to do with the requirements being too hard. It has to do with a poor environment that is filled with distrust.

I hate when the Globe comes in and just runs someone or something down but I also hate when they either ignore or gloss things over, like now. The school board is useless. Employees are forbidden to speak to board members or question any mandates. The chosen few are allowed to say and do whatever they want, no matter how hurtful or just plain untrue. It's an ugly time to be in R8 land.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 10:48. It is a hostile working environment. I don't want to go to the general assembly and listen to them talk about how much they appreciate us. I think that will make me ill. I wish they would just let us have some work time and leave us alone. I need to work with a new teacher and a student teacher. I need to make lesson plans. And I need to get my room together. That's more important to me than listening to an administration and a school board that have turned their backs to us.

If forced to be there for contractual purposes, I vow to not applaud or acknowledge those who have done teachers and students harm. I will just sit quietly and tune it out. I hope others will join me in my silence. It can be deafening.

Anonymous said...

I wish someone around here would be the voice of reason and realize the fault falls on each entity:

1, The Globe is wrong for failing to do its job as community watchdog whether it pertains to matters with the City of Joplin, MSSU, R-8, wherever tax dollars are being spent. The Globe has failed to ask questions, follow up and bring light all any and all issues.

2, Turner and Inside Joplin (whatever his medium will be called) is wrong because his credibility is shot due to repeated terminations that never his fault, his failing to take responsibility and his out and out agenda on issues. Turner has forgotten the golden rule of journalism: you're not the story, keep yourself out it, remain neutral, ask questions of both sides and report. How can someone honestly provide an unbiased opinion when his agendas are so obvious?

3, MSSU, R8 and City of Joplin. Combined, all three have either failed or done a poor job allowing for public input, public comment, public question, media inquiry or full disclosure on a vast range of items from the request for proposal for bids for a master developer (was a RFP ever drafted or posted?), the long list of issues surrounding Speck and multiple other issues that have since arose at MSSU and of course, the R-8, which depending on which side of the fence you stand, is either 100 percent in the wrong or 100 percent in the right.

I refuse to take a side, someone please present all the proof in a neutral, unbiased public forum where the facts can be proven/substantiated and then we as a community to work together to move forward as a team. The constant undermining of each entity in this community (city, schools, university) stinks and reflects poorly across the country.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a case of the rats fleeing the sinking ship. It would be better, for sure, to be a live rat than a drowned crewman. I don't blame the teachers for leaving, and I may join them rather than go down into the mire with the captain.

Anonymous said...

The attitude expressed by 3:01 is the reason Joplin has so many problems. Everybody is wrong and he won't do anything until someone hands him the information on a silver platter. The "constant undermining" of the school district, the university, and the city seems to be a knock at Turner. It was not he who undermined those three entities, but he has done an excellent job of pointing out problems that have been overlooked by the Joplin Globe, something that has been a problem for years. As for his agenda, please tell me when the Turner Report has ever lied to the public. Turner has been outspoken, but as far as I can tell, he has always played it straight with his readers. Go ahead and refuse to take a side. That makes you part of the problem, a big part of the problem.

Andrew said...

I wasn't surprised to see Scott Meeker as the writer of that non-story. Look, Scott used to be a friend of mine, and his disdain for Randy Turner was a frequent topic of conversation. I'm sure that his feelings on that issue are not any different from any other Globe "reporter," however. (It was fun to see him get upset over the fact that Randy was always scooping the Globe on big stories.) Scott isn't a real journalist---these days, he's too busy with various extracurriculars with an old girlfriend, as well as some entertainment writing on a different site---and you know, that's true of most of the employees of the Globe. They aren't journalists, and they don't work for a news organization. They work for a company that sells printed ads, with reprinted press releases in between but little else.

Anonymous said...

My child has received a wonderful education in this school district. Her teachers and the staff at both Kelsey and East Middle have been everything I could ever have wanted for her. The opportunities that she will be able to have when she gets to attend the new JHS in a couple of years are light years above the average public high schools in this country. They are giving our kids a head start on being successful after hs. If a kid is college bound then they will follow a curriculum that prepares them for the future the student has chosen. If college isn't in the cards for a student the curriculum will give them the chance to get certifications necessary to be successful WHILE in hs. Our kids have the opportunities to use the 4 years to obtain college credits, real world life experience in different areas of employment so they can see what interests them before college. The opportunities our kids are going to have in 2014 are a gift that I hope every child in the USA will have one day. Stop whining about how mean the bosses are and how scared the teachers are to talk. This is America. If 100 (or even 10) teachers left because of bullying or unfair treatment or harassment we would know about it. Huff isn't part of the mafia. Turner wouldn't be the only "brave" victim willing to show his face. I call bs.

Anonymous said...

And what kind of message does it send to the kids who are being bullied if the adults who should be setting a good example are allowing themselves to be bullied and are too scared to tell anyone? Turner is the only teacher who I know of who is willing to talk about this publicly. If there are teachers who were bullied and mistreated by the admin and they are keeping quiet out of fear, I have one thought. I don't think you are in the right profession. How could that teacher be a good example for a student being abused at home? What would they tell a student who needs help and guidance and an adult they could trust for help? "keep quiet cause it will make the person hurting you seek revenge if u tattle."

Anonymous said...

The New Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center will be a 21st Century learning environment featuring five distinct career pathways organized by clustered Collaborative Learning Suites.  At approximately 480,000 sf, this new facility will support a total enrollment of 2,500 students in grades 9 through 12.  

Failure? Stinking burning ship destined for failure? Really?

Anonymous said...

Andrew do you consider Turner a real journalist? I realize this is a blog but I keep looking for any sign that Turner actually utilizes some journalistic skills and when it comes to the subject of the school district I haven't seen even a hint of objectivity on his part. And I also haven't seen anything that would want him teaching my child anything. Anywhere. I get he feels like he was treated unfairly. I haven't seen him take ONE tiny slice of responsibility for anything. I read his book. It was in his classroom. I have a 13 year old daughter. I don't care that he wrote that kind of book but as a teacher he should have made sure I would never know he wrote it as well as making sure no student of his knew that he wrote it - much less have access to it. When he merged his teaching job with his book that had that kind of content HE screwed up.

Randy said...

No, that book was never in my classroom. It was never available as anything but an e-book until last month and I have not been in a classroom for four months. And during my hearing, no one produced any evidence that any student had ever read the book. Perhaps you are the one who needs to get a better grasp of the facts.

Anonymous said...

Hey 4:41! Thank you!!! Today's, umm, "news" story about R8's teacher high turnover was the most non-"news" story I've ever read. Bad, bad, bad, totally bad writing, Scott Meeker: no details, lots of generalizations, one teacher interview, and so on. Total crap, Scott Meeker. Totally lazy, totally apathetic. Journalist, dude? You lose, totally.

Anonymous said...

The local news, print or t.v. will never call out the Joplin School Admin or board. The globe is worthless, unless your packing dishes

Anonymous said...

5:17: that is a great copy and paste from Corner Greer Architects web page. No original thoughts other than copying theirs?

A nice building does not mean students will succeed. When children going into middle school CAN'T ADD, then how can they possibly succeed at higher grades levels? Oh wait, "Just google it!" seems to be the rallying cry from administration...

Anonymous said...

5:17 - You seem to know a lot about the new high school so surely you know that they are way over-budget as well. What happens when there is not enough money left to finish the high school? In addition, how is the tax money being used?