Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 in Review: Joplin R-8 cracked down on Turner Report MSSU coverage

(From June 2013) Joplin R-8 problems with my writing began long before the problems with three of my books that have me facing the imminent loss of my job and my teaching career.

Human Resources Director Tina Smith, the same person who conducted the four-minute interrogation of me April 8, sent word through East Middle School Principal Bud Sexson on March 12, 2012, that administration was unhappy with the Turner Report's coverage of Missouri Southern State University President Bruce Speck and was also unhappy that I had the nerve to refer to myself as a teacher in the Joplin School District.

Sexson also told me that "they," never specifying who he meant by "they," wanted me to stop writing about politicians. "They see that it might cause problems because they are trying to get money from the state for the disaster."

The meeting, my notes from that day indicate, also included an admonishment about writing about a problem that was going on at McAuley High School, concerning a coach who had been fired. When Sexson brought up our discussion during his testimony at my May 23 termination hearing, the McAuley part of the conversation was the only thing he mentioned.

Sexson began the meeting by telling me that Tina Smith, and that was the first time I can ever recall hearing that name, wanted me to remove all mention of the school district from the message at the top of the Turner Report.

I noted that I had already changed that message, at administration's request to reflect that any opinions expressed on the blog were mine and not those of the Joplin School District.

"That's not enough," Sexson said. "They don't want any mention of the school district. They do not want anything that identifies your blog with R-8."

At that point, Sexson brought up Bruce Speck. "I know some people see a conflict with Bruce Speck and what you have been writing about him."

A check of my Turner Report posts from that time period indicates I had written four recent posts about Missouri Southern State University. One was titled: "Memo: Bruce Speck tells Faculty Senate to stop being so mean," another about the Joplin Globe's "cozy relationship" with Speck, and a third describing how while faculty jobs were being cut, the university was spending half a million dollars to hire a consulting firm.

The final one was an opinion piece I wrote offering financial advice to Speck- stop hiring consultants.

That one was published March 10, two days before my meeting with Sexson.

The principal pointed out that there was a problem with me writing about Speck because he was an East Middle School "lunch buddy," and a member of our Site Council.

"They see it as creating problems with the professional relationship we want," Sexson said.

I asked if "they" were wanting me to stop writing about Bruce Speck and Missouri Southern State University entirely.

"That's what Tina Smith said would be the best thing," Sexson answered.

After that he said, "Don't mention that you are a teacher with Joplin R-8."

"I am a teacher with Joplin R-8," I said.

He said he knew that, but that was what "they" wanted.

Again, he did not specify who "they" were, but it was obviously someone higher up the food chain than Tina Smith.

At that point, I agreed not to write anything about Missouri Southern State University until after the bond election and I also said I would change the description at the top of my blog to remove any mention of the Joplin School District.

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