The decision by the Webb City R-7 Board of Education last fall to adopt a policy forbidding relatives of school board members to be hired was made without much fanfare. It was simple, common sense. When you hire the relative of a board member, it creates the appearance of favortism. It doesn't matter if that person is the most qualified applicant. It doesn't matter if that person is the most qualified person in the United States. It simply gives the appearance that the person got the job because his or her board member relative pulled strings.
It also smacks of the old-time rural stereotype seen on old episodes of "Green Acres," particularly the one where Oliver Douglas took Mister Haney to court and everywhere he went he ran into a judge or a lawman who was related to Haney.
A school district that doesn't use set such a policy in its hiring is not only sowing the seeds of suspicion, it is sowing the seeds for resentment among staff members who are not related to someone on the board.
What has happened in the Diamond R-4 School District is exactly the type of situation Webb City R-7 officials were stopping before it could ever happen.
I received an e-mail yesterday pointing out how Diamond staff and board members are related.
The board president's sister is the district's Parents as Teachers person. His brother-in-law was recently hired as a keyboarding teacher. He served part-time as the district's technology coordinator during the 2003-2004 school year.
Another board member's wife is the school librarian.
A third board member's wife was recently promoted to middle school secretary after having served as an assistant librarian.
A fourth board member's husband served year before last as assistant high school girls basketball coach, even though he did not accept payment for that job.
A fifth board member had a niece who taught in the school district last year. She resigned and went to another school this year. The niece's husband is still employed as a teacher in the school system.
A sixth board member, who recently resigned due to job conflicts, had a wife who had been employed as a teacher's aide, though she resigned that position at the end of the last school year to take a higher-paying job.
Only one member of the Diamond R-4 Board of Education does not have relatives who have been employed during his time on the board.
That is not to say these people are not qualified for the positions they hold or held. It doesn't matter. The perception is still there and there are other qualified people who could be hired for those positions.
It should be stressed that nothing illegal is going on here. Board members do not vote on anything that directly affects their relatives (though many of their votes do indirectly affect them). But even taking that step does not change the perception. It is going to be hard for any board member to vote on another board member's relative since they have to serve together until the next election at least.
( It should be noted that I, too, have a conflict when it comes to writing about this situation. Last summer, the board voted to put me on an unpaid leave of absence despite my having signed a contract to teach in Diamond for the 2003-2004 school year. It then, apparently out of spite, took the unprecedented and unnecessary step of not renewing my contract for the 2004-2005 school year, even though I was employed by another school district and had no attention of returning to Diamond. I say out of spite because I received two letters telling me my contract was not being renewed, one from Superintendent Mark Mayo and the other from Board President Dr. Wayne Webb. If you are interested in reading more about that, you can find the information on my Diamond school website www.wildcatcentral.com )
The reputation of former Missouri governor Joe Teasdale has been upgraded. Teasdale, if you recall, was elected governor in 1976 when state Republicans punished incumbent governor Kit Bond for supporting Gerald Ford for president instead of the man they wanted, former California governor Ronald Reagan. Teasdale was incompetent and after four excruciating years in office, he was replaced by the man he beat in 1976, Kit Bond.
No, Teasdale's accomplishments don't look better with the passage of time. He may have been a Democrat and from Missouri, but he was no Harry Truman. What makes him look better has been the horrible record of current governor Bob Holden, who thankfully didn't even make it to the general election this time around. Missouri Democrats voted for State Auditor Claire McCaskill Tuesday and put Holden on the sidelines.
Holden started his only term by infuriating the Republicans in the legislature and kept pouring it on for four years.He continually tried to push through a major tax package that he knew wasn't going to fly. He tried to make it appear that he was the only one who cared about education. He quite frankly misled the public about the size of the state's financial problem and illegally, in my opinion, held back money that should have gone toward education. Then, after allowing state school districts to vote on levy issues and bond proposals, all of a sudden he discovered that we had money after all. The Republicans weren't the only ones who weren't buying the act. Now, hopefully Democrats will unite behind Claire McCaskill and stop this burgeoning Blunt dynasty before it gets started.
Congratulations also to Missourians who didn't buy the nonsense that riverboat casinos at Rockaway Beach were going to help education. That was a no-brainer. I feel bad for the people of Rockaway Beach, who would like to regain their past prosperity, but they need to do it another way. Casino gambling may be the most regressive tax of all.
It was old home week for me yesterday, as I had a chance to talk with three young reporters with whom I worked at The Carthage Press. I received a phone call Tuesday morning from Michelle Reagan, a reporter for the Jefferson City News-Tribune, who updated me on what was going on in her highly successful career. When I reteurned home from some shopping in the afternoon, I ran into current Carthage Press managing editor Ron Graber, who tells me it probably will be another couple of months before he and the rest of the Press staff move in to their new building on Central Avenue.
As Ron and I were talking a car pulled up next to us. In the passenger seat was Stacy Rector, who was a high schooler when she worked for me at the Press. As I noted in an earlier posting, Stacy won first place in the featue writing category in the Missouri Press Association Better Newspaper Contest for an article she wrote a month before her 18th birthday. She also was responsible for editing and doing nearly all of the writing for Teen Tuesday, the Press' weekly section for young readers. Teen Tuesday was honored by the MPA with its prestigious Community Service Award. Stacy is a reporter for a weekly newspaper in the Dallas area. She was back in Carthage for a one-week vacation.
Passing the trash.
That's the term used when a school district fires a teacher (or forces that teacher to resign), but doesn't take steps to make sure that teacher never gets a chance to do the same thing again.
I don't know if that is the situation in the Lamar R-1 School District where the football coach, Tim Casper, submitted his resignation late last week. Postings on www.lamarmo.com indicate that the dismissal came as a result of an alleged affair with a student. One posting indicated that the girl had turned 18, so no legal action could be taken.
I don't know for sure what happened in this case, but this is not the first time a Lamar football coach has come under fire for skirting the bounds of decency. I am not going into names on this, but one coach who was both hired and fired during my tenure at The Lamar Democrat had already had difficulties at other schools before he was hired here, but he was a favorite of Wayne Cook, the man who was superintendent at that time (and who, coincidentally left his position at Lamar a couple of months before this coach started). The other schools did nothing to keep this man from preying on young females in Lamar, and unfortunately Lamar did nothing to prevent it from happening at his next stop.
The state of Missouri put a new law into effect in the late 1990s to keep people with criminal records from teaching in our classrooms. At that time, this teacher has no record. He later was convicted on a felony armed robbery charge unrelated to any teaching duties. When this law went into effect, I decided to localize the story (I was at The Carthage Press by this time) by seeing when a hearing would be held to take away this man's teaching license. The state of Missouri makes it tough for parents to find out about teachers. You can find out if they have a teaching license or what they are certified to teach through a link on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website. Unfortunately, you cannot just type in your child's teacher's name and find out about him or her. You can only get the information if you have the teacher's Social Security number. I was able to con someone into getting me this teacher's Social Security number. I discovered that, even though he was in prison at the time, he was still certified to teach in Missouri. So I called the education department and asked if a hearing had been scheduled to revoke his license. When I asked, I was greeted with silence. "I'll hvae to get back to you on that," the woman who took my call said.
Ten minutes later, a higher-up at the education department called back and asked me for particulars. A few weeks later, when I plugged in his Social Security number, I discovered that he no longer had a teaching license.
It makes you wonder who else may be out there preying on children because of bureaucratic snafus or administrators and board members who don't mind passing the trash to someone else.
(In the interest of full disclosure, if you punched in my Social Security number, which I am not going to give you, you would find I am certified to teach English/communication arts to students in grades 5-9 and that certification is for 98 years. I also have a lifetime certification to teach social studies in grades 7-12.)
If you have anything you would like to see mentioned in The Turner Report or have comments on any item, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave the comments at the space provided at the bottom of each post.