Monday, November 29, 2004

As regular readers of The Turner Report may recall, I wrote a few weeks ago about the Joplin R-8 School District becoming "Accredited with Distinction" by the Missouri State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
It is a big deal. It means that your school is one of the top schools in the state of Missouri.
That was not the way the story was treated by The Joplin Globe. Globe editors did put the story on page one where it belonged, but the editors and reporters selectively chose facts that made it appear that the accomplishment really wasn't that big of a deal.
First, the reporter interviewed officials from two other school districts, Webb City and Carl Junction, which have also been accredited with distinction but received the designation earlier. That made it appear as if everyone else has already done it, why did it take Joplin so long?
That is the way editors can take even one of the most positive stories the R-8 School District has had in recent years and put a negative spin on it. Why were only officials from Webb City and Carl Junction interviewed.
Joplin's accomplishment was put into perspective today by a news release from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Only about 25 percent of the state's schools were accredited with distinction and only a handful from this area.
It would have been just as easy for Globe reporters to have interviewed officials from the Carthage or Neosho school districts, which did not receive the award.
What does it mean to receive the "Distinction in Performance" designation? According to the news release, "The annual recognition is based on school districts' performance on MAP test scores, ACT scores, attendance and dropout rates, and other measures of academic performance during the last school year."
Commissioner of Education Kent King said, "This award is unique and demanding, because it requires districts to demonstrate growth and progress across the board. Districts must show improvement or high performance at every level- elementary, middle and high school. It isn't good enough to excel in a single area.
The Turner Report generally features news from a four-county area, Jasper, Newton, Barton, and McDonald.
Jasper County had three schools receive the recognition: Joplin, Carl Junction, and Webb City. The Carthage, Jasper, Sarcoxie, and Avilla school districts did not make it.
In Newton County, only one school, Westview, was recognized. Neosho, East Newton, Seneca, and Diamond did not qualify.
The McDonald County School District was recognized, but the Lamar, Golden City, and Liberal school districts in Barton County did not qualify.
So congratulations should go to the teachers, students, administrators, and parents in the Joplin, Carl Junction, Webb City, McDonald County, and Westview school districts. That doesn't mean that students in the other school districts are not receiving a quality education. But it is definitely a good sign for the five school districts which achieved the honor.
Especially when you consider that the McDonald County School District receives less per pupil than any other school district in the state.
Now, back to The Joplin Globe for a moment. My original thesis remains the same. Being accredited with distinction should have been written as a positive story for the Joplin R-8 School District, not out of any phony sense of cheerleading for the local school, but because that is exactly what it was. A later story talking about other schools that have been accredited with distinction would have been a far better way to get the Globe's point across. At the same time, it could have been shown that most school districts have not reached that level. That would have been a completely accurate depiction. Apparently, that was too much to hope for from the area's largest newspaper.
Sometimes making a healthy profit just isn't enough.
Ask the employees of the Pennsylvania House furniture factory in Lewisburg, PA. They received an early Christmas present from plant owner La-Z-Boy when the company announced it would shut down the Lewisburg plant and put its 425 employees out of work.
La-Z-Boy officials are shipping the work, which had been done by the U. S. workers to China to improve the company's profit margin. This time, it was a little more difficult than usual to sell out American workers. The governor of Pennsylvania became involved and tried to broker a deal for employees to buy the plant. On Nov. 16, La-Z-Boy rejected a $37 million buyout package without even submitting it to its board of directors.
Robert Joel Zechman Jr, a worker at the plant for 29 years, told "They led us all down the path and then they pulled the plug. I don't think they wanted to sell. They didn't want the competition."
That was the least of the charges leveled against La-Z-Boy officials. They claimed the plant was losing money, but workers say that was not the case. The workers say La-Z-Boy made sure the plant was bathed in red ink by buying a large number of unnecessary purchases during the past few months.
One example: one day before the plant was closed, according to the report, a new truck and snowplow were ordered. Other large-ticket purchases were also made, the workers claimed.
Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell said at news conference, "Somewhere we have to draw the line and say we can't lose everything to China."
The closing of the Pennysylvania House plant was made at the same time as closings of three other plants. La-Z-Boy officials said the manufacturing would be shipped to China.
So far, La-Z-Boy's plans have not affected the Neosho plant, which employs nearly 1,500 workers, but only because China still does not do as well with upholstery orders. That will likely change since Chinese officials are already working at improving in that area. La-Z-Boy officials have already indicated that when China is ready to handle production, they will waste no time in shipping it there.
Condolences to the family of former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Cloyd Boyer of Alba, whose son, Mike, was killed in a hunting accident in Barton County over the weekend. Mike Boyer was also the nephew of former major leaguers Ken and Clete Boyer.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Change continues to come to Lamar.
According to the Saturday Democrat, Danny Little is resigning as president of Lamar Bank and Trust Company. The Democrat gave this story the kind of prominent page-one play it deserved...but I am going to ask the same question again.
How in the world can the city of Lamar's newspaper of record go all of this time without running a single word about the resignation of Dan O'Sullivan as chairman of the board of the company his father created.
Danny Little's story deserves to be told and it deserves to be told on page one. It is the kind of story that should be running on page one of a small-town local newspaper, but the continuing saga of O'Sullivan Industries and the changes it has been going through is the biggest story going in the Lamar area and has been for the past several months.
The entire family of the man who saved the city's economy after Lawn Boy moved out in the early 1960s has been ousted from positions of leadership, along with others who had helped guide the company for three decades or more.
The only stories the Democrat has run have either been press releases from the desk of million-dollar CEO Bob Parker or items that were spoonfed to the paper by him.
Parker's side of the story deserves to be heard, no doubt about it. But when the local newspaper runs that side, without writing anything about what has happened to the O'Sullivan family and other long-time company officials, then it is not serving its public.
Some of the people who have been pushed out by the new regime are not able to talk to the media due to clauses in their severance agreements. Big deal. Those severance agreements are part of the public record (as was the text of Daniel O'Sullivan's resignation letter). The other side is out there, it just takes a little digging to get to it.
The O'Sullivan story is not over. Let's hope it doesn't get totally bypassed by Lamar's newspaper of record.
I hope the protest and counter protest at Webb City High School Monday morning are peaceful. From what I saw of the anti-gay protesters on the TV news tonight, they may be the best thing that could ever happen for high school student Brad Mathewson's cause. Yes, these bigots should be allowed to protest. That is the American way and it is the First Amendment. It is hard to believe such ignorance exists in the 21st Century, but it obviously does.
But those who are staging the counter-protest also have First Amendment rights. I hope they show up in large numbers. I still don't agree with the premise that Brad Mathewson should be allowed to wear his T-shirt, any more than I believe those who wore the anti-gay t-shirts should be allowed to wear those at school. Those rules do serve a purpose, even if the Webb City officials did a poor job of evenly enforcing them, which appears to be the case.
What these Topeka protesters are doing is making it look as if there is only one right side in this case and that only lunatics like this reverend and his followers would think of opposing a gay youth's constitutional rights.
That is far too simplistic. This is truly a case with many legitimate arguments pro and con. And despite what the ACLU officials have said, the Tinker vs. Board of Education case does not grant carte blanche to students to allow them to exercise their First Amendment rights any time and any place they want.
The courts have recognized for years the need for public education to continue with minimal interruption. For instance, you can't have a student jump up and begin shouting political slogans while a math class is working on equations.
The current situation, obviously is different, but is it as clearcut as the ACLU press releases would have us believe? Being on the front lines every day, I can tell you it is not.
Where did the Thanksgiving vacation go?

Saturday, November 27, 2004

The highest paid administrators and teachers in the Jasper/Newton/Barton/McDonald county area come from the Webb City R-7 School District, according to the preliminary report cards submitted to the state by each school district. Final report cards have to be submitted to the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education by Dec. 1 each year.
Most of the time, the schools' pay ranks close to the size of its enrollment in comparison with other area school districts.
One surprise is that the Westview school district in Newton County has the second highest average pay for administrators at $67,492 annually. Of course, Westview has only one administrator. In other schools, the superintendent makes most of the administrative money while principals make a considerably lesser amount. Unfortunately, the state does not require those differences to be spelled out in the report cards. Also eliminated was a requirement that school districts specify just how much of their budgets are used for extracurricular activities.
Enrollment- 1. Joplin 7,234; 2. Neosho 4,220; 3. Webb City 3,715; 4. Carthage 3,619; 5. McDonald County 3,554; 6. Carl Junction 2,794; 7. Seneca 1,689; 8. East Newton 1,550; 9. Lamar 1,358; 10. Diamond 848; 11. Sarcoxie 794; 12. Liberal 524; 13. Jasper 521; 14. Golden City 290; 15. Westview 154; 16. Avilla 151.
Average Administrator Salaries- 1. Webb City $69,021; 2. Westview $67,492; 3. Joplin $66,021; 4. Neosho $64,591; 5. Carthage $63,754; 6. Carl Junction $61,528; 7. Seneca $59,996; 8. East Newton $59,980; 9. Lamar $59,556; 10. McDonald County $58,697; 11. Jasper $57,656; 12. Diamond $54,496; 13. Avilla $54,000; 14. Sarcoxie $53,494; 15. Golden City $50,686; 16. Liberal $44,827.
Average Regular Teacher Salaries- 1. Webb City $34,858; 2. Neosho $33,915; 3. McDonald County $33,073; 4. Carl Junction $32,825; 5. Joplin $32,209; 6. Carthage $32,200; 7. Seneca $31,786; 8. East Newton $31,080; 9. Sarcoxie $30,506; 10. Lamar $29,791; 11. Avilla $28,966; 12. Golden City $28,686; 13. Jasper $28,683; 14. Diamond $28,453; 15. Westview $27,926; 16. Liberal $27,359.
I am still hearing a great deal of resentment toward Missouri Southern State University officials after the local TV stations featured stories last month on how students there were receiving flu vaccine.
Of course, they said they were asking that only those who truly needed it get the shots, but the impression that was left was that these young students were getting flu vaccine while our senior citizens and those who genuinely need it were being left out in the cold.
That impression may not be accurate, but it is there and it is something college officials are going to have to deal with. The biggest mistake appears to be that the college officials publicized it and appeared to be trying to show how intelligent they were for coming up with vaccine when others were not getting any.
Still no word about the 'Planning" and "Goals" that the Diamond R-4 Board of Education did during its meeting at the Greenwood home Nov. 22. I am curious as to whether anyone besides board members and school officials showed up at the meeting.
The last minutes posted by the R-4 Board of Education indicated the board did the right thing and voted to pay Middle School Student Council Renee Jones a three percent stipend for her work. Middle School Administrator Danny DeWitt had made the request at the previous board meeting after he discovered that the expense could no longer be funded through the state's Career Ladder program.
Mrs. Jones has led the most active middle school student council in the area for the past several years. It is good to see the board pay her at least part of what she deserves for her work and dedication.
I won't go through the long list of things Mrs. Jones and her student council have done, but you can find them in an earlier edition of The Turner Report.

Southwest City officials, naturally, are denying all of the allegations made by former Police Chief Ron Beaudry in his wrongful dismissal suit against the city.
Beaudry, in his suit filed Sept. 24 in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, claims that he was fired because he tried to remove police officer Toi Canada, who is Mayor Al Dixon's stepdaughter.
In his lawsuit, Beaudry claims that he tried to fire Ms. Canada because of her past record of drunk driving.
In their response to the lawsuit filed this week, Southwest City officials acknowledge that they hired Ms. Canada during a November 2003 meeting, but not at the request of Mayor Dixon.
Otherwise, the city officials denied all of Beaudry's allegations and said that Beaudry's firing was based on "valid legal grounds" and that Beaudry was an at-will employee who could be "terminated without cause for any legal reason," according to the response.
The city officials also claim Beaudry cannot see because they are protected by the doctrines of "sovereign immunity," "official immunity," and "qualified immunity."
Beaudry was fired June 2, after he made an unsuccessful effort to fire Ms. Canada. Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the city of Southwest City, Mayor Al Dixon, and council members Farley Martin and Mildred Weaver. Beaudry noted in his petition that Ms. Canada is Martin's stepdaughter.Beaudry was hired as police chief in June 2003. Ms. Canada was promoted to full-time status after a closed council meeting in March 2004, the petition says. At that point, Beaudry conducted a background check and uncovered the alcohol-related offenses, he said. "On March 12, 2004," the petition says, "(Beaudry) received a fax from Angela Heckart, a representative with Beimdiek Insurance Agency, regarding the insurability of Ms. Canada." Ms. Heckart said Ms. Canada could not be insured because she had an alcohol-related driving offense in the three years before she was hired.
On March 30, the city received a fax saying that Ms. Canada was prohibited from using any city vehicle. At that point, Beaudry fired her.
"On or about April 13, 2004," the petition said, "the city council refused to fire Canada, rehired her, and allowed her to operate her own vehicle to conduct police business."
On May 14, the council suspended Beaudry after he went public about his concerns about Ms. Canada, the petition said. On June 2, he was fired.
In the petition, Beaudry claims his First Amendment free speech rights were violated by the city officials. He is asking to be reinstated as police chief, to have all references to his suspension and firing removed from city files, and for damages and punitive damages. He is asking for a jury trial.

Friday, November 26, 2004

A major lawsuit has been filed against retiring Newton County Sheriff Ron Doerge.
On the same day that a reception was held for Doerge at the Newton County Sheriff's Department, a petition alleging that a prisoner's civil rights were violated was filed in the U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri by Oscar Alvarez, who spent two months in the Newton County Jail earlier this year after pleading guilty to a non-support charge.
Doerge has been hit by more than two dozen lawsuits from prisoners in the past, but nearly all of those were filed by the prisoners themselves, without the representation of lawyers.
Alvarez not only has representation, but he is getting the advice of one of the top litigation firms in southwest Missouri, Hall, Ansley, Rodgers & Condry, PC of Springfield.
The company has a reputation for bringing in big settlements, including a recent $800,000 ruling against Cox Medical Center.
The details of Alvarez' lawsuit were not immediately available, but should be available by sometime next week.
Special gift cards may be in the future for Northpark Mall shoppers.
CBL & Associates, the Chattanooga, TN firm that bought the mall this week has been offering cards at many of its mall with the cooperation of American Express Travelers Cheques and Prepaid Services.
According to the Nashville Business Journal, the cards offered there range from $20 to $300.
It seems like a good deal, but apparently not everyone thinks so.
A class action complaint has been filed against CBL in U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. alleging that the cards, which were also used in Illinois malls, are a ripoff. It should be noted that these cards, though they were issued through CBL, were not done with American Express, but with Mastercard and Bank of America.
According to the lawsuit, plastic Mastercard gift cards were offered for sale at malls throughout Illinois. The cards had an expiration date. One of the people filing the suit, Doris Shuette, paid $15 for a giftcard at the St. Clair Square Mall in Fairview Heights, Illinois on Dec. 11, 2002, and received a card, which was valid through May 2004. She gave the gift card to a friend, Thomas Ripperda. He did not try to use the card until late November or early December 2003, the lawsuit said.
The petition alleges that the companies involved began subtracting "administrative fees" of $2.50 per month. When Ripperda tried to use his card, he was told it had no value, even though the expiration date was still several months in the future.
The lawsuit says this was a violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, and that it is a class action because countless people have been defrauded.
The case was initially filed in St. Clair County, Ill., then sent to federal court, and as of Aug. 30, has been returned to St. Clair County.
More on Northpark Mall...Commercial Property News describes the purchase of the Joplin facility and a similar one in Laredo, Texas, as a coup for CBL because these properties have not been on the market much lately. "More product should become available, though, as the traditional owners of these properties find it tough to find the capital needed to reposition them," the article said.
The larger companies, like CBL, which is one of the five largest mall owners in the U.S. are better equipped to deal with these problems, the article said.
One challenge for CBL at both the Joplin and Laredo sites, is the recent Sears-K-Mart merger. Both sites have Sears as one of their anchor stores. Should Sears move in the direction of stand-alone stores, it could reduce the occupancy of Northpark Mall, which already is only at 77 percent.
The blueprint for the Brad Mathewson lawsuit against the Webb City R-7 School District was established in October 2003 when a high school student from Dearborn, Michigan, was not allowed to wear a T-shirt which showed President Bush's face with the label "International Terrorist."
When Bretton Barber was not allowed to wear the shirt, he enlisted the aid of the American Civil Liberties Union to file a lawsuit against the high school asking for an injunction which would allow him to wear the shirt.
Federal Judge Patrick J. Duggan ruled in Barber's favor. In his decision, he wrote, "There is no evidence that the t-shirt created any disturbance or disruption in the school."
The Dearborn officials made the unfortunate argument that a school was not the place for political debate. The judge wrote, "In fact, as the courts have emphasized, students benefit when school officials provide an environment where they can openly express their diverging viewpoints and when they learn to tolerate the opinions of others."
Barber was also a gay student and was active in the Gay-Straight Alliance.
The decision was handed down at a time when Brad Mathewson was a student at Fayetteville, Arkansas High School and a member of that school's active Gay-Straight Alliance. It undoubtedly was discussed by the Fayetteville organization.
Barber was already acquainted with the ACLU when he filed his lawsuit, something he apparently has in common with Mathewson. After he refused to turn his t-shirt inside out as the principal requested. "I knew that his decision was wrong, as I had studied students' rights in the past," Barber wrote in a column for the Youth Free Expression Network.
"For that reason I called some local media outlets and the American Civil Liberties Union. What I thought might lead to an appearance on the six o'clock news turned into an international media story.
"My defining moment had come. From CNN and the Today Show to the New York Times and USA Today, the story was everywhere. I was interviewed dozens of times, including by international outlets such as Japanese TV, German TV and the BBC. NBC even flew me to New York to appear on the Today Show."
From that point on, Barber said, he set a goal of "reaffirming" the First Amendment rights of students across the nation."
Apparently, Mathewson took to heart the words of Barber, who wrote, "My hope is that you, too, will have a defining moment. Perhaps, like me, your defining moment will come as a result of your decision to become involved. And all I can tell you is this: when it comes, truly live that moment. Take it all in, and let it become a part of who you are. Because if you do, you will not only better yourself, but you will touch the lives of countless others in ways that you never could have imagined."
Mathewson told The Kansas City Star he has been contacted by "Good Morning America" about a spot on that show. About the whole experience, he said, "It's exciting. It gives you an adrenaline rush. And I like the attention. I can't lie about that."

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Brad Mathewson has wrapped himself in the First Amendment and proclaimed his right to wear gay pride T-shirts at Webb City High School. According to his side of the story, the Philistines to go by the names of Ron Lankford, superintendent; and Stephen Gollhofer, high school principal are gay bashers who want to do nothing but make his life miserable.
There are two major problems with Mathewson's line, the first being that Webb City officials do have the right to keep him from wearing his t-shirts, and second, the text of the lawsuit reveals Mathewson to be a rude, disrespectful young man, whose behavior probably should have merited a suspension, t-shirt or no t-shirt. And this is what the American Civil Liberties Union lawyers are telling us.
This is the Mathewson version of what happened, and mind you, this version leaves out the defense that Webb City officials will mount if this issue ever comes to court. The ACLU offers a "factual background" to the case.
"Plaintiff Brad Edward Mathewson is a 16-year-old junior enrolled at Webb City High School in Webb City, MO. Plaintiff is gay. He occasionally wears clothing that expresses his political support for the rights of people of various sexual orientations.
"On or about Oct. 20, 2004, (Mathewson) attended Webb City High School wearing a T-shirt that said, "Gay-Straight Alliance" on the front. The words "Make a Difference" appeared on the back with three pairs of symbols (two male symbols, two female symbols and a male and female, and a pink triangle, a well-known symbol of the gay rights movement.
"That morning, (Mathewson's) homeroom teacher, Ms. Gray, told him that the T-shirt was inappropriate and sent (him) to the office for disciplinary action. At Ms. Gray's direction, (Mathewson) met with the assistant principal, Jeff Thornsberry, who told (him) that the shirt was inappropriate, distracting, and offensive to other students. At no time did plaintiff's t-shirt provoke any outburst or disruption from his fellow classmates. In fact, he previously wore this same t-shirt at least six times without incident.
"When plaintiff questioned Thornsberry about why the t-shirt was considered inappropriate, distracting, and offensive to others, Thornsberry refused to explain his statements. When Plaintiff pointed out that other students' notebooks and backpacks bear negative messages about gay marriage, Thornsberry refused to reconsider, and claimed that the other students' expression was different. Thornsberry gave (Mathewson) the option of changing his shirt or turning it inside out. Faced with a direct order from Webb City High School's administration, Mathewson chose the latter option."
The lawsuit continues, "On the way to the bathroom to turn his shirt inside out, Mathewson met a friend in the hallway. His friend is heterosexual. He and his friend decided to switch shirts. Unlike Mathewson's experience, his friend wore the allegedly inappropriate, distracting and offensive shirt without incident. No teacher or administrator approached him about removing the shirt or turning it inside out.
"A second incident occurred on or about Oct. 27, 2004, when Mathewson wore a t-shirt with a rainbow, a star, and the words, "I'm gay and I'm proud." Similarly, one of his friends wore a t-shirt that declared, 'I love lesbians.'
"Thornsberry approached Mathewson and demanded that he change shirts or turn the shirt inside out. Thornsberry also demanded that plaintiff's friend change his shirt. Mathewson refused to change his shirt or hide its message. Upset, Mathewson left school early to talk to his mother about the incident.
According to the lawsuit, Mathewson and his mother met with Gollhofer, Thornsberry, and Assistant Principal Randy Richardson. The lawsuit indicates the officials tried to convince them they were trying to protect Mathewson from "other students who might be provoked to act out against (him) because he is gay and publicly supports gay rights." Gollhofer allegedly pointed out that Webb City is in the middle of the Bible Belt and said Mathewson was "flaunting" his homosexuality.
The problems continued the next day, according to the lawsuit. "During his homeroom period, Mathewson and his friend were discussing the two incidents related to Mathewson's political t-shirts. Ms. Gray, the homeroom teacher, told Mathewson and his friend in a raised tone of voice not to discuss the issue of Mathewson's t-shirts." The lawsuit indicates they did as she said "although other students in the same homeroom were having discussions, none were asked to be silent."
The lawsuit indicates Mathewson confronted Ms. Gray after the homeroom period and asked why he had been "singled out for discipline. Ms. Gray refused to answer the question." That didn't stop Mathewson, who kept pushing at her to give him an answer. She walked him to Gollhofer's office. After he talked with each of them individually, he told Mathewson he needed to "respect his teacher's in-class orders."
The lawsuit indicates Mathewson kept pushing the issue and said he had obeyed her orders and he again asked why he had been "singled out." As Mathewson kept trying to push the t-shirt issue and his freedom of expression rights, the conversation "escalated," the lawsuit said.
Mathewson told Gollhofer that the school officials were "narrow-minded" and said, "You people suck!"
The mindset of the defendant is revealed in the followup line to the "you people suck" statement. It was called "an expression Mr. Gollhofer considered to be offensive." Gollhofer called Mathewson's mother and asked her to come to the school to discuss the situation.
Not without our lawyer, she said.
On Nov. 2, the Mathewsons and Joplin lawyer Bill Fleischaker met with Lankford and Gollhofer. The Mathewsons were told Brad would not be allowed back in school unless he agreed to stop wearing the t-shirts, according to the lawsuit.
To throw a further inflammatory note into the lawsuit, it was noted that Mathewson saw a student wearing a t-shirt that said, "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,' in an area of the school "where school officials were present."
The ACLU is asking for a preliminary injunction against the school district to allow Mathewson to wear his t-shirts while the case is being decided. As usual, when students' First Amendment rights are being discussed, the case of Tinker vs. Board of Education is cited. The Des Moines, Iowa, case involved high school students who wanted to wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam War in the '60s.
"While some students were unreceptive to the armbands and made some hostile remarks regarding them, the Court noted that there were no threats or acts of violence on school premises.
"In the end, the court found that the school officials' ban was an unconstitutional suppression of a particular opinion. 'Students in school may not be confined to the expression of those sentiments that are officially approved."
The ACLU argues that Mathewson's shirts are simply "Tinker 35 years later."
"Plaintiff's political T-shirts did not disrupt classwork or other school activities, nor is there any evidence that the shirts intrude upon the rights of others 'to be secure and to be let alone."
The lawsuit points out that students are allowed to wear t-shirts with religious messages on them, such as "What Would Jesus Do?" and "God's Army Recruit."
And students are "occasionally asked to share their political viewpoints during class. The argument is even made that since Mathewson's American government class discussed the 2004 presidential election, then why shouldn't gay rights be discussed.
The lawsuit said, "There is no question that some, but not all, Webb City High School students are permitted to engage in constitutionally protected personal expression every day. However, defendants have crossed the constitutional line by designating 'appropriate' viewpoints while forbidding student dialogue regarding 'non-conforming' viewpoints. Our Constitution and the Supreme Court simply do not permit this; the law in the United States is that students are permitted to express their point of view, no matter how controversial, no matter how unpopular without pre-approval by the school faculty or administration so long as the expression does not cause it disruption or disturbance."
Mathewson will suffer "irreparable injury" if a temporary injunction is not granted, the lawsuit said. He has "endured unnecessary stress in his daily life because of Defendants' violation of his constitutional right to personal expression."
The Mathewson case is a top story in today's edition of The New York Times. The Times, which apparently does not want to offend the influential gay community in New York, did not mention Mathewson's defiant and disrespectful attitude toward Gollhofer, Ms. Gray, and the other school officials.
It does quote Gollhofer, who naturally, is unable to comment much because of the lawsuit. Mrs. Mathewson told The Times, "All (my son) wants to do is to wear his t-shirts. He's a typical teenager, so he's angry that they're trying to tell him what he can and can't do. We had a meeting at the school to talk about it, but we didn't get anywhere with them. They talked, I listened and I got more and more mad. At the end, I just took him home with me."
Since the case has been filed by the Western Missouri ACLU chapter out of Kansas City, the story is quite naturally prominently featured in today's Kansas City Star. Again, Mathewson's attitude and disrespect were not mentioned, even though they are clearly featured in the ACLU lawsuit.
It is quite possible that a court will rule in favor of Mathewson, though I have known Dr. Lankford and Mr. Gollhofer for years and have no doubt that there is another, strong side to this case.
A decision in favor of Brad Mathewson would be wrong. This is not a Tinker case, no matter how hard Mathewson and the ACLU try to make it one. Rules against T-shirts with provocative messages on them, most of which are not political, are necessary and are used in schools throughout this country. The Webb City officials made a mistake by not noticing the anti-homosexual messages that were being displayed on t-shirts. Those t-shirts did not have any place at Webb City either and school officials have cracked down on them since the moment they were first made aware of them. It is almost impossible for school officials to catch all of the suggestive and potentially disruptive messages on t-shirts and other articles of clothing and there are many parents who don't care that their children are wearing such items to school.
Another dangerous message being sent by the ACLU that is students should be able to select discussion topics and that any and all topics should be permitted to be voiced in the classroom. If a judge rules that students can bring up subjects such as gay rights, abortion, and other push-button issues, then in all likelihood many teachers will simply forego the discussion technique and return to old-fashioned lectures.
Discussions are worthwhile for students, but the teachers need to be the ones who are in charge of them.
And, unfortunately, the Mathewson case brings out some of the biggest problems we have in American education today. We have more parents who are interested in coddling their children and being "supportive" of them, no matter who gets hurt in the process. There was a day when children who got in trouble at school would get in more trouble at home.
If a student told school officials "you guys suck," that student would be facing big-time discipline. Nowadays, the parents bring the lawyers automatically and don't even see the need to have their children apologize for treating adults with shocking disrespect.
Tinker was a principled high school student who thoroughly believed that the Vietnam War was wrong. He treated the Des Moines school officials with respect. Don't compare him to Brad Mathewson.
Comparisons have also been made with the civil rights movement. People like Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy were principled men who also treated the establishment with respect. Don't compare them to Brad Mathewson.
  1. Those people were giants. Brad Mathewson is a spoiled brat.

Were it not for the luck of the draw and for an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty in Missouri, Gary Black might have already paid the ultimate price for the murder of an MSSC student.
Instead, he will have the opportunity to be a free man, thanks to a decision issued by the Missouri Supreme Court Tuesday.
Black was convicted of first-degree murder in connection with the racially-motivated October 1998 stabbing death of Jason Johnson. According to testimony at his trial in Jasper County Circuit Court, Black's girlfriend said she thought Johnson made a pass at her in a convenience store. Black and his girlfriend were both white, while Johnson was black.
The case was reviewed in the Aug. 23 Turner Report entry, which is reprinted below:

It wasn't the first time Jason Johnson had heard the names. When you're African-American and live in southwest Missouri, the unfortunate fact of life is there are going to be times when you're going to be called every vile racial epithet in the book.But this time was different. This was the last time anyone would ever call Jason Johnson by that evil name, that six-letter word that starts with the letter n. The fountain of red spurting from his throat spelled the end of the line for Jason. In a few moments, he would pass out due to lack of oxygen. After he was rushed to Freeman Hospital, it was determined quickly that he had suffered brain damage.Within a couple of days, Jason Johnson, a student at Missouri Southern State College, was dead. He had drowned in his own blood, the victim of a fatal stabbing.The man who stabbed him, Gary Black, 44, Joplin, was arrested shortly afterward in Oklahoma. An officer attempted to give him the Miranda warning. Black snarled, "F--- the Miranda warning. You tell that m-----f----- Dankelson (Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney Dean Dankelson) that I never attempted to kill anybody. The people I've attempted to kill, I've killed. Remember that, remember that." He pointedly added, "Cops, too."At some time in the near future, Gary Black is scheduled to be executed by the state of Missouri for the murder of Jason Johnson. His last chance to avoid the ultimate fate will come Sept. 14 when his plea his heard before the Missouri Supreme Court.Gary Black was no stranger to crime long before he ever met Jason Johnson. At the age of 21 in 1976, he robbed a Newton County man and shot him in the back. He was sentenced to prison where he did not make any friends. At the sentencing phase of his trial in Jasper County Circuit Court, a Department of Corrections official noted that Black had committed assault five times during his decade-long prison stay.Black received a new three-year lease on life in November 2001 when the Missouri Supreme Court stayed his execution. Now his attorneys are throwing everything into their appeal and hoping that something sticks.The details of Black's crime are laid out in documents filed with the Missouri Supreme Court. The road to Gary Black's execution began Oct. 2, 1998, in Joplin. Jason Johnson finished his work at a store at Northpark Mall in the later afternoon and joined his friends, Andrew Martin and Mark Wolfe, at Garfield's for a few beers.They left at 9:30 p.m. and stopped at a convenience store, according to the court records. Johnson bought some more beer and some tobacco.He stood in line with a woman named Tammy Lawson, Gary Black's girlfriend. It was that fateful coincidence that ended up costing Johnson his life.Court records indicate that Ms. Lawson went to Black's car and told him that Johnson had said something "perverted" to her while they were standing in line. She pointed him out as he left the store. Johnson opened the passenger-side door on Martin's pickup and they drove away, followed by Wolfe in his Camaro, and though they didn't know it, by Black and Ms. Lawson.Johnson, Martin, and Wolfe were headed toward the Dolphin Club. When Martin stopped at the light at 5th and Joplin, Black pulled alongside him in the right lane. The cars stopped in front of the club. Black and Johnson shouted at each other. Martin testified at Black's trial that Black leaped out of his car, reached through the passenger window of Martin's pickup, and stabbed Johnson in the neck, severing his jugular vein and nearly severing his carotid artery. Before he left his car he told Ms. Lawson he was going to "hurt that n-----." As he walked away after stabbing Johnson, he said, "One n----- down."Johnson was able to get out of the pickup and came at Black with a 40-ounce beer bottle. He managed to throw it at him. Black got back into his car and drove away. Blood was flowing everywhere. Bystanders did what they could to help Johnson, using towels and clothing to attempt to stay the flow. Paramedics arrived and did what they could, but it was too little, too late. Black had effectively executed Jason Johnson.At the trial, prosecutors convinced the jury that the murder was premeditated. By following Johnson, then killing him, Black had shown cool reflection. It was the first time in nearly four decades that a Jasper County jury had handed out a death sentence.Next month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments from Black's attorneys claiming that he received ineffective counsel during his trial and that the evidence did not support a first-degree murder verdict. Within a couple of months, the court will determine whether the will of the Jasper County jury is carried out.

The Southern District Court of Appeals rejected Black's appeal, but the Supreme Court reversed his conviction and remanded it back to Jasper County Circuit Court for a new trial.
"Black's counsel was ineffective in failing to impeach three eyewitnesses," the court ruled. "No other witness addressed the accuracy of the three eyewitnesses' perceptions or showed that the eyewitnesses had given prior inconsistent statements."
These statements, the court said, went directly toward the question of whether Black acted with deliberation. The eyewitness testimony changed Black's case from second degree murder and a lesser sentence to a death penalty case.
"The jury indicated it was confused by the term 'cool deliberation,' the court ruling said. "Had the jury heard the evidence impeaching these eyewitness accounts, there is reasonable probability that the trial's outcome would have been different."
That Aug. 23 mention in The Turner Report was the only local media coverage of Black's attempt to overturn his conviction until the local TV stations reported it earlier tonight. The last mention of Gary Black from the Globe, as far as I can tell was three years ago when an appellate court stayed his execution.
Someone needs to keep an eye on Jasper County Circuit Court where four people who had their driver's licenses revoked by the state Department of Revenue for alcohol-related driving offenses are suing the Department to have their driving privileges restored.
All four cases are under the jurisdiction of Judge Richard Copeland, who has restored the privileges of many such drivers in the past. The state department has had to go to the appellate courts to keep these people off the streets.
In September, The Turner Report featured numerous items about how often the higher courts have had to appeal Copeland's decisions, which seemed to be using technicalities to put these drivers back on the streets.
The Missouri Court of Appeals for the Southern District, in September, ordered the revocation of a Jasper County woman's driving privileges Tuesday, reversing a Copeland decision that gave the woman back her license on a technicality after she refused to take a blood alcohol test.In the state of Missouri, refusal to take a breath test is automatic grounds for license revocation. This was at least the sixth time over the last several years and the second time in the last eight days that a high court has had to reverse Copeland's decisions to give people who had been arrested for alcohol-related traffic offenses the opportunity to do it again.The five other sitting Jasper County judges, William Carl Crawford, Jon Dermott, David Dally, Steve Carlton, and Joe Schoeberl, have combined for one such decision. That one was made my Judge Dermott, who only made his decision after it became apparent that it wasn't clear who was driving a car the night in question.In Missouri, the decision to revoke a driver's license is made is an administrative decision made by the Department of Revenue. The decision may then be appealed in a civil action at the circuit court level.The most recent decision revolved around an incident which occurred on May 2, 2003, in Carterville, according to court records. Carterville police officer Ronnie Houdyshell was called to the corner of Main and Hatcher, where residents had said they had seen "an intoxicated person pull up in a vehicle and then slump over."According to court records, Houdyshell found Ms. Spry sitting on the passenger side of the car, apparently asleep. After another officer arrived, Houdyshell woke the woman up, though it took a while. When Ms. Spry opened the passenger-side of the car, Houdyshell "observed a half-empty bottle of vodka and a beer bottle. Spry appeared to be extremely intoxicated," according to the court decision.Houdyshell had not seen her driving and couldn't tell if the engine was warm, but he saw nothing suggesting there had been another person driving. He asked Ms. Spry how she had gotten there. "She simply replied, 'Me.' "She was taken to the Carterville Police Department for sobriety tests. According to the court records, she said she had been drinking earlier in the evening, but she did not say how much she had to drink. After the field tests, Houdyshell determined she was drunk and asked her to take a breath test. She was told that refusal to take the test could mean revocation of her license for one year.According to the court record, she started to take the test, but did not give enough of a sample. She tried again, but she "just quit blowing." Houdyshell explained once more what refusal to take the test could mean. "She just quit," Houdyshell said.Houdyshell told Judge Copeland the same information at the revocation hearing, according to the court opinion. Ms. Spry's attorney called no witnesses, but asked Judge Copeland for a directed verdict in Ms. Spry's favor. That's exactly what happened. In his ruling, Judge Copeland said there was "no probable cause to believe Defendant was driving while intoxicated."As mentioned earlier, this is not the first time the appeals court has had to reverse one of Judge Copeland's decisions.
In September, the court rejected another of Judge Copeland's decisions. The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals Monday backed the Department of Revenue's appeal to Copeland's decision that put Sara Ruth back on the streets.Ms. Ruth's license was revoked for one year after she refused to take a breathalyzer test following a DWI arrest. Ms. Ruth had appealed the Department of Revenue's decision, and after a hearing, Copeland determined that she had been arrested for driving while intoxicated, but had not refused the breathalyzer test and ordered her driving privileges reinstated even though the record clearly contradicted his judgment.The record said that on the evening of May 29, 2003, Captain Jason Wright and Officer Wanda Hembree were on patrol in Joplin. While they were stopped at a traffic light, they saw a Ford Ranger stopped in the right hand lane in front of them. The passenger door was open and someone was leaning out of the car. The officers pulled up behind the car.According to their report, the officer smelled alcohol. They asked the driver if anything was wrong. She said "her friend had too much to drink and was sick." Wright saw vomit inside the car.Wright asked Ms. Ruth if she had been drinking. She said she had been drinking a couple of hours earlier. Wright detected a smell of alcohol coming from Ms. Ruth and wrote that Ms. Ruth's eyes were "watery, bloodshot, and glassy; she was wobbling and staggering; and her speech was slurred." Ms. Ruth had no problem with an eyetracking test, but failed the walk-and-turn test, the report said.A preliminary breath test indicated she was drunk, according to the report, so she was arrested for driving while intoxicated. When they arrived at the Joplin Police Station, Ms. Ruth was given her Miranda rights, answered some questions, then she said she did not want to answer any more."The records show she was asked to submit to a chemical test of her breath. Hembree determined (Ms. Ruth) refused to submit to the test and noted the refusal" on the report.At her trial, Ms. Ruth testified that since she had already been given the breathalyzer during the stop, she had asked if she could "have time to think about it" when the second request was made. She said she was never asked and that the officer simply said on the report that she had refused.Based on that testimony, Copeland restored Ms. Ruth's driving privileges.In the appeal, the Department of Revenue said Copeland's decision was wrong because there were reasonable grounds for arresting Ms. Ruth for driving while intoxicated and the record showed she had refused the breathalyzer test. Under Missouri law, all persons who drive on state highways are "deemed to have consented to a chemical test of their breath."According to the appellate court ruling, "The evidence presented at trial unequivocally shows that (Ms. Ruth) initially refused to submit to the breath test."The appellate court ordered Copeland to reinstate the one-year revocation of Ms. Ruth's license.
On Aug. 29, 2000, Judge Copeland made a similar decision in the case of Paul Riggin, 48, Joplin. According to the court record, in the early morning hours of Dec. 13, 1998, outside a Joplin nightclub, an officer tried to approach Riggin as he got into his car. Riggin waved him off, got into the car, and drove off. When he was stopped, the court opinion said, Riggin "had a strong odor of alcohol," admitted to having had four or five drinks and he failed three field sobriety tests. He also tested positive on a breath test given at the scene.No witnesses were presented at the revocation hearing, only the officer's written report. Judge Copeland ruled that the Director of Revenue had failed to prove the case and restored Riggin's driving privileges.
On July 7, 2000, Judge Copeland restored the driving privileges of Paul Sutton, 59, Joplin. Sutton had been involved in an accident on Dec. 19, 1998, according to court records. Sutton "admitted to ingesting two beers just before the accident." He failed several field sobriety tests and a preliminary breath test indicated "a high level of alcohol was present in his blood."Riggin consented to another breath test at the station but "failed to give an adequate sample." Despite the officer's testimony, Judge Copeland ruled there was no evidence that Sutton had refused to take the test and put Sutton back on the streets.
The appellate court also overruled Judge Copeland in its Jan. 22, 1999, decision to revoke the driving privileges of Michael S. Delzell.According to court records. on April 6, 1997, a Joplin restaurant manager noticed "a man sitting in the driver's seat of a car in the restaurant parking lot with the engine running." The car had not been there a few minutes earlier, the manager said.It turned out the man had come to the restaurant to pick up his wife, who was a restaurant employee. The only trouble was she had left two hours earlier. The officer who investigated noticed that Delzell appeared to be intoxicated. Delzell failed field sobriety tests. He admitted he had been drinking and driving. When he was taken to the police station, he failed a breath test.But since neither the officer nor the restaurant manager had actually seen Delzell driving, Judge Copeland restored Delzell's driving privileges.Judge Copeland also restored the driving privileges of Jeffrey Lasley, a decision which was reversed by the appellate court on Oct. 21, 1997.Even though Lasley had failed field sobriety tests and a breath test indicated he had a blood alcohol content of 1.2, Judge Copeland gave Delzell back his license, indicating that the arresting officer had no probable cause to stop Delzell.
It will be interesting to see whether these latest four drivers are returned to the roads.
The only advantage small, daily newspapers have over the big-city dailies is that their editors and reporters supposedly know their neighborhoods and can fill the pages with the kind of local news that the interlopers from the big city can't touch.
That's why came as such a surprise late last week when The Neosho Daily News was trounced on two stories right in its own backyard.
The Sunday Joplin Globe featured the news that East Newton R-6 Superintendent Jeff Kyle, who had only been with the district for one year after serving five years as superintendent at Jasper, was leaving to take an assistant superintendent job upstate. Last Friday, The Globe featured an article on a Seneca elementary principal's decision to give an after-school detention to a kindergarten student. The Globe submitted the article to AP, which slightly reworked it. That story was then picked up verbatim by the Daily, which added no local quotes or any legwork on the story.
Why these lapses happened, I have no idea. The job of small-town reporters is to call sources of information frequently and to develop sources who will call you when something is up. At The Press, our city council and school board reporters, including me sometimes, knew we were not going to beat a morning newspaper on an evening story, so we developed a habit of going into depth on items that were scheduled to come before those bodies and sometimes telling the readers what was going to happen before it happened.
One such instance occurred when the city of Carthage was considering creating a Department of Public Safety, which would include the police and fire departments. Strong opposition to the proposal came from people who thought it was an effort to dilute the fire department and strengthen the hand of Ed Ellefsen, who was Carthage police chief at the time.
Hard-working reporter Ron Graber, now the Press' managing editor, and one of the best practitioners of small-town journalism when he gets the chance to practice it, got on the phone and called every city council member and quickly determined that the proposal was not going anywhere despite all the publicity it had been given.
Graber wrote his story. I ran it with a typical tabloid-style headline: "Department of Public Safety: Stick a Fork in It." That night, the council voted the proposal down, and the ever unflappable Chief Ellefsen arrived at the meeting with a box of plastic forks, which made a great page-one photo for the next day's Press.
If you don't show the kind of aggressiveness that Ron Graber showed on that occasion, you're going to get beat by the big-city newspapers. And when you are not the top source of local news, you're losing the only advantage you have in the marketplace
Hopefully, last week was just a bad week for The Daily.
Good news for stockholders of Carthage's Fortune 500 company, Leggett & Platt. quotes analysts Morgan Keegan as raising their estimates for L&P's residential furnishings components segment. The analysts say the segment is likely to grow at a faster rate than earlier estimates had indicated.
The new estimates are for 10 percent growth, which would be the fifth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth for Leggett & Platt.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Money speaks and apparently that is O. K. with Missouri Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt.
Blunt, who was recently reelected House Majority Whip, is among the House Republicans working to remove a law, which hasn't even gone into effect, that would require the food industry to label what country meat, fruit, and vegetables come from.
The big problem, apparently, is that the food industry does not want to pay the cost to do this, but is willing to do it "voluntarily."
The law was part of the 2002 farm bill and is supported by U. S. farmers and ranchers who would naturally like Americans to know when they are buying food that did not originate in America.
In addition to the money that the businesses say it would cost them, the chances for the bill, which was scheduled to go into effect in 2006, were also hurt by the defeat of South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle, who championed the proposal.
House Republicans already managed to get the law delayed until 2006. Now they want it eliminated permanently. An Associated Press article quotes Blunt as saying, "I can't find any real opposition to doing exactly what we want to do here."
The Minot, N,D. Daily News quotes Rep. Earl Pomeroy, a North Dakota Democrat, as saying, "To me, this looks like a big, wet kiss to some of their major contributors in the food processing industry, at the expense of farmers and ranchers."
It also appears to be at the expense of Americans who would like to know just where the food they are eating comes from.
Another picture of the Sears/K-Mart merger is beginning to emerge in printed reports. The deal is all about real estate, those reports say. The Denver Post quoted Faith Hope Consolo, vice chairman of New York retail consulting firm Garrick-Aug Worldwide as saying, "They will have some of the most valuable real estate in the country."
Eddie Lampert, the billionaire investor who owns the controlling interest in K-Mart has sold 50 K-Mart stores to Sears for nearly $575.9 million over the past year, the Post story said. He now says he will continue to sell stores from K-Mart and Sears' combined 3,500 locations.
An article in today's New York Times business section paints a bleak picture of the merger and tells officials with Wal-Mart and Target that they have little reason to worry.
"Mr. Lampert," the article said, "is a hedge fund manager who will control about 40 percent of the combined company. While he is credited with bringing K-Mart out of bankruptcy in May 2003, analysts note that he did this largely through cost cutting, closing stores and casting off real estate. Same-store sales continued to tumble on his watch, dropping 12.8 percent in the third quarter."
Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz and Associates, a New York consulting firm, told the Times the merger will produce "a cadaver."
Davidowitz continued, "He doesn't invest in stores. He cuts costs; he cuts expenses. And by the way, here's another thing he cuts: customers."
The situation with the Joplin and Pittsburg Sears stores may be status quo for the time being, but unless these experts are wrong, the long-range view is not promising.
The federal Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a lawsuit against former Hollinger International CEO Conrad Black, according to The Chicago Tribune. Hollinger International, based at the time in Canada, owned The Neosho Daily News and The Carthage Press, under its U. S. subsidiary, American Publishing.
The SEC is asking that Lord Black and his top assistant, David Radler, give back millions of dollars in what they referred to as "ill-gotten gains."
An internal investigation conducted by Hollinger officials indicated that he used millions of dollars of company money to finance his lavish lifestyle and that he allegedly extorted millions in non-compete agreements from companies to which he sold newspaper properties.
Among the companies that paid Black for the non-compete clause was Liberty Group Publishing, which was formed in 1998 from dozens of smaller newspapers owned by Hollinger. Liberty currently owns the Daily News, the Press, the Big Nickel, the Neosho Post, the Miller Press, and the Greenfield Vedette in this area. Liberty is currently for sale with the second round of bids taken in late October.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Time certainly has a way of passing quickly.
I discovered just a few moments ago that Tiffany Owings has been named interim executive director of the Barton County Chamber of Commerce. Tiffany is a 1997 graduate of Lamar High School.
I remember Tiffany and several members of that graduating class because the 1996-97 school year pretty much coincided with the dates the late, lamented weekly newspaper, The Lamar Press, was published.
The Chamber is certainly lucky to have such a hard-working young woman at its helm.
I haven't heard how the Lamar Miss Merry Christmas Pageant turned out today though it has always been a top attraction during this time of year.
My favorite pageant was the year that I made the big mistake. Right now, I can't recall which year it was, but the highlight of that day in the Thiebaud Auditorium was when six-foot-two inch contestant Andrea Swearingen had to make her entrance under a six-foot arch.
The multi-talented Miss Swearingen, who was also a top-notch basketball player, first for Coach Richard Marti's Lamar High School team and later for Southwest Baptist University, stepped up to the arch, gave a slightly startled look, then smiled, ducked her head under and came through without a hitch.
I surmised in my article in the following Monday's Carthage Press that her cool under pressure reaction may have swayed the judges in her direction. Unfortunately, I was a little careless with my facts. Normally, the initial group of contestants is trimmed to a top 10, only this time there was a tie and there were 11. My list only contained 10 as I left out Karen Earl's name.
Of course, The Press ran a correction, but the real fun came when The Lamar Democrat came out on Wednesday. The Democrat reporter also emphasized Andrea's incident with the arch. Nothing unusual with that, it was a big moment, even though I was the only one at the time (and actually to this very day) who did feature stories on queen contests and beauty pageants. But it quickly became apparent that the reference was not just a coincidence...since the Democrat reporter's top 10 list also left out one name...Karen Earl's.
I am not going to mention the name of the reporter, who has gone on to have an excellent journalistic reputation. A case of lost notes was responsible. I received an apology from the reporter, even though I wasn't offended. The plagiarism simply pointed people in the direction of the original story and I didn't mind that at all.
Congratulations to whichever young women were crowned Lamar's Christmas royalty today.
One of the things that has always irritated me most about small-town newspapers and television stations is their awkward attempts to turn national news stories into local ones. Obviously, there are times when it is absolutely critical for this to be done.
For instance, it would make no sense to cover the war in Iraq on just a national/international basis without reporting the local story: soldiers who have been shipped to Iraq, the families they have left behind, people's feelings about the board.
It would also make no sense to cover a national presidential election without telling what the vote was in this area. The coverage of the flu vaccine story also fits into this category.
But so many times, it has been such illuminating stories as "How will the drop in the prime interest rate affect you," or "how easy is it to get Viagra in this area."
That is why it was so surprising this week when The Joplin Globe and other area media outlets dropped the ball on the Sears/K-Mart merger. The Globe ran its story on an inside business page with just a smattering of localized material dropped into the wire story. The reporters covered their bases diligently, attempting to talk to representatives from Northpark Mall in Joplin and Meadowbrook Mall in Pittsburg about the merger. No one said much.
It is quite possible that these stores will remain unaffected by the merger, though I doubt it.
The Globe article made no mention of widely circulated reports that indicate Sears will begin divesting itself of most of its mall locations in favor of stand-alone stores, many of them currently occupied by K-Mart.
Of course, K-Mart no longer has a presence in the Joplin area, which surprisingly was not even mentioned in the report. This was one time readers needed to see a localized story, probably on page one. Will this have an affect on the area. What has been the history of both companies in the Joplin area. What have the trends been in shopping in this area during recent years. Let's get the representatives of the area business groups on the record. How about a talk with local financial experts. What will this mean for the Sears store on the mall? What will this mean for Sears and K-Mart stock? Could a standalone Sears store eventually be another option for the former K-Mart property at 17th and Range Line? How about a look back at what happened to Northpark Mall following the departure of previous anchor stores at the mall, including Montgomery Ward? This was a big story for national and for area business.
And none of those questions even touched on the effect that Wal-Mart has had on this area. The Globe provides itself on having a Wal-Mart watch column in its regularly published business supplement. This may have been the time for a special edition of that supplement, drawing on local and national sources to put this development into context. That is the big advantage newspapers have. They have the space to give their readers a thorough understanding of what is happening in their community and in the world. Hopefully, in the near future they will do more to explain how this merger will affect the Joplin area.
At least one prominent expert, Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz and Associates, a national retail consulting and investment banking firm sees the Sears/K-Mart merger as the death knell for the Sears stores in Joplin and Pittsburg, Kan., as well as Sears mall outlets across the nation.
Davidowitz said he expects the newly-formed company to sell all of its mall-based stores within six years.
Other published accounts also indicate that a major reason for the merger was to enable Sears to move into standalone stores, not only to compete with retail colossus Wal-Mart, but also with Home Depot and Lowe's, which have thrived with standalone stores. An article earlier this week in USA Today indicated that these stores are doing well because many people do not want to go through the hassle of shopping for electronic and hardware items at neighborhood malls.
Even if the mall outlet closes, which doesn't appear to be an option in the immediate future, it appears likely that a standalone Sears store, featuring many K-Mart brand items, will be built somewhere in the area and probably more jobs will be added.
That would leave the remaining local story the fate of the empty areas in the Northpark and Meadowbrook malls. Some national news stories are reporting that in many suburban malls where big department stores have departed, they are being replaced by Bass Pro type outfits and small niche type shops.
The next few months should be interesting.
One of the most embarrassing things for me when I was at The Carthage Press was to have to use a wire story on a local news event. You never want to admit that you missed a big story, but even worse, the source of any wire stories from the Carthage area was most likely The Joplin Globe, so you were using your main competitor's story.
I don't recall that ever happening when I was editor at The Press, though did it happen a few times during the three-and-a-half years I spent as a reporter before my promotion to the editor position.
I am not saying we were never beat by The Globe. Of course, we were. Especially when events took place at night. We were an afternoon newspaper, while The Globe published in the morning, so naturally they were going to have the story first. But rather than take a story off the wire, I would make sure that either I or one of my reporters would be on the phones nailing down our own, hopefully improved with much more information, story about whatever it was that had happened. Most of the time we were able to either update the story or come up with an angle that was all our own.
That didn't happen for The Neosho Daily News Friday when it ran the AP account of Thursday night's Seneca R-7 Board of Education meeting. The story revolved around the use of after-school detention as punishment for a kindergarten student. It would have taken only a few seconds for the Daily editor to assign a reporter to track down the story, get a comment from a school official or a board member or from the mother who was upset about the use of the detention as a punishment for one so young.
A follow-up story could be run, checking with officials from the other area school districts on whether such punishment is used or would ever be considered at their schools. You might even check with a few child psychologists and education experts to see how they felt about the issue. Again, newspapers have the ability to thoroughly explain issues and bring them into context. That's hard to do when they abdicate their coverage of local events to The Joplin Globe and The Associated Press.
Planning for the future of the Diamond R-4 School District is going to take place during a special meeting of the Board of Education 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22. No indication of what is going to be discussed is listed on the preliminary agenda which is featured on the district's "official" website, but what is listed is somewhat disturbing.
The session will not be held on school property but at the private home of board member Trish Greenwood at 3702 Highway E. Granby, MO 64844, according to the agenda. Or at least I gather that that is her home since all it says on the agenda is "Greenwood Home."
This is exactly what the agenda says is going to happen:
Call to Order
Planning Session
A. Goals

It is an open session, according to the agenda. It would have to be since it would be illegal to have a planning session, especially one at which goals for the school district (if that is the goals that are being talked about) are going to be discussed, in closed session.
The idea of having a public meeting at a private home is not a good one. The Missouri Open Meetings Law says, "Each meeting shall be held at a place reasonably accessible to the public and of sufficient size to accommodate the anticipated attendance by members of the public and at a time reasonably convenient to the public, unless for a good cause such a place or time is impossible or impractical. Every reasonable effort shall be made to grant special access to the meeting to handicapped or disabled individuals."
Apparently, the board is not anticipating that the public will attend this meeting since it has been set at a private residence. The only place the meeting has been mentioned has been in this posted agenda and any that may be posted at the school. I don't believe there have been any e-mail newsletters sent out by Superintendent Mark Mayo advertising the meeting. It would surprise me if there were posters of flyers circulating around Diamond letting people know that "goals" are going to be discussed at a public board meeting at a private residence.
Of course, it is always possible that this is just a social occasion and board members and Mayo want to adhere to the Open Meetings Law just in case they want to talk about something. You could tie almost anything to the word "Goals."
Time for a deep sigh. You would think these people would have been learned by now.
This morning's Globe featured a disturbing article about the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Commission's approval of a plan to declare the site of the former K-Mart store as a "blighted area" which would offer tax advantages to a company that is wanting to develop the area and put retail stores and restaurants between 15th and 20th streets.
The biggest affect of this would be to take away money from the Joplin R-8 School District since the land would not be taxed for a number of years and that money would not go to the school district.
It is hard to believe that any reasonable person, let alone eight, would consider valuable property on Range Line to be blighted. The decision was only opposed by three people, Joplin R-8 Superintendent Jim Simpson, Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface, and Paul Barr of the R-8 School District.
The proposal also calls for the addition of a stoplight at 17th and Range Line. Now that's all we need.
This property is going to be developed, with or without tax increment financing. Why not let it be done in such a way that R-8 students will not be adversely affected.
This week's edition of "The Chart," Missouri Southern State University's award-winning bi-weekly newspaper, features an article about freshman Rachel Oglesby from Lamar. The story was written by an excellent young reporter, Nate Billings of Diamond, the Chart's executive editor. I'm reprinting it below, because it's a neat story about a hard working young woman, it was written by Nate, and it features one of my favorite people from the Golden City/Lamar area, teacher Barbara Nichols.

Student wins youth awardBy Nate Billings

Student Wins Youth Award
By Nate Billings
When the need for action was seen, one Missouri Southern student decided to make her mark in her hometown community.
Rachel Oglesby, freshman speech communication and art major, worked on two community projects during her senior year in Lamar High School.
"She was a very diligent girl," said Barbara Nichols, fifth grade teacher at Lamar. Nichols worked with Oglesby to bring slippers to senior citizens during the winter season. Nichols was Oglesby's fourth grade teacher and both felt like they could work with each other.The plan was to work with the students in Nichols' class to find donations and wrap the slippers.
"I managed to get over $1,500 in donations," Oglesby said.
Nichols said due to absences and snow days, the classroom had trouble helping Oglesby. "She pretty much did it all by herself," Nichols said. When the snow days occurred, Oglesby and her family went door-to-door around the town square gathering donations. The fifth-grade students then wrapped the slippers which Oglesby gathered through the donations or bought with donated money.
"It was very interesting watching fifth graders try to wrap slippers," Oglesby said. Nichols said the students enjoyed the work."It was wonderful," she said. The other community project which Oglesby set up was a fingerprint drive.
The fingerprint drive allowed community members to have their children come in and get fingerprinted in case a kidnapping should ever happen. Oglesby said she saw a need to raise awareness in the community after she heard about a kidnapping in Florida. The events took two to three weeks to prepare and develop respectively. Nichols said the Lamar school will try to continue the work Oglesby started.
The community service did not go unnoticed. Oglesby was nominated by the Lamar community to be their state candidate for the Missouri Community Betterment 2004 youth leadership award. The Lamar Community Betterment organization contacted Oglesby during the summer to notify her that she should come to their meeting."I knew when it was, but I didn't know if I had won or not," she said.
In October, the Missouri Community Betterment program made their selections for the 2004 winners. Oglesby was among the winners.
"I was surprised," she said. "When I started the project, that wasn't my goal."The grand prize winner was from Houston, Mo., but Oglesby still appreciates the award."I was honored," she said. "I got to shake hands with the Governor. Coming from Lamar, that's not something you do everyday."

Check out more of Nate's work at and his website, "The Great Nerd" at

Friday, November 19, 2004

More jobs are coming to Joplin, according to this morning's Joplin Globe. Freeman Hospitals held a groundbreaking ceremony for a $47 million addition to Freeman West.
Though the article did not specify how many jobs would be added (most likely because hospital officials did not say), it clearly is good news for southwest Missouri.
So why was it buried on page 2C of The Globe in something ridiculously called the "Your Money" section.
The Globe has a well-earned reputation for singling out the controversial stories at the expense of good-news items. It did so again this morning.
Page 1 of the A section featured a lengthy article on Missouri Southern State University's choice of a new health insurance provider. The Board of Regents selected a firm which offers faculty and staff an incentive to use Freeman's doctors and facilities. Apparently, the company's bid was nearly $175,000 more than the bid submitted by a company associated with St. John's. MSSU officials say they chose the Freeman-affiliated company because it would cost the workers less money out of their own pockets.
The story is definitely worth printing. Any expenditure of taxpayer money is worth time and space. The question is should this situation have been front and center on the most prominent page of the newspaper, while a newsworthy expansion of the hospital which will create jobs was relegated to a less prominent position.
By their choices, editors are telling the readers what they (the editors) think is important. Apparently, a chance to stir up a little controversy (something newspapers should do, by the way) is more important to Globe editors than a major story that has a positive focus.
Even more troubling was the Globe's editorial this morning, not because of what the Globe editors said, but because of what our state legislature may try to do.
A House and Senate subcommittee examining the problem of teen drinking has come up with some worrisome proposals. According to the Globe editorial, "Schools across the state would be required to come up with plans outlining the 'consequences for students caught drinking' even though they were not on a school campus at the time. What those consequences should be, of course, will be up to legislators to determine."
As laudable as the battle against teen drinking is, those solutions are disturbing. Schools should not be coming up with plans to deal with student behavior outside of the school setting, much less leaving it up to legislators.Our elected officials tend to see the schools as a cureall for everything that society cannot handle. If too many kids are getting pregnant, let's have sex education. If they can't keep themselves in good physical condition, we will offer P. E. We require schools to do so many things that have nothing to do with the function of providing our youth with the tools necessary to succeed in the work world and participate in our government, and then we lament that our children are not learning.
How are they going to be able to learn when state and federal officials keep whittling away at the amount of time schools actually spend on academic purposes?
A 45-minute after-school detention for a kindergarten student was the subject of an article in this morning's Globe and several recent postings on
Detention for children that age seems to be rather ludicrous. But what is even more ludicrous is that Maryann Anderson, the mother who brought the situation to the attention of the Seneca R-7 Board of Education, had to go to that body to get the situation resolved.
Surely, the officials directly over the elementary principal could have worked out a solution. Detention, long after the actual trangression was committed, does little or no good for children in kindergarten. This circle the wagons approach to operating school districts does not work. There is nothing wrong every once in a while with telling principals that they should change what they are doing, or bringing in all parties to resolve a situation.
These are not the kinds of problems that should make it all the way to the Board of Education.
Perhaps if some school officials would live up to their promises to consider parents as equal partners in the educational process, and not look at them as potential adversaries in lawsuits, we might have less people considering lawsuits against school systems. Then everyone would benefit.
As usual, I would like to praise my kids in the South Middle School Journalism Club. Approximately 25 participate in the club on a full-time basis with others doing articles from time to time. They have been working extremely hard and their items can be found on the Top News and South Spotlight pages on my class and Journalism Club website,
They have a long way to go, but they are working hard to improve with each story they do. They have been meeting every Thursday after school, then working on their stories throughout the week.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Governor-Elect Matt Blunt is issuing an invitation to look at a website that offers racist comments and advocates overthrow of the government, but Missourians don't have any reason to be alarmed.
The invitation is part of a response to a lawsuit filed last summer by perennial losing candidate Martin Lindstedt of Granby. Lindstedt was upset because he was not allowed to have his name listed on the ballot as Martin "Mad Dog" Lindstedt during the gubernatorial primary in August.
He suggested that Blunt should have to run as "Runt' Blunt in November to pay for his alleged misdeeds.
According to Blunt's response to the lawsuit, filed Oct 8 in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Lindstedt filed paperwork on March 10 to run for the Republican nomination for governor. He asked that his nickname, "Mad Dog" be listed on the ballot and that a link to his personal website, be posted along with links to other primary candidates' websites. Blunt turned down both requests.
After that. Lindstedt filed his lawsuit, not asking for the election to be overturned, but asking that Blunt be listed on the ballot and that a link to Lindstedt's lawsuit be included.
"Plaintiff's website is inundated with racism, anti-Semitism, profanity, and calls for open revolt against the government," Blunt's response says. "Plaintiff refers to himself as 'probably the most clever and ruthless of the Revolutionary Resistance political activists in Missouri,' and 'the only candidate...who is an overt White Nationalist,' as well as 'a genuine racist.' "
Blunt said that he could not quote any further from Lindstedt's website. "Respect for the decorum of this court makes it inappropriate for the secretary to extensively quote from (Lindstedt's) website." Nevertheless, Blunt invited the court to check it out for itself.
Blunt's attorneys, including attorney General Jay Nixon, claim that the federal court has no jurisdiction in the matter and that it is a moot point because the race is already over. "It is simply too late to change the ballots to effectuate (his) proposed remedy."
Blunt is asking for the court to dismiss the lawsuit.
In his reply, filed Oct. 26, Lindstedt points out that Springfield-area legislator Norma Champion, who once was host for a children's TV show called "The Children's Hour" under the name "Aunt Norma," was allowed to place that nickname on the ballot. Blunt's attorneys say that was not legal and it was done by his predecessor as secretary of state, Bekki Cook. Lindstedt said the claims made in Blunt's response are a "farrago of half-truths, outright lies and smarmy witless pleadings."
Lindstedt referred to Blunt as a "moral and mental flyweight." Lindstedt defended his racism, saying it "doesn't hold a candle to that of the Founding Fathers, especially George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, etal, who owned entire herds of negro slaves and never thought for an instant that such persons were anything other than property to be disposed of, much less being equal."
Lindstedt then claimed that the profanity on his site is nothing compared to that being played at full volume on radio speakers at a Joplin stoplight.
Lindstedt noted that Blunt was inviting the judges to look at a website that he "censored" from the public.
A proposed schedule for the Diamond R-4 School District's lawsuit against Edison Schools has been filed in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
The filing, which was signed by attoney Paul N. Rechenber with Doster, Mickes, James, Ullon, LLC, Chesterfield, representing the school district, and Patrick Fanning with Lathrop and Gage, Kansas City, representing Edison, calls for an earliest trial date of Oct. 3, 2005.
If the proposed schedule is accepted by the judge, Dec. 17, 2004, will be the final date for changes in pleadings or the addition of any party to the suit.
Discovery will have to be completed by April 15 with a limit of 10 depositions and 25 interrogatories for each side.
No physical or mental examinations will be needed, according to the filing.
Expert witnesses for the school district must be submitted no later than May 10, 2005, with depositions for those expert witnesses submitted no later than May 31. Edison's expert witness list must be submitted by June 13 with depositions completed by July 11. The final date to refer the case to mediation is April 29.
Motions for summary judgment must be filed no later than Aug. 1.
The school district claims Edison owes it approximately $87,000 from the operation of summer school in 2002.
An interesting item on the Neosho Forums website at It appears that the Newton County Sheriff's Department has not updated its Internet list of sexual offenders since February 2001. That should make county residents feel safer.
While I sympathize with state officials who would prefer that school districts delay a lawsuit designed to address problems in the Foundation formula through which Missouri schools are funded, I fear letting the legislature handle the situation is just asking for trouble.
A number of southwest Missouri school districts, including Webb City, Carl Junction, East Newton, Diamond, Sarcoxie, Seneca, Jasper, and Westview, filed the lawsuit, hoping that the courts can handle a situation, which permits those school districts and others across the state to receive less money per pupil than others.
However, if you are going to make the funding fair, you would have to reduce the money going to some of the richer school districts and the legislators for those school districts are never going to allow that to happen. In the past, when the same situation occurred, the legislature ended up leaving the richer school districts with the funding they had and just pouring in more tax money to support the other districts.
That is probably what the General Assembly will suggest this time, which means the same situation will return in a few years. While I am a firm believer in our representative form of government, I am also a firm believer that we have few legislators who are willing to do what is actually best for everyone in the state. Maybe they will be if the threat of a court-ordered solution is hanging over them. So the last thing that should be done is to announce that the court case is on hold.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The ad stood out in Saturday's Carthage Press as half-page ads usually do.
"PUBLIC AUCTION," it screamed in large, bold letters. In slightly smaller print were the details of this public auction. It will take place 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 18, at the former Carthage Press building at 527 S. Main.
At first glance, I wondered why The Press would give detailed directions to the site. "Central Street to Main Street, turn right, go five blocks to 527 S. Main." After all, anybody who reads the newspaper most likely knows where it used to be before Liberty Group Publishing officials decided to abandon the site and move to the land of the fast-food joints on Central Avenue.
Then it occurred to me that it was probably the same ad being placed all over the area and some people who saw those other incarnations might know where that fabled three-story building could be found.
According to the ad, the items to be auctioned off include: "office furniture and supplies, antique production items, computer equipment, wooden work benches, over 20 desks and bookcases, 15 plus filing cabinets, clip art books, Adbuilder Art CDs and books, art room and composing room supplies, filing baskets and trays, too many items to list, inventory still being taken."
Many of those items have been outdated for years, but most of them are no longer needed because the Press work force, as I have noted over the past few months in The Turner Report, has been whittled away over the past several years.
First, it was the press room people as a perfectly good working press that had handled such publications as The Chart, the Greenfield Vedette, the Miller Press, the Webb City Sentinel, the Wise Buyer in Webb City, high school newspapers for Carthage, Joplin, Webb City, Carl Junction, and Lamar, and of course, The Press and its shopper, Southwest Missouri Scope, was sold for parts and the business was sent down the road to the regional manager's site at Neosho.
Of course, that was the dark era for the daily in which its publisher was Valerie Praytor, who promply lost all of those high school newspaper contracts because they were "too small" and didn't "bring in enough money." Of course, she didn't replace that source of revenue with anything else, another of the reasons why her departure wasn't exactly mourned by anyone in the company at that time.
After the press workers, came the composing room people, including the invaluable Jennifer Martin, who had worked at The Press for more than 30 years. That business, too, was shipped to Neosho. The ad inserters also became a thing of the past as that is also done at Neosho.
I could go on and on about why this auction became necessary. I am sure it will put a few more dollars in the coffers for The Press, or at least for Liberty Group Publishing.
Obviously, there was no way all of the items that were stored in that majestic building, which had been the home for the Press for more than half a century, could be fit into a little, cookie-cutter building on Central.
Now, the officials at The Press and at Liberty can get back to their efforts to bring business back to downtown Carthage.
In its Oct. 30 edition, the Northwest Arkansas Times of Fayetteville, Ark., featured a story on Webb City High School junior Brad Mathewson, who has been the center of controversy after protesting high school officials' decision to keep him from wearing a gay pride t-shirt.
In the article, which was written by former Pittsburg Morning Sun reporter Trish Hollenbeck, the Webb City situation was rehashed, but there wasn't any new information about Mathewson's time at Fayetteville, his most recent school before he transferred to Webb City. I am curious as to whether he had problems in that school. Hopefully, the Times reporters will follow up on the story at some later date.
O'Sullivan Industries issued its quarterly report Monday and it didn't reveal anything much more than what has been in the company's most recent public filings.
"We anticipate the second quarter of fiscal 2005 will be challenging," million-dollar CEO Robert Parker said in the filing with Securities and Exchange Commission. That appears to be Parker's way of saying things aren't going to be getting better anytime soon.
The company also filed an amendment to its bylaws, officially changing the corporate headquarters from Lamar to 10 Mansell Court East, Suite 100, Roswell, Georgia, 30076.
Liberty Group Publishing also posted its quarterly report Monday. Again, there was not much new information on it, but the company is loaded down with debt, according to published sources.
According to those sources, Liberty is paying out $60 million a year just to cover the debt it has incurred the last six years while expanding its collection of daily and weekly newspapers.
Liberty Group Publishing owns The Neosho Daily News, The Carthage Press, Neosho Post, Big Nickel, Miller Press, and Greenfield Vedette in this area, as well as more than 300 newspapers in the United States.
The manslaughter trial of Edward Meerwald, 51, Noel, is scheduled to take three days, beginning Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2005, in Jasper County Circuit Court, where it is being held on a change of venue from Newton County.
Meerwald was allegedly driving drunk when he killed James Dodson, Neosho, and Dodson's seven-year-old granddaughter on July 31.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Sit back in your La-Z-Boy recliner,
whether it was made right here
or it was made in Chinar.

Take the time and carefully read,
how people right here
can be affected by greed.

All right. So I was a better poet in eighth grade than I am now. Right now, I make a little over $30,000 a year to try to prepare people to be able handle jobs that may not exist 10 years down the road.
On the other hand, Kurt Darrow, who has been CEO of La-Z-Boy, a major Neosho employer, since September 2003 is being paid more than $800,000 to send those jobs to Asia. According to information provided to company stockholders, Darrow has a base salary of $491,321. He also receives a bonus of $209,425, has stock options worth $50,000 and "other" compensation amounting to $76,806 or about $828,000 total.
What has Darrow done to earn that money?
In yesterday's Turner Report, information was provided from La-Z-Boy's latest filing with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, in which Darrow said the company would bounce back by moving its manufacturing operations from the U. S. overseas. Of course, he hedged his bets by saying that comeback was going to take a while.
La-Z-Boy management's plan has not been any secret.
The Aug. 11 Toledo, Ohio, Blade featured an interview with Darrow, in which he said the company is "fundamentally changing our processes and business practices." He said La-Z-Boy could no longer sit back and let competitors continue to gain advantages, according to the article.
The interview took place during a week in which Darrow authorized the closing of three plants, two in Pennsylvania and one in Mississippi, and a warehouse complex in Pennsylvania. Those moves cost 550 people their jobs, according to the article, but Darrow was upbeat about the layoffs, noting that it would save La-Z-Boy $8 million to $10 million annually.
Apparently, nothing gets in the way of corporate profits more than American workers with their salaries and benefits. At the same time as those closings were announced, La-Z-Boy announced the temporary closing of a fourth plant in Hudson, N. C., which put 120 more workers on at least a layoff.
From the Toledo Blade article, "Explaining the firm's decision to boost imports from China, Mr. Darrow, who recently completed his third trip to that nation is as many years said La-Z-Boy can't ignore economic realities such as cheaper raw materials and growing furniture manufacturing prowess in the Asian nation.
"Mr. Darrow said La-Z-Boy wants to import 75 percent of its wood products, including dining room sets and bookcases, from Chinese manufacturers. That is up from 40 percent now.
"The growth of imports has angered manufacturers and the U. S. Commerce Department, which recently found that some Chinese manufacturers dumped $1.2 billion worth of products in the United States at unfairly low prices."
Apparently, the reason La-Z-Boy is not shipping out all of its manufacturing to China has nothing to do with any loyalty toward employees. The Toledo Blade article said, "The 25 percent of its wood products that La-Z-Boy will continue to make will include solid-wood pieces and children's furniture, which are not widely available from China."
Other areas of La-Z-Boy will remain in the U. S. for the foreseeable future, the article said. Darrow told reporters that production of sofas and other upholstered furniture will continue in the U. S., but he will be watching China "intently" for manufacturing improvements in those areas.
"If it does improve," Darrow said, "we'd rather be on the front side of the curve this time rather than the backside of the curve." Part of the problem on moving that area from the U. S., Darrow indicated was the pesky stubbornness of American consumers.
"In the upholstery business, a large segment of consumers are interested in their choice of fabric or their choice of frame. There are serious hurdles to provide a 'have it your way' solution from offshore."

Saturday, November 13, 2004

The hunt for a new superintendent for the Neosho R-5 School District continues.
If you have ever wondered how a school district advertises for a superintendent, this is the ad district officials placed with the Missouri Teaching Jobs website:
"Neosho R-5 School District Board of Education is announcing the opening of Superintendent of Schools. The position begins July 1, 2005. Applications will be accepted until the closing date of December 17, 2004. The R-5 District enjoys a long heritage as an educational leader and is accredited by the State Department of Education and the High School is accredited by North Central Association of Schools and Colleges. With a current enrollment of 4,266, Neosho Schools is a progressive district with numerous achievements including MSIP waivers and Distinction of Performance Awards. Certificated staff totals 291 and non-certificated staff totals 241. The R-5 District covers 223 square miles with a budget of 25.5 million dollars. Applicants must possess a commitment to superior lev (that's where the sentence ends and I don't have any idea what a superior lev is. It must be one of those educational terms.)
"Candidates must submit a formal letter of application, current resume, updated credentials and a completed application. All correspondence should be directed to: Dr. Mark W. Mitchell, Superintendent of Schools, Neosho R-5 School District, 5 Neosho Blvd., Neosho, MO 64850 (417) 451-8600, Fax: (417) 451-8604 Email:"
The La-Z-Boy company has been one of Neosho's leading employers for a long time, but the company's quarterly report issued earlier this week indicates troubled times are on the horizon.
The report says the company will continue its recent practice of outsourcing jobs to other countries. The outsourcing is part of a five-year plan, which was publicized nationally during a U. S. Senate race in Florida. One of La-Z-Boy's board of directors, Mel Martinez, former Housing and Urban Development secretary in the Bush Administration, was elected despite his opponent's hammering on his part in the company's outsourcing plan.
The report filed this week with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission says, "In the first quarter of fiscal 2005, the decision was made to close three casegoods facilities, an upholstery plant and an upholstery warehouse. The casegoods facilities will be closed as a result of continued underutilization of our domestic casegoods facilities due to an increase in our importing of product from overseas."
The report continues, "During the first quarter of fiscal 2004, we announced the closing of three of our casegoods group manufacturing facilities. This action was the result of underutilization of certain manufacturing facilities as we transitioned to more foreign-sourced products in order to be competitive with imported furniture. The closure of these facilities resulted in the elimination of 480 jobs."
Getting rid of American jobs will help La-Z-Boy investors, company CEO Kurt L. Darrow said. "We are still transitioning from our recent restructuring so we do not expect to see any significant improvements in the Casegoods Group until the transition is complete. We remain optimistic that with our Casegoods Group shifting more domestic production to overseas manufacturers, we will begin to see positive signs from this group in the future."
If you listen to Diamond R-4 Superintendent Mark Mayo, Newton Learning, the summer-school arm of Edison Schools, sure seems to be an evil, predatory company that preys on schools and takes advantage of them.
The superintendent, who convinced the R-4 Board of Education to file a lawsuit against Edison, has claimed that other area schools have had serious problems with the company, but as far as I could tell, none of the schools he mentioned had ever contracted with Edison for summer school.
The area schools which have, including McDonald County, Sarcoxie, and East Newton, have made profits from their summer schools, received numerous educational supplies, and have been able to offer their teachers far more pay for teaching in summer school, since that price is absorbed by Edison.
It isn't just the schools in this southwest Missouri area that seem satisfied with Edison's performance. According to the Nov. 9 Columbia Missourian, the Columbia public schools have contracted with Newton Learning for a second year. The schools are contemplating some changes in curriculum and are concerned with the incentives Newton uses to encourage attendance, but overall were satisfied with the company's performance.
Cheryl Cozette, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction said, "We do know that all of our students who attended summer school made gains in reading."
That sure makes the Diamond lawsuit seem petty, doesn't it?
The area media has been full of stories in recent days about the situation with gay student Brad Mathewson and the Webb City R-7 School District. As usual, when it comes to civil liberties and personal freedoms, the American Civil Liberties Union has become involved.
I have no problem with the ACLU entering the situation. That's what the ACLU does.
I would have been surprised if the ACLU had not entered the Webb City situation. The best coverage of the ongoing battle was offered by Bob Foos, owner and editor of the Webb City Sentinel, which is not surprising since that newspaper has done an excellent job with educational issues over the year.
But back to the ACLU, as inflammatory as the Webb City situation is, I am far more concerned with another battle with which it became involved recently.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal this week, the ACLU successfully kept an immigrant in this country after he had a DWI conviction in connection with an incident in which two innocent people were injured.
The U. S. Supreme Court ruled this week that the U. S. cannot deport Josue Leocal, a 47-year-old Haitian immigrant. He has been living in the U. S. for more than 20 years. This was his first felony conviction, according to the ACLU website.
While I have sympathy for Leocal's wife and children, who are American citizens, I worry about the precedent this sets for people who come to this country, drink and drive and maybe injure or kill someone. Drunk driving is not one of the civil liberties and personal freedoms the ACLU should be worried about.
On a sad note, today would have been the 26th birthday of Rachel Ann Blaser of Lamar who died a few weeks ago. Miss Blaser, who spent her adult life (and much of her earlier life) working to help others, died from a brain aneurysm.
A wrongful death lawsuit against a Joplin doctor will be heard in Jasper County Circuit Court. The lawsuit against Blake A. Little, M.D. had initially been filed in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
According to court records, Little allegedly made a misdiagnosis that resulted in the death of Joseph Natalini, Pittsburg, Kan. The case was filed by Mr. Natalini's widow and their children. Natalini was first treated by Dr. Litle in 1995, according to court documents. On June 28, 1995, he was treated for shortness of breath. On March 4, 1996, Natalini underwent a CT scan which revealed two small, noncalcified nodules on his lungs.Natalini underwent a series of tests from that time through Feb. 17, 1997, the petition indicates. On that date, a chest x-ray was performed and the report was sent to Dr. Litle's office."(Litle) then failed follow up with Joseph Natalini's lung condition until July 1998," the petition says.In August 1998, Natalini was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died on April 12, 2004.His family says Litle failed to correctly diagnose the cancer, didn't recognize the symptoms, failed to have the proper biopsies done and failed to follow up after his CT scans and x-rays. If he had, they say, Natalini's condition might have been curable.In the petition, the survivors say Litle indicated to them that Natalini's case "fell through the cracks."Family members are asking for "fair and reasonable" damages, attorney fees, and costs.
Attorneys for Little dispute the charges and say many of the items listed as fact by the plaintiffs are not true.