Monday, November 25, 2013
Bleeding the taxpayers dry: The empire that C. J. and Angie built- Part One
The departure of Jim Simpson as Joplin R-8 superintendent gave her an opportunity to return to the kind of power she had one year earlier when she was head of the Reeds Spring School District.
Besendorfer was already under fire at Reeds Spring for employing many of the same highhanded tactics that she has used in Joplin and for firing popular teacher Mike Collins. Collins helped organize a campaign against the three incumbent board of education members and all three were defeated by people whose stated goal was to send Besendorfer packing.
Even though she had just been given a raise, Besendorfer saw the writing on the wall and left Reeds Spring to become an assistant superintendent in the Joplin R-8 School District.
And now less than one year later, she had an opportunity to move into the top position. Simpson was resigning to take over the Lindbergh school district.
Sometimes, though, things do not work out the way you plan.
When Besendorfer learned she had been bypassed in favor of a younger outsider, she threw a tantrum, sources within the administration building told the Turner Report.
Once she got it out of her system, though, her game plan changed. The board hired Huff because of the ability he had shown in Eldon to increase graduation rates, something that was desperately needed in Joplin. Besendorfer immediately began assuming all kinds of duties that would normally be handled by the superintendent, ostensibly to allow Huff to concentrate on improving graduation rates and developing his pet project- something called Bright Futures.
With her increased responsibilities, Besendorfer began building her power base, essentially making life miserable for the other two assistant superintendents, Steve Doerr and Doug Domer,with both eventually opting to retire at the end of Huff's first year in Joplin.
It was portrayed as the elimination of unnecessary positions and a saving of money for the school district.
Instead, it was the beginning of a reign of terror that has ended up costing more than 200 teachers their jobs in the last two years, added layer after layer of highly-paid administrators, and firmly planted the Joplin R-8 School District on the road to bankruptcy.
And while all of this happened, the R-8 Board of Education has rubber stamped every move. Though board members reportedly do not particularly like Besendorfer, Huff, realizing the value of having someone who is willing to do the dirty work while he takes the credit, has gone to bat for her, despite the fact, three sources within Administration have told the Turner Report, that Besendorfer has made it clear that she does not have a high opinion of the man who is supposed to be her boss and often makes remarks to her handpicked group of assistants about how little Huff understands about the way things should be done and about his penchant for crying,not only in his speeches, but also in his dealings with his administrative team.
An abundance of administrators
Anyone who thought the Joplin R-8 School District saved money when two of its four superintendent positions were eliminated has not been looking into the growing number of $50,000 plus employees who work out of the Administration Building at 32nd and Duquesne.
During Jim Simpson's last year as superintendent, he had three assistants, Besendorfer, Doerr, and Domer. Paul Barr was CFO, a position he still holds, Angela Neria was in charge of technology, a position now held by Klista Rader, and Janet Earl ran special education.
Since that time, the following positions have been created:
-Director of Community Development- held by Kim Vann, who also serves as head of Bright Futures. Ms. Vann's background is not in education. She previously worked with the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce.
-Human Relations- Tina Smith, with no education background, handles the job that was previously done by Steve Doerr, a veteran educator.
-Director of Curriculum and Instruction- Sarah Stevens was brought up from Besendorfer's personal training ground of junior administrators, the teaching coaches, this year to take this position.
-Director of Elementary Education- Jennifer Doshier was rewarded for her part in the elimination of nearly every teacher during her final year as McKinley Elementary principal by being moved into the central office.
-Director of High School Instruction- Jason Cravens handles this position.
-Assistant Director of Special Services- Mark Barlass had to be hired for this position since his immediate superior, Director of Special Services Lisa Orem, is not certified in special education. In fact, she is not even certified as an administrator any more. DESE records indicate Orem's principal certificate expired more than two years ago, on Sept. 1, 2011, and she is only certified as an elementary teacher.
Director of Buildings- Michael Johnson handles this position.
Teaching/Learning Coaches and 21st Century Learning Coaches- In addition to having principals and assistant principals at each school, Besendorfer has added teaching/learning coaches, ostensibly to help teachers, but with the understanding that they are to serve as the eyes and ears of upper administration (Besendorfer) at each school. The coaches have weekly all-day sessions in which they report to upper administration about what is going on in their buildings. After the addition of laptops for all high school students in the fall of 2011, the district added four 21st Century coaches, and then requested money for seven more in its 2012 federal Race to the Top application. Despite the U. S. Department of Education's rejection of the request, the seven coaches were hired.
Career Pathways Directors- Many of us can remember a time when principals ran a school, and if the school was big enough, there might be an assistant principal or two. Joplin has a principal, three assistants, and six Career Pathways directors. The district, under the Besendorfer plan of moving every high school student into one of five Career Pathways, has one director in charge of each pathway, and then a director in charge of the directors. Again, all of this was included in the Race to the Top application, which was rejected by the federal government. And again, despite the large amount of money, the cost was absorbed by the local budget. Of the six Career Pathways directors, only two are educators. Like so many of the other positions that have been added, they have been given to either people who have no educational background or who are woefully underqualified for the positions they hold.
In the Race to the Top application, administration indicated that when the federal money (which they did not receive) ran out, the cost for the Career Pathways and 21st century learning coach positions would be absorbed by the local budget.
Last summer, the R-8 Board of Education, continuing to rubber stamp the creation of the Huff-Besendorfer empire, gave the two carte blanche to continue their wasteful spending by approving a "strategic plan," which calls for the district's reserves to drop to 8 to 11 percent by 2014 and then continuing to add one position after another.
Of course, the same "strategic plan" calls for the reserves to be back up to 25 percent by 2015. Only one problem- there is not one word about how Huff and Besendorfer are going to accomplish that miracle.
Hopefully, no one will try to sell swamp land to the board members any time soon. The deal would most likely be approved on a 7-0 vote.
(Much more to come)