Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in Review: Remembering Judy Probert

(From August 20, 2013)
In the 36 years since I first entered the world of journalism,  I have met hard-nosed reporters who will stop at nothing, the kind of people who would throw their mother under a bus if it meant landing the big story.

When elected officials saw these reporters coming, they told their secretaries to put out the word they were going to be out of the office the rest of the day.

These were reporters who always landed their stories, but the most feared reporter I ever had the pleasure of meeting was nothing like these fearsome practitioners of investigative journalism.

When city and school officials wanted to keep something out of the public eye, they would have almost preferred to deal with one of the traditional take-no-prisoners reporters and not the sweet, grandmotherly representative of the working press who was a staple of Golden City journalism for decades.

Things I'm Thinking About- December 31

Return of the Locksmith- Last week, I wrote about the curious incident in the Price Cutter parking lot when I stopped the man from getting into my car. Of course, the man turned out to be a locksmith, something I kept from the reader until the end. Today, the locksmith was getting into my car at my invitation. For the first time since I bought my car in 2007, I locked my keys in the car while I was leaving copies of Let Teachers Teach at Always Buying Books.

My First Pension Check- I don't know whether this is the step that actually signals my retirement, but my first pension check was direct-deposited today. I can think of a few other people associated with Joplin education who should have been forced into early retirement, but then I have been writing about that for the last several months.

Former Joplin Globe Reporter at Denver Post- As I was reading an article on yesterday's Arapahoe County Sheriff's Department news conference on the recent school shooting, I noticed the byline belonged to Sadie Gurman, who if memory serves correctly, worked for the Joplin Globe covering statehouse news while she was a student and then worked for the newspaper for a short whlie after that. A link to her reporting can be found on the Room 210 Education site.

Working On Solving Pop-Up Ad Problem- I wasn't aware until this afternoon that some readers, especially ones who are visiting my blogs on their IPads, have been getting popup ads. I made some adjustments and hopefully, that problem is solved. The advertising is needed to help make the websites pay (I am not naive enough to think that there are going to be a large number of people paying for the voluntary subscriptions I have available), but it is the growing traffic to the websites that makes them pay and if these pop-up ads, which I did not know about it until today, are running away readers, then they are not going to be on the site. Please let me know if you have any problems accessing the Turner Report, Inside Joplin, or any other other sites.

 Obamacare Coverage Starts Tomorrow- In less than four hours, I switch from having to pay $407 a month to the Joplin School District to be retained on its health insurance plan to being covered under the Affordable Care Act. While I am confident my insurance is going to work well for me, anything has to be better than what I was getting. I refilled two prescriptions at the 15th Street Wal-Mart yesterday and discovered that my $407, which was supposed to be providing me with the same coverage I had as a teacher, did not pay a cent because of some kind of problem. It wasn't  a great amount, so I simply covered it, and just filed it away as another bad experience caused by Joplin R-8 Administration.

Signed copies of Let Teachers Teach available at Always Buying Books Changing Hands Book Shoppe

A limited number of signed copies of my book Let Teachers Teach are on the shelves at two Joplin locations as of about two hours ago.

Let Teachers Teach is a collection of my best essays on education, ranging from material I have written about educational issues to writing about my own teaching experiences and teaching in the aftermath of the Joplin Tornado.

The books can be purchased for $10 at Always Buying Books and Changing Hands Book Shoppe.

The local launch for the book and the first signing will be held sometime in February or March.

Signed copies are also available at the Randy Turner Book Store link in the upper right hand section of this page.

Books can also be purchased through Amazon.com and from other internet outlets.

Let Teachers Teach is also available for $5 in e-book format from Amazon Kindle.

Nixon: We must strengthen and reform Medicaid the Missouri way

(From Gov. Jay Nixon)

Gov. Jay Nixon today addressed the media in Jefferson City on the importance of strengthening and reforming Medicaid the Missouri way. Below are his prepared remarks:

"Tomorrow, we will celebrate a New Year. And as we do every January 1, we'll reflect on what we've done over the past 12 months, and contemplate what we resolve to accomplish in the year ahead.

"But 2014 will be a little different. Tomorrow, 4.4 million Americans in states all across the nation - folks who are working, but don't have health insurance - will wake up and be eligible to get the basic health care services they need.

MODOT issues winter weather advisory for Wednesday

(From MODOT)

MoDOT/Southwest: Winter Travel Advisory
New Year?s Day, Wednesday, Jan. 1

Snow expected to fall beginning around noon in the northern portions of the Southwest District with snow moving from northwest to southeast during the afternoon and evening.

Weather Forecast: Snow is expected to fall in the southwest District beginning sometime around 2 p.m. in the Bates, Henry and Benton counties. The snow is expected to move from northwest to southeast throughout the afternoon into the evening. One to three inches is expected across the Southwest District into early Thursday morning. Windy conditions and blowing snow also are possible.

Road Clearing: MoDOT crews will be out ahead of the storm, pre-treating roads as necessary. Crews will work to keep roads drivable during the winter storm, hitting the busiest roads most often.

Travel Conditions: Roads may become covered with snow as the winter storm moves through Missouri from the northwest to the southeast. Roads will be slick in areas where snow is falling. Drivers are urged to use extreme caution when traveling.

Traveler Information Map: To find the most up-to-date road conditions in southwest Missouri and statewide, check MoDOT's Traveler Information Map.

More Winter Weather Driving Tips:
Buckle up.
Adjust your speed to conditions.
Stay at least 100 feet behind a truck plowing/salting the road.
Keep your windshield and other windows clear to help you see.
Be alert for road conditions that may change as you drive.
Don't tailgate.
Focus on driving and avoid distractions.
Allow for extra travel time.

One to three inches of snow, possible wind chills of five below zero Wednesday

(From the National Weather Service)


2013 in Review: Remembering Edison Kaderly

(From March 17, 2013)
One of the worst days of my life came in October 1979 when Tommy Wilson, publisher of the Lamar Democrat and Lockwood Luminary-Golden City Herald came into our office on Lockwood's Main Street and told us Boone Newspapers was shutting us down.

I had been editor of the Luminary-Herald for 10 months after former Publisher Dennis Garrison brought me over from the Democrat, where I had been sports editor. I loved living in Lockwood and now my job had been eliminated.

But for a short moment, there was a glimmer of hope. Tommy turned to Donna Shaw, our advertising saleswoman and said, "Donna, we're going to take you to Lamar with us." Sure, I could go back to the Democrat. That would be great.

2013 in Review: Remembering Marilyn McCarter

(From January 27, 2013)
Nearly three decades have passed, but few nights remain as clear in my memory as the Saturday night the rains came in May 1984.

About 1,500 people were shoehorned into the Lamar High School football stadium, waiting to see the final event of the centennial celebration of the birth of the city's most famous native son, President Harry S Truman.

The Truman Pageant was a community-wide effort. An incredibly realistic depiction of the way downtown Lamar looked in 1884 had been created by the Lamar Art League. Nearly every local celebrity in the city was playing a part in the production. The mayor was played by Mayor Gerald Gilkey, the school leaders by Superintendent Glenn Williams and School Board President Ronnie Means. My boss, Lamar Democrat Publisher Doug Davis, was playing the role of the first editor of the Democrat, Lee Chiswell. Dozens of Lamar citizens played roles in the creation of the Truman Pageant. The part of Truman's father, John Truman, a mule trader, was played by the son of the Lamar mule trader whose mules were part of President Truman's inaugural parade in 1949.

And all of them were completely soaked by the end of the production, except for two.

2013 in Review: Remembering Stan Musial

(From January 20, 2013)
One of the joys of my childhood began at age six when my dad introduced me to the joys of St. Louis Cardinals baseball on radio.

Until that time, my acquaintance with the Cardinals and other major league baseball players was solely through the cards on the back of Post cereal boxes.

Now I could listen night after night as Harry Caray and Jack Buck detailed the adventures of my favorite baseball team, whether they were in St. Louis, New York, or my favorite games, the ones I listened to after everyone else had gone to bed from Los Angeles and San Francisco. Even when the skies were cloudy and every other word on KMOX-AM was interrupted by static, I kept listening.

I don’t remember the opponent the Cardinals were playing the first night I listened, but I remember as clearly now as on that summer day in 1962, Harry Caray’s call when catcher Gene Oliver hit the game-winning home run. “It could be, it might be, IT IS…a home run.” That was Caray’s signature call, but I did not know that at the time.

I was hooked.

Missouri GateHouse Media newspaper sells to local group

In the category of "why can't that happen around here," GateHouse Media has sold its newspaper in Maryville, Missouri, to local ownership.

As the accompanying news release notes, the situation started when a  newspaper employee, disgusted with all of the corporate-mandated cuts, left the Maryville Daily Forum, took several key employees with him and started a competitor.

Eventually, the competitor pounded the Forum into the ground and forced the sale.

Don't get your hopes up for anything like that happening with any of GateHouse Media's local newspapers, including the Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, and Pittsburg Morning Sun. GateHouse has cut so much out of those publications that there are not enough key employees left to leave and start a competitor.

The news release is from Cribb, Greene & Associates, which brokered the deal.

The Maryville Daily Forum has been purchased from GateHouse Media by local publisher Phil Cobb, according to John Cribb, Cribb, Greene & Associates who represented the buyer in the transaction.

 The full news release prepared by the Daily Forum staff follows: 

A new dawn broke for community journalism in Nodaway County early Wednesday as the reconstituted staff of the Maryville Daily Forum arrived at the newspaper's offices at Main and Jenkins for what promised to be a long, hectic day. Long and hectic but also historic and full of promise and hope.

 For the first time in decades a team of editors, reporters, salespeople and tech specialists gathered to put together a paper that would be published under the masthead of local ownership. Sold earlier this month by GateHouse Media, which recently emerged from bankruptcy, the Forum is now solely owned by Cobb Publishing LLC, an organization forged into being by the paper's former general manager and longtime Nodaway County resident Phil Cobb.

 Cobb left the Forum in March 2012 after months of deep budget and staff cuts implemented by the struggling GateHouse chain, which operates several hundred papers in about 20 states.

 Frustrated by mounting pressure from his bosses to allocate an ever-increasing share of the paper's profits to the GateHouse bottom line — money that never touched Maryville's local economy — Cobb decided he'd had enough, and that it was time to strike out on his own.

 "He lived for this paper, and he was disgusted by what had happened to it," said former GateHouse reporter Tony Brown, now Cobb's news editor. "We all were." Immediately after his departure, Cobb − who was followed out the door by several key staff members − set up shop on the south end of Main Street and founded The Post, a free shopper that quickly attracted a wide customer base of local advertisers. His success was not lost on GateHouse managers, one of whom declared that the multi-million-dollar publishing chain was being victimized by a "David and Goliath strategy." 

 Cobb is now back in the Forum's executive office, not as general manager but as owner and publisher in his own right. Considering his pedigree, that's not really surprising. Cobb's father was noted northwest Missouri publisher, teacher and coach Robert Cobb, who earlier this year was posthumously inducted into the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame. His mother, Lana, now the Forum's business manager, was fully involved in her late husband's newspaper career, which included ownership of newspapers in Albany, Stanberry and King City.

 "My memories of the Forum go way back," Cobb said earlier this week. "I was 7 years old in 1976 when my parents purchased the Tri-County News in King City, and I would travel to Maryville with my dad to get his paper printed on the press in this same building. " At 8 years old, I wrote my first newspaper column, Chalk Board, a spinoff of my dad's sports column, Chalk Talk. When I was 16, I worked in the mailroom at the Forum. Throughout high school, I covered summer sports in King City. Then, after college, I returned home to assist my parents with their weekly publication. I reported on sports for King City, Union Star, Stanberry and Jefferson, covered Stanberry and Jefferson school boards, Stanberry City Council and various community events. There is not a single task that I have not performed at a newspaper."

 In the Internet age, the Forum joins a mere handful of Missouri daily newspapers that remain locally owned. Though the challenges posed to such publications by competing electronic media are formidable, Cobb is confident in both his market and his product.

Video- New law requires Missouri hospitals to screen newborns for congenital heart defects

Missouri minimum wage increase goes into effect tomorrow

Nicastro, Missouri marching in lockstop with dangerous federal education policy

In her latest offering, Washington Post education columnist Valerie Strauss features quotes from other sources that explain exactly what the problems are with the Obama Administration's education policy, a policy which Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro has bought into completely.

Of course, it is obvious why we buy into the policy- it's all about money.

As noted earlier this month in the Turner Report, the state of Missouri just received $7,531,890 in funds to help with our lowest performing schools.

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 in Review: Joplin School Board race opens with scandal, slumber party

(From December 17, 2013)
Let history show that the most important board election in years began with a slumber party.

2013 in Review: Besendorfer quits

(From November 27, 2013)
Joplin R-8 Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer is leaving the district after this semester.

Besendorfer, who has been in the district for seven years, announced her resignation today to become the chancellor of Western Governors University Missouri, an online school.

The following news release was issued by the Joplin R-8 School District.

Joplin Schools Assistant Superintendent Dr. Angie Besendorfer announced today her plans to resign from Joplin Schools and accept a position as Chancellor of WGU Missouri in January 2014.
“A decision like this is really difficult,” said Dr. Besendorfer. “I love the direction Joplin Schools is going, and it's hard to choose to leave, especially at such a transitional time for the district, but WGU Missouri is also an innovative education institution and offered me an exciting opportunity that I just couldn't refuse.”
Dr. Besendorfer has worked for Joplin Schools as assistant superintendent since 2007. During her tenure, she led important initiatives related to teaching and learning that have impacted education in Joplin Schools at all grade levels. She has also played a primary role in the recovery process after the May 22, 2011 tornado. After the disaster, she spearheaded the design process for both temporary and permanent facilities, and she was instrumental in the implementation of the one-to-one laptop initiative at Joplin High School.
“Dr. Besendorfer has a passion and vision for education that goes beyond the traditional classroom setting,” said Joplin Schools Superintendent Dr. C.J. Huff. “Her collaborative work with staff, parents, and the community has helped to develop a collective vision which has laid the groundwork for Joplin Schools' efforts to provide a 21st century education in our community. We hate to see Angie leave the Joplin Schools’ family, but we are excited for her and the role she will continue to play in Missouri education.”
“We’re delighted to have someone of Angie’s caliber and commitment to education join us as Chancellor of WGU Missouri,” said Western Governors University President Dr. Robert W. Mendenhall. “Providing high quality, affordable degree programs for teachers and administrators is a significant part of what we do, and Angie’s background and experience in K-12 education will be key to helping us grow and develop our teacher education programs in Missouri.”
WGU Missouri is a nonprofit, online university created to expand access to higher education for Missouri residents. Established by the state of Missouri through a partnership with nationally recognized Western Governors University, WGU Missouri offers more than 50 accredited, competency-based undergraduate and graduate degree programs in business, K-12 teacher education, information technology, and health professions, including nursing.

2013 in Review- Death row appeal: Chris Collings is sorry for killing Rowan Ford, so don't kill him

(From November 26, 2013)
(Warning: The following post contains graphic material.)

The first step in the efforts by Chris Collings to avoid the death penalty for the rape and murder of nine-year-old Triway Elementary student Rowan Ford are scheduled for a January 8 hearing before the Missouri Supreme Court.

In documents filed with the Supreme Court, Collings' attorneys claim that he should either be given a new trial, be sentenced to second degree murder instead of first degree, or resentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

2013 in Review- Federal report: East Middle School received only "minor damage" in tornado

(From November 2013)
For the past two and a half years, students and staff at East Middle School have made the best of education in a glorified warehouse, often arriving at the building only to be greeted by the aroma from the neighboring dog food factory.

Their concerts, plays, and athletic contests are held at other buildings and for their assemblies they meet in the commons area and sit on the floor.

 In less than seven weeks, the warehouse will no longer serve as a home away from home for East students, some of whom have been there since the day it first opened in August 2011. (Note: The accompanying FEMA photo was taken at ceremonies opening the warehouse East Middle School.)

2013 in Review: Angie Besendorfer and the massacre at McKinley

(From November 2013)
Things were not going well at Joplin's McKinley Elementary School during the 2012-2013 school year.

 Younger teachers were having a hard time dealing with Principal Jennifer Doshier's somewhat mercurial demands. They talked with a veteran teacher, who agreed they had reason to be concerned. The things she was hearing were serious enough that the veteran teacher called Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer, who suggested that the veteran teacher bring the younger teachers over to the administration building at 32nd and Duquesne to discuss the problems.

After the meeting started, the veteran teacher reassured Dr. Besendorfer that the teachers were not blowing the situation out of proportion.

Dr. Besendorfer offered a sympathetic ear, nodding as the teachers spoke, every once in a while commenting, "This is unbelievable," or "this should not be happening."

As the meeting closed, Dr. Besendorfer told the teachers not to worry. "I will take care of this."

2013 in Review: Joplin R-8 Board approves C. J. Huff spending spree (7-0, of course)

(From November 2013)
If you are one of those who is wondering why the Joplin R-8 Board of Education has done nothing to stop the out-of-control spending spree that has been engineered by Superintendent C. J. Huff and Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer, there is a good reason why they have allowed it to continue.

They approved it, 7-0 of course, all of their votes are 7-0, when they approved the district's strategic plan this summer.

The plan includes an observation that the district's reserve fund would sink as low as eight to 10 percent by 2015,and since that time no one in administration has made any effort whatsoever to cut down on the spending spree.

Following the reduction in unrestricted fund balances caused by the financial strain resulting from the tornado, fund balance levels will reach an anticipated low point of 8-10% by June 30, 2015. These funds will increase annually to an unrestricted fund balance of 25% of annual operating expenditures. 

2013 in Review: Suspect in MSSU coach's murder married to university employee

(From November 2, 2013)
The man taken into custody for Friday night's murder of Missouri Southern State University offensive line coach Derek Moore had another connection with the university.

Jeffrey Bruner, 39, Joplin, is the husband of Dawn Michelle Bruner, who was sworn in Nov. 12, 2012, as the first member of Missouri Southern's reserve police officer force.

According to a release from Southern News Service:

 Bruner, originally from Springfield,  graduated from the Missouri Southern State University Police Academy in December 2011.
 She completed the mandatory 600 hours of training to acquire her  Police Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) 
certification. The program is the regulatory agency that is responsible for the licensure of peace officers, reserve peace officers, basic training instructors, curriculum, and training centers in Missouri.
She has worked for the Lawrence County Sheriff's office.

The reserve officers help with special events, traffic control, and otherwise as needed.

Jeffrey Bruner is being held in the Joplin City Jail. Police have turned over information to the Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney's office for the filing of charges.

According to the Joplin Police Department, officers were called to Northstar 14 at 9:50 p.m. Friday night after a report of shots being fired. A Duquesne Police officer was the first arrive and took Bruner into custody at 9:52 p.m.

Moore was taken to a local hospital where he died
Joplin Police described the murder as a "targeted" shooting.

MSSU LIne Coach Murdered at Joplin Theater

2013 in Review- IPads for all 6th, 7th graders, more highly paid administrators on Joplin Race to the Top request

(From October 26, 2013)
IPads for all sixth and seventh graders; an extra hour's work every day for classroom teachers, and more $50,000+ administrators are on the nearly $10 million wish list Joplin R-8 Administration compiled for its Race to the Top application.

The administrators indicate that they will seek a tax levy increase to continue to pay the teachers for the extra non-contract work time, which would be used for mentoring and meetings, after the Race to the Top grant period expires.

The money that would be needed to continue paying the 21st Century learning coaches and career path coordinators administrators are seeking would be absorbed into the district's budget when the federal money is spent, according to the application.

2013 in Review: Campaign contributors pay $24,000 in meals for Billy Long over past six months

(From October 2013)
Billy Long's campaign slogan for 2014 could easily be "Well Fed Up."

According to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, campaign contributors have footed the bill for more than $24,000 worth of meals for Long during the past six months, including $15,650.14 during the three months ended September 30.

The meals range from $4,476 September 9 at the Highland Springs Country Club in Springfield to $7.85 at Hebrews Coffee in Springfield on August 28.

2013 in Review: C. J. Huff $175,000 in 2012-2013, child porn criminal gets $67K

(From October 15, 2013)

The salaries for Joplin R-8 Central Administration shows 34 people who made $50,000 or more during the 2012-2013 school year led by Superintendent C. J. Huff’s $175,000. The 10th highest salary at 32nd and Duquesne belonged to technology employee Ronny Justin Myers who was paid $67,069 for duties that included monitoring high school students’ laptops and resulted in pornographic photos of 10 Joplin students winding up on his laptop.

Myers pleaded guilty earlier this year to child pornography charges and is awaiting sentencing.

Joplin R-8 Central Administration Salaries for 2012-2013

(taken from the central database set up by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

2013 in Review- Besendorfer to Joplin teaching/learning coaches: You are not administrators or spies

(From October 2013)

With the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) in possession of information that indicates the Joplin R-8 School District may be misusing Title I and IDEA funds to pay teaching/learning coaches, Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer decided to make sure that the coaches knew what their jobs were and what to say to anyone who just happens to ask them about those jobs.

A Sept. 18 Turner Report post, DESE investigating the Joplin R-8 School District, included the following passage:

While the specifics of the investigation are still being kept hush-hush, people who have taken their concerns to the state department say state officials have examined documents that raise questions about the administration's use of Title I and IDEA funds, both federal programs, but both of which also operate under strict state guidelines.

2013 in review- Tulsa doctor to underage boy: Want to take a naked ride in my Porsche?

(From September 2013)

A Tulsa doctor who offered a 16-year-old Lebanon boy and offered him a naked ride in his Porsche, is facing federal child sex charges.

During questioning, Dr. Shelby Coleman admitted having sex with underage boys in Oklahoma.

An 11 a.m. Thursday hearing has been scheduled at U. S. District Court in Springfield to determine whether Coleman should be allowed to be free on bond. Coleman will remain in custody until that time.

The affidavit spelling out the allegations against Coleman, written by Joplin police officer Charles Root, is printed below:

2013 in Review: Huff, Besendorfer recommend German company receive single bidder contract for East Middle School furniture

(From September 26, 2013)

When Joplin R-8 administrators, seeking to furnish new buildings, allowed furniture companies to foot the bill for trips to their headquarters last year, it seemed to be a breach of ethics, to say the least.

The most controversial of those trips was one to the parent headquarters in Germany of V/S, a company which has its American headquarters in Charlotte, N. C.

Things I'm Thinking About, Monday, December 30

A few brief items and thoughts-

-No More Fox Sports Radio in Joplin- When 1450 AM suddenly junked its programming and began playing Christmas music 24 hours a day a few weeks back, I figured the days of the station being a Fox Sports affiliate were numbered. When I tuned in to the station today it was something called "The Dove" and was playing all gospel music. I enjoyed the Fox Sports programming on occasion, though I never did understand why anyone would think that the Texas Rangers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and University of Oklahoma would draw huge audiences. Those interested in Fox Sports Radio can catch it on KSEK-AM, 1340 from Pittsburg.

-Problems With East Middle School and Soaring Heights- The story I am hearing from the Joplin R-8 School District is that there are already problems with the new East Middle School and Soaring Heights Elementary School. Teachers did not receive keys to get into the building when they were supposed to (and they are scheduled to move in next week), construction is not done, and leaks have developed.

-Ronny Justin Myers in Illinois Prison- The man at the center of what should have been the scandal story of the year (except the Joplin Globe and other area media ignored it) will be spending the next 17 years at a Pekin, Illinois, prison. Ronny Justin Myers, who was pulling down $67,000 a year from the Joplin R-8 School District for his job in the technology department, has settled into the medium security prison. Myers, if you remember, is the one who was arrested when he showed up at Northpark Mall to have sex with an underage girl was was greeted by the police. He later admitted that he had pornographic photos on his laptop of 10 Joplin High School students, information that was never told to parents, students, or the Board of Education, leaving questions unanswered about whether anyone should still be concerned about student and teacher privacy.

First Copies of Let Teachers Teach Arrive- The UPS truck arrived Friday with the first shipment of copies of my book of education essays Let Teachers Teach. I am not planning on having any official signing for the book until February or March and I only ordered a few copies, but I am planning on leaving some at Always Buying Books and Changing Hands Book  Shoppe in Joplin.

Light snow expected Wednesday night in Joplin area

(From the National Weather Service)


2013 in Review: DESE investigators looking at Joplin High School documents

(From September 2013)
Investigators from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) are already reviewing Joplin R-8 School District records and the scope of their inquiry may involve far more than originally expected.

Sources within the R-8 administration told the Turner Report and Inside Joplin that DESE had started its investigation after receiving information indicating possible misuse of Title I and IDEA funds, essentially to pay for the district's teaching and learning coaches, which, contrary to upper-level administrators' claims that they are there to assist teachers who need help, have mostly been used as another level of administration, serving as the eyes and ears in each school for those at 32nd and Duquesne.

2013 in Review- East Newton first school district in Missouri to question Common Core Standards

(From September 2013)

I just received this recap of last night's East Newton R-6 Board of Education meeting from Jill Carter, who has been fighting the implementation of Common Core Standards. Ms. Carter was one of the organizers of the July meeting on Common Core in the East Newton High School Gymnasium, which drew more than 150 patrons.

With a vote of 5 to 1 with one abstaining, the East Newton School Board voted to pass a resolution raising their concerns about the implementation of the Common Core standards. 

Voting yes on the resolution:  Mark Knight, Keith Guinn, Greg Kruse, Lance Renner and Lawrence Frencken.  Tal Clubbs voted against with Terry Clarkson abstaining.

2013 in Review- Sources: DESE investigating Joplin R-8 School District

(From September 2013)

The Joplin R-8 School District has spent more than $2 million over the past four years for teaching/learning coaches.

The use of Title I and IDEA funds to pay for the salaries of people who have been serving more as administrators-in-training and as the eyes and ears of upper administration in the district schools, appears to be coming under state scrutiny.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is reportedly taking a close examination of how the Joplin R-8 School District is operating.

Jefferson City sources told the Turner Report that DESE is investigating the district after receiving complaints, from patrons, from legislative sources...and from within administration.

2013 in Review: Former Joplin Schools tech employee had pornographic photos of high school girls on his laptop

(From September 10, 2013)

After the arrest of Joplin R-8 tech employee Ronny Justin Myers on child sexual exploitation charges earlier this month, Superintendent C. J. Huff told media that Adams' job provided no access to children.

While he may not have had access to the students, Myers did have access to pornographic images of those students, according to a sentencing document filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

In the document, Assistant U. S. Attorney Abram McGull says that during a three-hour interview "defendant admitted that he has secretly stored child pornography on his computer. He stated he had approximately 10 child pornography images of Joplin School District co-eds on his laptop. Four of the girl have been positively identified as D. F. (age 15), LS (age 16), GS (age 16) and NC (age 15)."

2013 in Review- Bright Futures or dark past- CEO's $30K in credit card debt led to bankruptcy

(From September 10, 2013)

The twin towers of C. J. Huff's tenure as superintendent of the Joplin R-8 School District have been higher graduation rates and the innovative Bright Futures program.

The program, which had already made a difference in helping deal with the poverty in the district, became something almost completely different after the May 22, 2011, Joplin Tornado.

At that point, Bright Futures became the hub around which charity for the school district came from around the world. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, were funneled into the district from people all around the world who had seen the heart and determination of the people of Joplin. Many were enticed into giving by the bold statement Huff made when he said that school would start on time, even though that time was less than three months away.

Bright Futures was a creation of C. J. Huff and to ensure its success he made sure to put someone he trusted in charge of the program. The CEO of Bright Futures and now of the ever-growing Bright Futures USA is Kim Vann, a former employee of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce.

It was a bold move by Huff. Not many in his position would have trusted the disposition of millions of dollars in contributions to someone who only six years earlier had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and who, less than three weeks before the Joplin Tornado, was served with papers at the administration building on 15th Street for a lawsuit claiming non-payment on an account.

2013 in Review: Crackup imminent for C. J. Huff, Joplin Administration

(From September 8, 2013)

Paranoia has become rampant at the Joplin R-8 Administration Building, sources have told The Turner Report.

A source from within the administration said that Superintendent C. J. Huff has spent nearly as much time dealing with his "enemies" as he has with the school's business, likening it to an obsession.

Part of that obsession, the source said, came after I had been removed from my job as an eighth grade communication arts teacher at East Middle School. Huff was caught totally off guard by the revelation that I had recorded my "interrogation" by HR manager Tina Smith and has determined that no one is going to record anything he says unless it is something designed to promote him and the school district.

2013 in Review: Federal grand jury indicts former South Middle School teacher on child sex charge

(From August 28, 2013)
A federal grand jury indicted former South Middle school eighth grade science teacher Charles Dominic Gastel on a charge of sexually exploiting a child.
According to the indictment, which was filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, between January 1, 2009, and January 1, 2011, Gastel “engaged in sexually explicit conduct” with an underaged girl and made videos of the acts.
Gastel, who resigned his position with the Joplin R-8 School District at the end of the 2012-2013 school year, was initially charged with the crime on July 26.

2013 in Review: 2012 probable cause affidavit says accused killer Bobby Bourne assaulted child

(From August 2013) "Stop and get off me," the girl shouted, as Bobby Don Bourne had followed her into the bedroom to continue an argument.

The girl's mother rushed to the room and was frightened by what she saw. Bourne, a man in his 30s, was hitting her daughter, who was lying on her back on the bed.

Shawnee Bench yelled at Bourne, her brother-in-law to get off the girl. When he did not, she tried to grab his arm and pull him off, but he was too strong. Bourne grabbed her by the shoulders and gave her a violent shove.

"Get out of my "f------g house," Bourne shouted.

In her probable cause statement filed that day in October 2012, there was no doubt in Officer Ruth Cottingham's mind what should happen to Bobby Dale Bourne. She wrote, "I believe the defendant poses a danger to the community or to any other person."

2013 in Review: Domestic assault, assault on police officer not enough to get alleged kidnapper's probation revoked

(From August 20, 2013, this was written before the body of Audrianna Horton 12, Golden City, was found.)
Bobby Dale Bourne, 34, Lamar, is in the Barton County Jail with a $1 million bond on a charge of kidnapping 12-year-old Adrianna Horton of Golden City, but online court records indicate he could have been locked up months ago except for a series of delays and bureaucratic malfunctions.

During a hearing Sept. 10, 2012, in Polk County Circuit Court, Bourne admitted he violated his probation on a 2006 felony tampering charge by assaulting a law enforcement officer and being intoxicated.

Though a motion to revoke Bourne's probation and send him to prison for five years was filed, no hearing was ever held. Polk County records show that during an October 1 hearing, Judge John Sims ruled that Bourne's probation would be continued with the same conditions.

Before the month was out, court records indicate, Bourne had violated his probation two more times.

Jason Kander: My top 10 for 2013

(From Secretary of State Jason Kander)

A few days before I was sworn in as Secretary of State, I told a close friend the news that Diana was pregnant, news we were still several weeks away from making public. After the customary words of excitement and congratulations, he made this profound observation: “Wow, Jason, your life a year ago, your life right now, and your life a year from now could not possibly be any more different.”

He was right and I feel incredibly lucky – both personally and professionally. As we head into the new year, I wanted to share with you my top 10 from my first year in this job:

10. Promoting open and transparent government: A newspaper that endorsed my opponent in 2012 editorialized that my approach was “a breath of fresh air.”

How standardized testing destroys creativity, love of learning

I have been writing for years about the negative effect poorly written standardized tests is having on our educational system.

Colorado English teacher Don Batt, writing a guest post on Diane Ravitch's blog today addresses the issue:

Our political leaders–surprise–have bent under the pressure of businessmen wearing the masks of “rigor” and “accountability.” They have sacrificed our children’s joy of learning on the altar of expediency.

Here’s what should happen: teachers in their own classrooms, using multiple performance assessments where children apply their knowledge in the context of a given task, determine what their students know and what they need to learn, based on standards developed by that school, district, or possibly, state. Teachers should take students where they are and help them progress at their own developmental rates. And good teachers are doing that every day. Not because of standardized tests, but in spite of them.

Students’ abilities can be evaluated in many, creative ways. The idea that every student take the same test at the same time is nothing more than the warmed-over factory model of education used in the 1950’s, now, laughingly called “education reform.” As Oscar Wilde has observed, “Conformity is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”

I would only disagree with Batt on one point- when he says good teachers are providing that kind of teaching any way- that is happening less and less, thanks to micromanaging administrators who not only want all teachers to teach the same things in the same way but who also are buying all kinds of practice standardized tests to further take away from the time when actual learning can take place.

Swift Boat contributor dead at 82, gave money to Missouri politicians

Harold Simmons, the Texas billionaire who gave $3 million to the Swift Boat campaign that torpedoed John Kerry's presidential candidacy and who also poured his money into Missouri campaigns, is dead at 82.

Simmons gave $50,000 to former Gov. Matt Blunt in 2007 and $25,000 to Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder in 2011.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Surviving Arkansas sister recovering in Joplin hospital, leg shattered in accident that killed her sisters

Eighteen-year-old Gracen Boxx, Bentonville, Ark., was taken off a ventilator at Freeman West Hospital in Joplin Saturday, two days after both of her sisters were killed in a three-vehicle accident in Pineville.
Miss Boxx suffered a shattered right leg in the accident and remains in the intensive care unit, a family member said.
Planning for funeral arrangements for Bethany Boxx, 20, and Katelyn Boxx, 16, may begin later today (Monday).
According to the Missouri Highway Patrol report, the McDonald County Coroner B. J. Goodwin pronounced the Boxx sisters dead at the scene.  The father, David Boxx, 51, who was driving, suffered moderate injuries and was taken by ambulance to Mercy Hospital in Rogers, Ark. His wife, Janet Boxx, 50, had minor injuries and was also taken to Mercy Hospital. Another passenger, O'Rane Williams, 21, Conway, Ark., suffered moderate injuries and was airlifted to Mercy Hospital, Springfield.

The accident occurred when a northbound Dodge Ram truck driven by Troy Robins, 19, Pineville, changed lanes in front of Roger Wilson, 47, Muldrow, Okla.. The Wilson vehicle, a 2013 Chevrolet 2500, hit the Robins vehicle in the rear, causing him to cross the center of the road and hit the Boxx vehicle, a 2000 Toyota Sienna van on the driver's side, knocking the van off the road and causing it to overturn
Neither Robins nor Wilson was hospitalized.

Things I'm Thinking About, Sunday, December 29

A few short thoughts for today. Feel free to respond to them.

-During the 2014 Missouri legislative session, we are going to see the spectacle of leading Republican legislators fighting to save our schools from Common Core Standards- just to turn them over to Rex Sinquefield. We will see a battle to let our teachers teach a curriculum devised by our local schools, only to then hear legislators talk about how we need to get rid of bad teachers by eliminating tenure.

-Tomorrow I will start rerunning a few of the Turner Report posts about people who died during 2013, including some as famous as Stan Musial and others not so famous, but who made a difference.

-I will also conclude my review of the year 2013. I have been concentrating on stories that were featured on this blog either first or which appeared exclusively here.

-At some point, I plan to write about the situation in Kansas where the Board of Regents is trying to control what college and university professors can write in social media. The Joplin Globe had a column and a letter to the editor in its Forum section today. Former Globe investigative reporter Max McCoy who now works at a university notes the error of what the Regents' approach since public bodies cannot make rules restricting First Amendment rights at public institutions. Seeing McCoy's byline was a pleasant surprise. He is a reminder of a time when the Globe actually did investigative reporting. Unfortunately, a letter to the editor was printed from the insufferable and intellectually challenged Anson Burlingame, who, of course, supported what the Regents did, because in his beliefs, bosses are always right. The frequency with which Burlingame's nonsense appears in the Globe is a symbol of what the newspaper has become.

-The Turner Report has made another change in its appearance- one that readers have been requesting for a long time. The home page will no longer feature long posts, but will do what other blogs do and have a link where you can go to the rest of the story. It should make the home page easier to navigate. I would have done it sooner, but I just figured out how to do it today.


2013 in Review: Lawsuit alleges Joplin master developer involved in Ponzi scheme

(From August 2013)

(The following post originally ran in the August 15 Inside Joplin)

Investors in two funds connected to Joplin’s master developer Wallace-Bajjali claim in a lawsuit filed this week in Harris County, Texas, District Court that firm owners David Wallace and Costa Bajjali were involved in a $3 million Ponzi scheme.

Wallace told the Amarillo Globe-News , We consider the lawsuit very frivolous. We consider it to be without merit and we are going to defend it vigorously.”

The scheme is the same one described in an articlepublished Saturday in Inside Joplin.

2013 in Review: Two hundred teachers leave Joplin School District over two-year period

(From July 27, 2013)
Of the approximately 600 teachers who were in Joplin R-8 classrooms in May 2012, more than 200 will not be there when classes open August 15.

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) documents indicate at least 125 people who were listed with the school district's certificated personnel for the 2011-2012 school year, were not with the district for the 2012-2013 school year.

A few of those were in administrative positions while a few others were undoubtedly listed under different last names following marriage. That would still leave at least 100 who were no longer teaching in the Joplin School District.

The R-8 District has never said just how many teachers who were in the classrooms last year are not coming back. A district newsletter said 38 teachers retired (several of whom told me they would have loved to have remained in the classroom a few more years, but not under the current regime). Some, none of whom received quite the publicity I did, were ushered out of their classrooms, while most opted to resign to move on to other jobs in other districts.

I know of a few who left without any job lined up because of the problems they have had receiving backup on disciplinary issues and these were not rookie teachers.

In an MSSU Newsmakers interview that was posted this week, Superintendent C. J. Huff indicated that most of those leaving either resigned or their spouses landed jobs in other towns and they had to move.

Were those out-of-town employers just as active after the 2011-2012 school year or is this just something else C. J. Huff and the Joplin R-8 Administration can blame on the tornado?

2013 in Review- Huff on 100 teachers leaving: Their spouses got new jobs

(From July 2013)
It's not dissatisfaction with the Joplin R-8 Administration that is driving teachers out of the school district, according to Superintendent C. J. Huff.

In an interview with Judy Stiles on MSSU's Newsmakers program, Huff makes no mention of dissatisfaction or the culture of fear that he and Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer have created in the school district as being reasons for one of out every six teachers leaving.

It's the teachers' spouses that are causing the change.

Huff says, "We have a lot of spouses whose jobs are changing and they are moving out of the area." He also notes a sizable number of retirements.

All of that experience leaving the faculty will be no problem, Joplin's Annie Sullivan told Ms. Stiles:

"We have an exciting, dynamic group of new teachers."

Other topics addressed by Huff include the district's emphasis on social media, its redesigned web site, and the preparation for moving into new school buildings.

2013 in Review: Board approves blueprint on how Facebook, C. J. Huff speeches, can make Joplin Schools number one

(From July 2013)
For those who thought life could not get better in the Joplin R-8 School District, the best is yet to come.

During its June 25 meeting, the R-8 Board of Education approved a plan which includes having Superintendent C. J. Huff deliver annual State of the District messages as part of an effort to make Joplin schools the place where everyone wants to come.

No word was mentioned on whether the state legislature and Missouri Supreme Court members would be invited.

The Comprehensive School Improvement Plan approved at the June 25 Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting details how R-8 administrators plan to use a combination of social media, positive stories from the traditional media and "satisfaction surveys" to make Joplin "the school district of choice in southwest Missouri by demonstrating annual improvement in overall patron, parent, and student satisfaction."

2013 in Review- Joplin School District to pay $15,000 for people to update Facebook pages

(From July 2013)
The public relations push of the Joplin R-8 School District has taken a new turn with the creation of 15 Eagle Communicator positions.

Teachers are being encouraged to apply for the jobs, which will come with $1,000 stipends. The deadline to apply is Wednesday, July 24.

For that money, the teachers will manage the Facebook pages for their buildings.

2013 in Review- Billy Long votes to cut food stamps, charges $9407 in meals to campaign

(From July 2013)

Seventh District Congressman Billy Long voted to cut food stamps for the poor out of the Farm Bill, but he has no problem with having his meals paid for by campaign contributors.

Long's quarterly disclosure report, filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) shows that his campaign contributors paid for 31 meals totaling $9,407.29 during the last three months.

Included in that total was a $245.24 meal at the Venitian Hotel in Las Vegas. The FEC documents indicate that campaign contributors paid for two trips to Vegas, one on April 1 and the other on April 22.

2013 in Review: No media mention of resigned MSSU coach's background of recruiting violations, cocaine-dealing players

(From July 2013)

The hiring of Missouri Southern State University assistant women's basketball coach Jaime Green should have been a bigger story than it was last year.

The stories about Green's hiring in March 2012 addressed her status as a former player for Coach Mary Ann Mitts and as an MSSU alumnus, but never addressed her controversial tenure as head coach at Newman University.

That was never addressed by either the university or the area's newspaper of record, the Joplin Globe, and now there is no need to since Green will no longer be with the program and Coach Mitts has resigned.

In its March 29, 2012 edition, the Globe ran this barely rewritten version of an MSSU news release:

2013 in Review: Ed Emery campaign contributors pay ALEC fees

(From July 2013)

Education has never been the strong suit of Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, at least not if it is public education.

His campaign contributors, however, are paying for Emery's education, according to his campaign disclosure form filed Wednesday with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Emery listed $475 for "education" being paid to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the shadowy right wing group that prepares ready-made bills for legislators on everything from public education (ALEC is a pro-voucher, anti-teacher organization) to guns (ALEC has been responsible for such cookie cutter bills as the unnecessary Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground bills that have opened the doors to frontier justice).

The payment to ALEC was made June 4, according to the report.

2013 in Review: What the Joplin Globe hasn't told you about Wallace-Bajjali

(From July 9, 2013)

(Note: This is a slightly reworked version of a Turner Report post from November 26, 2012.)

The next three paragraphs are the extent of the Joplin Globe's investigation into the background of a company that eventually will most likely spend more than $1 billion in its large-scale plan to develop the tornado-damaged portion of Joplin.

Wallace Bajjali has been involved in two projects that hit difficulty. Rohr said the firm disclosed details of those problems in its Joplin proposal, and that inquiries by city officials verified the firm’s admissions. Those incidents involve a bankruptcy taken by some its partners in the Amarillo project, and fines paid to the Securities and Exchange Commission for investment fraud committed by two partners in a radio acquisition deal. - March 27, 2012, Joplin Globe

Two previous Wallace Bajjali projects hit snags because of problems involving partners. In one, work was delayed when a partner went bankrupt. In the other, a partner was found to have violated Securities and Exchange Commission rules in a business radio investment, which resulted in Wallace Bajjali paying a fine.

City Manager Mark Rohr previously said the firm’s principals voluntarily disclosed those issues, and a background investigation substantiated the firm’s disclosure. Rohr said he was satisfied that there was no wrongdoing on the part of Wallace Bajjali in those cases.July 2, 2012, Joplin Globe

That's it. The extent of the Joplin Globe's examination of the background of the Wallace Bajjali firm that has been entrusted to handle $794 million in development of the area struck by the May 22, 2011, is printed above.

2013 in Review- City of Joplin's master developer involved in bankruptcy, millions of dollars in debt

(From July 6)
The master developers chosen by the city of Joplin to handle an $800 million project involving the area of the city hit by the May 22, 2011, tornado, filed for bankruptcy January 1 and are more than six million dollars in debt, according to court documents.

2013 in Review- One hundred teachers leaving Joplin School District

(From June 26)

You didn't hear about it on the tightly scripted televised Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting Tuesday night on Jet 14, but teachers are leaving right and left from the Joplin School District.

A large number left following the 2011-2012 school year and administration blamed it on the May 22, 2011, Joplin Tornado.

it appears this time that the forces that have driven approximately 100 teachers out of the Joplin R-8 School District can be attributed to a man-made disaster, one of the administration's own making.

2013 in Review: The text of the decision that ended my teaching career

(From June 2013)
(This is the decision that was handed down against me by the Joplin R-8 Board of Education. The transfer of the document from PDF to Microsoft Word created some mistakes and I tried to correct as many of them as I could, but I am sure there are still a few.)





Petitioner, )

Respondent. )


On May 23, 2013, the Joplin Schools Board of Education ("Board") convened a hearing, pursuant to Sections 168.1 16 and 168.118 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, on charges brought against Mr. William "Randy" Tuntcr, a tenured teacher, by Superintendent Dr. C.J. Huff. Mr. Turner was present at the hearing and was represented by legal counsel Ms. Nancy Watkins, at all times. During the hearing, the administration was represented by legal counsel , Ms. Shellie Guin. A court reporter was present and recorded the testimony of the witnesses. After carefully considering the evidence presented, the Board of Education makes the following findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Decision. To the extent the following findings.

Fact are actually conclusions of law, the Board incorporates such findings in its Conclusions of Law. To the extent the following Conclusions of Law are actually findings of fact, the Board incorporates such conclusions into its Findings of Fact.


1. In a teacher termination proceeding, the determination of the credibility of witnesses is a function of the Board of Education. Ross v. Nohb, 662 S.W.2d 257 (Mo. 1983).

2. To the extent the testimony of witnesses of the administration conflicted with the testimony of Mr. Turner and his witnesses, the Board of Education finds the testimony of the witnesses of the administration to be more credible.

McCaskill lists 13 top accomplishments in '13

In her latest newsletter, Sen. Claire McCaskill lists what she considers to be the 13 biggest accomplishments of 2013.

2013 has been a year of great opportunities, and addressing deep-seated challenges. For me, the year was focused not just on tweeting my favorite recipes - but on expanding job opportunities, protecting consumers, delivering for veterans, and strengthening accountability across the federal government.

As we look to 2014, I wanted to take a moment to highlight 13 in '13 important accomplishments I've been proud to fight for, on behalf of Missouri's families and businesses.

Fighting for Missouri - 13 in '13

13. Passed into law historic Wartime Contracting reforms following a sustained, six-year effort

Opposition rising against Common Core in 23 states

One thing you keep hearing Common Core Standards proponents saying over and over is that 45 states have adopted them.

While that may be so, noted education blogger Mercedes Schneider, who recently wrote about opposition to Common Core forming in 22 states, has updated that number to 23, including California.

And this does not even include Missouri.

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

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

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

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

2013 in Review: Bruce Speck era at Missouri Southern is over

(From June 2013- this was published two weeks before the Joplin Globe and other media outlets had the story.)
Missouri Southern State University sources indicate President Bruce Speck cleaned out his office and is looking for greener pastures after narrowly avoiding getting fired by the Board of Governors last week.

After Speck reportedly missed getting fired only because of a changed vote, he was given a laundry list of changes that he would have to make if he wanted to stay in his position through the end of his contract in 2015.

2013 in Review: The Books that Got Me Fired

(This post from April 2013 includes the audio of Joplin R-8 Human Resources Director Tina Smith's "interrogation" of me. Once the audio was released, my recording of the conversation for my own protection was added to the list of charges against me.)

(The following is my latest Huffington Post blog.)

Two weeks ago today, I walked out of my classroom for perhaps the last time.

It wasn’t anything I planned. Even when I wrote for Huffington Post a couple of weeks ago recommending that young people not become teachers, I never stopped loving my job. I never lost my enthusiasm for teaching eighth graders the finer points of writing.

My students are still in my classroom every day and will be until May 21.  I miss them greatly and hope, perhaps against all hope, that I will get a chance to be with them at least one more time before the school year ends.

That usually doesn’t happen, however, for teachers who have to be escorted from the school building by a police officer in full view of students who were boarding school buses to leave for the day.

2013 in Review: He shot a man in Reno just to watch him die

(From May 3, 2013, this is me having some fun with my job situation, which was not very much fun. In this post, I imagined what would happen if the Joplin R-8 Administration found out about my band, Natural Disaster.)

When I stopped at Sonic about an hour ago (my social life these days), a former student of mine brought my drink and told me the story was going around Joplin High School that I was being fired because I give nickels to my students. (I do have a Cup O'Nickels that I use to reward students and at the moment it is in the floor in the front of my car until I get around to picking up the nickels that spilled out of it.)

I was happy to let her know there was no truth to that rumor, but it suddenly occurred to me, just a few hours after having a district employee deliver the latest set of charges (now up to 31 pages) against me, that I may have to repeat this process many times before my 9 a.m. Thursday, May 23, meeting at the district administration building.

And a terrifying thought occurred to me- What will happen they find about my band, Natural Disaster? After all, it performed at the December 1 benefit at East Middle School to raise money for the Joplin Fire Department's Christmas for Kids program.

2013 in Review: The Joplin School District's Charges Against Me

(From April 25, 2013, this post reveals the first set of charges the Joplin R-8 School District leveled at me. Of course, after I pretty much refuted all of those charges, they hit me with some more.) As most Turner Report readers are aware, I was removed from my classroom at Joplin East Middle School April 8, placed on paid administrative leave.

Last night, as I read over the 28-page list of charges against me, I grew both angry and depressed.

Finally, I began detailing the charges on my Facebook page.

I am going to take a different approach for this blog and simply repeat the way I reported it on Facebook last night and early this morning:

2013 in Review: A Warning to Young People; Don't Become Teachers

This post became my most popular on Huffington Post, with more than a quarter of a million Facebook likes at last count. Ironically, I submitted this to Huffington Post one day before I was removed from my classroom and escorted out of East Middle School by a police officer.
(The following is my latest Huffington Post blog.)

Nothing I have ever done has brought me as much joy as I have received from teaching children how to write the past 14 years. Helping young writers grow and mature has been richly rewarding and I would not trade my experiences for anything.

That being said, if I were 18 years old and deciding how I want to spend my adult years, the last thing I would want to become is a classroom teacher.

Classroom teachers, especially those who are just out of college and entering the profession, are more stressed and less valued than at any previous time in our history.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 in Review: Forget Voter ID Law; we need a voter IQ law

(From March 2013, this was also a Huffington Post blog)
Society will be safer when people can carry guns into churches.

Our standard of living will increase once we get rid of unions and bring business into our states.

We can create a much more educated society if we pay teachers based on standardized test scores and then let them spend all of their time teaching to the test.

We can get a much better crop of teachers if we do nothing but attack them and tell their students and their students’ parents just how worthless the teachers are.

If we eliminate taxes for businesses, they will automatically start hiring people.

All of those propositions wither and fade away when confronted with reason, but the people who keep pushing this snake oil keep returning to office, year after year, election after election.

It’s not Voter ID that this country needs- it’s Voter IQ.

2013 in Review: Senate: We have lobbyists buy our booze so the taxpayers won't have to

(From March 2013)
An audit released today shows that special interests are footing the bill for booze, food, and parties for the Missouri Senate and the expenditures do not show up in the disclosure forms of any senator.

You won't find Senate leaders challenging Auditor Tom Schweich's findings- they claim they are saving the taxpayers money by having lobbyists take care of their party needs.

The practice, which is heavily criticized in the auditor's report, is to have the Senate solicit money from the lobbyists for the Senate Administrator's Fund, and, according to the audit, "The Senate made expenditures from the Senate Administrator's Fund that would not be allowable for state agencies."

2013 in Review: Feds arrest Sarcoxie School Board member on child pornography charge

(From February 2013, the Turner Report was the first to break this story.)
A preliminary hearing for Sarcoxie School Board member John Lewis, 67, charged with sexual exploitation of minors has been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, in U. S. District Court in Springfield.

The case against Lewis is spelled out in an affidavit from Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force member Charles Root. The affidavit is printed below:

2013 in Review: Message to President Obama: My students deserve better

(From Feb. 13, 2013) It certainly was depressing last night to discover that the only reason I am standing in front of a classroom of eighth grade students day after day, year after year, is so at some point they can be delivered job ready to some employer.

Whatever happened to the loftier goals of teaching young people the thinking skills needed to succeed in life, the ability to function not only as members of a faceless workforce, but also as key components in directing the civic and political discourse of this country?

In one short paragraph during last night's State of the Union Message, President Barack Obama spelled out today's definition of high school education.

2013 in Review: Tim Jones, Jason Smith ALEC connections spelled out in campaign finance documents

(From February 2013)
For the most part, you won't see the wining and dining of Missouri GOP leaders by ALEC special interests spelled out in lobbying documents filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The operation is much more sophisticated than that.

The expenses, and there are plenty, are buried in finance documents filed with the Commission.

Newly-minted Eighth District Congressional candidate Jason Smith, currently House Speaker Pro Tem, paid the $475 registration fee for the Nov. 28-30 ALEC States and Nation Policy Summit in Washington, D. C. out of his campaign account, according to his 30 days after election report.