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.

Details are not clear about exactly who attended this slumber party, which was held at the Administration Building at 32nd and Duquesne, only that select people were invited. Filing for the Joplin R-8 Board of Education officially began at 8 a.m. this morning when the doors were unlocked. For the first time, some board candidates were allowed to circumvent the rules.

Board President Jeff Flowers indicated that he arrived at 8 p.m. the previous night, using his own key to enter the building..

According to her Facebook page, by the time former Irving Elementary Principal Debbie Fort showed up at the building at 3:30 a.m. to wait in line, she received an unexpected greeting.

I arrived at the Board of Education at 3:30 am to file my candidacy. Imagine my surprise to discover one or more of the current board members waiting inside the warm building. I don't know if it's legal but for me it certainly seems unethical. They offered to let me wait inside but I declined. Seems like the playing field should be the same for everyone.

Reportedly, it was Jeff Flowers who greeted her.

The idea behind arriving early is the tried-and-true premise that those who are not certain about who they are going to vote for have a tendency to cast their ballots for the first names listed.

Those names, in addition to Flowers, include his fellow board member and former board president Randy Steele, Shawn McGrew, who has played a prominent role in Bright Futures the past couple of years, and Linda Banwart, one of the people who was in charge of the successful campaign for the $62 million bond issue, the largest in Joplin R-8 history. All four reportedly were part of the slumber party designed to make sure their names were listed first. (Note: The names will be listed in this order- Steele, McGrew, Flowers, Banwart.)

What they talked about during the long hours is unclear. Perhaps they ordered pizza and whiled away the time discussing whether Becky really kissed Johnny or if Cindy had a crush on Freddie.

Maybe time was spent on a rollicking game of Truth and Dare, ending with a dare for everyone to ask for plush jobs with Western Governors University.

Or perhaps they waited in stony silence, waiting for someone to have an original thought.

After Debbie Fort turned down Flowers' generous offer to come in out of the cold and join the slumber party, the next candidates to arrive, also left off the invitation list, were Jeff Koch and David Guilford.

Their names will be a bit further down the list.

This time, despite the statistics, I have a feeling most people are going to review the full list of candidates. Despite the Joplin media's lack of interest in the scandals surrounding C. J. Huff, Angie Besendorfer, and the Joplin R-8 School District, word has been spreading quickly.

Angie Besendorfer is already on her way out, the first to desert the proverbial sinking ship. While state and federal investigators have been focusing in on the problems emanating from 32nd and Duquesne, C. J; Huff has been scrambling to hold his crumbling empire together.

During the past couple of months, Huff has discouraged some people who wanted to run for board of education and, on at least one occasion, dropped a hint to a prospective board candidate's employer that running for the position could cause problems in the workplace.

And Huff has every reason to be worried- if his favored candidates do not win, the days of "joined at the hip' will be a distant, unpleasant memory. All that will be needed at that point, is one more vote to bring an end to the disaster that has been C. J. Huff's administration.

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Anonymous said...

Knowing that Banwart was personally asked to run by Huff is all I need to know that I won't vote for her. It doesn't surprise me that the people in his camp, all four of those who stayed in that building, started their campaigns unethically. It's the unethical and irresponsible actions that have happened in the last few years that they're trying to keep covered up. Why the rest of the board goes along so silently is beyond me. If they don't speak up soon I'll vote against them when they run again.

Anonymous said...

Banwart should have applied for their fundraising job. So far as I've seen watching her with our kids over the years, that's all she knows about schools. She led the bond issue that brought us those horrendously expensive buildings that doubled my taxes. Maybe she should devote herself to restoring the public coffers that she and her backer emptied. I won't vote for her either. No way.