Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Huff to Jet 14 audience: I have no shame whatsoever in how we handled our funds
During the last 10 minutes of the Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting, which ended moments ago and was televised live on taxpayer-supported Jet 14, Superintendent C. J. Huff spent time praising the work done by the Board, including, of course (but not mentioned by name) Board President Jeff Flowers and Randy Steele, who happen to be running for re-election in the April 8 election.
The speech, something Huff said he just had to say, came at the end of the meeting and addressed many of the items that were brought up, and not handled well, by Flowers and Steele at last night's candidate forum.
Huff addressed the 8 to 10 percent fund balance, which has been criticized (and which one board member said a few moments ago may dip down to seven percent) and said the board had done what was necessary to keep school going and that everything was done for the children.
"I have no shame whatsoever in how we handled our funds," Huff said.
The superintendent indicated that you have to be on the inside to understand how school finances work. "It's hard for the community to understand."
The handling of the district's finances under the Huff Administration was a target of board candidates Jeff Koch and Debbie Fort during the candidate forum, even though Huff was never mentioned by name.
While Huff's impassioned defense of the board's handling of money centered around the completion of the new buildings and paying for facilities for the students to attend school while those buildings were under construction, the superintendent never mentioned the main areas of overspending that were attacked by Mrs. Fort and Koch.
Not once did he mention that staffing at the Central Administration office has tripled since he became superintendent, a fact that Mrs. Fort cited, and one which can be verified by examining Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education records.
Nor did Huff talk about the increased travel, including nearly $100,000 hopscotching the nation on a thank-you tour. Jeff Flowers told the Joplin Globe last year that all of Huff's travel had been approved by the Board of Education.
Other travel has included trip after trip to one seminar and conference after another with many teachers missing numerous days. Mrs. Fort noted Monday night that one of her teachers was pulled out of class for 40 days, nearly one out of every four-and-a-half days of school, to attend administration-mandated seminars.
Also left unaddressed by Huff was the addition of layer after layer of lower-level administrators or quasi-administrators, such as the teaching/learning coaches, 21st Century coaches, and career pathway directors, none of whom are in the classroom working with children.
During the board forum, David Guilford and Mrs. Fort ripped into the board for its lack of transparency. Huff also addressed that criticism. "We're very transparent," Huff said, though he gave no examples to counter the criticisms leveled by Guilford and Mrs. Fort.
Huff attempted to give answers to questions that left Flowers and Steele stumped the previous evening.
Essentially, with an election that started with a slumber party at the Administration Building, with board members using their own keys to allow themselves and Administration-favored candidates to wait in a warm building, using district wireless technology and other amenities, and which is scheduled to end with a perfectly timed election morning thank-you breakfast at East Middle School for Bright Futures volunteers, C. J Huff has once again shown a willingness to use taxpayer-supported facilities to get what he wants.