Thursday, May 29, 2014

Anonymous R-8 official: If you don't trust us, hit us with some Sunshine Law requests

It appears that someone from within the Joplin R-8 Administration office is fighting back against the claims of financial mismanagement that have been featured frequently (and accurately) in the Turner Report.

Never let it be said that I don't allow equal time to my critics and, in this particular case to a critic of many of the people who have also been posting anonymously on this blog.

I will say that it is pretty easy to tear holes in this person's arguments, but I will leave that to my readers.

It starts with a response to a comment that noted that Dr. Huff has not responded to any of the accusations that have been printed here.

Because he would spend all of his time responding to the never-ending accusations of Mr. Turner, who finds every reason to create a sensational headline. Dr. Huff has a district to run.

What if positions were cut due to the loss of revenue from the state because of the decreased amount of revenue from Casinos this year? Truth. Or if those positions were temporary to begin with? Truth.

All the "upper level administrators" do not take one red cent from lower level positions, as they are funded by designated funding streams that cover only those positions - funding streams that we would not have at all if those positions didn't exist.

Positions to do jobs like Facebook? No. A Media specialist who handles ALL of the district media - website, social media, communication, e-newsletters, print publications, etc. She works nearly 80 hours a week trying to keep up with it all and took a pay cut to come here because she believes in our schools.

Bright Futures Joplin? Funded by donors - not the district. Bright Futures USA? A separate 501C3 that is funded by donors as well. Doesn't take a cent from Joplin Schools.

One graphic designer for the ENTIRE district.

Seriously…is it excessive for an organizations with 1,200 employees to have ONE graphic designer and and a communication specialist? As Freeman or Tamko if they have those things! Joplin has simply been one of the few educational systems that has learned from great business and brought in people who really know their craft to handle pieces with excellence, rather than stressing out educators to take these tasks on in addition to what they already do. It's good business because they 1) do better quality work, and 2) are more efficient. 

Anyone who is so concerned about the district not being above reproach on finances, there is this thing called the Sunshine Law. March on down to the finance department and request your copy. PLEASE. We welcome it.

And decisions on the building expenses…the community and kids and teachers and principals worked together to design those buildings with the architects. The goal was to build state of the art so they'd be innovative for the next 100 years. Dr. Huff had very little to do with it. And those dollars are also designated - they can't be used on teachers or salaries. Nothing is being taken away from instruction to build buildings. That's just plain senseless. 


Anonymous said...

Didn't I see on the district agenda in the financial part that Bright Futures had over $700,000? If that wasn't from the district, then why is that listed on the district budget? It was my understanding that Bright Futures was 51% private and 49% district funding.

A good audit for the district and Bright Futures would just remove all doubt. Let's ask for one, shall we?

Anonymous said...

If I were Dr. Huff, I wouldn't be bragging about how this district has been run. It looks pretty much down the sewer to me. Academics have tanked. Out of money. Morale at an all-time low. When is he going to put on his magic cape and start running things?

Anonymous said...

So Huff would rather allow the divisiveness to continue instead of addressing it? That divisiveness is a reality, lest the commenter would not be here to selectively rebuke other comments. Too bad it is too much trouble for Huff to address criticisms, because he could have kept Flowers on his lap if he had been willing to find the time. Too bad our friend is stoking the fire instead of reaching out. Offering a boot instead of a hand.

Nor does this pro-Huff response do much to counter the idea that money for administrative and non-educational amenities is being prioritized. If the money being pursued is earmarked specifically for administration and nothing else, all that does is reinforce the point that they are more interested in expanding administration than education. If the funding stream is only applicable to those administrative positions, and the positions are only there to justify the funding stream, then that suggests those positions are superfluous.

I recognize, too, that funding for educational purposes might be more difficult to secure. For instance, the Race to the Top application was rejected - why not take the time to address issues that prevented that grant from being secured? That kind of grant requires more specific technical details and an ability to document, demonstrate, and monitor effectiveness. Bright Futures is an alternative to pursuing funding that requires in-depth and evidence-based documentation and planning.

If there is loss of revenue from the state that would cover educational needs but funding for administration and athletics is pursued, does that not suggest that certain choices were made?

The original sentence by a user comment referring to social media states: "New positions were created in areas like social media." This does not say that multiple social media positions were created, this says that "new positions were created, for instance in social media." Our pro-Huff friend is very selective in which claims he responds to and subtly twists others in order to build straw men that he can more readily dismantle. He goes on about the graphic design, reframing the argument into something he can respond to rather than understanding the underlying point being made. If times are tight and DESE scores are down, I would consider going after employees that would affect DESE scores before I go after PR.

I would be curious to hear our friend actually address the issues related to DESE scores, which he conveniently side-stepped to get to the hot-air. Those are not fictions invented by Turner. Terms like "state-of-the-art" and "innovative" mean nothing if not backed up by education, they are image-conscious buzzwords. If Webb City can demonstrate their students are meeting expectations without a 21st-century sports complex, so can we. It doesn't matter if the money is earmarked for amenities and cant' be used for education - if that type of funding was being pursued instead of educational funding designed to keep educators on the ground, then a choice was made. Enjoy your tennis conferences while last year's graduates pursue remedial math at Southern.

Does this remind us of anyone? Can you think of anyone who likes to shout others down and force the argument to conform to his terms? Who does not take the time to fully listen to and understand the concerns of employees?

Anonymous said...

Bring on the audit (since the district does one every year). No - there is not district funding in the Bright Futures accounts. The district manages the funds, but how they are spent are decided by an advisory board of community members.

Anonymous said...

I agree with an audit for Bright Futures. I do not believe they have their own 501C3.

Anonymous said...

So the Bright Futures Advisory Board approved the spending of $30,000.00 for Christmas gifts for 'needy students' or $5,000.00 to purchase bright blue barrels for each school building to collect clothing items for needy students? I think not.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Dr. Huff doesn't address Mr. Turner because it is widely known that Mr. Turner isn't interested in the truth. Rather, he is interested in a headline that results in a paycheck for him. I can't speak for Dr. Huff, but that would be my guess.

But to address your questions, I would say that I did discuss the DESE scores in a previous post. Nobody is blindly unaware that there is growth to be had. Someone ought to interview the curriculum department to see what has been done to address those issues. Does anyone know? Or are we just being critical? Because I know that Read 180 has brought TREMENDOUS results with elementary and middle school kids. I know that the Reading Matters initiative is designed to educate parents about the importance of early literacy from birth to age 5 (when 90% of brain connections form) is critical to long term success in school. The hope is that if kids come to school ready (which over half do not), we won't have to spend the first several years of elementary school playing catch up. I know that the TLC's that Mr. Turner likes to bash are designed to help teachers implement peer reviewed, proven educational best practices to improve instruction (and thus scores) in our district. They work one on one with teachers - something that no administrator can possibly take time to do each day. They are NOT spies, and in fact no teacher has ever been reported to Dr. Huff by a TLC for not conforming. The role of the TLCs is to come alongside teachers, supporting, encouraging, investing in and helping develop educators. They're not administrators - they're excellent teachers who are highly trained to support other teachers. Or what about the near doubling of the mentoring programs in the district this last year, increasing community involvement in helping kids with reading by utilizing volunteers? Nobody's ignoring the reading issue.

And do you know, sir, that the issues that prevented Joplin from receiving the Race to the Top grant are NOT being addressed? Because they are (another issue the TLCs are addressing).

To be continued...

Anonymous said...

I do understand the point that was being made regarding the social media employee, etc. IE: if we spend money on "extra" people, we don't spend money on educators. But what if the educational problems are not all instructional in nature? Much of the problem is that parents and the community have been checked out and/or feel ill-informed and thus can't duly support their kids' education. Quality consistent communication coming out of the district helps with that. If we help solve those problems, it will in turn improve educational outcomes.

I also know that the district went through an extensive process involving the community to develop the Standards of Excellence that are being rolled out over a 5 year period (they're on the district website) - improving not only educational arenas, but communication, facilities, employee morale, parent experiences, community partnerships, etc. The district is well ahead of schedule on most of the benchmarks - but there is work to do.

I know that HR just sent out an employee survey administered by a third party agency so as to ensure the confidentiality of employees so that they can be completely forthright without fear of consequence (ie. attempting to fully listen to hear the concerns of employees). The results will enable them to identify problems and work with teams to develop strategies to improve them. Prior to a couple of years ago, there wasn't an HR department. Morale was low because nobody was specifically tasked with working to keep it up (aside from the already over-worked principals). That is changing. It's not perfect, but they're working.

Morale has been low for YEARS. And our district has experienced a GREAT amount of trauma…people are tired. Everyone realizes there's much work to do, but the district is on it. Again…big ships turn around slowly.

This commenter is not here to selectively rebuke, but perhaps to shed some light on what has been an incredibly dark place that has caused unbelievable division in our community. What if we came together around the school district in support? Ask the questions - it is truly your right and responsibility as a citizen of this community. But to defame and destroy hard working people who love kids and are doing everything in their power to make Joplin Schools better than they have ever been is just flat wrong. And today was apparently the day that I decided to say something.

Anonymous said...

How about instead of waiting for people to use the Sunshine Law or FOIA to ask for forms, why don't you just post them for us, Mysterious Commenter? The proof is in the pudding. We know CJ just LOVES to share those forms, and in the interest of the community, I bet he won't even charge you the hundreds of dollars that he charged community members last summer. Shoot, He'll be so excited to clear his name that I bet he'll publish the Title One documents, the Race To The Top documents, his Missouri Ethics Commission documents, and his income tax statements. There's absolutely nothing to hide, right?

Anonymous said...

It appears then that Bright Futures has had a budget over 700 grand for at least two years. But, my district report card shows a "bragging" point of only 336 students being served via BF. That's some pretty good assistance!!!

Anonymous said...

I find it doubtful that your media person needs to put in 80 hours a week. There isn't that much good news to share. But, she doesn't toil alone. Fifteen teachers were paid $1,000 each this year to update Facebook for each school. That's just slightly less than they pay a secretary on a ten-month salary, and those employees communicate with the public all day long.

Anonymous said...

That BF advisory board also includes a Huff-supported Board candidate and his campaign manager.

Anonymous said...

For instance, the Race to the Top application was rejected - why not take the time to address issues that prevented that grant from being secured?

When I read the government's response to the application, detailing why it was rejected, it was clear the Huff regime will never be successful. I can't remember the exact details, but there are required thinks including at least some out of the list of transparency, community and teacher involvement that are antithetical to the way R-VIII is currently run.