Wednesday, May 28, 2014

New Joplin R-8 Board, same 7-0 votes

The message we were waiting to hear last night never came.

All it would have taken was one word- No.

A 6-1 vote would have sent the message that the days of Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff getting his way with a never ending series of 7-0 votes was over.

That vote never happened during Tuesday night's meeting.

The board did table Huff's plans for a health center inside the new Joplin High School, but what difference does that make? The board tabled the same proposal a few months ago, but Huff went right ahead and kept pursuing it.

If not a "no" vote, then some pointed questioning about some of the things that were mentioned during last night's meeting was certainly in order.

When CFO Paul Barr read a laundry list of expensive sports-related items that have helped put the district millions of dollars behind, that certainly deserved a question or two.

Think about it.

-Astroturf for the football fields
-Expansion from four to eight tennis courts
-Lighting for the tennis courts
-A press box for the practice field

These items were not on the initial plans, but they were added, we were told, so "we wouldn't have to add them later."

Not one board member asked why these items were necessary.

Instead, permission was given to hire someone to borrow money- at a cost of approximately $45,000, but don't worry, that will be added to the loan package.

Just as troubling was the 7-0 vote to approve the audio/visual package for Joplin High School/Franklin Tech. It included a jumbotron, described in the bid specifications as a "main gym video board." It included video walls for the high school and digital signage for the high school and Franklin Tech, at a cost of $2.4 million with most of that coming from an Economic Development Administration grant that was designed to help the school district prepare workers for the future after the Joplin Tornado.

Most of the money is going to the video production class, which is suddenly being labeled as a Franklin Tech class, even though at this point it is only open to Joplin High School students.

Where were the hard-hitting questions?

Board member Dawn Sticklen had one. She wanted to know if the equipment would improve the quality of Jet 14's videos.

No one asked a single question about the "main gym video board." No one asked about the commons area video walls.

No one asked what kind of message is this to send the school district when we are adding expensive frills at the same time that we are cutting reading teachers, secretaries, custodians, tech employees, and even a police officer for the new high school.

As long as we are able to build what C. J. Huff has termed "America's high school" we won't ask questions.

As long as our YouTube videos are high definition, we will spare no cost.

The greed, the excess, and the gross fiscal mismanagement that have surrounded the Joplin R-8 buildings are in total contrast to the message that Joplin sent around the world following May 22, 2011.

In those days, the community pitched in, with the world lending a hand, to lift a battered city out of the depths of despair on a mission to rebuild even better than before. We were all neighbors and our chief objective was to regain the lives that we lived before May 22. Certainly, no one can argue with building better lives. That should always be the objective.

Unfortunately, it did not stop at that. Some of our leaders, C. J. Huff chief among them, have pushed a philosophy that we "deserve" all of these shiny dangling baubles because of what we suffered from the tornado. C. J. Huff has done more to perpetuate the image of Joplin as victim than any other person at the same time that he has fostered the image of being this city's savior in his speeches across the United States.

We have to remain victims in order for C. J. Huff to continue to rake in money and to spend more money than he rakes in.

When voters elected Lynda Banwart, Debbie Fort, and Randy Steele to the Board of Education in April, they expected more than a continuation of the past few years. It was a message that the days of the Joplin School District using the tornado as leverage for all kinds of excesses were over.

Steele talked about how the district had overspent. Banwart and Fort offered new perspectives.

No one was looking for a continued rubber stamping of the vulgarity that has surrounded C. J. Huff's stewardship of the Joplin R-8 School District.

Perhaps things will change during coming meetings. It is far to early to condemn the new board of education. Maybe someday, one of them will vote no.

Still, it seems that C. J. Huff may have been right when he characterized Joplin as America's school. After all, he is the highly paid administrator who has guided this school district down a path of financial ruin and he now has millions more to spend. Meanwhile, he has cut the jobs of those who can least afford it.

If that is not a microcosm of today's American, I don't know what is.

***
Anyone who buys a voluntary subscription to the Turner Report/Inside Joplin will receive a free paperback copy of either Scars from the Tornado: A Year at Joplin East Middle School, or Let Teachers Teach. Those who have already subscribed, will be contacted and also given their choice of the two books.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

There is a strong sense of betrayal brewing. The meeting was painful. Nothing like reinforcing Huff's sense of infallibility. Shame on you, Board, SHAME ON YOU!

Anonymous said...

Wow, Dr. Fort. I somehow expected better from you. You might as well have waited in the warm Admin Bldg with the rest of the good ol' boys on the eve of filing instead of taking a stand that indicated you were not willing to be a part of the rubber stampers.

Disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Randy Turner I'm Disappointed in you ! You sound like an old "fuddy duddy"! Huff and what the new school needs are NOT synonymous ! If we build a state of the art school them lets finish a state of the art school.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the press, and a press box for a practice field sounds like a total waste of money. If the coaches need to see plays from above, hold some sessions at the real field or get a skyjack, which I am certain exists in a district as big as Joplin. These folks seem like they are buying stuff just because it is on sale, not because it is truly needed...which is a plan that rarely works out. Plus, for everything you buy or build, it needs maintained or replaced. I'm sure MODOT can tell them all about that. They are acting like someone who is buying knowing someone else is paying the bill and they won't have to worry about it.

A Free Man said...

I don't think I've ever seen a comment on Mr. Turner's blog that was not anonymous.

Good to see you still at it, sir. I used to do some grunt work for some local actors - you may find it funny to learn that one of my assignments was to monitor your blog.

Anonymous said...

None of these things appear related to education, rather they fall directly into the category of "amenities". DESE will not be evaluating on the basis of Starkweather's "needs".

Anonymous said...

I guess the parents are just going to have to protest outside the doors of the Taj Mahal in order to attract the attention of the press and the state to the problems we're having. I'd recommend that teachers get a bad case of the blue flu for those ten days prior to the kids going back to school. The worst flu is better than the best PD that Joplin's central office staff can provide. I want a quality education for my children, and I pay taxes to ensure that. I'm being ripped off every day, and the district scores will prove that once again this year, won't they, CJ.

Anonymous said...

On the BOE...if you can't play 4 votes you keep your mouth shut. You can do more by gaining trust and support behind the scened with other members to get them to vote with you on particular issues. You can jump up and down and scream and shout all you want, but if you don't have the votes to change it then you've accomplished nothing. Look at the past school officials that ran for the board to "change" things. Rhonda Randall, Jim Coburn, Jim Kimbrough and now Debbie Fort. All ran on the platform of "we are for the people..and we'll be the voice of the teachers". But none of them figured out 4 votes....and so nothing will change.

Anonymous said...

You all cannot be serious. No reasonable person would run for the Joplin School Board simply because that is the fastest way to have your reputation destroyed. Just accept that the Joplin Schools are a write off and send your kids to Thomas Jefferson.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the three new board members found what everyone on the inside of admin knows…everything is above reproach and makes complete sense when you have all the information. That things are much more complex than they seem to the general public. That there are good people doing good things for the right reasons. They know that this is ridiculous sensationalism in an effort for a guy who can't keep a real job because he gets fired everywhere he goes to make money. That's all it's about. It's not truth, people. Do your homework.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the three new board members found what everyone on the inside of admin knows…everything is above reproach and makes complete sense when you have all the information. That things are much more complex than they seem to the general public. That there are good people doing good things for the right reasons. They know that this is ridiculous sensationalism in an effort for a guy who can't keep a real job because he gets fired everywhere he goes to make money. That's all it's about. It's not truth, people. Do your homework.

Anonymous said...

How about we get the new AC fixed in the new schools.