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.