Sunday, August 31, 2014

More about why Joplin MAP scores continue to fall

In a post this morning, I posed questions that people need to be asking about the MAP results and I have received some thoughtful responses, both via e-mail and in blog comments.

The following comment, which is also posted in the comment section of the earlier post, offers some thoughts that I felt need to be addressed. I do so at the end of the comment:

Joplin has similar rates of free and reduced lunch (poverty) as other area districts, although about 10% higher than WC.

 Other districts pull teachers many days a year for professional development and team planning/curriculum writing. 

Other districts used Acuity last year. Other districts require classroom teachers to handle the vast majority of discipline in the classroom. Other districts have high turnover rates. Other districts have technology and teacher-created curriculum taking the place of text books. Other districts have jumped on every buzz-worthy edu trend. Other districts have much higher test scores. Why? Joplin isn't that different from other area districts. So, why the huge difference in measurable achievement?

 That's what Turner needs to investigate and report on. We need a detailed comparison to find out the truth. What are the variables? The sad thing is teachers will be blamed for this. Huff is never going to say he is to blame. That's why Turner needs to do some deep digging to find something parents can take to the media. 

Show the public how Joplin is different. Is it the number of years of experience? Show us that there is a connection in other districts. Is it class size? Show us the comparison. Is it poverty? Show us. Is it the number of students with IEPs or kids speaking other languages? Show us.

 If you can't find any differences, then it's either the teachers, the students, the Admin, or a combination. Report the facts, otherwise people will react emotionally and blame Huff or the teachers, and I don't want teachers blamed. When the evidence isn't stated, it's impossible to make an informed decision.

 I like the topics you report Turner, but I want you to do more. I want you to spell it out so that I (and others) can't try to find a different possibility. Write the article "This is Why It's Huff's Fault" and show evidence that the high achieving districts don't also do the same things you've mentioned in this post.

At times, I forget that not everyone has had first hand experience in dealing with what is going on in the Joplin R-8 School District.

I have not only personally dealt with the situation in Joplin, but have kept in touch with teachers in the district, as well as teachers who teach in other districts, teachers who came to Joplin from other districts and teachers who have left Joplin to work in other districts.

I invite any teachers or parents to add information, but this is how I address each of the points made by the reader.

-As far as the poverty situation, I only mentioned it because the Joplin schools that did not score well are generally the ones where the families have the highest poverty level and I am sure that holds true in other districts with multiple schools, as well. It was not intended as an excuse, but an explanation.

-Other districts are moving toward having teachers handle more discipline in the classroom. That is true. However, when students do cross the line, in other districts, there is more support, on the whole, for teachers from the building principals. Some of the schools in Joplin have developed bad reputationx for allowing the unruly children to govern the educational process. Webb City, for example, has always had a reputation for strong discipline. Joplin does not have that reputation and that factor has been cited to me by some of those who have elected to place their children in Webb City, Thomas Jefferson, College Heights, or other schools.

-Other schools use Acuity and unfortunately, some form of it will be used in the future by every school in Missouri since DESE decided to pay millions in taxpayer money to buy the materials. Joplin is the only area school that I have heard of that has tried to build curriculum around it. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks (besides the incredible cost) of having so many people in upper administration is that they all have to make up work to feel useful and mining all of this data apparently makes them feel important. (Actually, they are not the ones who mine it, they have the teachers do it. All they do is look it over and decide which schools are doing it the way they want it done.) Other districts use Acuity as a tool. Joplin uses it as a weapon against the teachers. And it has not worked. Scores have gone down ever since Acuity was implemented in the Joplin R-8 School District. During that time, taxpayers have paid more than a quarter of a million dollars for something that has not worked.

-As for other districts having high teacher turnover rates, tell me locally where this has been taking place. That sounds like the same argument the board of education was making when this issue first came up. Yes, those numbers occur frequently in inner city schools and there will always be turnover, but when 300 teachers leave a district in three years, when nearly all of the principals have been replaced from a district that had been making strong gains before C. J. Huff arrived and scores have decreased each year since then, there is a vacuum in leadership. Those who could have helped Huff and Angie Besendorfer put the district back on track were shoved out the door and replaced with people who do not question anything that is put before them.

-Other districts have technology and teacher-created curriculum, you say, and that is true. I am totally in favor of both. I used technology in my classroom on an everyday basis. Teacher-created curriculum, however, is an entirely different thing from teacher-created lesson plans. In Joplin, meeting after meeting is held to create curriculum and yet for the most part the district has little or no curriculum to show for it and new teachers are not given anything but state general learning expectations (GLEs) or more recently, Common Core. For new teachers, this has been a problem, one that has often been handled by working with veteran teachers. For new teachers who are increasingly surrounded by other new teachers, this becomes a serious situation.

-Teachers in other school districts are shocked when they learn of the number of days Joplin teachers are pulled out of the classroom and about the incredible amount of money the district spends on substitute teachers. As you point out, teachers at other schools are pulled out of school for these kinds of meetings, but you will not see teachers being taken out of the classroom four to 12 weeks during a school year to attend meetings, especially not teachers in tested areas.

- As for other districts adopting new educational; trends, I am sorry to say that has always been a problem in education. Each new trend that comes along will revolutionize schools.. I remember a 1981 interview I did with the superintendent at East Newton Dalton Ham, who thought mastery learning was the greatest thing to ever hit education. By the time I entered the classroom 18 years later, mastery learning had been gone for more than a decade, though like all educational trends, it returns every few years under different names. 

My previous post was an analysis of the MAP scores combined with things I know from working in the Joplin R-8 School District, talking with people who have worked there and some who still work there, and by talking with teachers from other districts.

I have a great admiration for the people who teach in the Joplin R-8 School District. I have provided enough documented evidence for the past 16 months that anyone who has been reading should know where the problems lie and it is not with the teachers, nor is it with the students. Scores did not start sinking year after year until C. J. Huff and Angie Besendorfer arrived.

That is evidence enough. And this started three years before the Joplin Tornado, so please do not use that as an excuse.

Questions that need to be asked about MAP results

Some have described me as hypocritical for making such a big deal out of local schools' MAP scores when I have criticized the overemphasis on poorly written standardized tests time after time in the past.

I have not changed my views on those tests and remain staunchly opposed to the idea that the tests should be used to evaluate teachers.

That being said, the MAP and other standardized tests, though overemphasized, do provide a considerable amount of useful information and raise questions that need to be answered, especially in the Joplin R-8 School District.

Acuity Tests

For instance, the C. J. Huff/Angie Besendorfer regime invested nearly $50,000 a year in Acuity tests. These were practice tests devised by the company that makes the MAP tests, and at one point they were given eight times a year, taking several weeks out of the school calendar that could have been used for instruction.

Not only were the tests given that often, but soon they were creating practice tests for the practice tests and those who did not do well on those were given extra work, often doing the same kinds of standardized test practice.

I participated in numerous meetings in which district officials pushed the idea of having curriculum revolve around those tests.

Math and communication arts teachers were frequently pulled out of class so they could grade Acuity tests or put the data from those into the computer. Other times, we were pulled out of class and forced to interpret what this data meant and how we could use it to improve our test scores.

And during all of those meetings, the students were "learning" from substitute teachers.

What were the results of this madness?

MAP scores have gone down in the district ever since Acuity was implemented, or for that matter ever since C. J. Huff and Angie Besendorfer arrived in Joplin.

We were told at the beginning of this that scores would go down initially, but we would soon see dramatic increases.. When that did not take place, the spin changed, and the tests became "unfair" and not indicative of how our schools were doing.

No matter that every other school in Missouri was having to deal with MAP, Joplin was the only one around complaining that it was not fair.

Teachers Pulled from Classrooms

Each year when test results were issued, administration came down harder on teachers, indicating that only teachers, and not administration, played a part in creating low test scores. More professional development, if it could truly be called that, centered around ways to improve students' test-taking techniques, ways to game the testing system, and of course, how to use data that was almost impossible to interpret in any rational way.

Teachers were constantly being pulled out of classrooms. I was teaching a tested area, but one year I was pulled out of class 16 days for professional development. I thought that was bad until I learned during my final year of teaching that our highly successful eighth grade math teacher at East Middle School had been pulled out more than 20 days and there was still time to go before the tests were given.

That would seem to be an issue that should be discussed in a board of education campaign and indeed, successful candidate Dr. Debbie Fort brought it up during the candidate forum, noting she had a teacher pulled out of her classroom (she was principal at Irving Elementary) for 60 days. That was the only mention. No one ever held the board or the administration's feet to the fire about why this was being done.

There have been times when half of the teaching staff has been pulled out of district buildings and one thing teachers learn quickly- when that many teachers are gone, not only will less learning take place in the rooms with substitutes, no matter how good the lesson plan that is left for them, but it also has an effect on the other teachers. The more substitute teachers you have, the more behavioral problems you have.

And with all of these people going to meetings, being fed, often having their way paid on seminars or trips, plus the cost of paying substitute teachers, you are throwing away thousands of dollars with no positive return.

Students need teachers in order for their educational experience to be successful. For some reason, that idea has never taken hold with the Huff/Besendorfer administration.

The Poor Treatment of Teachers

You also have a problem when you have approximately 300 teachers who have left the school district in the past three years, many of them among the best teachers the district had to offer.

With the administration's current emphasis on allowing students to find their way with teachers standing by as guides and telling them to Google for whatever information they need, teachers are not being allowed to teach. Especially at the elementary level, it is reaching the point where everything teachers do is being carefully scripted so that administration has more control. That approach has not benefited the students. It has also driven many excellent teachers out of the district.

Teachers have also been negatively affected by the lack of discipline at the schools. Principals are under orders to keep referrals down so that state statistics will show just how wonderful the behavior is at the Joplin Schools, so they begin coming up with different levels of referrals. As I have noted before, in my last year at East, we were required to have eight classroom referrals for students before they could be sent to the principal or assistant principal. Even then, there was often no discipline administered, just talks and promises that things would get better.

We were told that after the eight classroom referrals that we should send the students to the office with each additional referral. That stopped when we were told not to send them down so that we could give the principal's talk or offer of one lunchroom detention an opportunity to work.

Teachers are also provided with lists of actions that should result in students being sent to the office and actions that should be handled in the classroom. Many of the actions that are now considered to be classroom would have resulted in an automatic trip to the principal just a few years ago.

What happens when you have this lack of discipline is that younger teachers are afraid to send students to the office and behavior takes place that hurts the learning process. It also increases the chances that these younger teachers are going to get out of teaching...or get out of Joplin.

It also is unfair to the majority of the students who are there to learn and cannot understand why their classmates are being allowed to get away with so much.

The Poverty Situation
While educational "reformers" piously insist that it is not true, poverty does play a role in learning. If the children's families do not have money, do not have books in the home, do not have access to internet, it does make a difference.

It does not mean that the students do not learn or are not capable of learning. Far from it.

But any time you are examining standardized test results, it will become obvious that students from schools where there is more poverty are nearly always going to have lower scores. That is obvious in Joplin's results and it has been that way since long before C. J. Huff and Angie Besendorfer arrived. The Bright Futures program,when you remove its local excesses and get down to its core, has had a positive effect, but the idea of providing a stable educational environment inside the schools seems to be something that has been foreign to the Huff Administration.

Only three principals remain from the group that served Joplin when C. J. Huff arrived. Many of those who were shown the door were top-notch principals and were replaced by lower-level yes men and yes woman, some with little or no organizational abilityand no ability at all to inspire, but who would never question any edict from upper administration, even in a respectful manner.

The same revolving door, as noted earlier, has applied to teachers. It is important to have new, eager teachers in schools at the beginning of each year, but it is just as important to have veteran teachers, often just as eager, to show them the way, to help them get through the pitfalls of that inaugural year, and to provide a stable environment for children who desperately need it.

During the years of the Huff Administration, everything has been about each new program that has been started, all with the implied and often-stated message that the people in Joplin were never worried about education until C. J. Huff arrived and led us out of the darkness.

Stability is the best thing that C. J. Huff could have done for our schools, especially for those in the poverty-stricken areas of Joplin. The only stability that has existed in the Joplin R-8 School District since he arrived from Eldon is that he is going to be the center of everything and everyone else is disposable. When you have that kind of attitude, the ones who are the most damaged are the ones he always says he is doing everything for- the kids.

Questions That Need to be Asked

When readers are examining the MAP results and how they affect Joplin, there are questions that need to be asked and no one, especially the media, has been asking them.

1. Why are scores in Carl Junction and Webb City so high compared to Joplin? Is it a matter of people choosing to locate in those communities just to be in those school systems? Does it involve lesser poverty than you see in Joplin? 

2. How many Joplin parents are opting to move their children to other schools? We have seen the publicized instance of former R-8 Board of Education member Dawn Sticklen who moved her child from Joplin to Webb City and then resigned form the board. Many of my former students are now in Carl Junction, Webb City, Carthage, and Neosho, and these are students who were still attending Joplin schools after the tornado. I also have seen many of my former students transferring to Thomas Jefferson and College Heights and more than before are home schooling. Why are parents pulling their students out of Joplin schools? Is it discipline, is it education, is it the excesses of the Huff Administration? There is still the question of if Joplin's 21st Century learning is not negatively impacting students by removing lecturing and nearly all teacher-led lessons, when those are going to be the type of classes they will have most often if they continue to colleges or universities.

3. If we begin paying and evaluating teachers based on student scores on standardized tests, as Amendment 3 calls for, are we going to end up unfairly punishing teachers who work in areas with higher poverty and are we going to have a harder time finding teachers who are willing to teach in those schools, or continue teaching there when jobs in other districts open. Are we condemning the students in the poverty areas to having inexperienced teachers year after year after year?

MAP results are worth examining and the most important thing they do is to enable us to raise these questions. Hopefully, as time goes on, we will be able to answer some of them and use those answers to improve education in Joplin and the surrounding area.

The first thing we have to do, however, is ask the questions, and eliminate business as usual.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

MAP scores provided for Joplin, Jasper County elementary schools

The following MAP scores show the percentage of students who scored proficient or above on the annual MAP tests:

Third Grade Communication Arts
Webb City 64.0
Carl Junction 53.2
Carthage 34.4
Joplin 30.8
Jasper 26.6
Sarcoxie 26.4
Avilla 10.6

Fourth Grade Communication Arts
Webb City 58.1
Carl Junction 48.5
Carthage 45.8
Jasper 45.2
Avilla 42.8
Sarcoxie 41.5
Joplin 41.1

Fifth Grade Communication Arts
Jasper 65.7
Carl Junction 51.0
Webb City 50.3
Sarcoxie 50.0
Avilla 47.7
Joplin 43.5
Carthage 42.7

Third Grade Math
Webb City 72.1
Carl Junction 65.7\
Carthage 46.7
Sarcoxie 41.5
Joplin 34.9
Jasper 26.7
Avilla 10.5

Fourth Grade Math
Webb City 58.1
Carthage 42.7
Sarcoxie 42.5
Carl Junction 38.4
Avilla 38.1
Joplin 34.7
Jasper 32.2

Fifth Grade Math
Jasper 68.8
Webb City 58.3
Carl Junction 56.8
Sarcoxie 44.2
Joplin 43.9
Carthage 42.8
Avilla 41.2

Third Grade Communication Arts
Webb City Harry S Truman 69.6
Webb City Eugene Field 66.7
Joplin Kelsey Norman 64.6
Webb City Mark Twain 61.3
Carthage Steadley 57.4
Joplin Stapleton 56.8
Carl Junction 53.2
Webb City- Carterville Elementary 52.2
Carthage Mark Twain 49.2
Joplin Columbia 48.6
Carthage Pleasant Valley 39.4
Joplin Royal Heights 34.8
Carthage Columbian 30.9
Carthage Fairview 30.7
Joplin Cecil Floyd 27.6
Jasper 26.6
Sarcoxie 26.4
Joplin Soaring Heights 26.2
Joplin Eastmorland 24.5
Joplin West Central 24.3
Joplin McKinley 19.6
Joplin Irving 18.8
Avilla 10.6
Joplin Jefferson 3.7

Fourth Grade Communication Arts
Webb City Harry S Truman 66.1
Joplin Stapleton 60.6
Carthage Steadley 59.8
Webb City Carterville Elementary 57.1
Webb City Mark Twain 56.5
Joplin West Central 54.6
Carthage Mark Twain 52.1
Carthage Pleasant Valley 52.0
Joplin Kelsey Norman 50.0
Carl Junction 48.5
Webb City Eugene Field (between 45.8 and 50.5)
Jasper 45.2
Joplin Eastmorland 45.1
Joplin Soaring Heights 44.7
Joplin Columbia 43.2
Avilla 42.8
Sarcoxie 41.5
Joplin Irving 41.0
Joplin Cecil Floyd 37.8
Carthage Columbian between 37.3 and 42.7
Joplin Royal Heights 33.3
Carthage Fairview 28.1
Joplin McKinley 22.9
Joplin Jefferson 21.1

Fifth Grade Communication Arts
Joplin Kelsey Norman 67.5
Joplin Stapleton 66.7
Jasper 65.7
Carl Junction 51.0
Webb City Middle School 50.3
Sarcoxie 50.0
Avilla 47.0
Joplin Columbia 44.2
Joplin Irving 43.0
Carthage Middle School 42.7
Joplin West Central 39.1
Joplin Cecil Floyd 37.8
Joplin Eastmorland 37.5
Joplin Royal Heights 31.7
Joplin Soaring Heights 31.1
Joplin McKinley 26.6

Third Grade Math
Webb City Harry S Truman 78.3
Webb City Mark Twain 70.4
Webb City Eugene Field 69.7
Webb City Carterville 68.1
Joplin Kelsey Norman 67.6
Carthage Pleasant Valley 66.7
Carthage Mark Twain 57.2
Joplin Stapleton 56.8
Joplin Royal Heights 45.6
Joplin Columbia 43.3
Sarcoxie 41.5
Carthage Steadley 41.1
Joplin Soaring Heights 38.3
Carthage Columbian 36.2
Joplin Cecil Floyd 30.6
Joplin McKinley 29.4
Joplin Eastmorland 28.9
Jasper 26.7
Carthage Fairview 25.0
Joplin Irving 18.8
Joplin West Central between 13.5 and 18.9
Avilla 10.5
Joplin Jefferson 7.4

Fourth Grade Math
Webb City Harry S Truman 66.1
Joplin Stapleton 60.6
Webb City Carterville 57.1
Carthage Pleasant Valley 56.0
Carthage Steadley 55.5
Webb City Mark Twain 55.3
Joplin Kelsey Norman 52.3
Webb City Eugene Field between 45.5 and 50.5
Carthage Mark Twain 43.8
Sarcoxie 42.5
Joplin Soaring Heights 40.7
Avilla 38.1
Joplin Columbia 37.5
Joplin Eastmorland 35.3
Carthage Fairview 34.6
Joplin Royal Heights 33.3
Jasper 32.2
Joplin Cecil Floyd 30.5
Carthage Columbian between 28.9 and 33.3
Joplin Irving 28.9
Joplin West Central between 22.7 and 26.8
Joplin Jefferson 10.6
Joplin McKinley 2.8

Fifth Grade Math
Joplin Stapleton 74.3
Joplin Kelsey Norman 71.4
Jasper 68.8
Webb City Middle School 58.3
Carl Junction 56.8
Joplin Columbia 51.2
Joplin Cecil Floyd 45.1
Sarcoxie 44.2
Carthage Middle School 42.8
Joplin Royal Heights 41.4
Avilla 41.2
Joplin Eastmorland 39.7
Joplin Irving 35.2
Joplin Jefferson 32.6
Joplin Soaring Heights 31.1
Joplin McKinley 17.2
Joplin West Central 8.7

(Note: The schools that do not have an exact figure listed are ones that had two categories that had percentages small enough that they were not listed, so I used the possible range of scores it could be.)

Joplin High School MAP scores lowest in Jasper, Newton counties

The percentage of students who scored proficient or above on the 2014 MAP tests are recorded below for high schools in Jasper and Newton counties:

English 1
Jasper 75.0
Seneca 69.5
Carl Junction 68.3
East Newton 61.2
Webb City 60.9
Diamond 59.1
Carthage 58.2
Neosho 57.0
Joplin 51.3
Sarcoxie 50.9

English 2
Webb City 81.6
Carl Junction 77.3
Jasper 75.7
Seneca 74.6
East Newton 72.1
Sarcoxie 70.6
Carthage 69.0
Neosho 66.3
Diamond 66.0
Joplin 62.8

Algebra I
Webb City 72.3
East Newton 62.6
Carl Junction 57.9
Jasper 50.0
Carthage 45.7
Neosho 41.3
Diamond 40.3
Seneca 38.9
Sarcoxie 32.5
Joplin 27.1

Algebra II
(no listing for Webb City)
East Newton 100.0
Jasper 92.3
Neosho 54.4
Joplin 52.4
Carl Junction 49.1
Carthage 46.3
Seneca 40.8
Diamond 40.3
Sarcoxie 35.4

C. J. Huff: We will try to improve math and science scores

A report from KODE's Gretchen Bolander

Wallace-Bajjali: We still want to use Coca-Cola building as post office

The post office has no interest in it, but Wallace-Bajjali continues to insist in this report from KSN's Felicia Lawrence that it is negotiating with the Postal Service, but looking at other things, too.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Cleaver: It was not Fallujah, but Ferguson

In his latest EC from DC report, Fifth District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver writes about the situation in Ferguson.

The images that assaulted our senses, night after night, recently from Ferguson, Missouri, created waves of concern in Americans from coast to coast, regardless of race, religion, or political party.

So many questions, emotions, and deep-seated resentments have erupted since the shooting death of Michael Brown.

At the request of several ministers and community leaders in Ferguson, I traveled there to offer any assistance I could, to lessen tensions before another tragedy occurred. I also joined several Missouri lawmakers in sitting down with Attorney General Eric Holder. I was pleased by his visit, his promise of a fair and thorough investigation, and his commitment to those victimized during the protests.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (right) meets with Representative Wm. Lacy Clay (center) and Representative Emanuel Cleaver, II, in his office at the Pentagon | DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt

I, along with my colleague Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO), also urgently requested a meeting with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. We sat down in The Pentagon with him the next evening, to discuss our grave concerns about the militarization of local law enforcement agencies.

Under what is known as the 1033 Program, surplus Department of Defense equipment is distributed to various police departments throughout the country. I voiced my strong objections, and those of many constituents from both parties in Missouri’s Fifth District, to parts of 1033. I am not advocating for the termination of the 1033 Program altogether, but believe a vigorous review is necessary. I am encouraged by the President's promise to do just that.

If there is any good to come of this tragedy, perhaps it is that we will act forcefully and quickly to ensure public safety, and preserve our constitutional rights, including the right to assemble and peacefully protest, without the unacceptable threat of an overbearing police response that targets law-abiding citizens with military weapons and technology.

Carl Junction, Webb City schools top 6-8 MAP scores

Sixth Grade Communication Arts
Scoring Proficient or Above Average

1. Jasper 79.2
2. Webb City 63.5
3. Carl Junction 52.8
4.Carthage 44.0
5. Joplin 41.9
6. Avilla 40.0
7. Sarcoxie 37.1
(Joplin South scored at 48.2, Joplin East 39.1 and Joplin North 37.3)

Seventh Grade Communication Arts
1.Carl Junction 63.1
2. Webb City 60.3
3. Avilla 56.5
4. Joplin 55.7
5. Carthage 52.2
6.Jasper 51.3
7.Sarcoxie 46.2
(Joplin South scored 56.7, East 56.0, and North 54.0)

Eighth Grade Communication Arts
1. Webb City 60.4
2. Carl Junction 55.5
3. Avilla 50.0
4. Joplin 48.0
5. Jasper 46.9
6. Carthage 44.0
7. Sarcoxie 31.3
(South 53.9, North 51.9, East 35.3)

Sixth Grade Math
1. Jasper 83.4
2. Webb City 63.5
3.Carl Junction 57.9
4. Sarcoxie 52.9
5. Carthage 52.5
6. Joplin 45.1
7. Avilla 40.0
(South 52.0, North 43.9, East 37.3)

Seventh Grade Math
1. Carl Junction 66.9
2. Webb City 64.5
3. Jasper 56.7
4. Carthage 56.0
5. Joplin 53.6
6. Avilla 34.8
7. Sarcoxie 32.9
(South 56.4, North 52.3, East 44.2)

Eighth Grade Math
1.  Webb City 64.9
2. Carl Junction 55.5
3. Joplin  48.0
4. Carthage 41.2
5. Jasper 40.6
6. Avilla 33.4
7. Sarcoxie 30.8
(North 52.3, South 44. East 29.7)

Eighth Grade Science
1. Webb City 61.2
1. Carl Junction 61.2
3. Joplin 50.2
4. Avilla 45.8
5. Carthage 45.7
6. Jasper 43.8
7. Sarcoxie 34.6
(South 53.4, North 53.2, East 44.2)

Test scores reveal highest, lowest ranking schools in KC metro area

APR numbers improve for Kansas City Public Schools

Hickman Mills celebrates full accreditation

Work groups forming to develop Missouri Education Standards

In his latest report, Senate :President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, talks about the process of forming work groups to develop Missouri Education Standards, a step that is being taken because of intense opposition to Common Core State Standards. 

After a successful legislative session, many of the new laws we passed took effect this week. One measure that has special importance to thousands of Missouri families is House Bill 1490, which creates the new Missouri Learning Standards educational benchmarks for students in our state.

The need for new standards became apparent in the wake of serious concerns raised by a very diverse cross-section of Missourians of all political viewpoints over the implementation of what is often called the “common core.”

Billy Long: Federal regulations continue to hurt farmers

In his latest newsletter, Seventh District Congressman Billy Long talks about the role of agriculture in American life.

This year marks our fourth annual agriculture tour of Missouri's 7th Congressional District. From my days growing up raising Polled Herefords I have witnessed firsthand the vital role that agriculture played and continues to play in our economy. My staff and I put together a great tour once again this year.

Our office continues to hear from many farmers regarding how federal regulations have continuously played a heavy role in directing the path of their businesses. Livestock and livestock products are responsible for a little over half of Missouri's agriculture production, which makes it important to ensure that these businesses can progress and thrive without government regulation.

Oklahoma punished for dropping Common Core; all schools are failing

If anyone has an idea that the Obama Administration is not using Common Core Standards to set a common curriculum for the United States, the treatment of Oklahoma should put that thought to rest.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is revoking Oklahoma's No Child Left Behind waiver because the state legislature voted to get rid of Common Core Standards. Since No Child Left Behind requires that 100 percent of students be proficient in math and reading by 2014, an impossible task, that means that all Oklahoma school districts will be classified as failing.

Since some Oklahoma children have already started the school year, the Education Department will phase in some of the consequences of No Child Left Behind that Oklahoma had escaped under the waiver: The state must provide tutoring services and public school choice options no later than the 2015-16 school year. But schools that will need a total overhaul must begin that process this school year.

“It is outrageous that President [Barack] Obama and Washington bureaucrats are trying to dictate how Oklahoma schools spend education dollars,” Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said in a statement. “Because of overwhelming opposition from Oklahoma parents and voters to Common Core, Washington is now acting to punish us. This is one more example of an out-of-control presidency that places a politicized Washington agenda over the well-being of Oklahoma students.”

This marks the first time the Education Department has stripped a state of its waiver on the grounds of academic standards, said Anne Hyslop, a senior policy analyst for Bellwether Education Partners.

“This is obviously dicey water for the Secretary [Arne] Duncan, given growing opposition to Common Core,” she said.

St. Louis Superintendent: This is how we raised APR

(The following message was sent by St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kelvin Adams to staff after APR scores were released today.)

SLPS Staff

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) today released the Annual Performance Reports (APR) for districts and individual schools through the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) cycle five. Based on the data released by DESE, SLPS received 60.5 APR points, an increase of 75% from last year. In addition, seven Saint Louis Public School District schools earned enough points to qualify for Accreditation with Distinction, the highest recognition available.

The District increased in APR points due to several factors. First, the District took a more proactive approach to monitoring and evaluating data throughout the school year. Focused Instructional Learning Walks were held at all schools in the District to review teaching and learning at the classroom level. Rigor and alignment to District teaching standards were consistently communicated and coached.

Attendance data was monitored weekly by District administrators and reviewed with principals. Schools developed attendance improvement strategies to address individual students who exhibited patterns of absenteeism.

The District focused on improved follow-up measures to address graduating seniors in the college and career readiness category. By utilizing social media and innovative methods, the District was able to more accurately track graduating seniors for the 2014 Annual Performance Report.

SLPS schools earning Accreditation with Distinction honors are Buder Elementary School, Gateway Elementary School, Kennard Classical Junior Academy, Metro High School, McKinley Middle/High School, Stix Early Childhood Center and Wilkinson Early Childhood Center. Schools had to earn at least 90% of the points possible to qualify for Accreditation with Distinction. Kennard and Wilkinson each earned a perfect score of 100%.

An additional 17 SLPS schools earned enough APR points to qualify for Full Accreditation. Those schools are: Bryan Hill Elementary School, Busch Middle School of Character, Carnahan High School of the Future, Central Visual and Performing Arts High School, Cleveland NJROTC High School, Clyde C. Miller High School, Compton Drew Middle School, Cote Brilliante Elementary School, Dewey International Studies Elementary School, Gateway Michael Elementary School, Gateway STEM High School, Jefferson Elementary School, Mallinckrodt Academy of Gifted Instruction, Mason School of Academic & Cultural Literacy Elementary School, Shaw Visual and Performing Arts Elementary School, Shenandoah Elementary School and Woerner Elementary School. Schools were required to earn at least 70% of all possible points to qualify for Full Accreditation.

All public school districts and individual schools received an APR score based on Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) tests results, End Of Course (EOC) exams scores, attendance data, graduation rates and college and career readiness preparation.

The 2013-2014 school year is the second year DESE has calculated APR scores for districts and schools based on the MSIP cycle five standards. MSIP cycle five uses a 140 point scale to calculate a district’s APR, requiring a district to earn at least 70 points (50%) to qualify for Provisional Accreditation, at least 98 points (70%) to qualify for Full Accreditation and at least 126 points (90%) to qualify for Accreditation with Distinction. Under the MSIP cycle four scoring system, districts were evaluated based on a 14 point scale.

Individual school APR’s are calculated using the same percentages for Provisional Accreditation, Full Accreditation and Accreditation with Distinction. However, elementary and middle schools are evaluated on a 70 point scale based on MAP results and attendance, while high schools are evaluated on a 140 point scale based on EOC results, attendance, graduation rates and college and career readiness.

Nicastro: Lower APR scores show why state took over Normandy School District

(From the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education)

“Lower APR numbers show the need for a fresh start for the children of Normandy,” said Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro. “As we begin the 2014-15 school year as the Normandy Schools Collaborative, under state oversight, we are determined to improve instruction, curriculum and focus on the educational needs of these students.”

The Normandy Schools Collaborative was formed under state oversight on July 1, 2014. The Collaborative has hired new staff, revised curriculum and provided professional development for faculty and administrators. Schools welcomed students for the 2013-14 school year on August 18.

“We will focus on quality classroom instruction, leadership, and the use of student data to make ongoing decisions,” said Superintendent Ty McNichols. “It is critical that we reverse our academic trends and that our energy and purpose be laser-like on academic improvement.”

The Department believes high expectations, a clear vision and a few focused, high-impact goals will be critical to drive the improvement efforts necessary to bring about positive results.

Fifty-six percent of Missouri schools increase APR

(From the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education)

More than half of Missouri’s school districts increased their scores in the Annual Performance Reports (APR) released by the Department on Friday.

More than 97 percent of districts received at least 70 percent of possible points. In all, 56.6 percent of districts raised their APR scores from 2013.

The annual performance reports show how well each school and school district is meeting Missouri’s education standards under the state’s accountability system, Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) 5. The reports are used to review and accredit Missouri’s school districts.

“Missouri set high expectations for districts ultimately to help children achieve at higher levels,” said Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro. “We are pleased to see many districts are meeting and exceeding these high standards.”

However, Department staff cautions against using one year of data to show progress or decline. Under MSIP 5 a school district’s score on three consecutive APRs, along with other factors, is used to determine accreditation. Education officials believe a three-year period is needed to show long-term, sustained performance trends for districts. This is the second set of reports collected using MSIP 5.

Under MSIP 5, schools and school districts are awarded points based on performance in five areas:
Academic achievement
Subgroup achievement (includes minority students, students with limited proficiency in English, students with disabilities, students eligible for free and reduced-price lunches and students receiving special education services)
College and career or high school readiness
Attendance rate
Graduation rate

MSIP 5 is designed to distinguish performance of schools and districts in a valid, accurate and meaningful way so that those in need of improvement can receive appropriate support and interventions, while high-performing districts can be recognized as models of excellence.

Preparing students for college and careers is one of the goals of the Top 10 by 20 initiative, which calls for Missouri to rank as one of the top 10 states for education by 2020.

NEA video- Amendment 3 will take away local control of schools

Report cards issued for area school districts, individual schools

The annual performance reports (APR) released today by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education not only provide a score for school districts, but also for individual schools within those districts.

Listed below are scores for schools in Jasper, Newton, Barton, and McDonald counties:

Avilla 95.7

Carl Junction High School 93.9
Carl Junction Intermediate 78.6
Carl Junction Junior High 98.6
Carl Junction Primary 2-3 100.0
Carl Junction Primary K-1 100.0
Carl Junction Satellite School 31.8

Carthage High School 83.9
Carthage Junior High 84.3
Carthage Middle School 58.6
Columbia Elementary 96.0
Fairview Elementary 94.0
Mark Twain Elementary 88.0
Pleasant Valley Elementary 100.0
Steadley Elementary 100.0

Diamond Elementary School 64.0
Diamond High School 78.9
Diamond Middle School 77.1

East Newton High School 96.4
Granby Elementary 77.9
Triway Elementary 85.7

Golden City Elementary School 85.7
Golden City High School 90.0

Jasper Elementary School 100.0
Jasper High School 89.3

Joplin Cecil Floyd Elementary 82.9
Columbia Elementary 92.9
East Middle School 74.3
Eastmorland Elementary 67.1
Irving (not listed)
Jefferson Elementary 72.9
Joplin High School 81.4
Kelsey Norman Elementary 87.1
McKinley Elementary 70.0
North Middle School 95.7
Royal Heights Elementary 58.6
Soaring Heights Elementary 45.7
South Middle School 82.9
Stapleton Elementary 98.6
West Central Elementary 57.1

Lamar East Elementary 100.0
Lamar Elementary 78.3
Lamar High School 85.4
Lamar Middle School 87.9

Liberal Elementary School 78.6
Liberal High School 90.4
Liberal Middle School 92.9

McDonald County Anderson Elementary 87.1
Anderson Middle School 75.7
McDonald County High School 97.1
Noel Elementary 84.3
Noel Primary 100.0
Pineville Elementary 77.9
Pineville Primary 100.0
Rocky Comfort Elementary 91.4
Southwest City Elementary 90.0
White Rock Elementary 100.0

Neosho Benton Elementary 94.0
Central Elementary 100.0
George Washington Carver Elementary 100.0
Goodman Elementary 87.0
Neosho Middle School 94.3
Neosho Junior High School 85.7
South Elementary 100.0

Sarcoxie High School 80.0
Wildwood Elementary 84.3

Seneca Elementary School 82.0
Seneca High School 88.9
Seneca Intermediate 81.4
Seneca Junior High School 71.4

Webb City Bess Truman Primary Center 100.0
Carterville Elementary 100.0
Eugene Field Elementary 100.0
Harry S Truman Elementary 100.0
Madge T. James Kindergarten Center 100.0
Mark Twain Elementary 100.0
Webb City High School 99.3
Webb City Junior High School 98.6
Webb City Middle School 85.7

Joplin R-8 performance improves, Webb, CJ top list

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released annual performance reports for school districts today and it was a mixed bag for area school districts.

Joplin scores were up over 2013, improving 6.4 percent to 85.0, while Carl Junction and Webb City both improved to 95.0, while the top score, 100 percent, went to Westview, a K-8 school.

Carthage and Diamond schools suffered the biggest decreases.

Scores for schools in Jasper, Newton, Barton, and McDonald counties are listed below:

1. Westview 100, up 2.5
2. Carl Junction 95.0, up 0.7
2. Webb City 95.0, up 7.5
4. McDonald County 94.3, up 1.4
5. East Newton 93.9, up 4.3
6. Jasper 92.9, up 2.1
7. Avilla 92.5, down 5.0
7. Liberal 92.5, up 1.8
9. Golden City 89.3, up 9.3
9. Lamar 89.3, up 0.7
11. Neosho 88.2, down 1.1
12. Joplin 85.0, up 6.4
13. Seneca 83.9, down 5.4
14.Sarcoxie 79.3, up 3.9
15. Carthage 78.2, down 6.8
16. Diamond 70.7, down 7.9

Parent at JHS Open House: It's amazing for these kids to be home

A report from KSN's Felicia Lawrence

Thunderstorms likely today and tonight in Joplin area

(From the National Weather Service)

344 AM CDT FRI AUG 29 2014










Thursday, August 28, 2014

Video- JHS Open House has visitors lined up all the way to Indiana

A report from KOAM News KOAM TV 7 Joplin and Pittsburg

Auditor to Joplin audience: If you know a public official who is stealing money, give us a call

In the past three and a half years, the state auditor's office has uncovered 28 felonies being committed by public officials.

Of those 28, 22 have been identified, 16 indicted and nine convicted, State Auditor Thomas Schweich told KZRG's Morning Newswatch earlier this week.

"If you know of a public official who is stealing money, give us a call," Schweich said. "800-347-8597."

It is not just theft the auditors are looking for, Schweich explained, noting that auditors are also looking for examples of waste or not following proper procedures.

Schweich encouraged those who have information that should be included in the ongoing audit of rhe Joplin R-8 School District or the upcoming audit of the City of Joplin can call that number and provide information with "complete anonymity. Your name never has to be made public."

Schweich said that when the Joplin audits have been completed, he will personally come to the city and deliver the results.

State auditor: We will look at the Loraine investigation

The city of Joplin is not yet finished with former City Manager Mark Rohr or with Osage Beach lawyer Tom Loraine, whose investigation led to Rohr's dismissal.

State Auditor Thomas Schweich did not go into detail, but told KZRG's Morning Newswatch that the Loraine Investigation, which was supposed to cost $45,000 and ended up at nearly double that amount, would be looked into by his auditing team.

"This is a full performance audit," Schweich said, noting that auditors are not just looking for theft of public funds, as some think, but also whether proper procedures are followed and whether taxpayer money is being wasted.

Schweich said the audit for the City of Joplin will begin Tuesday, September 2, when the team is introduced and offers information during a Joplin City Council meeting.

C. J. Huff's advertising: New Joplin High School will change education as we know it

As more than 2,000 students enter the new Joplin High School for the first day of classes Tuesday, September 2, they can feel pride in knowing they are entering a building that "will change education as we know it."

That line comes from the updated C. J. Huff biography on the Washington Speakers Bureau website. In an interview one year ago with the Joplin Globe, Huff said the Washington Speakers Bureau had approached him after the tornado and he had made one speech.

That interview came a few days after two Joplin High School students had published a blog post that included an audio of a WSB representative saying that Huff spoke frequently for WSB and charged $8,000 a speech, plus travel expenses.

Huff also did not list any income from speeches on financial disclosure statements, signed under penalty of perjury, that he was required to file with the Missouri Ethics Commission. (The photo accompanying this post is a screenshot of the portion of C. J. Huff's 2013 financial disclosure report that reveals outside income.)

Despite his insistence that he had only made the one speech for Washington Speakers Bureau as of August 2013, his biography has been updated to include the opening of the new Joplin High School and the continuing role he has played in leading the city of Joplin through its darkest hours to triumph.

Huff's WSB biography includes these last three paragraphs:

Huff’s declaration that “We will start school on time” is credited with being a key factor that drew the community of Joplin together just days after the tornado and provided a positive light for the country to rally around in the midst of such tragedy and destruction. To find and create learning space for 4,200 kids—54 percent of the district—in 12 weeks was a daunting task. “Somebody told me it couldn’t be done,” said Huff, “which is all it took to get me going.” On August 17, 2011 Joplin’s 7,700 students started the new school year on time. On May 21, 2012—just one day shy of the one year anniversary of the devastating tornado—President Barack Obama delivered the high school graduation commencement address.

Three years later, Joplin Schools continues to take the lead in the community's recovery effort. Huff and his team have encountered and overcome many challenges since that fateful day in May. Undaunted, his focus has remained unchanged as he and his team continue to take care of what he refers to as his "Joplin Schools' family" and crossing the recovery finish line strong. In August 2014, the last of the buildings destroyed by the storm will be rebuilt. Fulfilling yet another promise to build Joplin back bigger AND better, his students and staff will come home to the new Joplin High School after three long years. A 21st Century high school with a forward-looking and rigorous program of study to prepare students for a highly competitive workforce and global economy that has the potential to change public education as we know it.

Huff is well-respected by the community and his peers as a man of vision and a man that keeps his word. People magazine named him as one of their "2011 Heroes Among Us." Other recognitions include the 2013 Missouri “Superintendent of the Year” award, one of four finalists for the 2013 National Superintendent of the Year award, 2012 Missouri “National Education Association Horace Mann Award”, National School Public Relations Association’s “Bob Grossman Leadership in School Communications Award”, eSchool News 2012 “Tech-Savvy Superintendent Award”, Missouri Association of School Administrators 2012 “Pearce Award”, Missouri School Public Relations Association 2012 “Administrator of the Year” and the 2011 American School Board Journal Magna Award/Grand Prize Winner for “Joplin’s Bright Futures” initiative focusing on community engagement and drop-out prevention.

Huff's speaking tour has a number of stops between now and the end of the calendar year, including speeches in Saskatchewan, Chicago, and Kansas City, all of which are scheduled to take place during the school week.

Huff's next scheduled speech (at least of those that have been publicized) is scheduled for a week from tomorrow, Friday, September 5, when he speaks at 10:30 a.m. at the Rotary Zone 30 and 31 Institute at the Intercontinental Kansas City on the Plaza.

His topic, according to the advertising, will be "The Joplin Experience."

Nixon, Zweifel announce plan to aid Ferguson businesses

(From Gov. Jay Nixon)

Gov. Jay Nixon and State Treasurer Clint Zweifel today joined area business and community leaders to announce the State of Missouri’s commitment of up to $250,000 in small business lending resources from the State Small Business Loan Program to support efforts of the Small Business Relief Program. The Governor has designated Treasurer Zweifel to oversee Missouri’s commitment to the program, which will aid businesses in Ferguson and the surrounding area.

With support from a coalition of public and private sector organizations, the Small Business Relief Program will provide up to $1 million in support to businesses impacted by recent events to help them recover and grow their businesses. The public-private partnership includes the State of Missouri, the St. Louis Regional Chamber, the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, North County Inc., and local lending institutions. State funding will be utilized for zero-interest loans to meet the immediate needs of businesses impacted.

Hillary Clinton: Frayed trust led to Ferguson violence

Inmates at Springfield prison indicted for murder, assault

(From the U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri)

Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that two inmates of the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo., have been indicted, in separate and unrelated cases, for murdering one inmate and assaulting another.

USA v. Hill

Jerry Scott Hill, 43, was charged with voluntary manslaughter in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Hill allegedly killed another inmate, Cyprian Adoh, on July 19, 2014, during a sudden quarrel in the heat of passion by pushing his head into a wall. The resulting brain injuries caused Adoh’s death.

Hill is currently serving a 262-month sentence for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, with a release date of Jan. 24, 2029. Adoh was serving a 70-month sentence for Medicaid/Medicare fraud.

USA v. Kinningham

Dean Kinningham, 51, was charged with assault with the intent to commit murder in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Kinningham allegedly assaulted another inmate, Gary Brown, by stabbing and slashing him with a razor blade on June 4, 2014.

Kinningham is currently serving a 262-month sentence for armed pharmacy robbery, with a release date of March 31, 2030. Brown is currently serving a 170-month sentence for conspiracy to possess crack cocaine with the intent to distribute, with a release date of Feb. 25, 2015.

Dickinson cautioned that the charges contained in these indictments are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall D. Eggert. They were investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

John Jungmann: Amendment 3 is frightening

A report from KOLR News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Signs will help students, teachers find way at new Joplin High School

A report from KODE News

Missouri tanning consent law begins Thursday

McCaskill in favor of body cameras for police officers

Ferguson Police Department to receive body cameras

American Federation of Teachers contributes $250,000 to fight Amendment 3

The national American Federation of Teachers contributed $125,000 to the Committee to Support Public Education Tuesday.

It is the second time in the past couple of months AFT has contributed that amount to combat Amendment 3, which would eliminate teacher tenure, make all teachers at-will employees, and require that teachers be evaluated on the basis of student scores on standardized tests.

The $250,000 sounds like a big amount until you consider that one man, retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield, has contributed $850,000 to the misnamed Teach Great, which was formed by Sinquefield to push the measure.

More big money is expected on both sides.

Pre-trial conference set for Joplin man on child pornography charge

A 10:30 a.m. September 3 pre-trial conference has been set for Frank Ness, 44, Joplin, who is being held without bond on federal child pornography charges.

The charges against Ness were explained in a news release issued by the Department of Justice:

Frank Edwin Ness, 44, of Joplin, was charged in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mo. Today’s indictment replaces a federal criminal complaint that was filed against Ness on July 17, 2014.

Summons issued for former Joplin R-8 assistant superintendents

Alias summonses were issued today for former Joplin R-8 assistant superintendents Angie Besendorfer and Stephen Doerr in order to serve them with a lawsuit filed by former Royal Heights Elementary Principal Larry Masters.

An alias summons is issued when the original summons is unable to be served.

Masters is suing Besendorfer, Doerr and Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff for wrongfully dismissing him from his position at Royal Heights after he had already been issued a contract for the 2010-2011 school year.

A Jasper County Sheriff's deputy served Huff at 12:02 p.m. July 30 at the Administration Building at 32nd and Duquesne. The lawsuit accuses Huff and the former assistant superintendents of conspiracy and lying to the Joplin R-8 Board of Education.

Wallace-Bajjali closes on Coca-Coca building

After three delays, Wallace-Bajjali has finally closed on the Coca-Coca building.

Joplin Redevelopment Corporation Chairman Gary Duncan told KZRG that Wallace-Bajjali paid $550,000 for the building.

At one point, Wallace-Bajjali had pushed using the building as a post office, but the U. S. Postal Service was not interested. It appears at this point the firm has no concrete idea on how or if the building will be used.

This is the first property Wallace-Bajjali has bought back from the JRC.

Justice Department release: Branson woman embezzled $678,000 from Andy Williams Theatre

(From the U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri. This is the official news release for the story that was first printed Tuesday on the Turner Report.)

Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a Branson, Mo., woman has pleaded guilty in federal court to filing a false tax return after embezzling more than $678,000 from the Andy Williams Theatre in Branson.

Dawn K. Cleveringa, 59, of Branson, waived her right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush on Tuesday, Agu. 26, 2014, to a federal information that charges her with making a false federal income tax return.

Cleveringa was the controller of the Andy Williams Theatre from 1992 to 2009. Cleveringa’s duties as controller included conducting or supervising financial transactions of the Andy Williams Theatre, including employee payroll and issuing IRS Forms W-2 to employees.

By pleading guilty, Cleveringa admitted that she made unauthorized payments to herself, and unauthorized payments of her personal expenses, from funds of the Andy Williams Theatre in 2007 and 2008. To disguise her theft, Cleveringa manipulated the accounting system of the Andy Williams Theatre.

Cleveringa has been prosecuted in state court for embezzling more than $678,000 from the Andy Williams Theatre. The federal charge is related only to the portion of the embezzled income for which Cleveringa did not pay federal income taxes.

Cleveringa admitted that she failed to include some of the embezzled income on her federal income tax return. In 2007, Cleveringa embezzled approximately $160,642 from the Andy Williams Theatre that was not claimed on her federal income tax return. In 2008, Cleveringa embezzled approximately $102,013 from the Andy Williams Theatre that was not claimed on her federal income tax return. The total amount embezzled during 2007 and 2008, which was not claimed on her federal income tax return, was approximately $262,656.

Under federal statutes, Cleveringa is subject to a sentence of up to three years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000 and an order of restitution. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Mohlhenrich. It was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation.

Recount to be held on Right to Farm vote

(From Secretary of State Jason Kander)

Secretary of State Jason Kander Tuesday announced a statewide recount of Constitutional Amendment 1, which appeared on Missouri’s August 5th primary election ballot, has been requested.

Kander’s office has created a webpage ( to make the recount process more transparent and accessible to Missourians. The page will be updated daily at 3 p.m. to show the recount schedule established by the local election authorities, each local election authority’s report of findings, and a summary of recount results. The office will also train a team of staff members that can be dispatched throughout the state if assistance is requested. Per state statute, the recount will be supervised and certified by the secretary of state’s office no later than September 15.

"My goal is to set the standard for an open, transparent and fair recount process," Kander said. "Recounts are in place to both ensure the integrity of elections and give Missourians confidence in the results, which is why I put an emphasis on new transparency measures."

According to state law (RSMo 115.601), recounts are not automatically triggered, but must be requested by a registered voter whose position on the ballot question was defeated. Statewide races are only eligible for a recount when results are separated by less than one half of one percent of total votes cast. Of 996,672 votes cast on Constitutional Amendment 1, there were 499,581 "yes" votes and 497,091 "no" votes, with a difference of 0.24 percent.

The recount was requested by Wes Shoemyer on behalf of Missouri’s Food for America. Constitutional Amendment 1 will be represented by Dan Kleinsorge on behalf of Missouri Farmers Care.

Local election authorities will determine the date and time for recounts to take place in their respective counties, and a bipartisan team of election judges will conduct the process. Media may be present to observe the proceedings.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Judge hears change of venue request for Craig Michael Wood

A report from KOLR News

State audit criticizes Grandview School District

Joplin students: What does "Mission Accomplished" mean?

A Jet 14 opening day video

Law enforcement agencies scale back in Ferguson

Documents: Controller of Andy Williams theater embezzled more than $250,000

A federal grand jury indicted the former controller of the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre in Branson for tax fraud.

Documents filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri show that Dawn K. Cleveringa, who worked for the theatre from 1992 to 2009 supervising financial transactions and handling payroll, embezzled more than a quarter of a million dollars during 2007 and 2008.

Cleveringa waived reading the indictment and has already reached a plea agreement. The crime was described in court documents:

During 2007 and 2008, Cleveringa used her position as Controller of the Andy Williams Theatre to make unauthorized payments to herself, and unauthorized payments of her personal expenses from funds of 
the Andy Williams Theatre. To disguise her theft, Cleveringa manipulated the accounting system of the Andy Williams Theatre.

 In this manner, in 2007, Cleveringa embezzled approximately $160,642.91 from the Andy Williams Theatre. In this manner, in 2008, Cleveringa embezzled approximately $102,013.51 from the Andy Williams Theatre.

Cleveringa prepared and electronically filed her 2007 and 2008 Federal income tax returns in the Western District of Missouri. 

Cleveringa intentionally omitted embezzled income in the amount of $160,642.91 from her 2007 Federal  income tax return, which was filed jointly with her husband, resulting in approximate additional tax due and 
owing of $55,824. Cleveringa intentionally omitted embezzled income of $102,013.51 from her 2008 Federal income tax return, which was filed married filing separately, resulting in approximate additional tax due and owing of $35,705.

Under a plea agreement, the government will not file any additional charges against Cleveringa.

Cleveringa is represented by Springfield attorney Dee Wampler.

Joplin High School teacher finalist for Missouri Teacher of the Year

The Joplin R-8 School District's teacher of the year, high school science teacher Carissa Boyer, was one of seven finalists for the Missouri Teacher of the Year Award.

The winner was announced today in the following news release from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education:

Chris Holmes grew up watching his father teach college literature and composition, noticing the difference his dad made in the lives of his students. That experience, combined with the influences of teachers in high school and college, forged a teacher who tries to emulate those who inspired him.

“If I have contributed or accomplished anything in education, it would be the emanation of positive energy, the kind rooted in honesty, sincerity and integrity,” said Holmes, who teaches journalism at Hazelwood West High School in Hazelwood, Mo. “I try to practice these morals, values and ethics, and to model them for students, colleagues and parents.”

On Tuesday, Holmes’ contributions and accomplishments were celebrated as he was named Missouri Teacher of the Year by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Holmes feels that one of his biggest contributions to education is the dropout prevention program he helped initiate three years ago at Hazelwood West.

“We implemented Project WALK with about 50 freshmen and sophomore students who exhibited multiple characteristics associated with students who drop out,” Holmes said. “Our preliminary data suggest that we will graduate dozens of students in the spring of 2015 who, based on their previous path, would have likely dropped out without the intervention.”

Holmes was Hazelwood West High School’s 2013-14 Teacher of the Year and was named 2009 Educator of the Year by the Governor’s Council on Disability. He also won the 2011 Special Ambassador Award from the Special School District of St. Louis County.

“Chris Holmes has a passion for teaching and for his students that I’ve seldom seen in another educator,” said Dennis Newell, principal of Hazelwood West. “His dedication to his students is unquestionable.”

Holmes has taught English and journalism for 13 years, the past eight at Hazelwood West. Prior to that, Holmes taught in the Clayton School District. He also spent three weeks during the summer of 2014 teaching classes at the Missouri Scholars Academy at the University of Missouri. He holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Truman State University and received a Joseph Pulitzer Teaching Fellowship for post-graduate study at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Holmes will represent Missouri in the National Teacher of the Year competition. He will be honored at a banquet on October 27, along with the six other finalists for Missouri Teacher of the Year:

- Callie Dobbins, an agriculture teacher at Saline County Career Center, Marshall.

- Jeremy Boesch, an English language arts teacher at Timberland High School, Wentzville.

- Lauren Cumming, a French/foreign language teacher at Oakville Middle School, Mehlville.

- Valerie Turner, an art teacher at Highland Elementary, Riverview Gardens School District, St. Louis.

- Laura Gilchrist, a science and social studies teacher at New Mark Middle School, North Kansas City.

- Karisa Boyer, a science teacher at Joplin High School, Joplin.

The Department conducts the Teacher of the Year Award program with financial support from Boeing and the Monsanto Fund of St. Louis. Every district in Missouri is eligible to submit an application for a teacher on staff for consideration for Missouri’s Teacher of the Year program.

Jim Evans begins series of issue forums

(From Jim Evans for Congress)

Jim Evans is committed to transparency and authenticity in his campaign and his prospective service in Congress. He believes that every citizen of Southwest Missouri deserves the opportunity to participate in open public discussions of the critical issues which profoundly affect their lives and the lives of succeeding generations.

In accord with that commitment and belief, Jim will begin a series of forums focused on subjects of compelling interest to area residents as voters, workers, business owners, retirees, students, farmers, veterans, neighbors and family members.

The first of these, dedicated to an examination of America’s Trade Policies, will be held on Wednesday, August 27, at 6:00 p.m. in the auditorium of the DoubleTree Hotel, Kearney and Glenstone in Springfield.
To facilitate an exchange of views on this vital matter, Jim visited the local office of Rep. Billy Long and extended a friendly invitation to Representative Long to join the discussion. This was accomplished by direct conversation with a staff member who, in response, indicated that Rep. Long would “probably not” be in attendance for this open public gathering. Media and the public are encouraged to contact Rep. Long’s office regarding his participation in this forum.

Jim Evans understands that our country’s current trade policies have not served the interests of most Americans. Furthermore, Jim knows that similar prospective schemes will primarily benefit giant global corporations and the world’s richest elites and harm local communities.

As evidence of Jim’s intention to serve the people of our area and not partisan political purposes, he forthrightly acknowledges that these harmful agreements have been pursued and supported by members of both political parties.

Jim will act on behalf of the vast majority and the common good, not powerful special interests, and he will seek common ground with those who put principle over principal and people over profit regardless of their political allegiance.

Achieving a renewed national pathway to prosperity that rewards work and sustains families and communities through full employment and living wages is Jim’s goal and his pledge. A first step toward the realization of this aspiration is the restoration of fair trade policies and practices. Without such a fundamental redirection, hope and change for most poor, working class and middle class Ozarkers will be illusory.

Isolated thunderstorms possible today

(From the National Weather Service)

542 AM CDT TUE AUG 26 2014







Heat advisory in effect today for Joplin area

(From the National Weather Service)








Supporters of Ferguson police officer involved in shooting speak out

City of Joplin increases tax levy

A report from KOAM News KOAM TV 7 Joplin and Pittsburg

Monday, August 25, 2014

Reader: How dare you accuse C. J. Huff of grooming children?

For those who remember my days as editor of the Lamar Democrat, for my last five years there I wrote a humor column called The Inside Corner.

It did not take long for me to discover that some people do not have a sense of humor and others have one that differs from mine.

Every once in a while, I write what I intend to be a humorous essay, fully realizing that some people will not think it funny at all. For the last few months, every time I have done that, some people begin insisting that I have finally crossed the line. Such was the case with my post earlier today about C. J. Huff's practice of having his photo taken with kindergarten students. I make fun of it because it is a thoroughly silly tradition, coupled with the narcissistic idea that having a picture taken with someone they don't know will inspire kindergarten students to graduate from high school 13 years later.

Nearly all of my readers, whether they agree with me or not, understood what it was I doing. Except, of course, those who quickly commented that I had finally crossed the line. Some of it was obviously organized, but the following comment, which also seems to lack authenticity,  I thought deserved some extra attention because of the ironic comment in it. One that I thought crossed the line.

I started reading this blog about a year ago hoping for some solid unbiased insite. However in the past months I have been seeing a great deal of personal vendetta rather than anything unbiased and this post illustrates that perfectly. This post would never be published in true journalism, so why is it legit here? 

Insinuating that Mr. Huff is grooming young kids is a sophomoric attempt at rabble rousing to say the least. Truly the emperor has no cloths and is prancing through the streets. However the emperor's name isn't Huff, it's Turner... 

Where do these people came from and how do they keep getting jobs at 32nd and Duquesne?

Kindergarten pictures extra special this year for C. J. Huff

School started today at all Joplin elementary and middle schools with the high school and Franklin Technical Center scheduled to open Tuesday, September 2.
In this report, KODE's Gretchen Bolander talks with students, principals and R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff.

Sachetta: Extra week for Joplin High School is valuable

A report from KODE's Gretchen Bolander

C. J. Huff to KOAM: I love Joplin; I get offers, but I'm not going anywhere

C. J. Huff says people are interested in him, but he is not going anywhere.

During an interview today with Tawnya Bach of KOAM News, the Joplin R-8 superintendent addressed reports that he is actively seeking other jobs.

"I love Joplin. My family is from this area. I have not put my name in a hat anywhere.

"I get calls, yet."

Huff, asked about moving the starting date for Joplin High School back to Tuesday, September 2, said, "I'm good with it."
KOAM TV 7 Joplin and Pittsburg

New publisher named for Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News

GateHouse Media has named Matt Guthrie as the new regional publisher for this area, putting him in charge of the Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, Big Nickel, and the Pittsburg Morning Sun, among other publications.

Guthrie, who will be stationed in Pittsburg, had been the publisher of GateHouse's California group since April 2013.

The area publications had been without a publisher since the resignation of Steve Boggs late last year.

Missouri graduates' ACT scores up

(From the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education)

After nearly a decade of scoring at 21.6, Missouri graduates have raised their ACT <> composite score to 21.8. The composite is higher than the national average of 21, and composite scores in each of the four ACT subject areas have increased over the past five years.

There was a slight decrease in the number of students taking the test; in 2013, 49,217 students took the ACT in Missouri compared with 48,865 in 2014. Despite the dip in actual numbers, the percentage of graduating seniors who took the test - 76 percent - rose two percent.

"We're pleased to see higher ACT scores across our state," said Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro. "Our teachers and students are working hard to improve college readiness, and these scores are an indication that we're moving closer to our goal of being among the top ten states in education by 2020."

ACLU fighting militarization of local police departments

(From the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri)

Today, family and friends gathered to bury Michael Brown. Our condolences are extended to them and the whole Ferguson community, which has experienced great turmoil in the past two weeks.

The ACLU of Missouri has been working non-stop to shed light on what transpired Aug. 9, as well as to preserve First Amendment rights for demonstrators and media.

We filed two Missouri Sunshine Law suits to obtain incident reports for the shooting from Ferguson and St. Louis County Police Departments, secured an agreement for the public and media to videotape police, filed a Civil Rights complaint when protesters faced arrest if they stopped moving, and helped organize legal observers to document First Amendment violations. Details of these actions and others are on our website.

While calm seems to be restored, our work is far from over.

Ferguson showed the world that there are two kinds of policing in America — one that too often heavy-handedly applies militarized force to communities of color and one designed to serve and protect certain community members above their fellow citizens. This must stop. There will be no justice until our rules of law apply equally to all.

Please honor the life of Michael Brown by taking a few seconds to sign the ACLU petition asking the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Justice to stop funneling billions into the militarization of state and local police forces.

Our communities must never again be turned into war zones. And, more importantly, none of us should ever be made to feel as if we are the enemy in our own country.

Michael Brown funeral held in St. Louis

Ron Richard picks up $25,000

Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin,picked up $25,000 for his campaign account today, according to 48-hour reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Richard received $15,000 from the Lewis and Clark Leadership Forum of St. Charles and $10,000 from the Centene Management Company of St. Louis.

Sam Graves: Government should stop bullying states into using Common Core

(From Sixth District Congressman Sam Graves)

These days, it has become clearer than ever that Washington is out of touch with the rest of America. This could not be more evident than with the new Common Core education standards.

These Common Core standards started as just an idea when they were adopted by Missouri in 2010, but they have evolved into much more. Originally promoted as state-based education standards, Common Core is nothing of the sort. The standards will replace state-based standardized testing with national-based ones. Full implementation of these standards are expected this school year, including a single set of educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade.

As a parent of three children – my youngest in her last year at Tarkio high school – I understand the last thing we need is more one-size-fits all education standards. Yet Common Core standards are just what we have come to expect from Washington: failed policies from elites and bureaucrats.

I have long held the belief that state officials and local school districts are much better suited to handle the individual needs of students and their parents than bureaucrats in Washington. I expressed my concerns to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. I also told him that the federal government needs to stop forcing states to adopt Common Core through what amounts to bullying tactics.

The ability to opt-out of the Common Core standards lies with the State of Missouri. But that won’t stop me from doing what I can to change things here in Washington. I’m pushing the Secretary of Education to work with elected representatives in Congress, in order to reform education standards in a meaningful way. The last thing we need is more failed policies from Washington being forced on Missourians.