Monday, December 08, 2014

C. J. Huff blog: The public is demanding that we expand our pre-school program

In his latest blog, Joplin R-8 Superintendent explains how the district is pursuing millions in federal disaster money from the city because the public demanded it.

When I arrived in Joplin in 2008, I met with the Board of Education as a team for the first time in July or August to discuss their vision for the future of the district. One of the key points that was made by the Board of Education at the time was the need to expand our preschool program. Seven years later, the Board of Education’s commitment to expanding has remained unchanged.

The work to research and expand the preschool program began in 2010. In order to gauge community support for this expansion, an extensive phone survey was conducted of our Joplin patrons. The following question was among the list of questions asked of the community that helped guide our efforts:

“Another issue that the school district has been dealing with is the growing demand for preschool education programs. Right now, the only families who are eligible for preschool through the school district are those children who have special educational needs. If the district were to propose a plan at some point in the future that would expand this program to all families, generally speaking, do you think you would strongly support it, support it, oppose it, or don’t know/not sure/would need more information?”

The community’s response to that question was an overwhelmingly strong endorsement for the expansion of our early childhood program....82% of our community supported or strongly supported expansion of our preschool program, 8% opposed it, 0% strongly opposed it, and the remainder indicated they weren’t sure or needed more information. There is no mistaking it. The need existed prior to May 22, 2011 and most certainly the need exists now.

Monday night the Joplin City Council is considering using federal disaster funding to support the construction of a preschool in Joplin that would be a permanent educational facility in our community with the capacity to serve 300 children in the morning and 300 in the afternoon. It is Joplin Schools’ belief that this project not only supports the direction given to us by the community in 2010, but also the future direction in the recovery of Joplin.

If I were to boil this conversation down into a few key points it would be these:

It has been said many times in the last few years that we want to grow Joplin. Attracting new families is necessary to grow Joplin. That will not happen without new jobs, new housing, and high quality educational facilities that can support children of all ages. The Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce developed the Joplin Regional Prosperity Initiative to attract and retain jobs in this area. The City of Joplin approved the JHAP loan program to create housing opportunities to attract new families to Joplin. And Joplin Schools is doing its part to support this effort.

In the Joplin community, screenings indicate 60% of incoming kindergartners do not have the necessary basic skills to be successful in school.

Years of research demonstrate that the first five years of a child’s cognitive and emotional development establish the foundation for learning and achievement throughout life.

Other than the Cerebral Palsy of Tri-County Webb City Development Center and the Bill and Virginia Leffen Center for Autism, Joplin Schools is the only provider in Joplin to provide services to children with significant disabilities. There are roughly 3,500 children in Joplin under the age of 5; 12-15% of these children are special needs children with varying degrees of disabilities in need of services.

Because of our disaster, Joplin Schools’ preschool program is housed and operating in temporary FEMA modular units behind McKinley Elementary. With the support of the City of Joplin, we have an opportunity to build a permanent facility at no cost to our patrons.

The primary purpose of the proposed facility is to provide a half-day preschool with a highly effective written curriculum taught by highly qualified certified preschool teachers. The daycare component (75 in the morning and 75 in the afternoon) is only available to children who are enrolled in the preschool so they have someplace to go the other half of the day and to siblings of these children. The daycare fees will be comparable to local private daycare centers.

There will be no impact on the district’s operational budget. All operational costs (staff salaries, facilities maintenance, utilities, etc) will be covered by state and federal funds and supplemented with fee-for-service tuition-based students. Our current preschool program operates in this manner at this time.

In short, we want to support Joplin’s growth by providing a high quality, comprehensive preschool experience to our most vulnerable children. In doing so, we have an opportunity to give these kids a head start on their road to a successful educational experience. We are excited about the long-term potential benefit our community can provide to our children.

Until next time,


Anonymous said...

BULL!! What a pack of lies!! My child went and did NOT have special educational needs!! Nor did I get a phone call surveying me about the program!!! CJ Huff why don't you spew some more poison out of that devil mouth of yours!!

Anonymous said...

We also demand a doubling of CJ's salary, his absolute and lifetime authority over thr BOE, and a superintendent limousine.

Anonymous said...

Buy now pay later.

Can you repossess a school district?

Ron said...

Well, this is awkward. Is it permissible to actually agree with CJ around here? I'm not a fan of Huff using that very loaded survey question to justify his plans, but if I lived in Joplin I would support the school's expansion of the preschool program. A lot of studies have shown that investing in preschool gives kids huge advantages. And I've seen plenty of struggling families here in SWMO whose kids could definitely benefit from some assistance. I think you only have to look at what has happened in Oklahoma as they implemented state-wide preschool to see the benefits of this. Preschool not only helps kids in school, but it helps them develop social tools that help them succeed in life. Track down the stories done by "This American Life" and NPR's "Planet Money" for more info. Preschool is certainly a better investment in our youth than astroturf on the football field or video screens in the JHS school cafeteria. And it's a community investment that Joplin will actually benefit from, as compared to throwing money at Wallace-Bajjali Development Partners.

Anonymous said...

That is so not true. Huff just wants to spend more money joplin doesn't have. In addition. He will put honest hard working people out of Worley and businesses. Huff should leave and stop wasting our money!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Yes preschool education is extremely important. However, we do not need another beautiful building, housing a thousand kids, with noone to teach them. Just another plaque with his name on it,

Anonymous said...

The problem is Huff has lied so many times about so many things that even if what he just said were true, no one would believe him. It would be better to wait until after he's gone and get a third, and neutral party, to gauge the interest level. This is the problem with lying. It gets to be a habit and you don't even notice that you've done it, and you begin to believe your own lies. The rest of us, however, have long since quit believing.

Anonymous said...

The high school needs around $4,000,000 in electrical work done, but no one has said so publicly. It leaks and the wind blows through the cracks in the walls. East has leaks and mold, and the ceiling caved in with the first snow and destroyed the computers in the office. That library has a tremendous leak. Irving has leaks and mold. The older buildings are all moldy and need work desperately, especially Columbia, where the wall has separated from the building. Somehow, this preschool/daycare (CJ wants babies as early as six weeks) doesn't seem as urgent as these other issues. Put it on hold for awhile. Don't give in to him.

Anonymous said...

When the roof caves in on babies, he can somehow make himself out to be a hero.

Don't ask me how. He managed it with the tornado, and no one can figure that one out.

Anonymous said...

Huff says that the community is demanding that we do this. Here is the reason. Kids that are not disadvantaged are called "models" for the other kids. Their tuition for school is $50 per week. This is compared to $120-$190 per week at a regular childcare center. This is why there is a 47 student waiting list. When they start charging $176 per week for the new spots created there will be no demand for the spots. Be careful of what anybody that wants to "grow government" says.