By the time an hour of "professional development" in the Joplin High School gymnasium was completed February 20, taxpayers had been soaked for more than $12,000 and the public relations firm hired by R-8 Board of Education President Anne Sharp had plenty of footage for her re-election campaign video.
Teachers were told in an e-mail sent a few days earlier by Superintendent C. J. Huff that he would be making an announcement about the direction in which the district was headed and would be revealing the results of a staff survey taken more than nine months earlier.
When teachers entered the gymnasium, they saw gift bags lined up along the walkway. Teachers were told that they were going to receive cookies afterward.
In addition to the Huff presentation, the session featured an orchestrated for campaign video performance in which Sharp helped lead teachers in doing the wave. Those photos, along with others of her at the professional development session were included in the campaign ad.
As teachers filed out of the session, they were given Joplin Eagles tumblers, which according to the invoice from Embassy Embroidery, Webb City, which is included in the bills scheduled to be paid by the R-8 Board of Education when it meets Tuesday, March 24, cost the taxpayers $12,095.61. The company also provided $48.43 worth of Bright Futures polo shirts, according to the invoice, for a total of $12,139.09.
The gifts were presented to the teachers by central administration staff and board members, including Sharp, Mike Landis, and Randy Steele.
In the board packet the tumblers are listed as "staff incentives."
The commandeering of teachers' professional development time by the Sharp re-election campaign is only one of the things that has been done in recent days that calls into question whether Sharp has taken advantage of her access to taxpayer facilities as a board member to boost her re-election campaign.
The Turner Report has confirmed that teachers who have had birthdays in recent weeks have had envelopes sent to them that include birthday cards and Anne Sharp campaign flyers. The information about the birthdays and the teachers appears likely to have come from district personnel records.
Sharp also had contact with teachers in the week prior to the professional development meeting, as revealed in earlier Turner Report posts. Teachers received e-mails from Sharp at their Joplin R-8 e-mail addresses asking them to help her with her campaign.