Saturday, March 14, 2015
C. J. Huff to Joplin Globe: I have cut down on my travel
Ever since the state auditor's office issued a highly critical audit of the Joplin R-8 School District earlier this month, the Globe has offered unfettered access to Huff to try to answer every complaint registered by the auditor's office.
Earlier this month, Huff and R-8 Board President Anne Sharp explained how dangerously low fund balances are okay, because the board had predicted they would drop to eight percent. Of course, Globe reporters, unaccustomed to pushing for answers, failed to ask why no efforts were made to curb spending on the off chance that another disaster may rid the district of the rest of its balance. (Not to mention that the district has borrowed $74 million in the last seven months.) The answer to the problem, Sharp and Huff says, is to bring the balance back up. Only neither one has the slightest idea of how to do that. They will deal with that after the election.
In an article on today's page one, Huff dealt with another criticism of the district, the nearly $1 million in travel the district recorded during the past three years, including $349,952 during the 2013-2014 school year.
By the time the Globe was through with documentation provided by Huff, that was whittled down to $23,328 in travel for the seven top administrators in the district in 2014.
And any previous travel excesses were all blamed on the tornado and the infamous "thank-you" trips taken by Huff and former Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer.
Not mentioned in the article are the multiple times each year that the district has paid for large contingents of employees, often their team of lower-level administrators, the teaching-learning coaches, to attend conferences. It appears the Globe's study of travel documents did not include an examination of the packets provided to Board of Education members (and the public through the district website). This includes numerous trips, month after month, many out of state,
It doesn't appear that the registration fees for these events, often reaching hundreds of dollars, were included in the documentation.
What is clear, and this will be addressed in a post later this evening, that the real cost of Huff's travel is not being addressed.
What is also clear is that the Joplin Globe is running interference for the candidacies of Sharp and Bright Futures USA President Nancy Good for the Board of Education.
When a newspaper runs a series of page one articles relating to a critical state audit and makes it look like everything is running smoothly in R-8 land, it is perpetrating a fraud on its readership. Thankfully, many of its readers have found other sources that are willing to provide different perspectives.
One source is the state audit itself.
The Joplin Globe's headline reads "District travel costs decline," with the subhead "Tornado-related trips had inflated expenses for school officials."
Yet the audit says the district spent more on travel during the 2013-2014 school year than in the previous two years- $349,952, compared to $302,860 in 2012-2013, and $345,877 in 2011-2012.
In other words, travel expenses increased in a year that started more than two years after the Joplin Tornado.
And let's not forget, the travel documents that were provided to the Globe are not provided to the Board of Education (and therefore to the public) in the monthly bills.
Will the next Globe article explain how $8 million in "might-as-well" spending will actually help the district to improve its fund balance in the near future?