Monday, March 30, 2015

Former board candidate: Koch, Martucci, Roberts- It's a way forward

(From Joplin resident and former Joplin R-8 Board of Education candidate Hal Robertson)

The Joplin School Board race is an interesting thing to watch these days. Having entered and exited the race, I’m still very interested in the outcome and, as in any election, there will be winners and losers. My largest fear is that the real losers could be Joplin voters, taxpayers and students.

The race is complicated this year for several reasons. First, there are three available seats, but they’re not equal. Two of the seats are for full, three-year terms but the third seat is for just one year. Voters will choose one of the three candidates vying for the one-year seat. The remaining three-year seats have some issues.

In the beginning, there were a total of four candidates for the three-year seats - I was one and had to drop out of the race. That left incumbent Anne Sharp, newcomer Jeff Koch and former Joplin Chief-of-Police, Lane Roberts. However, Roberts was recently appointed as the head of the Department of Public Safety for the State of Missouri and will be unable to serve on the Joplin Board of Education. To complicate matters further, his name will still appear on the ballot, since the candidates were finalized and certified at the end of January. This may cause some confusion, but it also provides a unique opportunity. More on that in a minute.

Another complication is the current state of affairs with our existing Board of Education. After spending millions upon millions of dollars they didn’t have (and then borrowing millions to pay back millions, with millions still owed), the district’s bank account is fading fast. When asked about this issue, the administration and a majority of the current Board start singing the theme song to the Lego Movie: Everything is Awesome!

Further complicating things is the recent State Audit Report on the Joplin Board of Education. A thorough read shows embarrassing mismanagement of funds and a general carelessness about the handling of resources and the law. In a very real sense, they got a “D” on their report card. When asked about this issue, the administration and the majority of the current Board continue singing the theme song to the Lego Movie: Everything is Awesome!

In addition, and contrary to popular spin, our overall academic scores are falling. While we can argue about the metrics of standardized tests and graduation, the simple fact is that Joplin Schools were ranked 373 out of 504 in Missouri last year. When asked why, the administration and the majority of the current Board keep singing Everything is Awesome!

Finally, there is the question of whether our current administration is doing the job they were hired to do and whether we can continue down the road we find ourselves on. When confronted with this question, you guessed it, Everything is Awesome!

For me, the worst part is that our incumbent candidate and two of the other candidates know the song by heart and sing it every chance they get. Just the tiniest bit of research tells me that everything is not awesome in Joplin schools and I believe, if we elect the singers, we lose.

That makes two candidates a clear choice for me: Jeff Koch and Jennifer Martucci. In the recent candidate forum held at MSSU, both Koch and Martucci displayed a working knowledge of our school system and a clear view of our current circumstances while the others waffled. These two have students in our schools and have jumped through all the parental hoops. They know what they’re talking about.

That brings us to the final three-year seat. If you believe, as I do, that we can’t afford to continue with the policies of the past and that 15 years is more than enough time for any person to sit on the board, we need an alternative. Believe it or not, that means we have to vote for - and elect - Lane Roberts. Yes, I just said he can’t serve, but electing Lane Roberts for the final three-year seat triggers a special provision in the election law. If an elected official cannot serve, the Board is required to name a replacement for a one-year term.

This one-year appointment accomplishes several things. First, the new board - if it includes Koch and Martucci - will look and vote very differently that our current board. Second, there is at least a chance that the appointee won’t know the words to Everything is Awesome. Finally, regardless of who is chosen, they are only guaranteed one year in office, limiting their long-term impact and influence.

Is it a loophole? Yes. Is it a political maneuver? Yes. Is it the only way to break the current cycle? While there are no guarantees, this looks like our last window of opportunity in 2015. Koch, Martucci and Roberts. It’s a way forward and the ticket I’ll be voting for on April 7.


Anonymous said...

I hope this man runs again next year. We really need him.

Anonymous said...

He should have stepped up this year

Anonymous said...

Hal is a great guy, but this is flawed logic. If Roberts gets elected and the board names a replacement then it will appoint Anne again.

Randy said...

That would depend on who is elected. The current board would not be able to appoint a replacement because there is no vacancy as long as the current board exists. Once the vacancy exists, for instance, if Jeff Koch and Jennifer Martucci were elected, with their stances on fiscal responsibility, I would have a hard time envisioning any scenario under which they or Debbie Fort would appoint Anne Sharp. At best, the vote would be 3-3, and there is no guarantee there would be three votes for Anne Sharp. While I would not be surprised to see some efforts made by C. J. Huff to keep Anne on the board, the only way she should be able to hold on to that job legally is by being one of the top two vote-getters next Tuesday.

Anonymous said...

The problem is..Nancy Good and Anne Sharp will get reelected. The business community is the one who gets out and votes, and they will vote for those 2 candidates. The majority of the people who complain, don't ever go vote. It's sad, but true. Anne hasn't gotten dumber as she's been on the board. She's been the same since day one. But she always gets the highest number of votes in every election.

Anonymous said...

I disagree that Nancy Good and Anne Sharp will win because the business community gets out and votes. With that logic - how did Dr. Fort get the most votes last year (and was not supported by the Progress Committee)??

Anonymous said...

So we just did a tornado drill at the high school, took 7 min 47 seconds, admin will say it was 6.
-jhs student

Anonymous said...


Apparently, you were never told not to lie. The administration made an announcement that very clearly stated the drill took seven minutes. No one ever said otherwise. That is an amazingly short time to move over 2,000 people, and each drill should show improvement. Hold people accountable when needed, but don't lie for whatever selfish purpose you had.

Most tornado warnings give a much longer warning time than seven minutes. Please keep that in mind when you start stirring up trouble. Life is hard enough without fabricating issues that don't exist.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a problem with making the effort to appoint Roberts; I see where the attempt is going, and it is worth a shot. It seems that there are some assumptions being made about some of the other candidates, that frankly, haven't actually been answered yet. Also, I am more than just a little leery about electing some lawyer's bored housewife. That worked out so well the last time.

Anonymous said...

Dear 8:25
How can you possibly call Martucci a "lawyer's bored housewife?" You can mock her husband all you want for being educated, but you obviously have no idea about her. She serves as treasurer of the Booster Club and is well informed about our schools. Perhaps you didn't watch the candidate forum where Martucci and Koch demonstrated their vast knowledge and understanding of the problems our schools are facing and the solutions that are desperately needed. Martucci's answers were right on the mark. Her opponents either didn't know the answers to questions, dodged the questions altogether, or towed the administration's line. How can we elect someone like Good who admits she "does not know what goes on in the schools!"? If you have questions about Martucci that you want answered, then why don't you ask her rather than criticizing her for being married to a lawyer. Really, is that how you become an informed voter? I watched the forum, have researched and talked to the candidates, and know what they stand for. I also know that we need change on the Board; therefore, I am voting MARTUCCI, KOCH and ROBERTS.

Anonymous said...

That isn't logical. The business community wants strong competent schools to promote the community. That isn't happening now and many families are moving to surrounding communities where academics is a focus or having to pay for private schools to get away . I would think if they have children's best interest and our community's best interest they will vote for Martucci Koch
and Roberts. Change is needed now!

Anonymous said...

When koch's kids went to McKinley a few yrs ago he was a Jennifer Doshier a## kisser and a complete push over by his own kids. Jeff koch is a push over @$$ kisser just what we need. Vote no Anne sharp n no more push over puppets.