Monday, March 23, 2015
Winners and losers at tonight's Joplin R-8 candidate forum
It was one of several questions that were posed to two candidates chosen at random, and unfortunately for them, the candidates chosen to answer this question were Melinda Campbell and Nancy Good, two of three candidates, along with Jennifer Martucci, for the one-year unexpired seat, which opened when Dawn Sticklen resigned after enrolling her daughter in the Webb City R-7 School District.
"I do not feel I have enough information about the topic," Campbell said.
"I have not had the time to look at it," Good said. "I don't have enough information."
When the Missouri School Improvement Plan is how the state judges the Joplin R-8 School District and a large part of it is based on test scores, it might be a good idea to already know something about it.
Jeff Koch did.
Though Koch was not one of the candidates who was asked that question, he returned to it in his closing, saying that he had looked over Joplin's MSIP results dating back to 2002 and noting that scores were dropping every year. "We need to focus on academics," Koch said.
Moments earlier in her closing statement, Board President Anne Sharp, who along with Koch and former Joplin Police Chief Lane Roberts, are on the ballot running for two three-year seats, had talked about academics and scores, noting that it was tough to hit a target that was continually moving, an excuse the district has made the past seven years as test scores have decreased each year since C. J. Huff arrived.
Koch politely shredded that statement in his closing remarks.
"Every district in the state has the same moving target," he noted. "If they can do it, why can't we?"
"Simplify and focus," Koch said in his closing speech and several times earlier, with the idea being to make academics the central focus of the district, rather than buildings and events.
Koch's message of academic emphasis and fiscal responsibility made him the big winner in tonight's candidate forum, but he wasn't the only winner.
Jennifer Martucci- Martucci clearly displayed a knowledge of what was going on in all district schools, and brought up the ridiculous spending of nearly $100,000 after the seats in the high school gymnasium were the wrong color. While other candidates were downplaying the idea that the board had overspent on the building projects, the fact that $74 million in loans were needed to stay afloat would indicate that too much money was spent, she noted.
Lane Roberts- Roberts was appointed to a well-paying job, instead of having to sit through a forum for a job that does not pay a cent. And judging from Anne Sharp's performance tonight, Roberts may still be elected (though he will not serve).
Judy Stiles- As always, Judy moderated the event with style and class and brought a professionalism to the proceedings.
The Questioning Panel- It would have been easy to have avoided asking a C. J. Huff question, but the question was asked and so were questions about the district's finances. Not enough questions were asked about academics, but even with that, I would say the questions were on target.
Joplin R-8 Voters- You do have choices this year. And the choices are clear. If you are comfortable with the direction in which the district has been heading, you have candidates to support. If you are looking for change, there are candidates who favor change. In the past, we have not always had a choice when we went to the polls.
Joplin Globe- There was a low turnout and the Globe did not exactly promote this extensively. It was written about on an inside page and I don't recall ever seeing it on the Globe's Facebook page. However, I did have a confirmed Michael Beatty sighting and snapped a photo in case anyone doesn't believe he actually exists. (Beatty is the Globe's publisher.)
Anne Sharp- When she noted that C. J. Huff had always done exactly what the board wanted him to do, pointing out the higher graduation rates and the building project, she seemed to be indicating that he has never done anything about academics and test scores because the board has never asked him to tackle that problem. Shouldn't Anne and the Board have been emphasizing academics every year? That is why children are attending school.
Melinda Campbell- She gave no hint at all of having prepared to run for the Board of Education. The idea of coming to the board without having any idea of what is going on and learning on the job is not a good one.
Nancy Good- Same as Melinda Campbell. C. J. Huff could have written her talking points