Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Effort to install Mike Landis as R-8 Board president thwarted
Mike Landis would be the board president and approximately $300,000 would have been spent on a testing system being pushed by the C. J. Huff Administration that not only continues the tradition of recent years of having numerous practice standardized assessment tests throughout the year, but extends that practice to grades K-2.
The chances of either of those things happened lessened considerably when there were not enough members for a quorum.
Why were those members not there?
A more important question- why was a special meeting necessary in the first place?
Contrary to what C. J. Huff said there was no emergency in which a board president would have to be appointed on a "temporary" basis to make sure that checks, for both employees and bills, could be paid on time. Those bills are normally paid at the regular meeting on the fourth Tuesday of the month, in this case April 28. KZRG reports that Board Attorney Norman Rouse even has a workaround for this "crisis" situation, which would enable the board's vice president from the previous year, Landis, to sign the checks, with the approval of the board, without having to elect Landis president.
The only legitimate reason for a special meeting was to comply with state law which requires newly elected board members to be sworn into office within 14 days of election. Once Jeff Koch and Jennifer Martucci were sworn in prior to the dedication ceremony for the Joplin High School Performing Arts Center last week, there was no reason to hold a special session.
Except that C. J. Huff was fully aware that the reason Koch could not attend an April 21 meeting was because he is on a three-day business trip to Washington, D. C. Even at that, Koch was able to carve out a time from his schedule of meetings in the nation's capitol to agree to meet with the board via Skype. The time for the meeting was agreed upon to be 4 p.m. It was only going to be a short meeting, Huff indicated, to take care of a few items that absolutely had to be dealt with before the regular meeting.
But when the agenda was posted for the meeting on Friday, the time was set for 3:30 p.m., a time which did not fit into Koch's schedule- and which would give C. J. Huff a majority to elect a board president, and make no doubt about it, if Mike Landis had been elected, it would not have been temporary.
The election of a board president would give Huff a leg up on the appointment of a replacement for former Joplin Police Chief Lane Roberts, but more importantly, the board president and Huff are the ones who set the agenda for the board meetings.
The newly elected board members and Debbie Fort have expressed a desire to make the meetings more accessible to the public. Under rules that were instituted shortly after Huff arrived in 2008, those who wish to address the board have to register in advance, are limited to three minutes, and cannot talk about any subject unless it is on the meeting agenda. This, combined with board training that emphasizes putting all faith in the superintendent and not dealing with the public until the public has jumped through all of the necessary hoops, has isolated the Board from what its constituents want and has created the problems which the public has attempted to solve through the election of four new board members, Fort, Koch, Martucci, and Lynda Banwart, in the past two years.
Huff's efforts to keep things the way he has had them for the past seven years continued Tuesday. Martucci was reportedly unable to make the meeting because she had a sick child and her husband was out of town.
Koch had suggested that if the meeting had to be held, it should be held later in the week. Though Huff was unwilling to change the 3:30 p.m. meeting time so more board members could be there, When the board was unable to meet at 3:30 because it lacked a quorum, the first thought was to reschedule for 6 p.m.
That didn't happen. Huff moved the meeting to 8:30 p.m. instead because Banwart was unable to make it at 6 p.m.
Of course, there was no quorum at 8:30 p.m. either, so the board sat around for about an hour, listened to how much the $300,000 testing system would help the district, and then board members made a point of noting that the same presentation would not be made for Koch, Martucci, and Fort next Tuesday when the regular meeting is held.
That's certainly good news for Koch, Martucci, and Fort.
The fact that no meeting was held Tuesday was even better news for Joplin R-8 taxpayers.