Sunday, April 19, 2015

The battle for control of Joplin R-8 Board continues

It appears that Joplin R-8 Board of Education member Mike Landis is not the only who thinks elections don't matter.

Voters sent a loud and clear message that they were tired of all spin, all the time and "might-as-well' spending April 7 when they elected Jeff Koch, Jennifer Martucci, and Lane Roberts to the Board of Education.

The voters were fully aware that Roberts, the new head of the Missouri Department of Public Safety, was never going to serve on the board- they didn't care. All they knew was they did not want Board President Anne Sharp to be on the board for another three years.

For the second straight year, Superintendent C. J. Huff interfered in the race, doing so even more blatantly than he had in the 2014 election. Jennifer Martucci was going to win the one-year seat; all signs pointed in that direction. When Huff released a personal e-mail message she had sent him two years earlier and publicly hinted that she was a snob who did not care about all children, he may have picked up a vote or two from those who were upset by the content of Martucci's e-mail, but he turned what would have been a win into a landslide.

The election was also a repudiation of the Joplin Progress Committee, the same people who gave Joplin Wallace-Bajjali and has made clear its preference that the school district continue to be run as it has been during the C. J. Huff era.

No candidate could have been more of a symbol for the Joplin Progress Committee than Nancy Good. Good, the chairman of Bright Futures USA and a charter member of the Progress Committee, not only lost to Martucci, but Martucci had more votes than Good and Melinda Campbell combined.

The message was clear- things have to change in the Joplin R-8 School District.

Some people did not get the message. The plotting to keep control of the school district began immediately after the votes were counted and will continue when the new Board of Education is seated Tuesday night.

The problems began with the scramble to get Jeff Koch sworn in. Koch, who was the top vote-getter and whose message of stressing academics and getting spending under control resonated with the electorate, has a business meeting in Washington, D. C. Tuesday, the date of the regular board meeting. Though he will be able to participate in the meeting via Skype, it was known from the start that other arrangements would have to be made to officially make him a part of the board.

The problem should have been simple to solve- special board meetings are called on a regular basis for any number of reasons. But under board rules, the only one who can call a special session is the board president and Anne Sharp was not inclined to call one.

Then the idea was floated by board member Jim Kimbrough, who did not seek re-election after serving three terms, to have the swearing-in take place before the dedication ceremonies for the Joplin High School Performing Arts Center earlier this week.

C. J. Huff fought the idea. It wouldn't be right, Huff said, because the dedication ceremony was "for the kids." Never mind that part of the activities included tours of the high school (something the kids do every day) and never mind that election and official swearing-in of new board members should be a reason for celebration since it is proof that we have a system in which the power is placed in the hands of the people.

Finally, seeing he did not have much of an option, Huff agreed to allow the ceremony to take place before the dedication.

There was little fanfare as Koch and Martucci were sworn in, but the event was not without drama. Though all board members had been informed of the time and place for the ceremony, only three attended- Debbie Fort, Jim Kimbrough, and Anne Sharp.

Board members Randy Steele and Lynda Banwart arrived later for the dedication ceremony. Mike Landis and Shawn McGrew were no-shows.

And though Jeff Koch and Jennifer Martucci will be his bosses, C. J. Huff failed to make an appearance either.

When it came time for Koch and Martucci to sign the required paperwork making their arrival on the board official, Board Secretary Janet Waldo had no documents for them. It could be handled at the regular board meeting on Tuesday, April 21, she said.

Only Jeff Koch would be in the nation's capital at that time, unable to sign the papers and Tuesday, April 21, is the last day that he could do so since the documents must be signed within 14 days of the election or Koch would not be able to take his place on the board.

Waldo indicated she had been told not to bring the papers.

Fortunately, expecting problems to occur, the candidates had brought the paperwork themselves and signed them. Board Attorney Norman Rouse was there to witness the signing.

The signing of the paperwork does not end the games.

After the seating of the new Board of Education, officers will be selected and the choice of president is critical. One of the first items of business will be setting up a procedure for filling the Lane Roberts seat until April 2016. If the vote ends up 3-3, the board president casts the deciding ballot.

While much of the early speculation centered on efforts to keep Anne Sharp on the board, that is appearing more and more unlikely, since that would be a slap in the face to the wide majority of voters who indicated they not only did not want Sharp, who has been on the board since 2000, to represent them any longer, but they were willing to vote for someone who had already said he would not serve even if elected.

Shawn McGrew, who was appointed to serve after Dawn Sticklen's resignation and did not file, indicated some interest shortly after the election, but was advised that he was unlikely to receive the appointment.

Names that have surfaced include Joplin Progress Committee leader Jerrod Hogan and another reputed Progress Committee favorite,former Joplin R-8 Board of Education member Ashley Micklethwaite, who was board president when the Joplin Tornado hit and participated in the decision to give C. J. Huff complete power to make decisions without asking for the board's approval. Micklethwaite resigned from the board when her job took her out of Joplin.

Jim Kimbrough, after initially rebuffing efforts to interest him in returning to the board for one year, has indicated he might be willing to serve.

(KSN Photo)


FallenGrace said...

Had to bring their own papers? Waldo had been TOLD not to? To a swearing in ceremony? Enough of this! Can we recall the other seats?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Huff is showing his true colors.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that I don't live in the Joplin school district! What a mess it is and it keeps getting worse instead of better!

Anonymous said...

The first order of business for the new board should be finding out why there were no papers. If it was due to incompetency, then the person responsible should be given a PIP (that's what a teacher would get). Since Waldo was told not to bring them, then she is not the inept one. If, as it appears (since she was told) it was a deliberate attempt to thwart the will of the people, then that person should be fired. Since the only Central Office people there to observe were Tina Smith and Kellie Price, then you can about guess what this was all about. Obstruction. Dirty politics. Huff needs fired, and Smith right after him. Clean that building out. Leave Waldo and the decent working folks, but get the administrators and directors out of there.

Anonymous said...

It was decent of Anne Sharp to show up, but that she would have blocked the proceeding dampens my sympathy for her. I hope she takes some time to reflect on what has happened to the district and come to terms with her part in that. I will always be shocked that she stooped to dirty politics to the benefit of a corrupt superintendent. She could have left a better legacy by doing the right thing.

Anonymous said...

The people have spoken loudly and clearly! We want change, and we want change to begin quickly before another wave of teachers leaves our children. Putting Steele, Landis, or Banwart in as president would be saying that CJ is still running the Board. We want a strong board that will promote the desire of the patrons of the district. That means Dr. Fort. I would suggest that those remaining members of the Huff faction sit up and take notice and change their ways or vacate their seats.

Anonymous said...

Huff needs fired. Instantly.

Anonymous said...

Oh come on. You people have the attention span of a Gnat. You elected her to that Board five, count them five, times and now you are getting all pissy because she wants to spend a mere quarter of a million dollars more? Just appoint her to the Board to take Roberts place and vote for an new Bond Issue to some more schools and to buy more European furniture for them.

Anonymous said...

Told not to bring the papers?

It seems like this offers Anne Sharp another chance to decide where she sits.

Either it is with the voters who have spoken and expect both the laws of the state and common decency to be upheld or it is with those who would smash and grab anything in their way to maintain power.

Elections have consequences.
Failure and incompetence ought to have consequences.

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice

Time to choose Anne.

Anonymous said...

Don't fire Huff. Write him up and give him a job target. Make him finally work for his money. Make him stay in town, get a balanced budget that focuses on education and eliminating debt. Make his life even more miserable than he has made everyone else's. Maybe he'll learn something.
Do fire Stevens, Hart, Doshier, Cravens, Smith and all his other suck-ups. Get rid of Johnson and Petit.
Restructure the restructuring that has happened with Besendorfer and Huff. Go back to a superintendent, an assistant for instruction, personnel and buildings and grounds. Get a director for Title and Sped.
So much to do. Get it all cleaned up ASAP then, if he wants to continue his contract, let's see if he can meet all the steps and goals required of his job targets.

Anonymous said...

>>>Jim Kimbrough, after initially rebuffing efforts to interest him in returning to the board for one year, has indicated he might be willing to serve.<<<

If Mr. Kimbrough needs a little more convincing, then maybe another stunt or two on the level of the swearing in sabotage will git-r-dun. Not that anyone would expect any more shenanigans from such a progressive bunch of public service minded citizens and elected officials. (/s)

Anonymous said...

Has anyone looked to see how many of these new people started out in Bright Futures and as volunteers after the tornado?
I still want to see a list of teachers who have left since the tornado and how long they were in the district.
The "old" board members need to finally get a clue and accept that they've not fulfilled their obligations to the community.

Anonymous said...


You would be wasting more time. We all know Huff cannot do the things you mentioned. If you don't want him fired, at least go for a reassignment and let him work with and for those he has tormented. But even that is still punishing some students somewhere, unless you put him on the work crew of the Buildings/Ground crew. But no one wants someone that inept in that area. He's caused enough damage already.

Anonymous said...

The remaining school board members are acting like school children. Let's enroll them and Huff in the Bullying Curriiculum.

Anonymous said...

Since Waldo was told not to bring [the paperwork], then she is not the inept one.

Not clear; that's very close to being an "illegal order", which an "ept" board Secretary should have refused. Or perhaps she openly agreed with that order while making sure word got to Koch and Martucci to bring their own copies.

Sigh. I had hopes at least one of the 3 up to now pro-Huff board members would see which way the wind is blowing and turn, and I suppose there's still time, but the deliberate snub by Steele and Banwart is not a good sign, we could see a 3-3 deadlocked board, which would not be able to directly deal with Huff but should put an end to his free spending ways.

Certainly this attempt to keep Koch off the board and the other machinations signal a posture of massive resistance against the "will of the people". I suppose it will continue to give Randy a lot to write about....

Anonymous said...

Avid readers of the Turner Report will soon realize, if somehow they haven't already, Mr. Turner twist the facts and/or leaves out important information to put his agenda on top. Mostly it's his lack of knowledge about what really goes on with the schools.

What this article fails to report is that Koch and Martucci pushed the signing of papers when they were told to wait on the signing for check purposes. Joplin checks have Anne Sharps name on them. Once they sign the papers those check become void. Joplin now has to rush order more name plates to get checks to work. It's satirical that Koch and Martucci's prime objective is to cut spending, yet their first official act as school board members cost the district more money. Looks like two more winners on the school board.

Anonymous said...

If Mr. Turner or any of us "lack knowledge about what REALLY goes on with the schools," perhaps that in and of itself is a major problem with this district. Since you claim to be in the know, why don't you share all this insider information with the rest of us: aside from selecting a non vetted bit of info to attempt to discredit the one person proven to seek and find bits of this purposefully hidden organization.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @12:41 PM: I notice you're not denying that Koch would not be seated on the board if he hadn't done that, and I note that the claim that the school district needs to rush to fix the situation implies that they either weren't prepared for this early swearing in (only necessary because Sharp refused to call a meeting when everyone could intend), or implies that Huff etc. expected their gambit to keep Koch off the board would succeed, and maybe they wouldn't need new name plates after all....

Plus this is pocket change compared to the money they'll save the school district in their first board meeting or two. Maybe they should dock Huff's pay for the extra costs because "his" outgoing board was so unprepared :-).

Anonymous said...

How do you know if it's a 3-3 tie the board president makes the decision?

Anonymous said...

Really? He twists facts? You mean like you just did in your comment?

Anonymous said...

Thought Hogans children attend Thomas. Jefferson

Anonymous said...

Jerrod Hogan and CJ Huff are BFFs, just so you know.

Anonymous said...

Has anybody seen a copy of Huff's contract? The board gave him an extension during this school year, which was a dumb move. I'd love to read it to see what it says about violating ethical standards and/or board policy.
The district isn't in a position to eat his contract even if they really wanted to fire him. He makes too damn much money. But if he's violated the contract, that's a different story.

Anonymous said...

I was in attendance and although she was late, Lynda Banwart did attend the swearing in ceremony and congratulated each new member. Thank you Lynda!

Anonymous said...

The president of the board ALWAYS has a vote. The vote for president will proceed with the new board made up of 6 board members. After officers are selected, at some point in the meeting, Lane Robert's resignation will be accepted and people will be invited to apply for the empty seat. Applications will be accepted for two weeks. Applicants will be interviewed in public and a public vote for the replacement will follow the interviews.

Anonymous said...

Would Ashley Micklethwaiteb make a good Aston to the board considering her health problems

Anonymous said...

What do you mean by "name plates?" If you are referring to those desk-top identity plaques; in the past BOE members have used makeshift cards or tape until Buildings and Grounds makes the new plates in-house on a stylus. The materials are cheap and are kept on hand. The only holdup is if Mike Johnson orders a delay. Otherwise the plates are ready the day he orders them. There is plenty of precedence where MJ orders plates done immediately for his "911" orders.The cost is miniscule.

Anonymous said...

I am confused. There was no public vote for McGrew, just an installation. Do you mean the BOE will vote in a public way, or given the different circumstances, the public will be given a vote? If it is the latter, where is this rule posted?


Anonymous said...

Anonymous @7:39 PM: if we assume a 3-3 pro- and anti-Huff deadlock, I don't think we can know that they'll be able to agree on who's going to be president. I've been wondering if they might rotate who's president every meeting, but I don't know if that's strictly legal.

On the other hand, the above report that Lynda Banwart showed up to the swearing in, albeit late, could give us some hope she might turn and support the anti-Huff faction.

Anonymous said...

The district isn't in a position to eat [Huff's] contract even if they really wanted to fire him. He makes too damn much money.

I'm not so sure about that. If Huff is fired, how many administrators also making "too damn much money" could then be fired by a new superintendent with a mandate to thoroughly clean house?

Huff crossed a line with his attacks on the Martuccis, and per this report, did not have the grace to show up to the swearing in ceremony. If he played a part in this gambit to keep Koch off the board, wouldn't that make the anti-Huff faction of 3 really dedicated to getting rid of him ASAP?

If we're lucky, as you note his unethical actions just might give the board grounds to fire him with cause. But we'd still need to turn one of the three up to now pro-Huff board members, we might instead see a low intensity war for a year until the seat occupied by Michael "Elections don't matter" Landis comes up for a vote (although Martucci's seat is only for one year so the pro-Huff crowd might hope to replace her).

Best option would be for Huff to leave on his own, but I suspect his attacks on the Martuccis on top of everything else has made him radioactive. We've certainly been hearing reports of his having a total lack of success in seeking other jobs before that or the state auditor's report.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I heard he didn't really ride a bike all the way to New Orleans. He paid a stunt double. He also knows who killed JFK.

Anonymous said...

Not cravens

Anonymous said...

Nothing against Mr Hogan but our Superintendent was hired to lead the education of our kids. Mr Hogan as Co chair of bright futures is fine but after 7 years of declining test scores and bright futures growth I think this initiative needs to be separated from Joplin Schools. If it can survive on its own than fine but to continue to bring forward School Board candidates that are involved with Bright Futures is ridiculous and has to stop.

Anonymous said...

12:41 is referring to the signature plates from the bank. The plates are just short of $400. It DOES NOT make the employee checks void that were already made out and Mike Landis is eligible to sign those checks until a new President and VP are chosen.
As for Jeff and Jennifer waiting to sign paperwork, the explanation of this is getting old. We ALL know why it had to be done early. Stop trying to cause trouble where there is none 12:41.

Anonymous said...

I think the voters voiced their opinion loud and clear regarding any Bright Futures connection to the board of education. Jerrod Hogan doesn't stand a chance of gaining a seat on the board unless there is foul play involved.