Saturday, May 23, 2015

Two years ago: C. J. Huff ended my teaching career

Today (May 23) marks the second anniversary of the day that C. J. Huff paid me back for satirizing his administration in my novel No Child Left Alive.

In 10 hours of long, drawn out testimony, Huff's hired gun, a Kansas City lawyer named Shellie Guin, laid out a case against me that eventually led to my firing, by a 7-0 vote of the Board of Education.

Essentially I was fired for three reasons:

1. No Child Left Alive was "dangled" in front of students who could have read it, though to this day they have never found one who actually did. Originally, they had charged me with assigning it to the students.

2. I did not have permission from administration to publish Scars from the Tornado, a book which included student writing about the tornado and our first year in the warehouse school. This was despite the fact that I had kept East Middle School Principal Bud Sexson informed numerous times throughout the year about my book and two of my witnesses, the president and treasurer of the East PTO testified that Sexson had told them about the book and was excited about it- 10 months before he claimed he first heard of it.

3. I recorded my four-and-a-half minute" interrogation by H. R. Director Tina Smith, which they claimed violated board policy, though the policy they claimed it violated had nothing to do with the situation. And they must have known that, since a year later, they did put it in the board policy.

I was fully aware that there was only a slight chance that I was going to come out on top. School boards, as we have seen in Joplin, invariably back their superintendents no matter what they do. The difference in this hearing, as anyone (except Anson Burlingame) who sat through it will tell you is they wasted no opportunity to try to assassinate my character through a carefully orchestrated group of witnesses, almost all from the Huff Administration.

I am not going to go through everything that was said. I will let you read about that in the portion of my new book Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud that is devoted to that topic, but I don't think there is anyone who would say that day did not start the beginning of the end for C. J. Huff in Joplin.

I am not saying that because of anything I have done necessarily, though I certainly have brought a number of the problems in the Huff Administration to light. What the people who watched that hearing discovered, and even those who saw just brief snippets of it on the news or read about in the Joplin Globe, is just how vicious C. J. Huff and many of the people who work around him are.

My hearing was no different from the way they had behaved in other situations, but this was the first time their tactics had been put on display for the public.

The fact that these people, who have lowered the standards of education in Joplin year after year (not just since the tornado) and who have run hundreds of teachers, many of them veteran teachers who gave everything they had for the kids (and not just used that phrase as a closing for e-mails), are still running the school district is a slap in the face to every taxpayer.

As subsequent events have conclusively proven, the C. J. Huff who was in that hearing room two years ago was no aberration. The smiling Dr Jekyll of Bright Futures masks a Mister Hyde who has damaged lives and wasted millions of dollars. 

It is time to make C. J. Huff someone else's problem.


Anonymous said...

Why don't you go get another teaching position? There are no less than 15 schools districts within driving distance of Joplin. If you were wrongly terminated then you should have no problem stating your case for another teaching position. Same thing with newspapers. Lots of newspapers in the area that I'm sure would love a journalist with your credentials. Why not one of them?

Anonymous said...

A very good point, for as we have seen recently Huff's public ugliness has resulted in all sorts of bad outcomes like his favored board candidates losing and an anti-Huff board president getting elected after he poisoned the process, something I did not expect.

As for the claims by Anonymous @6:17, it's hard to imagine another school district taking a chance on Randy after his reputation was so blackened, and the local market outside of Joplin Schools has got to be saturated with teachers fleeing the Huff regime. 100 teachers are leaving every year, not all of them retiring like our host, that's almost certainly more than the number of new positions these other districts have each year.

As for newspapers, as our host occasionally chronicles, and as is obvious to observers of the field, they're a declining business that can't support the current number of employees. And they've become very risk adverse, as the don't rock the boat Globe shows, it's not clear he could do a fraction of the good journalism he does on this blog as an employee of one of small papers in this area.

Anonymous said...

Turner wasn't fired for his books. He was fired in such an ugly way in order to discredit him, as his books revealed much of what was happening in R8 at a time when Huff and Besendorfer were raiding the store and promoting themselves at the expense of the district and its patrons. The last two years have given us a glimpse of how bad things truly are, but it will take Huff's removal to get all the information about the state of the district and to find out all that they did.

The sliver lining for Huff and Bess has turned into a lead weight.

Anonymous said...

It is getting more difficult for Joplin teachers to get out of the district. If all who had applied for jobs elsewhere had gotten them, there would easily have been more than 100 out this year. The competition is stiff, and Huff and his administrators try to hold back Joplin staff with bad recommendations. In fact, as memory serves, they actually broke the law by contacting potential employers of staff members in order to end their careers. You can bet they would have done this to Turner. They did it to building administrators. They are a sick and lowly bunch with no morals at all.

Anonymous said...

Huffs greatest contribution to education, firing your creepy ass!

Anonymous said...

Once again, as in 5:31's comment, if they can't argue the findings, such as Turner provides us, they make personal attacks. It hardly strengthens their standing any. It's just petty. How, exactly, is Mr. Turner creepy? Do you have any evidence of aberrant behavior? We have tons and tons of evidence against Huff and his minions and accomplices, but all you have is meanness. Stunning level of civil discourse there, you betcha.

Anonymous said...

3:36 nailed it!

Anonymous said... me, no defender of Huff. The guy should have already been gone for sure. Calling it like I see it. And, pettiness and meanness is what this blog is built on by turners side. Just look at and huff related post. Could care less of your opinion as you could mine.

kitty chiwawa said...

Happened to at least two other instructor/administrators that I know personally. It's the way things are done 'round these parts. :(