Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud available at Pat's Books in Carthage

As of this afternoon, Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud: Greed, Corruption, and the Joplin Tornado is available at Pat's Books in Carthage.

For the first time, Pat's Books is now carrying my earlier book, Let Teachers Teach.

It is also the only place left that has copies of my novel Devil's Messenger, which means that right now it is the only store that is carrying all of my books.

Silver Lining is also available locally at Always Buying Books in Joplin and can be purchased through Amazon. com and other internet sources.

Business Journal publisher: How can you force out a hero like C. J. Huff?

Over the last few years, I have spent so much time writing about the shortcomings of the Joplin Globe that I have shamefully neglected the other newspaper in Joplin, the weekly Joplin Regional Business Journal.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Business Journal, oh, what am I saying, to nearly all of you out there, it is published every two weeks and is designed to appeal to the business community.

In the most recent issue, Publisher Larry Warren devoted a rare column to praising departing Superintendent C. J. Huff and ripping into R-8 Board of Education members Jeff Koch, Debbie Fort, and Jennifer Martucci.

It is also obvious that Warren has not paid much attention to what is going on in the community his publication is supposed to be covering. But then again,some of those in the audience for which his publication is intended have never been too interested in hearing the truth about things that have occurred in the Joplin city government or in the Joplin R-8 School District:

How in four short years can you take a man who was recognized on the world stage for extraordinary accomplishments of leadership, who was People Magazine's Hero of the Year and still do what you can to force him out?

Could it be, Mr. Warren, because he has spent the district into a horrendous financial state and has run off more than 300 teachers in a three-year span, leaving the district overloaded with inexperienced teachers? Or perhaps it is because he has consistently misled the public on one issue after another during his entire time in Joplin. Or what about declining test scores year after year after year dating back to his time as superintendent of Eldon?

As for his awards, it should be noted that most of his recognition came as a result of people who worked for him submitting his name for the honors at his direction.

Warren continues with this gem:

The current Joplin School Board has demonstrated what power in the wrong hands can do.

It appears that when the people choose board members that do not fall into line with what the power elite in Joplin want then the board is in "the wrong hands."

And this:

Whenever people who do not get paid to sit on a board receive death threats just because of how they vote, our society is in a very bad place and one I hoped we would never see here.

I am not convinced that Randy Steele ever received death threats. If they were written, then it is time he produced them. In fact, I cannot remember him saying he received death threats. His story was changing each time he spoke. One time people were threatening to come to the board meeting; another time he was concerned for his safety. It did not make much sense then and it does not make much sense now.

What does make sense and what Warren has conveniently neglected to mention is that Mike Landis and Lynda Banwart conspired to put the appointment of three board members, all approved by Warren, of course, in the hands of the Jasper County Commission, and out of the control of the voters of the Joplin R-8 School District, who made it clear they wanted change. Landis contacted Commissioner Darieus Adams the night before Landis resigned saying what he intended to do. Banwart made it clear during the May 26 board meeting that she wanted the Commission to make the decision. And the fact that she had  a conflict of interest with Adams was never mentioned. I suppose Warren feels all is fair when the board has fallen into "the wrong hands."

The C. J. Huff era has been a nightmare for every segment of the Joplin R-8 School District except for the Joplin Regional Business Journal's target audience- the same people who want to make sure that Huff's legacy continues unchecked.

Cynthia Davis compares gay marriage ruling to Dred Scott decision

(From former Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, now an internet radio host)

As we prepare to celebrate our Independence Day, it may seem hard to maintain our optimism when we consider how much of our independence we have given away.

You may ask, "How have we have given it away?" By giving the power to govern to the Supreme Court, and by giving so much power to the national government, and by giving away jurisdiction over education to state and federal governments. Yet there are some reasons for optimism.

Can good come out of bad? YES!

Many of you may be wondering about how we can understand the impact of the latest opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court. Here are some positive lessons that have emerged from the US Supreme Court OPINION on marriage.

Some of the efforts of the homosexuals were aimed at passing laws that will allow them to feel better. They will find out that no man-made law can replace natural laws or God's laws. Those who worked so hard to seek legal affirmation will find that their consciences still feel guilty.

Just like the Dred Scott decision, history will prove that the US Supreme Court is wrong again. The five justices who crafted the majority opinion cost the court a lot of credibility and turned the court into a legislative body without an election by the people.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops calls the Obergefell decision a “tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children.”

“Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable,” said USCCB president Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky. ”Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and, as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.”

In many Archdioceses across the country, I'm very thankful for Bishops and priests. I wish we knew how many protestant pastors made a statement on the wrongness of homosexuality from their pulpits Sunday morning. Let me know if your pastor guided your church in the correct understanding of this Supreme Court decision. If he was a faithful shepherd, name names. These pastors deserve our applause.

Here is a comment one of my Facebook friends wrote on Sunday:

"Hallelujah! This morning, every Catholic Parish in the Diocese of Palm Beach was required to read a letter from the Bishop unequivocally stating that homosexual marriage and homosexuality, in general, is a sin in the eyes of the Catholic Church and that they can never be reconciled with Catholic Belief."

The American churches would have had a whole lot more credibility in their stance against homosexuality if they had not softened the Biblical stance on divorce, re-marriage, fornication, or adultery.

God has a plan. He is not surprised by our Supreme Court. We will stay the course and see what He does next.

Seven R-8 administrators made $100,000+ during 2014-2015

Seven Joplin R-8 administrators made six figure salaries during the 2014-2015 according to information the district filed with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Twenty-six people listed as working in the Central Administration office received more than $50,000.

The descriptions of the employees' jobs, which were provided by the school district, indicates that the district is making it appear as if it is paying its teachers more by listing the teaching/learning coaches, many of whom make more than $50,000 a year as teachers, despite the fact that they generally serve as an arm of administration in their buildings, and many of them serve as the eyes and ears for upper administration. The positions have also been used as a steppingstone into administrative positions in the district.

Those receiving the most pay in the school district during the past school year were the following:

1. C. J. Huff, superintendent, $177,125
2. Kerry Sachetta, Joplin High School principal $114,661
3. David Rockers, Franklin Technology Center director $104,267
4. Mark Barlass, executive director of student services $101,501
5. Jason Cravens, executive director of secondary education $101,198
6. Lisa Orem, student services program coordinator $100,952
7. Jennifer Doshier, executive director of elementary education $100,580
8. Jeff Starkweather, athletic director, $96,948
9. Steven Gilbreth, South Middle School principal $95,213
10. Bud Sexson, East Middle School principal $89,315
11. Brandon Eggleston, North Middle School principal $89,051
12. Steven Reed, Franklin Tech assistant director $85,825
13. Greg Boyd, Joplin High School assistant principal $85,606
14. Darrell Hueller, Joplin High School assistant principal $82,761
15. Sandra Cantwell, Joplin High School assistant principal $79,455
15. Matt Harding, Joplin High School assistant principal $79,455
17. Teresa Adams, Soaring Heights Elementary principal $78,020
17. Julie Munn, Kelsey Norman Elementary principal $78,020
17. Nila Vance, Irving Elementary principal $78,020
20. Heather Surbrugg, Eastmorland Elementary principal $77,844
21. Amanda Boyer, early childhood coordinator $76,849
22. Jarrett Cook, Jefferson Elementary principal $76,848
22. Jill White, Royal Heights Elementary principal $76,848
23, Terri Hart, McKinley Elementary principal $73,311
24. Gayle Hennessey, Cecil Floyd Elementary principal $74,260
24. Sarah Mwangi, Columbia Elementary principal
26. Bret Ingle, West Central Elementary principal $73,311
26. Karen Secrist, Stapleton Elementary principal $73,311
28. Eric Pitcher, director of technology, $73,011
28. Sarah Stevens, director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment $73,011
29. Shally Lundien, South Middle School assistant principal $72,669
30. Sabrina Davis, Central Office, occupational therapist $70,123
30. Mary Lowry, Central Office, physical therapist $70,123
30. Lisa Shallenberger, Central Office, occupational therapist $70,123
33. Kayla Spencer, Central Office, physical therapist $69,923
34. Jeff Williams, teacher/coach Joplin High School $69,558
35. Susan James, director Beacon School $68,795
35. Jason Weaver, East Middle School assistant principal $68,795

Not on the list provided to DESE were the names of Tina Smith, chief operations officer, Mike Johnson, building program director, or any of the people who hold positions such as events coordinator, director of alumni relations, or anything to do with Bright Futures Joplin.
How did the Joplin School District get into the mess it is in today?  You can find out that, as well as background on Joplin City Government and Wallace-Bajjali in the new book, Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud, Greed, Corruption, and the Joplin Tornado.

Ten signs your child is in a failing school district

(The following is my latest blog for Huffington Post.)

In these days of Common Core State Standards and continuing attacks on public education by billionaires and their bought-and-paid-for legislators, parents need a few guidelines on how to tell if their child is in a failing school district.

It has nothing to do with low scores on state-mandated standardized tests and more to do with the culture in the school district.

Here are 10 signs that your child is in a failing school district:

1. The large majority of your teachers have less than five years of experience- The best schools have solid veteran teaching forces, mixing in talented newcomers each year as teachers retire or move into administration or other job opportunities. When you run off your veteran teachers, you not only do not have teachers who can mentor the younger staff members and help them reach their full potential, but you also are increasing the odds that you are going to hire some less gifted teachers just to fill the vacancies. That makes it that much harder to understand why so many state legislatures are appropriating millions for inexperienced Teach for America instructors instead of spending that money to keep their best teachers in the classroom.

2. Teachers are overwhelmed with requests for data- Any time teachers are spending more time providing data for the bean counters in administration, it is a good indication that your school has gone astray. Most of that data is supplied through the use of one practice standardized test after another. In recent years, the situation has grown worse with many school districts adding costly practice tests given multiple times during the year. These not only take away from instructional time, but they also strip the children of any love of learning and they provide overly generous fees to the testing companies. What is worse, the expensive practice tests, whether students do well on them or not, provide no guarantee of success on the high stakes test at the end of the school year.

3. Teachers receive no support from administrators on discipline issues- In our ravenous quest for more and more data, one of the worst things that has occurred was the decision to measure a school's safety by its numbers of incidents, referrals, and suspensions. It was a natural progression for administrators, both at upper and lower levels, to find ways to game the system and avoid climbing statistics. In some schools, this has been done by encouraging teachers to handle every kind of situation in their classrooms and not involve the principal's office. Teachers receive the message that they are the ones who will suffer if students are given referrals. Because of that, behavior that would have been met with an instant office referral only a few years ago, is allowed to continue in the classroom and creates even more distractions for teachers and students.

4. Professional development is limited to indoctrination and data- An alarming trend the past few years has been the transition of professional development from learning techniques that will help the teacher to improve teaching and classroom management techniques to attempts to forcefully install a culture that would seem more desirable in a business than in an institution of learning. Much of this has come from the proliferation of consultants and motivational speakers who latched on to public schools after the implementation of No Child Left Alive and have yet to loosen their grip.

5. The message is tightly controlled, eliminating constructive criticism- At one time, the top administrators in public school districts were invariably educators who worked their way through the system, spending years in the classroom before going into administration. Nowadays, many top administrators have only spent three years or less in the classroom and are more like CEOs and executive vice presidents than educators. This had led to a culture shift with an overemphasis on public relations. Anyone in the school district or in the community who dares to question a decision is accused of trying to "hurt the children" or "attack teachers."  When administrators surround themselves with yes-men and strictly control the message, it makes it much more likely that mistakes are going to be made, at a cost to the children and to the taxpayers.

6. School Board members serve as rubber stamps- Over the past few decades, the role of boards of education has changed dramatically. In many communities, the board of education acts more like the board of directors of a Fortune 500 company, rubber stamping whatever the superintendent or top administrator does without question. That is not what voters expect when they elect school board members. Obviously, you do not want to have board members looking over administrators' shoulders every minute of every day, but when the board of education places blind trust in anyone it increases the odds that something disastrous will happen. One of the major criticisms lodged against board members is that they "have an agenda," as if that is something bad. If the agenda is to stop out-of-control spending, or place more emphasis on education, what is wrong with that? When boards serve as rubber stamps for any administrator, they are effectively taking away local control of our school districts.

7,. The community is not involved in its schools- In many school districts, the community is kept at arm's length until it is time to pass another bond issue or tax levy increase. Or the community involvement is restricted to a carefully selected group of business and civic leaders or the spouses of those leaders. A successful school district is one in which the involvement is organic and comes from all segments of the community, not just the ones who are needed when it comes time to ask for money. In some school districts, the community is asked for its input and then guided to give the input the administrators are seeking so they can say whatever initiative they have has the support of the community. That is not community involvement; that is pure spin.

8. The district is top heavy with administrators- While there is certainly a need to have strong, capable administrators directing a school district, administration tends to grow far more than is necessary, using funds that could be spent much better in the classroom. Rule of thumb, the more executive directors of anything that you have, the more problems your school district is going to have.

9. An overemphasis has been placed on technology- While it would seem that the more emphasis placed on technology in this day and age the better, that is simply not the case. With many schools adding laptops, iPads, and other devices that students can take home with them, districts have begun a push to incorporate the technology into every lesson, complete overkill that works against the student in the long run. While it is vital that students are able to handle technology, it is just as important that they are able to participate in discussions, listen to lectures (schools are eliminating these and that creates a problem for students when they go on to higher education), and take notes. If your school district is pushing the idea that everything can be learned by consulting Google then your child is being shortchanged.

10. Not enough emphasis is being placed on civics and citizenship- In the push to make sure everyone is "college and career ready," many schools are depriving children of some of the most important knowledge they should receive- how to participate in their society as an informed voter, who has the understanding of what this country is all about. While it is important that students be ready to work, the idea that they should be doing so during their high school years at the expense of learning about government, history, and the things they need to know to be a full participant in our society is ludicrous.

This list leaves off other important factors- poverty, crime, and how many billionaires you have who are trying to force privatization of education down your throat, but for those who want to make a difference at a local level, these are the danger signs that your district is failing.

MU pays Chelsea Clinton $65,000 for speech, raises tuition

(From the Missouri Republican Party)

Less than a year after Chelsea Clinton charged the University of Missouri-Kansas City $65,000 for a 10-minute speech, University of Missouri curators raised tuition at all four campuses in the UM system.

The Washington Post reported this morning that university administrators originally approached Hillary Clinton about speaking at the February 2014 event but balked at her $275,000 fee—with one university official exclaiming ‘Yikes!' Instead, they agreed to pay Chelsea $65,000.

The speech came amid rising tuition rates, with increases approved in 2012 and 2013. A year after the speech, the Board of Curators voted again to increase tuition across the University of Missouri system. From the Columbia Daily Tribune, 2/6/15: "Under the approved hike, undergraduate resident tuition at all four campuses except the University of Missouri-St. Louis will increase by 0.8 percent. In St. Louis, it will increase by 6.2 percent. Nonresident undergrads will pay 3 percent more in Columbia and at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, 0.8 percent more in Kansas City and 2.9 percent more in St. Louis."

This is not the first time the Clintons have come under fire for charging excessive speaking fees at a time of rising tuition. Last year, the Washington Post reported that students and teachers at universities across the nation had criticized and threatened to protest Hillary Clinton's on-campus speeches, for which she was charging as much as $300,000.

“It's hard to take Hillary Clinton seriously when she claims to be committed to reducing student debt while simultaneously charging six-figure fees to cash-strapped universities. The truth is, the Clintons profit while students go deeper in debt," said John Hancock, Chairman of the Missouri Republican Party. "To their credit, university officials balked at the excessive speaking fee, but this illustrates once again just how disconnected Hillary Clinton is from ordinary Missourians."

Monday, June 29, 2015

Updates on Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud, new retail outlets coming

Thanks to those who came to the meet the author/book signing at the VFW post Saturday night. And thanks to Always Buying Books for sponsoring the event.

I had a great time talking about the book and hearing stories and taking questions about Joplin's city government and the Joplin R-8 School District.

I told two stories that were slightly embarrassing to me, both of which should damage any reputation I might have as an investigative reporter.

The first one I have mentioned previously on the blog. Chad Hayworth, publisher of the Newton County News, called me about an investigation his newspaper was doing about the superintendent of the Seneca school district. who as it turns out had been accepting $5,000 a month from a company he recommended to his district. Hayworth told me that the superintendent had put nothing about his extra pay on his Missouri Ethics Commission disclosure form.

That stunned me. Until that very moment, I had no idea that superintendents and chief financial officers of school districts had to disclose their outside income.

Some investigative reporter.

The other story was about a key point in Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud where MODOT, after coming under criticism, especially from City Manager Mark Rohr, about closing its Joplin location, announced that it was giving the building to the R-8 School District to use as a school and that MODOT employees were happy that it was going to be used as a school. On the same day that announcement was made, the school district issued a news release saying the MODOT building would be used to house administration 9and, of course, Bright Futures).

I would love to say that I uncovered this information through brilliant investigative work. I actually found it on the Turner Report and did not even know it was there. It was a MODOT video I had posted. Apparently, I did not pay attention to the whole thing because I would have remembered that. The school that would likely have been placed in the MODOT building was East , which instead, was forced to be in a warehouse in a far cotner of the district, next door to an aromatic dog food factory.
Tomorrow, I will deliver copies of Silver Lining to Changing Hands Book Shoppe in Joplin and Pat's Books in Carthage. The book is already available at Always Buying Books in Joplin and is available in paperback and e-book formats from Amazon.com, which you can access through the links below.

Why Gov. Nixon vetoed HB 42

(From Gov. Jay Nixon)

Gov. Jay Nixon Friday joined educators, administrators and members of the General Assembly at Ritenour High School in St. Louis County to discuss his veto of House Bill 42, saying it fails to solve the problems of unaccredited school districts in the St. Louis region and creates new problems and mandates for public schools across the state.

“House Bill 42 fails to solve the problems of unaccredited schools in the St. Louis region, and it creates new problems and mandates for districts around our state that are already doing well,” said Gov. Nixon. “In its original form, HB 42 focused on trying to solve the well-known problems of the current transfer law, and address serious flaws in last year’s attempt at a legislative solution. However, as the legislative process unfolded, this bill veered off track. By the time it got to my desk, it mandated expensive voucher schemes, neglected accountability, and skirted the major, underlying difficulties in the transfer law, while creating a host of potential new problems for districts across the state.”

In his veto message to the General Assembly, the Governor identified four major problems with House Bill 42:
Vouchers for virtual schools: HB 42 would require taxpayers to pay for private vouchers for virtual education, with no public accountability for student performance, and without oversight by locally elected school boards.

Expensive mandates and a bigger bureaucracy: HB 42 is crammed full of new committees, special task forces, bureaucratic agencies, and idiosyncratic mandates that are unnecessary, unproven and expensive.
Failure to include a reasonable limit on tuition: The legislature’s failure to provide for a reasonable limit on the tuition that can be charged by a school district receiving transfer students would result in HB 42 draining resources from the schools that are struggling the most
Forcing hundreds of students out of schools they currently attend: House Bill 42 would deny hundreds of current transfer students their right to continue being educated in the receiving districts. Forcing these students out of their current school districts would be disruptive, counterproductive and unfair to students and their families.

“What started out as an effort to help students and schools was hijacked in an attempt to undermine public education across the state,” said Rep. Clem Smith, whose district includes the Normandy Schools Collaborative. “This bill does nothing to help struggling schools or our communities, and I strongly support Governor Nixon’s veto of this damaging legislation.”

“Quality schools for Missouri’s children are vital to the success of our communities and our economy, so it’s unfortunate that the legislature really missed the mark with this bill,” said Sen. Jill Schupp. “I’m glad Governor Nixon recognizes that House Bill 42 is bad public policy—it’s not good for our communities and, most importantly, it’s a bad deal for our kids.”

Earlier this week, Gov. Nixon announced an historic agreement among St. Louis-area superintendents and education leaders to provide a range of services aimed at improving the educational performance and financial stability of the Normandy and Riverview Gardens school districts. The goal of the agreement, reached after a number of meetings with the Governor’s office, is to ensure all students receive a quality education and to put Normandy and Riverview on a path to regain state accreditation.

The bill is opposed by education groups around the state including the Missouri School Board Association, the Missouri Association of School Administrators, the Missouri National Education Association, AFT Missouri, the Missouri State Teachers Association, the Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals, and the Missouri Association of Rural Education.

A copy of the Governor’s veto message of House Bill 42 is available here.

Man sentenced to 10 years after taking Marionville middle schooler to motel for sex

(From the U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri)

A Tennessee man was sentenced in federal court today for enticing a minor victim to engage in illicit sexual activity in Lawrence County, Mo.

Dylan Wade Garcia, 29, of Huntingdon, Tenn., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips to 10 years and one month in federal prison without parole. The court also sentenced Garcia to a 15-year term of supervised release following incarceration.

Garcia, who pleaded guilty on Dec. 19, 2014, admitted that he used the Internet and a cell phone between June 9 and 26, 2014, to entice a minor under the age of 17 to engage in illicit sexual activity in Lawrence County.

On June 26, 2014, the Marionville School District notified the Aurora-Marionville Police Department that the child victim was missing from summer school. An officer reviewed the middle school’s video surveillance of the parking lot and saw the victim getting into a car with Tennessee license plates. The officer recognized the vehicle as one she had seen the day before at the Aurora Inn Motel. Officers located Garcia’s vehicle at the motel and found Garcia and the victim in a motel room.

The victim reported that she met Garcia online a few weeks earlier; he told her he was 16 years old. They had discussed him coming to Missouri to have sex with her and they engaged in several sexual acts in the motel room.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Harshad Miller. It was investigated by the Aurora-Marionville, Mo., Police Department and the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Severe thunderstorm watch for Joplin area

(From the National Weather Service)

745 PM CDT SUN JUN 28 2015





BOURBON               CHEROKEE              CRAWFORD



CAMDEN                HICKORY               PHELPS
PULASKI               ST. CLAIR


DENT                  HOWELL                OREGON
SHANNON               TEXAS


BARRY                 BARTON                CEDAR
CHRISTIAN             DADE                  DALLAS
DOUGLAS               GREENE                JASPER
LACLEDE               LAWRENCE              MCDONALD
NEWTON                OZARK                 POLK
STONE                 TANEY                 VERNON
WEBSTER               WRIGHT


Billy Long: I will continue to fight out-of-touch EPA regulations

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to hammer away at the Ozarks. It is slated to move forward with rules governing emissions from existing power plants, clearly targeting coal, placing emission levels below realistic levels for coal power plants. The move would likely force premature shutdown of coal power units, which supply 80 percent of Missouri’s power demand and would lead to a spike in our electric bills.

Many of Missouri’s power plants are 65-90 percent cleaner than 20 years ago - a result of more than $1 billion invested to improve plants’ environmental impacts. Apparently though, the Obama Administration does not believe this responsible action to continue providing cleaner, affordable, and reliable power in Missouri is enough. EPA’s pending regulation calls for Missouri to reduce emissions 21 percent by 2030. Further, the agency recommends using Carbon Capture and Sequester technology, which is not yet commercially available, to achieve the regulation’s benchmarks. In fact, the Department of Energy recently pulled its investmentin building the technology at a power plant in Illinois, having already spent $202 million on the project. Even the federal government is pulling its hope for the technology it recommends.

The proposal would require each state to plan its emissions reduction with a tight deadline. States would submit plans to EPA next year to meet preliminary goals in 2020, even though the rule awaits finalization. Such a quick turnaround has energy experts concerned about power supply and reliability. During a May Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power hearing, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation president and CEO told methat deadlines for states to meet standards must be slowed to minimize impact on the electric grid, and he questioned whether alternative sources to coal, such as natural gas, “would be there every day in the cold days of winter.” That has me very concerned for Seventh District Missourians’ quality of life.

The House voted to pass, 247-180, a solution to take the sting out of EPA’s costly regulation.H.R. 2042, the Ratepayer Protection Act, would delay implementation of EPA’s rule until federal courts have an opportunity to decide on the controversial regulation. It also grants states the flexibility to neither submit nor adopt plans to comply with the regulation and would relieve states from fulfilling plans deemed to have a potentially “significant adverse effect” on consumers’ utility rates.

I am a cosponsor of H.R. 2042 and am happy to see it pass. I will continue to fight against out-of-touch EPA regulations to keep southwest Missourians’ lights on at night, heat on in the winter, and air in the summer while keeping electricity affordable for all.

Hartzler: Obamacare decision undermines our Constitution

(From Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler)

The Supreme Court on Thursday released its opinion on King v. Burwell, a case challenging whether Obamacare allows the IRS to give subsidies to residents of states that declined to establish state-based insurance exchanges.

No ruling could completely undo the harm caused by Obamacare, but this ruling not only protects a bad law, it also undermines the Constitutional basis of our government. The ruling said it was permissible for the IRS to give tax credits to individuals in states without a state-based exchange, even though the law explicitly says, “established by the State.” The Supreme Court has established a dangerous precedent, taking legislative authority away from Congress and allowing the Executive to unilaterally alter laws. If the law needed clarification, Congress alone has the authority to amend it. The IRS shouldn’t be able to give away our hard-earned tax dollars contrary to the law, simply because the President wants it to.

Further, with its ruling the Supreme Court has rubberstamped an unsustainable healthcare system. A Duke University study estimates the implementation costs of Obamacare will be $621 billion more than previously thought– raising health costs by $7,450 per year for a family of four. Missourians may pay up to 34 percent more for their insurance premiums next year, and 13 of our state’s exchange plans have requested double-digit increases. Near-sightedness in the current preservation of Obamacare will lead to devastating and unmanageable financial impacts in the long-term. There is nothing affordable about this law, and if left alone, it will continue to allow health care costs and insurance premiums to skyrocket.

This ruling, which even acknowledges the law was poorly written, does nothing to help the American people get out from underneath the clutch of an onerous federal mandate. Moreover, it bolsters this bad law, making it more difficult for Congress to work towards real, patient-centered reform to our broken health care system.

While I was hopeful for a different ruling, I will continue fighting to protect Missourians from the president’s flawed health care law. Missourians deserve a patient-centered system that lowers costs while increasing choices and access to quality care, not one-size-fits-all, unsustainable Washington mandates.

Boehner names Hartzler to conference committee on Defense Authorization Act

(From Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler)

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) today named the following negotiators to serve on a formal House-Senate conference committee charged with resolving differences over the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act:

“The House passed a strong defense bill that promises the pay raise and benefits our troops have earned and provides the tools, resources, and authorities they need to keep America safe. It is unfortunate that Democrats, who overwhelmingly backed the measure in committee, withdrew their support to extract more government spending on bureaucracies like the EPA and the IRS. It is even more disappointing that President Obama has threated to veto these promises to our troops in support of his party’s dangerously misguided strategy. I am, nevertheless, encouraged that we have reached the next step in advancing this critical legislation, and I am confident that this agreement will put our national security, and the brave men and women to whom we owe it, first.”

NOTE: In addition to the provisions mentioned above, the House-passed defense bill imposes greater restrictions on transferring terrorist detainees, provides lethal aid to Ukraine, strengthens our missile defense capabilities, enhances our cybersecurity, and more. A summary of the bill is available here.

The House Republicans the Speaker named to serve on the House-Senate conference committee are:

· Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee

· Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-VA)

· Rep. Jeff Milller (R-FL)

· Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC)

· Rep. Frank Lobiondo (R-NJ)

· Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT)

· Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH)

· Rep. John Kline (R-MN)

· Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL)

· Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA)

· Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX)

· Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO)

· Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA)

· Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA)

· Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)

· Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV)

· Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH)

· Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Has Anson Burlingame shut down his blog?

Blogger and frequent Joplin Globe guest columnist Anson Burlingame has deleted his blog, according to a message on the website.

No explanation has been given. Burlingame had been on a tear in recent weeks, banning commenters who disagreed with him about the education and the Joplin R-8 School District.

Whether this is a permanent thing, or even possibly a problem with the blog host is not clear.

The message reads, "Ansonburlingame.wordpress.com is no longer available. The authors have deleted this site."

Meet the Author/Book Signing for Silver Lining tonight

A quick reminder- The meet the author/book signing event for Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud is set for 6 to 8 p.m. tonight at VFW Post 534, 110 Veterans Way, Joplin.

I will be talking about the writing of the book, telling some stories about the events that are included in the book, and answering any questions for the first half of the program. During the final hour, I will sign copies of the book.

Copies of Silver Lining and my earlier books, including No Child Left Alive, Let Teachers Teach, Scars from the Tornado, 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado, Spirit of Hope, and Small Town News will be available for purchase.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Huff attorney: We didn't do it, but if we did, it was to allow equal access by religious groups

In a response to the First Amendment lawsuit filed over North Middle School's May 8 field trip to Victory Ministries and Sports Complex, the attorney for Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff and North Principal Brandon Eggleston denied all allegations, but also says their actions "are protected in order to avoid viewpoint discrimination and to allow equal access to religious organizations."

In the response, Joplin attorney Karl Blanchard acknowledged that the students signed permission slips and that the one, the petition included was an accurate depiction. The permission slip, which was provided by Victory Ministries and Sports Complex clearly states that employees "may be inviting the students to Bible studies and local churches of the Christian faith."

Blanchard also acknowledged that an e-mail from Huff to the attorney for Jane Doe, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of children, was an accurate depiction. In that e-mail, Huff said the trip was secular in nature, but agreed that there was a problem with the permission slip. "Your e-mail brings a good point for us to review the waivers of locations better so our communication can be clearer. I believe removing the language on the waiver would have created more clarity and removed the confusion for the parents regarding the nature of the trip.  Definitely something for us to be diligent towards in the future."

Blanchard argues that the field trip was "totally in secular in nature."

Information about the lawsuit can be found in the May 27 Turner Report.

Neosho man pleads not guilty to child porn charge, remains free on bond

Larry Don Hilburn, 28, Neosho, entered a not guilty plea to a child pornography charge during a hearing in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

Hilburn was allowed to remain free on bond, despite the prosecution's request that he be detained while awaiting trial. In the motion for detention, Assistant U. S. Attorney Patrick Carney cites Hilburn's collection of child pornography, having illegal drugs around while caring for a three-year-old, and a 2011 incident in which Neosho Police found Hilburn and an underage girl in a car apparently engaging in a sex act:

While HILBURN was downloading, distributing and possessing child pornography, he was also possessing illegal narcotics as he cared for his three year old son. 

Furthermore, while HILBURN was not arrested or convicted, the Neosho Police Department reported a 2011 incident involving him and a 16 year old minor. At the time of the report, HILBURN was approximately 25 years old when law enforcement discovered him involved in amorous activities with a 16 year old minor. 

According to the incident report, at 10:22 p.m. on January 28, 2011, officers observed a vehicle parked in a local park with two occupants. As officers approached, they observed the female leap into the back seat of the vehicle. Officers noted that the female did not appear to be wearing pants. 

After giving the occupants a few moments, officers ordered HILBURN and the female from the vehicle. Officers learned that HILBURN and this minor were, in the least, engaging in amorous contact when interrupted by law enforcement.  

Ultimately, while HILBURN does not appear to have a significant criminal history, between September 8 and 9, 2014, he was observed sharing and downloading nearly thirty files of child pornography. 

When law enforcement arrived at HILBURN’S residence, they not only discovered numerous images and videos of child pornography on his computer, but that he was committing additional narcotics related crimes, all while he was responsible for the care of a three year old child. 

Finally, even though some may dismiss the facts associated with his 2011 incident with a 16 year old girl, when coupled with his recent criminal conduct involving receipt, distribution and possession of child pornography, a disturbing pattern can be readily observed regarding HILBURN’S sexual obsession toward underage children. As such, detention of this defendant is the only measure that can fully ensure that no other children are put at risk.

Failed McKinley Elementary principal could have been acting superintendent

Joplin R-8 Executive Director of Elementary Education Jennifer Doshier, whose disastrous tenure as McKinley Elementary principal ended with the departure of nearly the entire faculty, would have been named acting superintendent if Jason Cravens had turned down the offer.

Minutes from Tuesday night's closed session show that Cravens was selected by a 6-1 margin, with Jennifer Martucci casting the only dissenting vote.

The next vote was on whether to offer the job to Doshier if Cravens decided not to take it. That vote was 4-3 with Lynda Banwart and the three Jasper County Commission appointees, Gary Nodler, Sallie Beard, and Ron Gatz, voting for Doshier. Jeff Koch, Debbie Fort, and Martucci voted against her.

The idea that Doshier, who was promoted to upper administration with a hefty pay increase after the McKinley Massacre, was the second choice for such a key role gives an idea of how much departing Superintendent C. J. Huff surrounded himself with unqualified people.

If Cravens and Doshier had turned down the job, would we be seeing Curriculum Director Sarah Stevens as acting superintendent?

In other actions, the board set Cravens' salary, providing him with an additional 10 percent of his base salary until the time an interim superintendent is hired.

Two teachers, Donald Carey and Keisha Young, were hired, though board documents do not specify what or where they will teach.

One administrator, Brenda Olds, was hired.

Resignations were accepted for seven people, though their positions were not specified in the board documentation- Bethany Bolton, Chelsie Brooks, Amy Carr, George Cowin, Courtney Dinwiddie, Edward Miller, and Amanda Welsh.

Cleaver: The Confederate flag is a symbol of hate

(From Fifth District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver)

Today, I am on my way to Charleston, South Carolina, to attend the funeral of the late Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney.

My heart has been heavy for days, thinking of the victims and their friends and their families. Thinking of their last moments, as they welcomed an outsider to their sanctuary. The Bible tells us to offer hospitality to one another, for we never know who we may be entertaining unaware. We never know.

As a United Methodist minister, I am deeply troubled to hear of any life lost to violence and hate. After learning of the depraved and profane shooting of these Christian men and women, because they were black, in their oasis — their sanctuary — I remembered my own commitment to Bishop W. T. Handy, during my term as Kansas City’s Mayor, to conduct the Wednesday evening Bible study and, of course, the Sunday worship service. Despite receiving numerous threats after having been elected as the first black Mayor of Kansas City, I assured Bishop Handy that I would continue to conduct Wednesday evening and Sunday services. I remembered how vulnerable I felt as a mayor and a minister, how I feared for myself, and for my family.

This attack, committed in the house of God, as congregants studied the word of God, saddens me beyond the telling. Reverend Clementa Pinckney and the men and women of Emanuel AME Church walked by faith, and not by sight. Emanuel means God is with us. And although it is hard to believe in these times of strife and sadness, I believe God is with us. Rev. Pinckney lived his faith fully, both in the pulpit and the political sphere. He believed that his vocation was vital both within the house of God and in the statehouse.

And while nothing can make the loss of these nine lives worth the cost, we have seen bright lights shining in the darkness. The Confederate flag that flew in front of the South Carolina Capitol is coming down.

Folks only began to fly and flaunt the Confederate flag in our era when the federal government began to enforce Constitutional and civil rights. That is when South Carolina first put the flag up—in 1962, at a time of turmoil and terror, of struggle and strife, and hard-fought progress for black people everywhere.

There are those who blindly and blithely call the flag a symbol of heritage, or honor, or valor. But ultimately the flag is a symbol of hate. It is time to put that symbol behind us. When you remove the symbol, you can make space for progress. And I cannot tell you how joyful I am that South Carolina, the home of Fort Sumter, a center of the Confederacy, is now saying we are ready to move on.

And while most people associate the flag with the Confederacy, this design was truly the battle flag of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, flown as they fought against the Union. At that time, Captain Henry Cleaver owned—a word that pains me to write—my great-grandfather, down in Cherokee County, Texas. This isn’t something in the distant past. This is very real, even today.

This emblem is but one endemic reminder that we are not the post-racial, colorblind, neutral society some may wish to believe. It is one reminder of the work left to be done, to pray for peace, to strive for justice, and to create a better, more harmonious world. And yet, I fear the work will be left undone, to the next generation.

On Tuesday, I reluctantly stood with my fellow Members of Congress as we were called to stand in a moment of silence, as is customary. But I fear once we sat back down, many considered our task done. Moments of silence without action afterward are hollow—and we are but poor players strutting upon the stage, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

This is also the danger of the current campaign to take down the Confederate flag. If we take down the symbol without making any true progress, we have not truly prospered.

And when this fight to take the flag down is won—and it will be---we will not have conquered the evils of racism and prejudice. We will not be colorblind. We will have more work to do.

There is still so much more to do to make ours a more perfect, more equal nation.

In America, much of our history is ugly and uncomfortable. But we don’t get anywhere by ignoring it or blindly hailing “heritage.” We only move forward with our eyes open.

Nixon will take action to implement SCOTUS ruling throughout Missouri

(From Gov. Jay Nixon)

Gov. Jay Nixon today issued the following statement regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

“Today’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is a major victory for equality and an important step toward a fairer and more just society for all Americans,” Gov. Nixon said. “No one should be discriminated against because of who they are or who they love. In the coming days, I will be taking all necessary and appropriate actions to ensure this decision is implemented throughout the state of Missouri.”

Hartzler: SCOTUS ruling stifles the voices of Missouri's voters

(From Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler)

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) released the following statement in regards to today’s Supreme Court ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges case:

“I am disappointed in the Court’s decision to stifle the voices of Missouri’s voters. Decisions on marriage policy should be left in the hands of the 50 states, allowing those who wish to define marriage as being between one man and one woman, as we did in Missouri, to do so. Today’s ruling tramples on the voice of the people. I will continue to champion marriage as the union between one man and one woman so every child has the opportunity to have both a mom and a dad.”

Billy Long: SCOTUS same-sex marriage ruling marginalizes the will of the people

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

"I am disappointed the Supreme Court has ruled to uphold same-sex marriage. This decision is troubling as it will overturn voter-imposed state bans on the practice, such as in Missouri. 

I believe this decision directly removes and marginalizes the will of the people. It undermines the very democratic principle America is founded upon and deprives states of their Tenth Amendment rights. I join many southwest Missourians in expressing frustration with the Court's judgment, as it violates the traditional meaning of marriage

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Former Granby wastewater plant operator pleads not guilty

Charles Ranslow, former Granby wastewater treatment plant operator, waived the reading of his indicment today in federal court in Springfield and pleaded not guilty. He remains free on bond.

Ranslow was indicted by a federal grand jury earlier this month for submitting false reports in violation of the Clean Water Act.

Ranslow, 48,Neosho, was charged in a three-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield.

The indictment alleges that Ranslow submitted false information in state reports that are required under the Clean Water Act.

According to the indictment, Ranslow conducted wastewater sampling at the facility and submitted Wastewater Discharge Monitoring Reports to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources from June 2013 through March 2014. The indictment charges Ranslow with two counts of making false and fraudulent statements in those reports. Ranslow allegedly submitted monitoring reports that contained false data, for example, with regard to the levels of ammonia.

The indictment also charges Ranslow with one count of making false and fraudulent statements in a Domestic Sludge Report that was submitted to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Ranslow allegedly represented sludge monitoring results to be indicative of the Granby Wastewater Treatment Facility sludge, which data he knew to be false.

Cravens: There's a lot of work to be done

In the accompanying KOAM video, newly appointed Joplin R-8 Acting Superintendent Jason Cravens says there is a lot of work to be done as he takes the new position until an interim superintendent is hired.


Huff, Landis take a victory lap

A reception was held today at the Memorial administration building honoring the "retiring" C. J. Huff, as well as departed (but still here in spirit) Mike Landis, Anne Sharp, Randy Steele, Shawn McGrew, and Jim Kimbrough.

In this KODE video, Landis talks about the board's accomplishments during his time and Huff says he will miss having his photo taken with kindergarteners.

Missouri receives three-year waiver from No Child Left Behind

(From the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education)

Missouri has received a three-year waiver extension for flexibility from certain provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The U.S. Department of Education announced the extension today. The extension will run through the 2017-18 school year.

The waiver allows Missouri to use its own accountability system to identify struggling schools and efficiently direct resources to those schools, and to recognize schools that produce exemplary results. Under the waiver, districts also have more flexibility in allotting Title I funding.

“This waiver gives the state more flexibility to meet the education needs of our students,” said Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven. “It allows us to work with Missouri schools and districts to set ambitious goals and focus on continuous improvement.”

ESEA flexibility has allowed Missouri to develop strategies and programs aimed at ensuring high quality education for all students, including the following:

An accountability system that unites state and federal expectations. This aligned system operates effectively alongside the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) Support and Intervention Plan to offer targeted assistance to schools in need.

· A research-based educator evaluation process that highlights the continuous growth and development of teacher and leader practices.

· The Diverse Learner Amplification (DLA) project that allows core academic teachers and teachers of English language learners and students with disabilities to participate in focused work to ensure all students gain language skills that will allow them to go on to a successful post-secondary program, either career training or college.

NCLB was due for reauthorization in 2007, but Congress has not yet passed a reauthorization bill. The waivers allow states to move forward and focus on providing high quality education to all students.

Public Service Commission approves rate increase for Empire District customers

(From Empire District Electric Company)

The Missouri Public Service Commission (Commission) has approved an agreement which authorizes The Empire District Electric Company (Empire) to increase annual electric operating revenues by approximately $17.1 million.

The agreement approved by the Commission was submitted by the company, the Office of the Public Counsel, the Public Service Commission Staff, the City of Joplin, the Missouri Department of Economic Development-Division of Energy and the Midwest Energy Users’ Association. Although not a signatory to the agreement, The Midwest Energy Consumers Group did not object to it. The agreement resolved most of the issues in the rate case.

When Empire filed its rate case with the Commission on August 29, 2014, it sought to increase annual electric operating revenues by approximately $24.3 million.

According to the August 29, 2014 filing, the most significant factor driving the need for a rate increase were costs associated with the installation of the Air Quality Control System (AQCS) at Empire’s Asbury Power Plant. Additional factors included increased operating costs; a new maintenance contract covering the Riverton 12 gas-fired generating unit; an increase in Regional Transmission Organization charges; and increases in property taxes.

As part of its rate request, Empire sought continuation of the Fuel Adjustment Clause (FAC). Under the agreement approved by the Commission, the FAC will be continued with Empire adjusting customer bills twice a year (June 1 and December 1) to reflect any change in fuel and purchased power costs.

Under the agreement approved by the Commission, Empire will continue its current energy efficiency programs as well as its low-income weatherization program.

According to the PSC Staff, a residential customer using 1,000 kWh (1,000 kilowatt-hours) of electricity will see monthly electric bills increase by approximately $7.00. Under the agreement approved by the Commission, the fixed monthly customer charge for residential customers will stay at $12.52 a month.

The Empire District Electric Company serves approximately 149,300 electric customers in the Missouri counties of Barry, Barton, Cedar, Christian, Dade, Dallas, Greene, Hickory, Jasper, Lawrence, McDonald, Newton, Polk, St. Clair, Stone and Taney.

Jason Cravens named acting Joplin R-8 superintendent

(From Joplin Schools)

During a closed session held immediately following its June 23 regular meeting, Joplin Schools Board of Education voted to name Joplin Schools Executive Director of Secondary Education Jason Cravens as acting superintendent for the district. Cravens will serve in this role during the month of July while a search for an interim superintendent takes place.

"We reviewed several potential candidates, and we felt Jason was a natural selection to step into Dr. Huff's position temporarily as the board works through the process of selecting an interim superintendent," said Jeff Koch, Joplin Schools Board of Education president. "Jason has served in a leadership capacity for Joplin Schools for several years and also has the necessary certification required to hold this position. We appreciate his willingness to serve and help move Joplin Schools forward during this transitional period."

Joplin Schools Board of Education will meet on Wednesday, July 8, to discuss the interim superintendent position and continue discussions regarding the distribution of salary increases for Joplin Schools' staff.

Mercy eliminates 19 positions in Joplin, 3 in Carthage

(From Mercy Hospitals)

In response to economic and environmental challenges, Mercy is implementing a workforce reduction across four states. As part of this plan, a total of 19 positions in Joplin and 3 positions in Carthage across a variety of departments and services have been eliminated.

Throughout all Mercy facilities and services in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas, a total of 347 positions have been eliminated, less than one percent of Mercy's nearly 40,000 workforce. With a focus on reducing management, the total includes 178 leader positions. The majority of non-leader positions are non-clinical care roles that are part of Mercy's revenue management department.

Mercy also is implementing a leadership restructuring involving position and title changes for approximately 185 leaders across Mercy.

Co-workers whose positions have been eliminated are being treated with compassion, dignity and respect. Co-workers will receive outplacement services and a severance package including compensation and benefits based on their position and length of service.

“Changes such as these are difficult and distressing for everyone involved,” said Lynn Britton, Mercy president and CEO. “While our decisions support Mercy's ability to stay strong and relevant in the face of challenges impacting all health care providers, today our thoughts and prayers are with those co-workers who are affected.”

Mercy issues statement on layoff of 127 in Springfield

(From Mercy Hospitals)

"In response to economic and environmental challenges, Mercy is implementing a workforce reduction across four states. As part of this plan, a total of 127 positions across a variety of departments and services in Mercy Springfield Communities have been eliminated.

Throughout all Mercy facilities and services in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas, a total of 347 positions have been eliminated, less than one percent of Mercy's nearly 40,000 workforce. With a focus on reducing management, the total includes 178 leader positions. The majority of non-leader positions are non-clinical care roles that are part of Mercy's revenue management department.

Mercy also is implementing a leadership restructuring involving position and title changes for approximately 185 leaders across Mercy.

Co-workers whose positions have been eliminated are being treated with compassion, dignity and respect. Co-workers will receive outplacement services and a severance package including compensation and benefits based on their position and length of service.

Major share of Mercy job cuts in Joplin could come from billing department

If Mercy Hospital handles its cuts in Joplin in the same fashion it has done in Springfield, many of the cuts will come from the billing department.

Nearly the entire department was eliminated in Springfield, according to KY3. The work will be outsourced to Xtend Healthcare Solutions in Nashville.

Most of the other cuts reportedly will come from administrative positions.

Springfield Business Journal reports Mercy laid off 127 in that community.

Hartzler: Supreme Court Obamacare ruling bolsters bad law

(From Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler)

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) released the following statement in regards to today’s Supreme Court ruling in the King v. Burwell case:

“Obamacare has been a disaster since its inception. This ruling does nothing to help the American people get out from underneath the clutch of an onerous federal mandate and bolsters a bad law, making it more difficult for Congress to work towards real, patient-centered reform to our broken health care system. Moreover, it sets an extremely dangerous precedent that the executive can unilaterally alter laws – a job constitutionally delegated to the elected representatives in Congress. I am extremely disappointed the Supreme Court failed to rebuke President Obama’s continued executive overreach of legislating from the Oval Office.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Video- C. J. Huff' directs his last tantrum at Joplin teachers

The discussion at Tuesday night's Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting over whether to rehire the expensive Core Collaborative consulting firm featured a historical moment- the final C. J. Huff board meeting tantrum.

Huff has saved these tantrums until the last year, spurred on by having female board members, namely Debbie Fort and Jennifer Martucci who dared to question him and to occasionally challenge him.

Last night, Huff turned his rage against another group- teachers who don't agree with him. If they don't agree with him, they need to be teaching in another district, he says in the accompanying video. Apparently, there have been more than 300 teachers during the past three years who have not agreed with him.

First reviews in for Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud

The first reviews are in for Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud: Greed, Corruption, and the Joplin Tornado. Four have been posted on Amazon.com, with three reviewers giving it five stars out of five, the top score, and one rating it one star out of five, the lowest you can receive. Thanks to all four reviewers for providing their input.

First, the one star review:

Sadly, Mr. Turner was a teacher who was dismissed from the Joplin school systems. His negative blogs and sour book is merely a continuation of his wretchedness. I certainly wouldn't waste $22.00 for this drivel.

And the others:

This book is a very good read. It flows extremely well despite the need to cover a lot of ground and a lot of players/ contributors. I especially appreciated the dedication at the end to those people who worked tirelessly days and months on end to take care of the PEOPLE of Joplin ... never seeking the spotlight and understanding that schools and cities aren't merely buildings. They are people. THEY are-- indeed-- the heroes. Thank you for this book!

If this were non-fiction it would be a good read. Sadly, it's a true and well documented account of what happens in a small town in the aftermath of a devastating tornado when money, egos, and the hunger for power collide.
(The reviewer apparently meant to say if this were fiction.)

If you want to know what really happened after the horrifying day in May 2011 when an EF5 tornado devastated the city of Joplin, Mr. Turner's book provides an excellent portrayal illuminating questionable actions by city and school leaders and also the contorted events over the years that followed. Many hidden secrets are just recently coming to light now, four years later. The story line proves intriguing, interwoven and an eye opener on what fame and fortune hunters attempt to pull over on honest and unsuspecting folks. Sometimes the unraveling story is so strange that it resembles a fiction novel but is a true story covering misdeeds of the superintendent of schools, unscrupulous con men pulling the wool over the eyes of the local paper, and the shocking untimely death of the state auditor who committed "suicide" just prior to providing the results of the city and school audits. Years ago stories circulated about the corruption and undercurrent in Joplin and the city fathers who wanted to maintain control of the city. The present day undercurrent attempted to control the city, power and money following the disaster but. thankfully, informed voters are in the process of taking back their city.
A meet the author/book signing event will be held 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, June 27, at Joplin VFW Post  534, 110 E. Veterans Way.

Video- R-8 executive directors, Huff unhappy with Core Collaborative vote

From last night's Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting- The 4-3 vote not to retain the expensive Core Collaborative consulting group and the reaction of the various R-8 executive directors who pushed it for the last two months.

Americans for Prosperity launches new Right to Work ad

(From Americans for Prosperity Missouri)

Today Americans for Prosperity Missouri launched a new TV advertisement supporting the legislature's efforts to put Missouri on a path to prosperity and support worker freedom through Right to Work legislation. The six figure ad buy will air across the state with the tagline, "Right to Work is right for Missouri."

“This is about worker freedom and doing the right thing for Missouri," said AFP Missouri State Director Patrick Werner. "A clear majority of legislators in both chambers came together and passed legislation that would give Missourians more freedom and more choice in their career path. Right to Work helps put our state on a long-term path towards economic growth that will create more jobs and opportunities for our families and friends right here in Missouri. It's time to put politics aside and do the right thing for Missouri."

Americans for Prosperity Missouri said its statewide network of grassroots activists have supported Right to Work as the issue moved through the state legislature, and that it would continue to engage policymakers throughout the Summer. This latest TV launch is just one part of ongoing efforts to promote worker freedom, generate more opportunity through job growth, and ensure Missouri is an attractive market for new business investment.

Billy Long: Why I support the Ratepayer Protection Act

In the accompanying video, Seventh District Congressman Billy Long speaks in favor of the Ratepayer Protection Act.

Blunt criticizes Iran nuclear negotiations

In the accompanying video, Sen. Roy Blunt criticizes the U. S. nuclear negotiations with Iran, though he notes, "Using the term negotiations is a stretch."

Blunt also talks about American hostages being held in Iran.

Anselm, Bolander talk about Community Development Block Grants

Link provided to my KZRG interview

Thanks to Chad Elliot and Darrin Wright for inviting me to be on KZRG's Morning News Watch today to talk about Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud and my upcoming meet the author/book signing event, which is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday at VFW Post 534 in Joplin.

The interview can be found at this link.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

High-priced consultants rejected again; Nodler casts deciding vote

To say that Sarah Stevens was ticked off would be putting it mildly.

When her pet consultant, the Core Collaborative, was voted down tonight by a 4-3 margin, it would not have surprised anyone if she had stamped her foot and left in a huff (or better yet, stamped her foot and left with a Huff).

Last month, the board voted 3-2 not to pay $103,000 to rehire Core Collaborative for a second year with Lynda Banwart and Mike Landis voting "yes" and Jeff Koch, Debbie Fort, and Jennifer Martucci casting "no" votes.

Koch, Fort, and Martucci did not change their minds. Banwart and newcomers Sallie Beard and Ron Gatz voted to bring back the consultant.The deciding vote was cast by the other new board member Gary Nodler.

Stevens, the district's curriculum director, was backed by a who's who of the C. J. Huff Administration, including Executive Director of Secondary Education Jason Cravens, Executive Director of Elementary Education Jennifer Doshier. Executive Director of Special Services Mark Barlass and Executive Director of Sitting There Silently Bud Sexson. There were more executive directors in the room than you could shake a stick at (if that's your idea of having fun).

As each pleaded the case for bringing back consultant Paul Bloomberg's group, Nodler was skeptical. The former state senator had checked out Core Collaborative. "I take this to be Common Core implementation," he said, clearly catching Stevens off guard.

Oh, no, no, a thousand times no. It wasn't Common Core. Bloomberg did that at other schools. (It's Missouri Learning Standards here.) "That's not what we're doing," Stevens said.

Core Collaborative charged $100,000 this year to teach the staff Visible Learning, a concept through which students take charge of their own learning and teachers serve as tour guides.

Stevens and her backup singers attempted to blind Nodler and the rest of the board with the best jargon $100,000 could buy. And, in tact, as the Huff Administration was always looking out for the taxpayer, they came back with a bargain price. Instead of having Core Collaborative for 30 days for $103,000, Bloomberg would cut off a few days and only charge $87,000,

"That seems like a pretty high price to me," Nodler said. The executive directors were stunned. You could see them thinking it. "Eighty seven thousand dollars a high price? Doesn't the new guy realize this is the Joplin School District?"

Nodler said. "This has become a cookie-cutter process with a guru."

"It's a process," executive director of Soaring Heights (or principal) Teresa Adams said, as executive director of Sitting There Silently Bud Sexson nodded sagely.

When board member Jennifer Martucci suggested that R-8 teachers could be better off providing the professional development themselves and would have more buy-in, Koch quickly agreed and Debbie Fort noted that the money that is earmarked for professional development could be spent in that fashion.

Executive Director of Secondary Education Jason Cravens did not think that was such a good idea. Teachers were too tired to want to make extra money, he insisted with a straight face.

When the executive directors insisted the teachers and principals were not ready and needed Bloomberg to guide them through another year, Nodler was not buying any of it. "You don't need a consultant to hold your hand."

The teachers certainly don't. But you never can tell about those executive directors.

Koch opens meeting with explanation of attempt to seat Kimbrough

Joplin R-8 Board of Education President Jeff Koch opened tonight's meeting with an explanation of his attempts to have Jim Kimbrough installed on the board. Tonight is the first meeting with the three board members who were appointed by the Jasper County Commission- Gary Nodler, Sallie Beard, and Ron Gatz. It is also the final meeting for Superintendent C. J. Huff, whose "retirement" is scheduled to take effect at the end of this month.

Motion to reconsider filed in case against Joplin R-8 Board

The attorney representing three Joplin residents filed a motion today asking Judge Joseph Hensley to reconsider his decision to leave the current Joplin R-8 Board of Education intact.

In his decision, which was issued Monday, Hensley said that the board did have enough votes to seat Jim Kimbrough when it voted 3 to 2 to do so during its May 26 meeting, but that when Board President Jeff Koch tabled the issue, mistakenly thinking it required four votes to appoint a board member and then board member Mike Landis resigned two days later, increasing the number of openings to three, that enabled the issue to be sent to the Jasper County Commission.

Lawyer Jonathan Pierce, representing Joshua Bard, Jon Buck, and Jamie Johnson, is asking that a writ of mandamus be issued installing Kimbrough, which would mean there were never three vacancies and would negate the Jasper County Commission's appointment of Gary Nodler, Sallie Beard, and Ron Gatz to the board.

Earlier today, Judge Stephen Carlton denied a writ of mandamus against the Jasper County Commission, saying the commissioners appointed Nodler, Beard, and Gatz legally and did not violate the Sunshine Law when they discussed potential candidates and made their decision without posting it on the agenda.

The Commissioners also said they sent Darieus Adams to talk to the prospective board members by himself to avoid having to follow the Sunshine Law.