Tuesday, June 09, 2015
On the road again- C. J. Huff headed to Iowa
The conference website features the following description of Huff:
A distinguished educator and inspirational leader who restored hope to the community of Joplin, Missouri, after one of the most devastating tornadoes in history, Dr. C.J. Huff embodies the resilience needed to overcome adversity, the leadership necessary to turn tragedy into triumph and the passion and insight into what our education system must do to prepare the leaders of tomorrow to face the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
He was named one of People magazine’s 2011 heroes for his role in bringing the community out of despair and providing the focus necessary to unite and mobilize recovery efforts. In his speech “Leadership in Action: Build Better Teams by Creating Common Ground,” Huff shares how teamwork, leadership and a focus on the future can help overcome any challenge.
Today’s organizations face serious threats to their future—from tightened budgets, to motivating workforces, to dealing with unexpected crises. The ability to overcome these issues starts with strong leaders that cultivate a culture of cooperation long before the challenges arise.
Joplin, Missouri School Superintendent Dr. C.J. Huff has become a respected leader through his demonstration of extraordinary focus, drive and commitment to making sure his community moved towards recovery—despite the horrific destruction caused by one of the strongest tornadoes in recorded history. By promoting partnership, embracing a collaborative culture and improving employee morale through communication—he was able to build common ground before tragedy struck—and to mobilize others to achieve what seemed insurmountable in the aftermath. In this moving presentation, Huff describes the importance of teamwork, service to others and leadership in the face of overwhelming circumstances, inspiring audiences to always prepare for unknown challenges that lie ahead.
Dr. C.J. Huff currently serves as the superintendent of Joplin Schools, a position he has held since July 2008. He is the proud father of three children and has been married to his best friend, Jennifer, for 17 years. A native of McCune, Kansas, Huff earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Pittsburg State University, his Master and Specialist in Education from Missouri State University. Most recently he earned his Doctorate in Education with a focus in Educational Leadership from the University of Arkansas in 2003.
His wide range of experiences as a classroom teacher, building principal, superintendent and a family farmer prepared him to lead his district of 1,100 employees and 7,700 students through the recovery effort that has followed the devastating Sunday, May 22, 2011 tornado that ripped through the heart of Joplin. Graduation ceremonies for Joplin’s Class of 2011 had just concluded at Missouri Southern State University when the tornado struck around 5:41 p.m. destroying or damaging 10 of the 19 buildings in Huff’s district including the high school and leaving over half of his students without a school to return to on Monday, May 23. The Joplin Schools family suffered loss more precious than the buildings though as they lost a staff member and seven students to the storm.
Huff’s declaration that “We will start school on time” is credited with being a key factor that drew the community of Joplin together just days after the tornado and provided a positive light for the country to rally around in the midst of such tragedy and destruction. To find and create learning space for 4,200 kids—54 percent of the district—in 12 weeks was a daunting task. “Somebody told me it couldn’t be done,” said Huff, “which is all it took to get me going.” On August 17, 2011 Joplin’s 7,700 students started the new school year on time. On May 21, 2012—just one day shy of the one year anniversary of the devastating tornado—President Barack Obama delivered the high school graduation commencement address.
Three years later, Joplin Schools continues to take the lead in the community’s recovery effort. Huff and his team have encountered and overcome many challenges since that fateful day in May. Undaunted, his focus has remained unchanged as he and his team continue to take care of what he refers to as his “Joplin Schools’ family” and crossing the recovery finish line strong. In August 2014, the last of the buildings destroyed by the storm will be rebuilt. Fulfilling yet another promise to build Joplin back bigger AND better, his students and staff will come home to the new Joplin High School after three long years. A 21st Century high school with a forward-looking and rigorous program of study to prepare students for a highly competitive workforce and global economy that has the potential to change public education as we know it.
Huff is well-respected by the community and his peers as a man of vision and a man that keeps his word. People magazine named him as one of their “2011 Heroes Among Us.” Other recognitions include the 2013 Missouri “Superintendent of the Year” award, one of four finalists for the 2013 National Superintendent of the Year award, 2012 Missouri “National Education Association Horace Mann Award”, National School Public Relations Association’s “Bob Grossman Leadership in School Communications Award”, eSchool News 2012 “Tech-Savvy Superintendent Award”, Missouri Association of School Administrators 2012 “Pearce Award”, Missouri School Public Relations Association 2012“Administrator of the Year” and the 2011 American School Board Journal Magna Award/Grand Prize Winner for “Joplin’s Bright Futures” initiative focusing on community engagement and drop-out prevention.