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..
The Turner Report has confirmed through current and former employees, as well as people in the Joplin business community that district employees submitted Huff's name and filled out paperwork promoting their boss for nearly all of these awards- from templates that had already been approved by Huff.
The promotional work, in most cases, was directed by current Bright Futures USA CEO Kim Vann, who at the time was wearing two hats, being paid $20,000 a year to head the not-for-profit, while pulling down a full-time salary as the Joplin R-8 School District's executive director of communications and community development.
A major part of Vann's job, administration sources told the Turner Report, was accompanying Huff on most of his speeches and serving as a highly-paid assistant. As noted in earlier posts, Vann was responsible for keeping two calendars for Huff- one for the public and the media, and the other which listed his speaking engagements and various trips to promote Bright Futures USA.
During 2014, Huff spent the equivalent of four weeks of workdays on those speaking engagements, none of which were Joplin R-8 business.
One of Vann's responsibilities during those trips was to make sure that Huff had tissues to use as he related the story of what happened during the tornado.
Vann's efforts to promote Huff were also considered part of her duties as community development director.
In at least one instance, Huff's unsuccessful attempt to become the national Superintendent of the Year (he was a finalist as noted above), the work to promote Huff for the position was mostly done by Bright Futures employees, including at least one who was hired by Bright Futures USA, but then was paid by R-8 taxpayers.
In addition to submitting paperwork, the taxpayers also paid for R-8 employees to contact local business leaders and politicians, asking them to submit letters of recommendation for Huff for awards. In each instance, the community leaders were provided suggestions for some of the nice things they could say about Huff.