Sunday, June 21, 2015

Teachers can't bring their own, but taxpayers pay for fan for Sarah Stevens' office

A few years ago, when I was still teaching at East Middle School, the C. J. Huff Administration put out one of its occasional efforts to convince employees they actually played a role in making decisions.

The district needed to make cuts, we were told, and we were asked for our suggestions. Nearly every teacher at East and some I talked to from other buildings suggested we get rid of Acuity, a testing program that cost Joplin R-8 approximately $50,000 a year. Under Acuity, we were forced to give eight practice standardized tests taking away valuable teaching time. The only people who wanted this system were administrators who thought, wrongly, that having these tests would enable us to game the system \and improve scores.

Some teachers recommended that we cut down on the enormous amount of travel and meetings that teachers were being required to attend, many of which included meals paid for by the taxpayers.

When the results arrived, the Huff Administration thanked us for our input and said they were following our recommendation- that the district would no longer allow teachers to bring their own personal microwave ovens, or fans, or electric coffeepots. I found it hard to believe that any teacher thought of this as a way to make a big impact on the budget. That was the only step taken to reduce spending.

Apparently, this rule did not apply to people in Huff's Administration. Among the items included in the bills that will be submitted to the Joplin R-8 Board of Education for its approval Tuesday night is one from Wal-Mart for $39.92 for a fan for Curriculum Director Sarah Stevens' office.

At least when the teachers were bringing in appliances to use, they were not asking the taxpayers to foot the bill for those appliances.

The $39.92 is a minor amount, of course, but the kind of money that the district is spending or may end up spending due to Stevens' recommendations is no laughing matter.

The Board of Education heard a heartfelt plea two months ago from Stevens and carefully handpicked teachers (all but one of whom had only been in the district for a short time) for a $300,000 testing system that appears to simply be a more expensive version of Acuity and one which adds practice standardized tests for grades K-2. If there were any way that the board could have been consulted veteran teachers, those teachers would have pointed out that Acuity never worked and that by administering so many practice tests you are taking away from class time that would better prepare the students for MAP, Common Core, Missouri Learning Standards, or whatever they end up deciding to call it.

The recommendation to spend the $300,000 came from the same $100,000 a year consultant, Paul Bloomberg of Core Collaborative, that the board rejected last month, but apparently will consider again Tuesday night.

Of course, what goes unmentioned is that the only way Stevens, who has no background in curriculum and was promoted far beyond her capabilities (the district has had to hire someone with that curriculum background to be her assistant) can do her job is by bringing in expensive consultants to do it for her.

The $39.92 for the Wal-Mart fan was not the only interesting item in the monthly bills:

-$1,035.99 to the Joplin Globe to advertise for an assistant director (I am not sure what job this was for, but it could very well have been for the assistant to Sarah Stevens.).

-$3,199 to Guin Mondorf, Kansas City for legal services

-$103 to Granny Shaffer's for breakfast for Bright Futures partners

-$129 to Papa John's for pizza for the administrative move

-$224.37 to the Rib Crib for $224.51 for a meal for the moving crew

$145.94 to Schlotzsky's for a meal for the May 26 Board of Education meeting

-$70 to Wal-Mart for "candy for meetings"

$3,040 to Collins, Webster, and Rouse for legal services

-$11,187.50 to Northpark Mall for rent for the mall high school building

-$500 for five police officers to provide security at the Joplin High School graduation

-$111,80 to Corwin Press for books on Common Core Language recommended by consultant Paul Bloomberg of Core Collaborative

-$14,600 consulting fee to Core Collaborative

-$5,686.14 to Storm Stanley advertising agency for advertising for Franklin Tech

-$1,078 for six people- Sarah Stevens, Jason Cravens, Eric Pitcher, Hope Strasser, Nicole Warfield, and Rayma Taylor to attend, which was held this weekend in Park City, Utah.


Anonymous said...

Isn't there a LAW in Missouri about gifting of public funds? How do you justify the use of public funds for personal gain? Isn't that really what this is all about - Bright Futures, The Joplin Foundation, The JPC - how to use taxpayer money, public funds for personal gain?

Anonymous said...

Almost $700 in food and candy? Most people live on a shoestring. Not R8.

Anonymous said...

What's with still paying rent for the Mall. Is that 11 K for one month??? I don't mind paying my share of taxes, but I DO NOT WANT TO FEED THE R8 DISTRICT. Nearly $700 on this list for food including candy? And this is what a month? Would not mind spending that on needy kids however.

Anonymous said...

Another hard hitting piece. Thanks

Anonymous said...

$1,035.99 to the Joplin Globe to advertise for an assistant director
Oh my goodness! Did it really cost that much to advertise for one position? And what exactly is that position? And why are they advertising? They just hire their suck-ups and friends.

$103 to Granny Shaffer's for breakfast for Bright Futures partners
Why doesn’t Bright Futures pay for their own breakfasts?

$224.37 to the Rib Crib for $224.51 for a meal for the moving crew
I heard admin got the Rib Crib food and there was nothing for the crew.

$111,80 to Corwin Press for books on Common Core Language recommended by consultant Paul Bloomberg of Core Collaborative
That Core Collaborative money is just the tip of the iceberg. It looks like that $100,000 won’t be paying for all the extras like books.

$5,686.14 to Storm Stanley advertising agency for advertising for Franklin Tech
Can’t the Franklin Tech TV classes make the ads?

$1,078 for six people- Sarah Stevens, Jason Cravens, Eric Pitcher, Hope Strasser, Nicole Warfield, and Rayma Taylor to attend, which was held this weekend in Park City, Utah
Is where they get Canvas (it’s like Blackboard)?
Is it that much a piece or all together? If it's altogether, that's a bargain. Does that include travel, food and lodging?

Anonymous said...

FanGate.....alert the national media!!

Anonymous said...


Might as well......

Anonymous said...

Thanks for exposing all of this. They need to be held accountable.

Anonymous said...

Please,If I'm wrong or my statement has no bearing then disregard. Since D.Adams works for Storm Stanley,would that not be considered some sort of conflict? Were other agencies allowed to bid? Again,one small drop into a huge pool of issues however I am really curious if it matters one way or another?

Anonymous said...

I would venture to say that most of the people on here that complain about the school district either A: have no children in the school district or B: pay very little if any taxes into the school district. Businesses have expenses like this as well. This is no different than complaining that the money you pay to Wal-Mart is being used to pay for operating expenses.

Anonymous said...


The difference is that we expect our money to go toward educating the children, which it is not. I have children, I pay huge amounts of taxes, so please do not stoop to condescension with me. I have vast experience in education and in business. Yes, we can expect to pay some money for food, candy for workshops, etc. The issue here is that millions and millions of dollars have been spent, but academically it has been wasted. You do not seem to be aware of all of the money that has been wasted in recent years that might have been spent on the children.

As for Storm Stanley, it has only been about a month or so that the district paid them over $30,000 for advertising. What was that advertising for? Anne Sharp's videos? And yes, Adams does work there and has provided advertising for Banwart. The conflict of interest is blatant, and you can bet that no bidding was done.

Anonymous said...

Or C:) Continue to pay taxes YET make the personal choice to send them to a private school. I graduated from Joplin schools & I did just fine. Paid my taxes regardless that I sent mine to a private school. We are far from wealthy but I felt they could gain more do to our religion. That's all.

Anonymous said...

Turner is spot on with this post. The 2010-2011 school year was supposedly a time of dire straits for R8. No one was allowed to have even an electric pencil sharpener or a desk lamp in order to keep the electric bill down. Thirteen teachers were laid off, while simultaneously thirteen teaching and learning coaches were hired using TARP funds. TARP funds, in fact, allowed for nonstop travel for upper and building administration as well as the TLCs. Miracles were supposed to be the result of all of the conferences they attended, but in all actuality, scores went down very quickly. Teachers got no raises, and in fact, have still yet to see a decent raise, while Cj Huff's income has risen exponentially, as well as that of several others in the administration building. Fast forward to the 2011-2012 school year. Not a mention was made about wasting electricity. The money flowed in all directions (except to decent raises for certified and classified staff). Where did all that money come from? Apparently from donations, the reserves, and the bond and insurance.

This wasted money is what this desperate move is about. I'm guessing that the original plan was that Cj would be the front man with his perfectly timed quivering lip and tears act, and the money would just flow in and no one would know that they had misappropriated so much. However, people are tired of the act, and it is never wise to label your own community as disengaged and ignorant and believe they won't be offended. We will hope Cj Huff is gone next year, but as it stands, if Banwart and her accomplices in crime are successful, staff can look forward to no more than an additional $500 raise, with no step, for the upcoming year. You can be sure that nothing will improve and that things will stay as they are or will be much worse, and Cj will still be calling the shots from his easy chair via the monkey Board. And, the teacher flight will be worse than ever--teachers are still leaving in large numbers, even as late as this week. It's a sad mess, and I hope Banwart loses big time, and takes them all down with her.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the added insights! The last paragraph was regarding my question about Storm S. I figured somebody with more knowledge would have the information I was inquiring. Thanks again for taking the time to respond. May God have mercy on the children.

Dusty Roads said...

In defense of Stevens she probably does sweat a lot.

Anonymous said...

Fans do a good job of moving the hot air around. So you know where they are probably most necessary.

Re possible Fangate:
Someone should check to see if R-8 has bought any Big Ass (actual brand) fans. Then it would be a Fangate.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if at any point all of the genius people who think that spending all this money is innately evil will ask the questions that are needed here. Has anyone considered that the federal government REQUIRES that 14% of the district's annual budget be spent on Professional Development? It's not optional. If you don't spend it, you have to pay it back.

Anonymous said...

Spending money on PD isn't the problem. Spending money on terrible PD is the problem.

Anonymous said...

2:06 is right.
You have to have PD. If teachers are to continue to learn and become better and better at what they do, they have to continue to learn. Forcing every teacher to sit through the same stuff is wrong, especially when it's just sales pitches.
So, 12:26,
That money can be better spent. Principals and their coaches are supposed to know what the district wants and they should be leading their buildings in that direction. That would mean knowing what the teachers in their buildings need and want. Knowing that, the building would be able to use PD funds for books, webinars, etc. and then grow and improve their craft. It's that differentiation thing we do with our classrooms.

Anonymous said...

Districts are required to budget 1% of state minimum guarantee money for professional development. I am not sure where the poster came up with the 14% of your budget federal requirement!! There may be some requirement to spend a percentage of your federal revenue on PD but not your total budget.

Anonymous said...

I believe it was that money tied to Obama money back in the day. They used a ton of it to revamp Memorial for PD a few years back.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I get it now. My coworker told me she was hot, I didn't realize he was being literal.

Anonymous said...

How many going away parties do we pay for? I notice that there are 2 entries for someone's going away party and there are a lot more people than that leaving.

Anonymous said...

I think Bright Futures can pay for their own banner no matter what it's for.

Anonymous said...

Stop venturing. If someone pays one single dime in taxes they deserve to know it's being spent wisely.