Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Globe and the climate of fear in Joplin schools

When the Joplin Globe failed to mention it one time, I didn't think much of it.

Two times was a stretch.

In today's article on Tuesday night's Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting, no mention was made of Superintendent Norm Ridder's reference to the climate of fear he had encountered in the school district.

Admittedly, it has been 16 years since I was the editor of a daily newspaper, but if I were covering a meeting or had one of my reporters at that meeting and I heard there was a climate of fear in a school district, it would have been top of page one news.

Yet when such statements are made not once, not twice, but three times in public board meetings, the Joplin Globe ignores them.

Could that be because the Globe contributed to that climate of fear?

In talking with many employees and former employees of the Joplin school district since my public firing two years ago, I have admitted that while I was teaching at East I was unaware of just how bad the problems were. I knew of the general level of dissatisfaction in the direction in which the district was headed with C. J. Huff and Angie Besendorfer at the helm. I knew that principals were being removed if they even questioned one of the edicts from those on top, even if they did what they were told.

It was not until I was out of the district and began writing about my situation than I began hearing how widespread the problems were.

After confirming the stories I was hearing, I began sharing them with Turner Report readers. As I shared them, I heard more stories and revealed that half of the district's teachers had turned over primarily due to this climate of fear. Some left on their own, happy to get away from a dysfunctional school system. Others, like me, were shown the door and removed in such a way that it made teachers afraid to say anything, lest they receive the same treatment.

As I learned about the school district where I had worked for 10 years, I also learned that the Globe had been made aware of the problems multiple times and never made an effort to uncover the truth. It was obviously a situation in which people could not speak on the record for fear of retaliation, but Globe Editor Carol Stark, from her ivory tower, wrote with pride about her lofty ideals, including her refusal to use unnamed sources. The only way the Globe would print anything is if teachers and staff put their jobs on the line. There are some who might have done that, but they did not trust the Globe to deliver the goods.

They had every right to be suspicious of the area's newspaper of record. At the same time the Globe piously kept its pages free of anonymous whistleblower sources, it frequently used information that been supplied to it by Huff, Besendorfer, former City Manager Mark Rohr and others without any attribution.

So now when Norm Ridder talks about the climate of fear he has encountered, it is ignored by the Globe. Perhaps that would be all right if the departures of Huff and Besendorfer had corrected the problem.

It has not.

What Ridder inherited was an upper administration filled with people who enforced, some of them gleefully, policies that damaged lives and were counter-productive to creating an educational environment in which learning was the chief objective.

The interim superintendent also has a large number of principals who were not placed in their positions because of their abilities but because of their willingness to follow without question directives that were not in the best interests of the students or the taxpayers. Some had been promoted after doing internships in teaching/learning coach positions which served as upper administration's eyes and ears into each building.

Ridder has been diplomatic in what he has said, but at the same time he has made it clear that change is coming.

Last night, Ridder spoke of the fear that the top-down management had created in the system.

"Nobody wants to work in that kind of environment," he said.

In those nine words, Ridder explained why more than 50 percent of the faculty in Joplin schools has turned over in the past four years and why students now have an abnormally high number of inexperienced teachers, instead of the mix of veterans and talented newcomers that ensure a healthy and educationally proficient school district.

The process of undoing the harm that C. J. Huff and Angie Besendorfer did in this school district for seven years is well underway. Those who rely on the Joplin Globe for their information will never realize the true extent of the change.

If the Globe reports on it, it would have to concede that for seven years, it ignored a major story and willingly damaged the education of children in the Joplin R-8 School District.


Anonymous said...

If Superintendent Ritter really mentioned a "climate of fear" in a public meeting and the Joplin Globe did not report it, then the Globe is guilty of journalistic malfeasance. But Randy's story does not give the complete quote either, so I am confused as to what was actually said.

Anonymous said...

If you say that no one reads the Globe anymore then who cares what they report.

Randy said...

When did I say that no one reads the Globe? The problem is that there are still people who rely on the Globe for information and believe they are getting a full picture of what is going on in the school district and the city government when that has not been the case. The Joplin Globe's coverage or lack of coverage is a major story in itself and that is why I write about it.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Ridder should go take over for Carol Stark after he finishes turning the school district around.

Anonymous said...

Another of the local bloggers has a recent post that covers some of this.

Q's Views The Law’s Of Hype And Acceleration

In the book The 22 Immutable Law’s Of Marketing law #20 is The Law of Hype and it says, “The situation is often the opposite of the way it appears in the press.”

Anonymous said...

The climate of fear that was brought to Joplin schools by Huff is now being passed on to Bright Futures. They tried to bully the districts that dropped their affiliation with BF, a clear Huff tactic - probably learned by Vann when she was his right hand woman at Joplin schools. Quinn is his lap dog that lives next door up there in fancyville in a half a million dollar home. Quinn went on tv and said that the superintendent in WC was a hijacker for trying to take a stand for what he felt was wrong. Bullying at its best.... CJ Huff style.

Anonymous said...

If that isn't "the complete quote," then what is?

Lying losers SHOULD be terrified said...

So you were fired for disobeying school board policy and then, having nothing more to lose, decided to go full tilt against your real or perceived enemies on your blogs.

And you whine about how the Joplin Glob isn't sharing your little loser-jihad because . . . they want to Chamber of Commerce types to advertise in the Glob.

Fine. But some sort of criminals should be overawed at being scared that their misbehavior will be noticed . . . and punished.

Any wannabe "teacher" who wants to tell the board of education and/or the school aministration that he knows more than they and wants a job . . . probably isn't going to get or keep such a job.

CJ Huff was popular for sending you packing. What finished off CJ Huff was the wastage of taxpayer money and Huff's arrogance against his bosses on the school board. Both of you have that self-entitled arrogance in common.

Keep whining about the Glob. The Glob doesn't even mention you at all.

Some of you whiners need to be scared about being detected and sent packing. That is the nature of things. Go find someplace that will put up with it.

Anonymous said...

You would had some good arguments if you left out the name-callings.

1. What is the role of the news media? Hmmm... In high school government classes, the news media acted as a watchdog for the government. The Joplin Globe does not do an adequate job. I learn more about Joplin news from the Springfield paper and other news sources. It is disgraceful for the Globe to lose awards to other papers in other towns for news stories in Joplin.

2. Randy Turner lost his job at Joplin Schools. We can read the transcript online. It is very open. The transcript focused on accusations that were false, not if he strictly followed Board procedures. Are the procedures enough to get him fired? Would the same thing had happened if it was a pro-Huff employee?

3. Unfortunately, there is not a policeman that stands at every meeting and action of a governing body like on the street.
Newspapers, audits, bloggers, and other media should examine government actions and bring them to light.

4. You brought up a good point about wanting to have the Globe wanting the Chamber's money. So is money important than ethics? You are right, the Globe is after money, thus ending their reputation.

If you wish to discuss topics, that would be great. Your use of "whining" and no arguments are slightly annoying. Interesting thing about Turner- love him or hate him. He always has proof. Yes, Randy has bias. All news media has bias. Look at his sources and make your own decision. Use the critical thinking skills God gave you. If you disagree, AWESOME! Contribute to the conversation in a noteworthy way. Otherwise, shush yourself. You try to make others look like a fool, but it ain't working. The fool is yourself.

Steve Holmes said...

3:24 PM

The complete quote can be found at 24:10 mark in the school-board meeting (, but start listening at about 23:30 to give it context.

Ridder talks about the lack of collaboration in the R8 system. His microphone cuts out at the beginning of the statement, so I'm not sure of the words he used at the start. Paraphrasing here, "There is a heavy dose of fear in the system. People fear people in system. That causes too much top-down control. The top people want to control because they don't know how to collaborate… Nobody wants to work in that kind of environment."

That's the only time I heard fear mentioned.

Randy, where else has Ridder mentioned a culture of fear? Your September 1 post mentions Ridder talking about "a strong sense of lack of trust" , but I have had trouble finding the recording of that meeting.

Liberals have their own set of "facts" said...

What amuses me no end is that Turner and Turner's supporters have their own set of "facts" which they endlessly display when like Turner, they are purged for cause by the proper authorities. They say "shush" while having to remain anonymous because they are rightly afraid that if they show theysselfs that they will be terminated and sent to the sidelines to whine -- like Turner.

What amuses me no end is that CJ Huff got a golden parachute and Turner got . . . finished off pretty much. What amuses me even more is how you pore critters still don't dare show your asses for fear of being detected and fired for cause like Turner.

But you do have this blog, which people like me get to see you and occasionally poke you with a stick and make you howl.

The Glob will always be present in some form or another. Turner's blog will be present as long as Turner has time on his hands and nothing much better to do.