Thursday, October 22, 2015

In the final days: C. J. Huff gave hefty raises to favored employees

Thanks to a sweetheart buyout deal C. J. Huff received to "retire" as superintendent of the Joplin R-8 School District, he remains at the top of the pay chart for the district for this school year, receiving $175,275.

That information, as well as his $50,000 consulting fee to help the district deal with the lawsuits that have been filed against him, and the $8,000 the district paid for him to speak about Bright Futures USA at the annual National School Public Relations Association meeting in Nashville in August have been well publicized.

What has not been publicized was the way that Huff raided the public treasury during his last few weeks as superintendent to reward employees who had been close to him or who were instrumental in promoting his key initiatives.

And while he made sure a favored few were rewarded, Huff gave district teachers a final slap in the face by removing 15 $1,000 stipends for teachers at the same time a member of his administrative team received a new title and a raise of nearly $15,000.

Salary lists for 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 obtained by the Turner Report through a Sunshine Law request show that the biggest raise went to Kelli Price. Price, who had been making $48,053 as a "communications specialist," jumped to $63,000 annually in the newly-created position of "communications director."

Her duties were described recently in a Joplin Regional Business Journal article:

In a new job with uncountable challenges ahead of her, Price was not deterred. She set to work right away creating marketing campaigns, planning recovery milestone events, and coordinating communications with local, state, national, and international media.

When Huff okayed this Price increase, he eliminated the 15 $1,000 stipends that were given to teachers who kept their school Facebook pages updated last year.

Moving into the position of "communication specialist" and moving from $38,475 a year to $42,000 was Whitney Warren. Warren had served as "events coordinator" for the Huff Administration during the 2014-2015 school year. Her new duties were spelled out on the district website recently when she was named Joplin Eagle of the Week:

Whitney is one of the friendliest people you'll meet at Joplin Schools. She handles round-the-clock challenges of district communications, social media, alumni relations, event management, tours, and so much more with expertise, energy, and true passion for the success of Joplin students.

While Huff's hatchet woman, COO Tina Smith, remained at the same $86,858 salary, she, too, was rewarded richly with the addition of three clerical workers for her department, giving her six overall. In the past, when most of Smith's duties were handled by Assistant Superintendent Steve Doerr, only one secretary was needed.

Receiving a pay boost of nearly $2,000 was Bright Futures Joplin Coordinator Melissa Winston, who went from $36,391 to $38,300.

The pay increases and position changes never went through the Board of Education.
For the real story of what happened in the Joplin R-8 School District from the time of the Joplin Tornado through the "retirement" of C. J. Huff, read Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud: Greed, Corruption, and the Joplin Tornado. The book is available locally at Always Buying Books, Changing Hands Book Shoppe, and The Book Guy in Joplin, Pat's Books in Carthage and Cato's Connection in Lamar. The book is available in paperback and e-book formats from


Anonymous said...

So, Ms. Price emails the teachers who did the social media in exchange for stipends, tells them the stipend funding is gone, and then puts said stipend money in her own pocket. Isn't that precious? She is CJ's kind of gal for sure. Yeah, I bet you were really sorry, Ms. Price. Broke your heart, didn't it.

Anonymous said...

Whitney Warren makes more money to go around giving tours in her tight athletic pants and high heels than I get with several years of teaching experience. I guess there's money in that kind of thing after all. My desire to knock myself out just went down proportional to my income as compared to CJ's pets.

Anonymous said...

Question: How much longer before Dr. Ridder actually does something about this situation? Talk is cheap. This is bad. My income has gone down for some time now, while theirs has soared. I somehow doubt that Kelli Price faced anything nearly as tough as teaching. I've got to leave if I don't see a break coming soon and priorities changed. I can't afford to stay. I pity the children of Joplin. They deserve better than what they are getting.

Anonymous said...

Question: How much longer before Dr. Ridder actually does something about this situation? Talk is cheap....

I've started wondering the same. Here are a few thoughts:

If one or more criminal cases are being developed, Ridder could be cooperating with the authorities for the best outcome there.

Maybe he has a method to weed out these people, but it is slow, and maybe his previous fix-it district could afford a process that slow. Part of what that survey stuff might be about, although I was hoping that would be more for weeding out the Principals who need to go.

For each person who needs to be fired, he's got to figure out what they do that still needs to be done, and who will take that over.

Does he have anyone in administration he can trust? The fewer in his inner circle, the more work each has to do.

All that said, if he doesn't show some signs that he's starting to clean out the Augean stables of the administration, he's going to get less and less benefit of the doubt. There's certainly a deadline of sorts with the upcoming election, where a majority of the board seats are in play.

Anonymous said...

Administrative building contracts are renewed/not renewed in January.

I'm hopeful.

Anonymous said...

So does this mean Joplin does have a sugar daddy after all?

Anonymous said...

Administrative building contracts are renewed/not renewed in January.

Ah, if this is true, Ridder doesn't have to lift a finger to get rid of a lot of people, and the middle of the school year is probably the best time to do it.

However, this Missouri law indicates it isn't true, that there's a fair amount of process required, and that Ridder has to first create a "personnel committee" that'll back decisions to fire by a majority vote.

I'm sure there's case law on this, and it may to be an extremely difficult thing after Huff packed the administration with his toadies.

Anonymous said...

I believe it takes a board vote for each administrative staff member and that the board reserves the right to dismiss immediately or to wait until their current contract expires.

Unless, the administrative staff member has teacher tenure within the Joplin district. It is then that they may be reassigned, generally to a teaching position, within the district.

Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

WAIT A MINUTE!!!! WAIT JUST ONE DOGGONE MINUTE!!! Didn't Tina Smith sit in that BoE meeting and tell the Board and Ridder that no one had received raises except those staff members who were not competitive? So, are you telling me that it was necessary to rip fifteen grand out of the hands of underpaid teachers and give it to Kelli Price so that she could have a competitive wage? I call that BS, and that is not the first time Smith has lied to Ridder, yet he has kept her on. That is the same meeting that Barr and Cravens said the piddly raises they proposed would be sufficient for teachers. And Whitney Warren gets more than the majority of teachers? That's bullcrap. Word is that Pat Waldo got an extra five grand, herself, so I guess she was paid well for screwing over the school board. And she is still on the job, at the right hand of Ridder. I am losing any faith I had that he would make a difference. It looks like the same crap warmed over to me.

I'm gone unless I see some of the hogs at the trough canned in the next month. They don't need replaced. They need their positions cut. We didn't need them before the tornado and we don't need them now. I don't know how I will do Christmas for my family this year, and I have a graduate degree and several years of experience. I can't make ends meet and I live very simply. Perhaps Bright Futures can help teachers out. Their leader makes more than many of the teachers do, too. Something has to give. Sarah Stevens and her convoluted messes, excess personnel draining the resources, lack of materials, increased insurance costs, and lack of pay make this one miserable district, and that doesn't even touch on the day-to-day discipline issues and the asinine PD we suffer through. None of it makes anyone a better teacher. It just wastes time and justifies jobs for someone somewhere. Walmart is looking good. Payless. Target. Anything but R8. So much for Ridder and his big talk about supporting teachers. We've seen a whole quarter go by and it's worse than ever. We need some kind of show of faith here, and quickly.

Anonymous said...

This is what happened in St. Joe. Is Joplin next?

Anonymous said...

Please tell me what "uncountable challenges" Price faced? Was it too much Facebook? Were the silly weekly newsletters overly daunting? Or maybe it's spending her time at Board meetings. That would account for the Frankenstein's Bride expression she always sports. The nonstop rhetoric about anything from the Huff days makes it sound as though they are all waging a war with an unseen enemy or still digging their way out of the rubble. Only idiots cannot see through the nonstop pathos. Pass the Koolaid to them, but please, spare the rest of us.

Thank you, Mr. Turner, for once again pointing out a true injustice in Joplin Schools. Taking $15,000 from teaching staff and giving it to an already overpaid, unnecessary member of the Huff administration is something that the Globe should have covered. I'm sure it would never have occured to them to look at salaries and job positions. You have been vital to pointing out the problems that have caused our district to be "sick," as Dr. Ridder puts it. Please keep reporting, as the public needs to know the whole truth of what has happened here.

Anonymous said...


It is certainly within the realm of possibilities.

I would like to know when we will see that magic FEMA/SEMA money roll in. Anyone have any word about that? More than rumor?

Anonymous said...