Thursday, October 22, 2015
In the final days: C. J. Huff gave hefty raises to favored employees
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 Amazon.com.