Sunday, October 04, 2015
The decline and fall of Bright Futures
At this point, only two school districts have dropped out of the organization, Webb City and East Newton, but that number should continue to grow, and most likely it will not be long before Joplin cuts its ties to what has been a dark chapter in the school district's history.
In the past year, Bright Futures USA has added at least $95,000 in salaries, including an extra $65,000 a year to Executive Director Kim Vann, whose salary increased from $20,000 to $85,000 a year after she left the R-8 District to become the full-time director.
Now, the organization has hired former R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff as a paid consultant to the tune of $30,000 for six months, which will likely end up being at least $60,000 for a year, or an additional $125,000 annually, including Vann's increased salary.
Most of BFUSA's money comes from the Missouri Legislature, which has appropriated $400,000 over the past three years. Any continuation of funding appears to be in danger as Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, told KZRG Friday that the legislature will take a careful look at Bright Futures USA's funding in 2016.
The Joplin Globe had a lengthy page-one article today on Bright Futures USA, which revealed Vann's salary and featured some statements that simply are not true, among them the oft-repeated claim that the increase in graduation rates in the R-8 School District came as a result of Bright Futures.
There is no evidence anywhere that the two are connected and much evidence, anecdotal and otherwise, to indicate other factors were far more likely to have contributed to the improvement, among them a supercharged credit recovery program that enabled students to make up months of missed work in hours and teachers being called on the carpet for giving failing grades to students who had earned those grades.
In the Globe article, BFUSA Board Chairman Steve Patterson dismisses Charlie Davis' concerns about tax money going to recruit schools in other states by saying that none of the Missouri tax money is being used for that purpose, just other money that is coming into Bright Futures.
Of course, this is the same argument used by Planned Parenthood in talking about abortions. None of the tax money goes for abortions, the officials say, since that would violate federal law, just money it receives from other sources. Of course, having that money from the federal government enables Planned Parenthood to spend more of the money it receives from other sources to provide abortions.
The question that the Globe article fails to ask is why is there even a need for Bright Futures USA. The Bright Futures program started as a noble undertaking and as it spread from one school to another in southwest Missouri, the idea of providing for student needs in a timely fashion, combining the education, business, and faith-based communities and using social media was employed, in most places, even more effectively than it was in Joplin, the school district where it all started.
The Bright Futures concept, whether it is done under the umbrella of Bright Futures USA, or under other names, as is being done in Webb City and East Newton, will continue to grow, whether or not it has a not-for-profit to help it along.
If the whole concept of Bright Futures is to share the oft-mentioned "time, talent, and treasure," I have no doubt that there are many other schools who have started it, who would be willing to pass along the ideas to partner schools without extending a hand into the other school's treasury in the process.
The only thing that is keeping the Bright Futures idea from spreading faster than it already has is the proprietary interest that the not-for-profit has taken in it.
Share the plan. You don't need expensive dues and training from a handful of self-appointed experts; there are experts now at every school that has begun a Bright Futures program. Why spend another $1,000 a year attending a two-day conference/pep rally when the simple, but highly effective ideas that propelled Bright Futures in the first place could be spread more quickly, just by publicizing the program and having schools that are already involved partnering with other schools?
Another negative for Bright Futures USA is that the man who started the program five years ago, C. J. Huff, has become a toxic presence for the organization. Apparently, those who serve on the board are the only ones who are unaware of just how unpopular C. J. Huff is and that is not just in Joplin.
The Bright Futures idea will continue, it is actually not unique, but not if its main purpose is to serve as a legacy builder or a landing place for C. J. Huff.
If Bright Futures USA continues to exist, then Joplin needs to lead the way by breaking clean with the not-for-profit, salvaging the best ideas from Bright Futures and scrapping the excesses for which it has become known locally.
It is time for the state government to completely cut off funding for BFUSA.
It is time for Bright Futures USA to employ the same tactic that was once recommended by Sen. George Aiken for LBJ in Vietnam- declare victory and go home.
The story of the Joplin Tornado and the first year in a warehouse school told by the teachers and students of Joplin East Middle School. The book is available locally and can be purchased from Amazon in paperback and e-book formats at the links below.