Sunday, November 29, 2015
Bright Futures agreement, like its leadership, is a joke
While the memorandum of understanding says the board will remain in control, a careful reading shows that Bright Futures Joplin would essentially be under the control of an unelected board of directors while continuing to have its top heavy administrative costs funded by R-8 taxpayers.
BFJ would also be allowed to continue using the school district logo and name while conducting its business.
And if the past is indicative, Bright Futures, by continuing to expand its reach will continue to siphon money that could be used for other educational purposes.
The memorandum gives BFJ total control over its mission, including all "activities and initiatives." Will the organization continue its recent practice of paying rent and utilities and costs that were never imagined when it was created in April 2010? Will it continue to spend big dollars on Operation College Bound, a lofty program designed to encourage elementary students to begin thinking about college, but one that has little value in comparison to making sure the quality of the education they receive puts them in the position to consider college.
The current legal document gives the board almost no control over the people who are hired by Bright Futures Joplin. The board would only have the right to "consult." Considering some of the excesses of the current leadership, it seems unwise to give up control over people who are seeking money using the logo and goodwill of the school district, especially to an advisory board that has shown support for the way BFJ is currently being operated.
Though they would no longer have any control over the BFJ employees, the memorandum requires R-8 superintendents to help BFJ identify, locate and help solicit donors, enough to keep the amount of money going to BFJ increasing. If Bright Futures wants to be independent, wouldn't it make more sense to let its administrators raise their own money and let our superintendents run the school district?
Not only does Bright Futures Joplin want to make all of its own decisions without the superintendent's interference, but it also wants the taxpayers to pay 60 percent of the salaries for Director of Community Engagement Melissa Winston and Coordinator of Community Engagement Dale Peterson, but the duties that the district would pay for are exactly the same kind of nonsense that was a hallmark of the C. J. Huff era.
The duties include all of the buzzwords of the Huff Administration- coordinating, marketing, public relations, networking, "liaison with community stakeholders," and "service learning."
No wonder the board wanted to make changes in this proposal. It is a disaster.
Why is it that nearly every area school district has been able to get the concept and operation of Bright Futures right except the school district where the program started?
The R-8 Board of Education needs to toss out this proposal and begin reconsidering the whole concept of Bright Futures. Taxpayers do not need to pay for two full-time Bright Futures employees or even 60 percent of their salaries. We have seen that the volunteers, the people who are responsible for the successes Bright Futures has had, are willing to put in the work. It does not take two full-time employees to coordinate that work.
If the service learning and Operation College Bound programs are to continue, it makes far more sense and would save money to put those programs under the control of actual educators and pay stipends. Service learning programs were here long before Bright Futures and never required full-time employees to direct them.
And if the board does re-examine Bright Futures, it should also re-examine its connection with the national Bright Futures USA organization. Webb City, East Newton, and McDonald County severed ties with the national organization and none of those schools has cut services that help the children.
It is not the job of the Joplin R-8 Board of Education to build a legacy for a man it found so contemptible that it was willing to pay him for a year and a half and give him a $50,000 consulting fee just to push him out the door.