Sunday, November 29, 2015

Bright Futures agreement, like its leadership, is a joke

The Joplin R-8 Board of Education made a wise move Tuesday night when it postponed a decision on allowing Bright Futures Joplin to become a separate entity from the school.

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.


Anonymous said...

"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."
Exactly! Well said.

Anonymous said...

And this was reviewed and initialed by ...

Anonymous said...

Looks like Dr. Ridder signed off on it. You better tell him to read your blog,he might not know if all the dangers ahead.

Anonymous said...


Or he knows more than Randy and could care less what mood you guys think. He's successful while Randy on the other hand is...not!

Anonymous said...

Your comment really makes little sense, if any at all.

Mr. Turner is very successful. He has sold a lot of books, has a huge readership, and has gained the respect of many, many community members from all walks of life. I would be willing to bet that you do not enjoy that level of respect, that you have no documentation to prove any assertions you might make, and that you are threatened somehow by what is said here. That generally is the case when the haters show up. They can only attack the messenger since they can't defend the content of the message. You just look foolish. Better to say nothing if you can say nothing worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

It is possible that Dr. Ridder wished to make the BoE aware of the proposal. Bringing it to their attention is not the same as endorsing or promoting it. He knows that he is here for a short time, and he surely would want them involved in determining the direction they wish to go with BF. He didn't seem too excited about or defensive of the proposal at the meeting.

One would have to wonder what is to be gained by those who keep wanting to tear this man down just as he is getting started. It must be CJ or some of his accomplices, as they probably want us to see that we were better off before. However, only an idiot would believe that. We would be better off with no one at all than we would be with CJ or any of his cronies in charge again. The mess the former board and their derelict, profligate leader made of Joplin Schools will take years and years to clean up. The most decent thing they can do at this point is to step aside. But, decency is a trait lacking in those cretins, hence the mess and their continuous interference in the mending process.

Anonymous said...

My hunch is there is a tug of war going on between those vested in BF and the district's desire to shed it off. So this is a compromise by giving BF semi-independence. BF sinks or swims on its on. If it sinks then R8 is not to blame. Standard way to placate BF supporters. The bad side of the deal is paying salaries. If BF is viable then let the leaders show they can raise their own salaries plus what the students need. The way this is worded BF lives on even if it is marginal in its mission via tax dollars. It is politically difficult and face saving is the name of the game.

Anonymous said...

Bright Futures morphed into an overly ambitious mess operating far beyond the primary mission and, over time, siphoning off hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have and should have been spent on students in need. This proposal makes a bad situation worse. It would require the district to support BFJ by paying the majority of salary expenses and by obligating district personnel to spend time recruiting donors, etc., while stripping the district of any control of how BFJ operates. In any other undertaking I can think of, the party that fronts the expenses makes the rules and runs the show, but apparently not according to this proposal. It's been pointed out by many people that it will take years to repair the damage that's been done to Joplin R8. I think it's going to take another school board election or two to really get that process underway, assuming the majority of voters in the district really do want to clean house. I hope this board with the members who were appointed, not elected, doesn't enter into a legally binding agreement regarding BFJ. Whatever is done with BFJ, it should not be done until a full board elected by the voters is making the decision.

Anonymous said...

This isn't a big deal for Ridder. It seems it's only a big deal for Mr. Turner. The item brought before the board was an "action item", not a "discussion item", so if the board voted yes , with Dr. Ridders recommendation, then the proposal would already be in place.

Anonymous said...

5:36 AM: It's a big deal for my family, which is paying taxes for the waste in BFJ, most obviously one standard issue Huff suck-up and one subordinate to actually do her job. This new deal would make a bad situation worse; from memory, the district giving away the BFJ funds and control of the organization, while still being on the hook for the salaries of the previously mentioned people. And we would do well to make a clean break with the Huff regime, instead of this dog's breakfast.

As for Dr. Ridder, I see how we know if he's actually recommending this, or just forwarding something the BFJ people came up with. How did he talk about it last week's meeting?

Anonymous said...

"It seems it's only a big deal for Mr. Turner. if the board voted yes...the proposal would already be in place."

Other comments appear to disagree. Make it a "discussion item" where the community can hear the pros and cons, and who favors what position. Better to err on the side of openness ...

Randy said...

In response to 7:37, the subject was discussed in a closed session prior to last Tuesday's meeting. During the regular session, there was no discussion, but there was an indication that board members intended to make changes in what was laid out in the memorandum.

Anonymous said...

>>the subject was discussed in a closed session<<

What are the criteria for doing this?

Does the item just have to be an embarrassing topic that the board wants to get done with on the down low?

Randy said...

While I would argue that the discussion should have been held in open session, they were discussing a legal agreement, which they will argue gives them the option of discussing it in closed session.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response Randy.

Sunlight can be a good disinfectant.

Anonymous said...

Just a few questions:

What happens if Ridder and others on the BoE are in support of this action?

For 7:37 - How many of your "tax dollars" are going to education? How many of those dollars are going to BFJ? I am sure it's no so considerable that you are really hurting. This is really an absurd and ridiculous argument - helping kids in our community for a few of your tax dollars seems well worth it.

Randy - two full-time employees and a host of volunteers doesn't seem over the top. Who will coordinate the volunteers and the programs overseen by BFJ if these full-time positions are eliminated? Is it possible that the concern here is more that BFJ is Bright Futures? What if they change the name, yet stay focused on the things Dr. Ridder has laid out? A more solid focus on meeting student needs, food, clothing, etc.

It seems that many of you are more pissed at CJ than the actual work being done.

Anonymous said...

The school district/tax payers should not be paying for Bright Futures. They should raise their own money.
Bright Futures is mostly made of the volunteers from the tornado. Many of them were promised jobs by Huff & Co. They were actively trying to find things for them to do whether they were qualified or not.
I don't mind my tax dollars paying for the kids but I DO mind paying for those 'directors' and funding that board of directors' whims. THAT makes me want to be sure I live in a different school district. I can support the kids but not all that bologna.
It is good to see that they're actually posting a summary of the closed sessions again. Makes me think there are some little things happening.

Anonymous said...


Perhaps you are wealthy and have money to spare. Most of us do not. Besides, it's the principle of this issue. This is tax money that could be used to support students in the classroom through instruction or for their needs. Too large a percentage of funds for Bright Futures goes to administrative costs (aka salaries and personal expenditures--lunch, etc.) instead of for food and clothing. Bright Futures, despite their false claims, has not improved classroom achievement or graduation rates. We provided for Joplin students before Bright Futures, and we can again. The churches and other social organizations can take care of much of the need, and schools can also contribute. Throw your money away as you wish, but please stop volunteering my dollars for a wasted venture brought to us by, yes you named him, CJ Huff. No one has been his equal in this area for wasting tax dollars. It's time to stop that tradition and start fresh. A little waste in BF, put with the general waste elsewhere, is what is killing the district. Every drop in the bucket counts when it comes to hard earned tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

school district takes on 60% of their salaries that makes the day-to-day operating budget take a smaller amount of donations for operation overhead and puts more dollars directly into the lives of students.

"The churches and other social organizations can take care of much of the need, and schools can also contribute." Most churches don't! Just another example of the lups service Christianity that most Christians proclaim. Those churches that do serve are organized in part by BFJ.

I am sure that all of those kids and families served by BFJ don't feel that Bright Futures is a "wasted venture". I am not wealthy, but I am sure that of all the ways Joplin and the state of Missouri spends my tax dollars, supporting BFJ is not a big concern for me. Have you volunteered? Do you help meet needs? Or do you just like to complain and sit in the cheap seats?

5:30 - how do you know Huff promised them jobs? What proof do you have? If Joplin bothers you so much, because they aren't honoring your whims, don't let the door hit you on the way out. Bye! Take your kids and go!

No one has answered my questions from earlier. I would like to know what you will all do if the BoE approves this action? From the Board meeting the other night, Ridder said that in close session they felt more changes needed to be made. That doesn't sound like someone who is in opposition to this motion. What will you all do when your golden boy shows you he thinks this program needs to stay and focus on meeting kids day-to-day food and clothing needs?

Anonymous said...

6:56 get a clue. There is a large nonprofit and faith based sector in the community to help families in crisis. If Joplin R8 collaborated and made referrals, they could get families to those agencies who are trained to move families out of poverty. This is not the function of a school district. Good riddance Bright Futures - it's past time for you to go!

Anonymous said...

Echoing 8:46 PM, an institution can be good at only so many things. Joplin Schools might be more effective at their job of education if they focused less on things like Bright Futures, and simply made referrals. Less manufactured glory for the school administrators, but almost certainly more effective.