Sunday, December 13, 2015

Bright Futures paying rent again as board decision nears

At the same time that the Joplin R-8 Board of Education is preparing to make a decision on whether to essentially turn over control of Bright Futures Joplin to an unelected advisory board and steer the money to an outside entity, it appears there will be no changes in the way BFJ is operated.

The board is expected to make a decision on the Bright Futures Joplin Memorandum of Understanding during its 7 p.m. Tuesday meeting. It will also be asked to approve a $900 expenditure to College Fund Properties LLC for a "BF Student Need," according to the bills list.

The paying of rent and other big-ticket items by Bright Futures Joplin has been criticized over the past several months and it could get worse if the operations of BFJ are taken out from under the control of the Board of Education.

The agreement calls for the superintendent to continue to line up donors for BFJ, without any say in reining in its spending. This could easily lead to a situation in which more money is being donated to Bright Futures as it steers further and further away from its initial mission, while at the same time people who are giving money to BFJ might not be inclined to contribute to other school-related causes which may benefit students and education even more.

The memorandum also would continue to give Bright Futures Joplin access to confidential student records, with no real oversight from elected officials or the administrators hired by those elected officials.

And to top it all off, the memorandum would require taxpayers to foot the bill for 60 percent of the salaries for Executive Director Melissa Winston and Executive Coordinator Dale Peterson.

And this is all for something that could probably be handled by one person at some level of R-8 administration, working with the volunteers who are the heart of Bright Futures anyway.

For our money, we would be getting nothing other than more of the C. J. Huff nonsense that R-8 voters have made clear they want eliminated from the school district. The memorandum of understanding includes Huff Administration buzzwords like coordinating, marketing, public relations, networking, "liaison with community stakeholders" and "service learning."

Whatever happened to the concept of discovering a student need, publicizing it through social media, and the community responding. Apparently, that Bright Futures no longer exists in Joplin (though it does in other communities, including the ones who no longer use the name).

The best thing that could happen to the Joplin R-8 School District would be to end the district's affiliation with Bright Futures USA and tell Melissa Winston and the Bright Futures Advisory Board thanks, but no thanks.

Maintain the idea of meeting student needs within 24 hours, but not when it comes to paying rent or other big ticket items. The people at Bright Futures are not qualified to do that.

The other programs that have come under the umbrella of Bright Futures, primarily Operation College Bound and the service learning aspects, need to be removed from its jurisdiction. Service learning has always been a component of the education at Joplin High School, even before C. J. Huff began using the concept for political gain. Let the high school, middle schools, and even elementary schools develop their own programs.

As for Operation College Bound, the idea of exposing elementary students to college and getting them to think about it at an early age sounds like a good one, but this program was emphasized and money was poured into it at the same time that education was being shortchanged by R-8 administrators and more than half of the faculty was leaving the district. Taking care of student learning, the main purpose of a school district, was not a top priority for the Huff Administration. Convincing children to start thinking about college is not going to be much help if you do not have the teachers, the curriculum, and the common sense to give them all of the tools they need to be able to attend college and to succeed.

The board should reject this memorandum of understanding.
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Anonymous said...

Guess it needs to be said again: Don't break trust with the generous donors who gave money for children's needs - not SALARIES and overhead. There are privacy rights that must be observed, as well. Give it to the schools where teachers, counselors and nurses know who needs what, and have principals to oversee the process. Less overhead and more oversight ...

Anonymous said...

Since the board action & MOU say the exact opposite of what you've written here, perhaps you should read them again.

Anonymous said...

6:17 PM: I think you need to be more specific, for example say "On page 4, paragraph 3 of the MOU, it says X and you say Y." A blanket assertion that, unlike all the other times our host has been right, he's wrong here isn't by itself very credible or interesting.