Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Bright Futures wins the battle, but did it lose the war?
Be careful what you wish for.
The Joplin R-8 Board of Education, by a 7-0 vote, approved a memorandum of understanding with Bright Futures Joplin that will allow what has been a school program since 2010 to operate independently.
From all appearances, the Bright Futures Joplin Advisory Board, or whoever was pushing the memorandum, got almost everything they wanted.
Not only is Bright Futures Joplin, independent, but the school district will pay the full salaries of Executive Director Melissa Winston and Executive Coordinator Dale Peterson out of the operatinb fund. Previously, the money for their salaries came out of what donors had given to Bright Futures and placed in the district activity fund.. After January 1, contributions will go to Bright Futures through the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.
Two paragraphs were removed from the memorandum which would have required the superintendent to help Bright Futures Joplin with it fundraising.
Though the memorandum received unanimous approval, the concept of paying two full-time officials out of the operating fund did not. That only passed by a 4-3 margin with board members Lynda Banwart, Sallie Beard, Ron Gatz, and Gary Nodler approved the memorandum, with Debbie Fort, Jeff Koch, and Jennifer Martucci casting dissenting votes.
Despite the 7-0 vote, there were hints tonight that the vote may have only prolonged the existence of Bright Futures, while at the same time marginalizing the organization.
Though Bright Futures Joplin is an independent not-for-profit following tonight's vote, Winston and Peterson still work for the district and not for the Bright Futures Joplin Advisory Board. Their employment is only guaranteed through the end of this school year and will be considered along with other personnel when it comes time to prepare a budget for the next fiscal year.
A mention was also made during the meeting that district officials can take student needs to Bright Futures or other agencies, leaving the possibility that the organization may have to get its act together and stick to its original purpose.
Interim Superintendent Norm Ridder also made it clear that district money will no longer be used to pay rent, which would mean that the $900 Bright Futures student need rent payment approved by a 6-1 margin (Fort voted against it) along with other bills will be the last time that line item is presented to the Board.
While Bright Futures Joplin has won the battle, it could very well have made it easier for the next Board of Education to marginalize or completely eliminate the not-for-profit's connection with the district- something that is clearly permitted under the memorandum of understanding