Sunday, January 31, 2016

Zach Williams graduation controversy is about community and humanity

In a community where everything has been lost in the prism of May 22, 2011, sometimes it is easy to overlook basic truths.

It is also easy to overlook basic humanity.

Such has been the case with the continuing controversy surrounding the request by Zach Williams' mother to have a chair draped with a cap and gown when graduation ceremonies are held May 22, 2016, the five-year anniversary of the tornado that took her son's life.

The decision was made to list Zach, along with other students and staff members who lost their lives in the tornado, during a part of the ceremony, which will include a moment of silence.

While this is an appropriate remembrance, it misses the point.

Zach Williams was not just someone who lost his life in the tornado- he would have been a member of the Class of 2016.

Actually, except for the fact that it ended Zach's life, this really has nothing to do with the tornado.

It has everything to do with basic humanity and with community.

People have written some horrible things about Zach's family and its quest to see his memory honored. Zach's mother has been accused of being selfish and putting her needs above the wishes of the members of the JHS Class of 2016.

Some particularly cruel social media comments have noted that Zach may not have graduated this year, with one even noting that he may not have made it to graduation because of the growing suicide rate among teens.

While some seniors who knew Zach have supported the efforts to have a chair for their former classmate, others have complained that it would be too "somber" and this graduation event is about the ones who will receive their diplomas.

In other words, it's sad that Zach couldn't make it, but we did, and it is all about us.

In his December 4 message to parents, Joplin High School Principal Kerry Sachetta reviewed the thought process that went into his decision to reject Zach's mother's request:

Our current and longstanding practice is to recognize students who pass away at any point while attending Joplin High School by announcing their names and holding a moment of silence to honor them during the graduation ceremony. We have recognized ten high school students in this manner over the last several years. This recent request and the conversations occurring on social media and in our community have challenged us to review this practice. Is this the best way to honor students? Should we expand this to include students who never attended our high school but attended Joplin Schools? How would we ensure students weren’t forgotten? Is this appropriate during what is typically a celebratory event? What do other schools in our area do? And, what we believe is the most important question, what do our students think? Graduation is, after all, a celebration and recognition of their accomplishments.

As I read that, I remembered a Jasper High School graduation I covered many years ago, in which the graduating class remembered one of its own, Jessica Jo Lynn. Jessica was not taken from this earth while she was in high school, but during a fire when she was nine years old. Nine years had passed, but her classmates never forgot her and wanted to make sure she was included in their special moment.

Can you imagine how important that moment was to Jessica's family?

The practice of having a chair with a cap and gown on it has been used at many area schools.

Unfortunately, the situation has escalated in Joplin The threats to hold protests if the empty chair is not allowed have only served, understandably, to stiffen the resolve of school officials. We have reached the point where no one seems willing to make a move in the direction of doing what would serve the community best.

And let's be clear about one thing- while the spotlight at the graduation ceremony shines most brightly on those who cross the stage and receive their diplomas, commencement has been, and always will be, a community activity.

Community is not just a word to be summoned by school officials whenever it is time to pass a bond issue or increase a tax levy. The Joplin R-8 community must be an inclusive one and the best message that can be sent to the community is that Joplin Schools do not leave anyone behind.

This would be the perfect time to start a new tradition. A folding chair with a cap and gown should placed with the students when the ceremony is held at Missouri Southern State University less than four\months from now, but it should not be for just Zach Williams. One of the people who commented on Facebook, noted that one of her siblings would have graduated this year, but she was not asking for anything special.

She should.

A chair signifying those who lost their lives far too early would be a sign of a Joplin High School graduating class that never forgets. Invitations to the graduation should be sent to the parents of those children. While the reading of the names of those who receive diplomas should be limited to those who will actually receive them, nothing is wrong with putting a few extra names on the program noting those who have passed.

These actions would not detract from any of the attention being given to the members of the graduating class any more than the listing of people who died during the preceding year detracts from the Academy Awards. It is done at schools across this country and it has never cheapened the graduation experience.

And again, think of how much this thoughtful action would mean to these parents to know that no matter how many years have passed, their children remain alive in the hearts and memories of their classmates.

The people of Joplin earned the praise they received for their response to the tornado, but the tornado, despite the important role it has played in our lives, is not the sum total of who we are.

Graduation ceremonies are celebrations of accomplishment and the prospect of unlimited horizons, but it never hurts to take a moment and look back on what might have been.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

I Survived the Joplin Tornado, Turner-Hacker books top Amazon list

The latest in Lauren Tarshis I Survived books, I Survived the Joplin Tornado, continues to top the Amazon charts for books about the May 22, 2011 natural disaster.

The number two and three books on the list were from Carthage Press Managing Editor John Hacker and me, 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado and Spirit of Hope: The Year After the Joplin Tornado.

Amazon lists 25 books (not including books that are only available in an e-book format) about the tornado, including the newly-published Joplin Tornado Survival Stories by Emily O'Keefe.

1. I Survived the Joplin Tornado, Lauren Tarshes 3,862
2. 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado, Randy Turner and John Hacker 109,760
3. Spirit of Hope: The Year After the Joplin Tornado, Randy Turner and John Hacker 251,309
4. 32 Minutes in May, Joplin Globe 676,030
5. Joplin 5:41, Kansas City Star 1,102,252
6. Simple Pleasures, Kenna White 1,233,692
7. Joplin Tornado Survival Stories, Emily O'Keefe 1,361,376
8. Singing Over Me, Danielle Stammer 1,403,321
9. Lily: A True Story of Courage and the Joplin Tornado, Carolyn Mueller 1,509,364
10. 5/22: Stories of Survival, Stories of Faith, Scott Hettinger 1,974,511
11. Miracle of the Human Spirit, Mark Rohr 2,130,385
12. When the Sirens Were Silent, Mike Smith 2,237,910
13. Life After the Storm, Debbie Fleitman 2,312,629
14. Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud, Greed, Corruption, and the Joplin Tornado, Randy Turner 2,396,159
15. Hindsight: Lessons Learned from the Joplin Tornado, Zac Rantz and Stephen Kleinsmith, 2,495,881
16. Tornado Warning: The Extraordinary Women of Joplin, Tamara Hart Heiner, 2,575,934
17. When the Storm Passes, Julie Jett 2,830,623
18. Using Social Media in Disaster Recovery, David Burton, Genevieve Williams, Rebecca Williams, 2,834,630
19. Shatterproof, Katrina Hoover 2,841,944
20. Joplin Missouri: Tornado of May 22, 2011, David Prevatt 3,296,502
21. Scars From the Tornado: One Year at Joplin East Middle School, Randy Turner 3,546,050
22. Out of the Wind, D. Ed Hoggatt, 3,808,455
23. Joplin Tornado House of Hope, Tim Bartow 4,204,581
24. 20th and Rangeline, Thomas Meisinger 5,734,833
25. Mayday in Joplin, Donald Clugston 6,489,479
Copies of 5:41, Spirit of Hope, Scars from the Tornado, and Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud are available at Always Buying Books and Changing Hands Book Shoppe in Joplin, and Pat's Books in Carthage (and are sometimes carried at Vintage Stock on the Mall). 5:41 and Silver Lining are also available at The Book Guy in Joplin. All titles are available in paperback and e-book formats at

Protest considered for Joplin High School Graduation ceremony over Zach Williams request

The controversy over how former East Middle School student Zach Williams, who was killed in the May 22, 2011, tornado should be recognized during graduation ceremonies for the Joplin High School Class of 2016 continues with plans for a protest if Williams is not recognized with a chair with a cap and gown draped over it.

Printed below are the statement issued by Joplin High School Principal December 4 concerning the request by Zach's family. Though Sachetta's statement was originally published December 4 on the district website, it received more attention Friday when R-8 Board of Education President Jeff Koch linked to it on his Jeff Koch for School Board Facebook page. After Sachetta's statement is the response posted this morning on the Zach Williams Memorial Facebook page by Georgiann Diener:

A message from Joplin High School Principal Dr. Kerry Sachetta

Recently, a parent in our district made a request to have her son, who passed away during the May 2011 tornado, recognized during the May 2016 JHS graduation ceremony. He was in seventh grade at the time of his death and would have graduated with the Class of 2016.

Our current and longstanding practice is to recognize students who pass away at any point while attending Joplin High School by announcing their names and holding a moment of silence to honor them during the graduation ceremony. We have recognized ten high school students in this manner over the last several years. This recent request and the conversations occurring on social media and in our community have challenged us to review this practice. Is this the best way to honor students? Should we expand this to include students who never attended our high school but attended Joplin Schools? How would we ensure students weren’t forgotten? Is this appropriate during what is typically a celebratory event? What do other schools in our area do? And, what we believe is the most important question, what do our students think? Graduation is, after all, a celebration and recognition of their accomplishments.

This week, we spoke with several seniors at JHS to help inform the review of our current practice and to help us make our decision. These students represented a broad and diverse mix of our student population. We also spoke with several staff members. We shared our current practice and the additional plans to mark the five-year anniversary of the tornado, which includes holding a moment of silence and displaying the names of the Joplin Schools' students and staff member who passed away. We also shared details of the request that was made by the parents, which includes an empty seat at graduation decorated with a cap and gown and the student’s name read aloud during the naming of students as they cross the stage to accept their diplomas. Overwhelmingly, the students preferred that our current practice remain intact. The staff members we spoke to felt the same. Our students feel it is appropriate to make an exception to our current practice to help honor these parents' son by listing his name and the names of the other students and staff member lost during the tornado on a screen during the ceremony and holding a moment of silence to honor them. They also suggested adding the class these students would have belonged to on the screen as an additional recognition, which we will do. In this way, our students will honor a classmate who would have graduated with the Class of 2016 and all those we lost as a district that terrible day.

After wrestling with the questions raised by this discussion and seeking feedback from our students, it was their input that helped us to decide at this time to leave our current practice in place. We have shared this decision with the parents who requested that we make a change to this practice. Our hearts and thoughts are with this family and all of those throughout our district who have lost a child. There is not a more difficult event to imagine. We appreciate the feedback we have received from our parents and community and especially the feedback from our students. We are proud of their thoughtfulness and compassion during these discussions and their willingness to share their thoughts, concerns and ideas.

Dr. Kerry Sachetta
Joplin High School Principa

And the response:

We the mothers supporting Tammy have our own statement/

I VERY STRONGLY disagree with this decision on JOPLIN R-8 school systems, not to honor the request from this mother that came and asked for this to honor her son. He talks about all of the people he talked to.. lots of people have told me they were a select chosen few students and teachers not the voice of all the students in class of 2016.... ... And he never says anything about talking to any mental heath prefessionals, because we, the whole community Joplin , and SW Missouri lived through one of the worst tornadoes on United States Soil.. I think we all carry little bit that with us ... And as a community we need to heal .

Just maybe Joplin R-8 School should have thought about every student and parent, called in mental health officials, from school and public to make decisions not to disturb anyone's healing process.

Tammy Niederhelman lost her home, her son, everything... now five short years later Joplin R-8 school who received money from Sheryl Chow to the tune of 260 thousand dollars ( this money went to R8 school ) Sheryl Crow has a heart and compassion to help people hurting, grieving, and in need .. But they can not reach out and pay that same love and compassion .. They want to make every excuse possible not to give a grieving mother a memory chair with cap and gown draped over it... A CHAIR THAT COST NOTHING TO THE SCHOOL SYSTEM >>> THAT EMPTY MEMORY CHAIR WILL CAUSE NO HARM TO ANY ONE ATTENDING THIS GRADUATION !!!! ... 

Myself and a group of other mothers from around Carthage, Carterville, and Webb City area want to help this mother's voice be heard across America. One of us has lost a child, Carthage R9 just did it for family they never asked or had a fight... I myself went got permission to use our 1st Amendment right to hold peaceful civil protest and a chair for Zachary outside... I was told it would be no problem as long as I follow rules. We do not want to protest graduation but we will!

 We are planning on having civil protests in February, March, April and graduation if it comes down to that... We are working with the Joplin Police Department to get all paperwork filled and follow rules for civil peaceful protest... I am working every day to get national media to pick up this story... It was picked up today from a southwest Missouri paper and was in Houston Texas today... 

So Tammy Niederhelman is getting around America.... And people have made comments We are making Joplin R-8 school system look bad.... No, they did that to themselves... We are just trying to make Tammy Niederhelman's voice load enough they will meet with public and school mental health professionals and reconsider.

But Joplin High School's principal made a comment on local radio KSMU Radio .. If she got 5,000 signatures, she was not getting a chair... You can go listen for yourself.... So in other word we the people whose tax dollars, federal and state, rebuilt Joplin Schools,  we have no say.

No matter. This boy isn't just a number that passed away on May 22, 2011; this boy was a member of the Class of 2016!

Republic takes to Facebook in effort to retain Joplin waste hauling service

Republic Services has taken to Facebook and direct mail in an effort to hold on to its trash hauling contract for the City of Joplin.

The Joplin City Council will vote Monday night on a recommendation to award the contract to Waste Corporation of Missouri.

Joplin residents received the direct mail pitch from Republic late in the week. 

The Facebook message reads as follows:

ATTN: Residents of Joplin, MO.

Your city staff members are recommending changing your provider of waste services on February 1, 2016, at the 6:00 PM City Council meeting. You could potentially miss out on the benefits of your current service, including:

• Excellent service and great value
• 10-year history with your city
• Extra garbage carts at no additional charge
• The risk of service loss from switching
• And much more!

Contact your City Council members by phone or email. You're invited to attend the meeting to show your support for your current preferred provider.

The message on the direct mail emphasized Republic's 10 years of service to the city, referring to the company as "Joplin's Trusted Trash Provider," and adding "You deserve the lowest trash price and the most reliable service

"Given the 10-year history, no interruptions or changes to service, and that Republic is the LOWEST trash price, WHY WOULD JOPLIN SWITCH?"

The reasons for the proposed change were spelled out in a release issued Friday by the City of Joplin, which can be found at this link.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Billy Long: I will fight to keep North Korea and Iran from reaching their goals

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

Less than a month into the New Year, military aggressions from North Korea and Iran have already raised debate over what actions America should take in response. For both nations, these muscle-flexing antics are just the latest in a long list of provocations against the U.S., which only underscore the need for swift condemnation and increased caution toward relaxed nuclear policies.

On January 6th, North Korea claimed to have successfully conducted its first hydrogen bomb test. Just six days later, hours before President Obama's final State of the Union Address, Iran took ten American sailors into their custody. Before the sailors were released, they were forced to kneel while the lone female sailor was forced to wear a hijab. The Iranians also coerced an apology out of one of our sailors at gunpoint, which was broadcasted on Iranian television for the "mistake" of non-aggressively skirting Iran's waters. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, has publicly capitalized on the stunt, calling the sailors' arrest "God's deed" and symbolic of Iran's "might" over the U.S.

Likewise, following North Korea's alleged H-bomb test, they propagated America as a "gang of cruel robbers" who plan to destroy North Korea. This came days after North Korean authorities arrested a college student from Virginia they are still detaining for an unspecified "hostile act." As in the past, however, it's most likely that he's being unjustly held as a negotiation pawn.

North Korea's claim has spurred scrutiny over what bomb was actually tested. However, it is clear to many experts that this test indicates that their nuclear capabilities are advancing. Iran's nuclear advancements have also been shrouded due to decades of non-compliance with U.N. inspectors, strategic facility concealments, and outright lies.

Since reports of the hydrogen bomb test in North Korea and sailors' capture in Iran, I've received many calls from constituents asking what can be done. I remain opposed to the administration's nuclear deal with Iran. It has a litany of reckless flaws and we must realize that Iran - like North Korea and other nations under totalitarian rule - have proven untrustworthy of the reasonable expectation that they'd adhere to any agreement at all.

The House of Representatives is already working to send a strong message that the United States will not tolerate these provocations. With a resounding 418-2 margin on January 12th, I helped the House pass the "North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act," which blocks North Korea's access to hard currency and sanctions financiers that aid their missile programs. It also ensures that anyone who conducts business to bolster North Korea's policies cannot be contracted by the U.S. government.

The House is also fighting against some of the most egregious aspects of the administration's Iran nuclear deal, and will vote on the "Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act" this February. As the deal stands, America's ability to sanction bad actors in Iran - like Bank Saderat or the National Iranian Oil Company, which have been used to transfer money to terror groups and the regime – could be severely weakened. This bill would restrict the president's ability to remove sanctions without certifications from Congress that the entities or individuals in question have not facilitated funding for terror groups or have been connected to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

I will continue fighting any policies that would allow North Korea or Iran to get one step closer to their goals. As long as their nations prove untrustworthy, we should be showing them condemnation instead of offering olive branch agreements which will only continue to enable dangerous lusts for power.

City officials explain Joplin solid waste contract

(From the City of Joplin)

During the February 1, 2016 meeting of the Joplin City Council, Council members will consider a five-year contract with Waste Corporation of Missouri, Inc. for a monthly rate of $11.79 for residents in one and two-family dwellings. The proposed contract, if approved, would go into effect April 1, 2016.

This is $1.06 less than the current rate being paid by residents, which is $12.85.

Residents will receive a new 95 gallon polycart. In addition to the trash service, WCA provides weekly curbside bulky item pick-up on their same days of trash service without having to schedule the pick-up as has been required in the past.

Residents would also have a choice to opt in to receive curbside recycling pick-up for $15.79 per month, which is only $2.94 more than the current price for trash. This option would be decided on an individual basis. A separate recycling polycart will be provided with this service.


The City published a Request for Proposal (RFP) in October of 2015. The purpose of requesting proposals for trash service is to ask proponents to provide proposals in response to the specifications required by the City. The RFP spelled out the scope of work and quality of service to be provided by the successful proponent. The City received three proposals on December 15th. A Selection Committee of four staff members and one member of the Solid Waste Commission reviewed the proposals. After review and evaluation of the proposals, Waste Corporation of Missouri, Inc. was identified as the best and lowest cost proponent.

Other items to note:

“Residential” service is defined as One & Two family dwellings, not multi-family. Any multi-family dwelling units and all commercial/industrial customers will be able to contract with any licensed waste hauler of their choosing.

Residents will have a choice to select between the Trash Only option or to select the Trash plus Curbside Recycling option.

Once a contract is in place, City will be working with the Vendor to implement a program of communicating with all potential customers in order to document their selected option.

The City’s contract with the transfer station (where people take their larger items, near Galena) is not related to this contract for residential trash service. It will be bid at a later date.

The Joplin Recycling Center will continue to operate as usual for residents who want to use the facility. The Center accepts items that won't be accepted by the hauler on curbside recycling such as glass containers and household chemicals. The Center will also continue to serve residents and businesses that are not part of the WCA contract.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Charges against Duenweg sex offender include online child sex shows

(From the U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri)

A registered sex offender in Duenweg, Mo., has been charged in federal court with paying to watch online sex shows with children in the Philippines.

Paul L. Sipeer, 65, of Duenweg, was charged in a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Springfield, Mo., on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. The complaint charges Sipeer with receiving child pornography over the Internet. Sipeer had his initial court appearance today and remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016.

Sipeer is a registered sex offender with a 1992 conviction for sexual abuse in the first degree involving the physical harm of a 7-year-old child.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the federal criminal complaint, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents learned that Sipeer was conducting online money transfers between $10 and $20 several times a month during the summer of 2015 to individuals in the Philippines.

Money transfers, conducted through Western Union and MoneyGram, are often used to send funds to pay for sexual performances by children in the Philippines. In prior investigations conducted by HSI, small amounts of money, typically between $5 and $100, are often sent to individuals in the Philippines. In return, the recipients would have young children perform sexual acts on webcams for the senders. Often the senders would send additional payments for continued and/or repeat performances.

Upon further investigation, the affidavit says, agents learned that Sipeer had making money transfers to various individuals in the Philippines since January 2013, in amounts ranging up to $480.

On Jan. 26, 2016, law enforcement officers contacted Sipeer at his residence. According to the affidavit, Sipeer told the officers he sent money to the Philippines to pay for “sex shows.” Sipeer said he has sent approximately $1,200 to the Philippines in total.

Sipeer consented to a search of his residence, including his computer. Officers located images of child pornography during a preview of Sipeer’s computer.

U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri Tammy Dickinson cautioned that the charge contained in this complaint is simply an accusation, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charge must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney James J. Kelleher. It was investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force.

Solid waste contract on tap for Joplin City Council Monday

February 1, 2016
6:00 P.M., Council Chambers
Call To Order
Pledge of Allegiance of the United States of America
Roll Call
Update From Joplin Proud Committee By Terry Wachter
Finalization Of Consent Agenda
Reports And Communications
Citizen Requests And Petitions
Request To Address Council
Request to address Council from Jill Cornell, Executive Director of the Harry S. Truman Coordinating Council – to introduce herself to Council as the Executive Director.
Public Hearings
AN ORDINANCE providing for the vacation of a public street right-of-way located at the northeast corner of Broadway Street and Buchanan Road, in the City of Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri.
AN ORDINANCE amending Ordinance No. 2004-256, passed by the Council of the City of Joplin, Missouri, November 15, 2004, by removing from District R-1 and including in District C-1-PD property as described below and located at 1820 South St. Louis Avenue in the City of Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri.
AN ORDINANCE providing for the vacation of a 20-foot wide public utility easement located at the southeast corner of 20th Street and Arizona Avenue in the City of Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri.
Consent Agenda
Minutes Of The January 14, 2016 Special Joplin City Council Meeting
Minutes Of The January 19, 2016 Meeting
Documents: JAN 19 2016.PDF
Ordinances - Emergency
AN ORDINANCE approving the acceptance of surplus right of way from the State of Missouri by and through the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission for the extension of 37th Street, authorizing the City Manager to execute the appropriate documents; and containing an emergency clause.
AN ORDINANCE approving a contract for solid waste and single-stream recycling collection, disposal, and processing services for single-family and duplex residential living units, as well as for City owned buildings, facilities, and operations; and dealing generally with the residential trash service established by Ordinance in 2004; and adding City facilities to said contract/agreement; and authorizing the Director of Public Works to execute the same by and on behalf of the City of Joplin, and containing an emergency clause.
AN ORDINANCE approving an agreement for Anderson Engineering for Two Hundred Sixty Seven Thousand Seven and no/100 Dollars ($267,007.00) for Engineering Services Associated with continued design of infrastructure projects in the recovery area and containing an emergency clause.
AN ORDINANCE authorization to accept an Agreement by and between the City of Joplin and Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission,  for Air Traffic Control Tower Operating Assistance Grant Agreement for Air Traffic Control Services by the City of Joplin; and containing an emergency clause.
AN ORDINANCE authorizing the City of Joplin to enter into a Sub-Recipient Agreement with Jasper County Juvenile Detention Center in the amount of Two Hundred Seventy-Nine Thousand Eight Hundred and Forty dollars ($279,840.00) to pay salaries for staff to provide skills training as well as mental health, educational and skill services to juveniles in the City of Joplin who suffer from conditions related to the May 2011 tornado, authorizing the Director of Planning, Development and Neighborhood Services of the City of Joplin, Missouri to execute said Agreement; and containing an emergency clause. 
AN ORDINANCE approving the City of Joplin to execute Change Order Number 2 to Work Authorization Number 2 of the Master Services Agreement for Professional Administrative Consulting Services with Deloitte & Touche, LLP to provide implementation and administrative activities, not to exceed Two Hundred Forty Eight Thousand Three Hundred and Thirty Eight Dollars ($248,338.00) and authorizing the Director of Planning, Development and Neighborhood Services to execute said Agreement; and containing an emergency clause. 
AN ORDINANCE approving the City of Joplin to execute Amendment Number 6 to the Professional Services Agreement for Professional Administrative Consulting Services with Deloitte Financial Advisory Services to provide implementation and administrative activities, not to exceed Two Hundred and Forty Two Thousand Dollars ($242,000.00) and authorizing the Director of Planning, Development and Neighborhood Services to execute said Agreement; and containing an emergency clause. 
AN ORDINANCE amending the Annual Budget of the City of Joplin for the Fiscal Year 2014-2015 as adopted by Ordinance 2014-177 on October 20, 2014, to adjust appropriations in various funds and containing an emergency clause.
AN ORDINANCE authorizing the City of Joplin to enter into a five year lease agreement with VGM Financial Services, a division of TCF National Bank, for the leasing of golf course equipment to the City of Joplin in the amount of One Hundred Thirty Nine Thousand Eight Hundred Thirty One and 00/100 Dollars ($139,831.00); authorizing the City Manager to execute said Agreement by and on behalf of the City of Joplin, Missouri; and containing an emergency clause.
Ordinances - First Reading
Amending the Classification and Pay Plan adopted by Ordinance No. 2012-173 and authorizing new classification titles for the Parks and Recreation Department.
Ordinances - Second Reading And Third Reading
Unfinished Business
New Business
Discussion On The Waiver Of The Residency Requirement For Police Chief.

State audit to focus on cybersecurity in Waynesville School District

(From State Auditor Nicole Galloway)

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway announced today that her office has begun an audit of the Waynesville School District in Pulaski County. The audit, which is part of Auditor Galloway's Cyber Aware School Initiative, will evaluate the district's current measures to protect student data and offer recommendations for increased security.

"Our schools deal every day with sensitive information, including health files, student performance records and parents' personal information," Auditor Galloway said. "I understand the very real concern that my private information, or my children's, could end up in the wrong hands. My team will look at Waynesville's current practices to ensure the district is taking proactive steps to keep data secure."

Waynesville is one of five school districts selected for review by the State Auditor's Office for the cybersecurity initiative. Auditors are already reviewing Boonville School District in Cooper County and will begin audits in three other districts around the state: Cape Girardeau School District in Cape Girardeau County, Orchard Farm School District in St. Charles County and Park Hill School District in Platte County.

Individuals who would like to provide information for consideration during the audit may contact the State Auditor's Office at or 800-347-8597.

Since taking office Auditor Galloway has made cybersecurity a priority across all components of government, including Missouri schools. The Cyber Aware School Audits are part of an ongoing emphasis on data protection practices and keeping Missourians' information secure.

Domestic violence victim: I shouldn't be alive

In this era of 24-hour news cycles, the horrible events of one day are nearly forgotten by the next, except for those who have to live with their aftermath.

In Joplin, one of those horrifying events took place June 10, 2015, when police say Stephen R. Thompson, 54, shot his wife and one of her friends, killing the friend. Jasper County online court records indicate Thompson was violating a full order of protection that had been issued only nine days earlier.

Thompson was charged with first degree murder, domestic assault, and two counts of armed criminal action. The next hearing in his case is scheduled for Monday, February 8, in Jasper County Circuit Court.

While Thompson's case is being handled in the judicial system, those who have been most affected by the crimes he is charged with committing continue to deal with the consequences, including his former wife.

Kristina Dines has shared her story on a GoFundMe site in an effort to deal with the expenses that have come as a result of the attack that nearly killed her.

On June 10th 2015, my husband who had an ex parte filed on him by me, entered my home carrying a 12 gauge shotgun and opened up my bedroom door raised the gun took aim, fired and shot my friend Carrissa (Girard).

We escaped out the window of my room. She ran to the privacy fence climbed over and dropped down and died. 

I ran to the fence and was shot multiple times- the worst when I was at the top of the fence and getting ready to drop down. He shot me close range in the abdomen with bird shot. I was blown apart. I crab crawled to the neighbors back door holding my guts in and banged my head on the door. They pulled me in and I am alive still. 

My 17-year-old witnessed all of this. He was unharmed physically. I was in a coma for two months and on ventilator. I coded several times, received dialysis and shouldn't be alive. I lost three toes, some intestines and some of my liver, too. I have a massive scar on my tummy. 

I struggle everyday. I filed for disability and it is on hold ... I am unable to hold a job right now and need help bad. I have four children two/are with their father from a previous marriage. I lost housing and my ability to work. I have tried to get on my feet myself. I keep having setbacks and have to return to the hospital for recurring abscesses caused by the shrapnel in my body. I need help establishing my self again ...anything would help ...thank you in advance...Krissy

A goal of $5,000 has been set. Those interested in contributing can find more information at this link.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Joplin R-8 discipline and the Joplin Globe's alternate version of reality

In at least three R-8 Board of Education meetings, Interim Superintendent Norm Ridder has talked about the discipline and behavior problems in the Joplin schools.

During Tuesday night's meeting, following a presentation by Executive Director of Secondary Education Jason Cravens and Safety Director Jim Hounschell on the recently conducted safety audit of district facilities, Ridder talked about the importance of improving behavior, including disciplinary issues and bullying in improving safety.

I waited to write this because I wanted to see how it was handled in the Joplin Globe. As I expected, just like the other times Ridder has mentioned the behavior problems in the district, not one word was printed, despite numerous details being offered about other parts of the safety audit.

This is not a case of simply leaving out one part of the story because there is not room for everything. Ridder made it clear how important the discipline issue is.

Discipline in the school district has been a factor in many of the problems the district has faced the past few years. I have talked with teachers, good teachers, who left Joplin R-8 because their administrators did not back them when it came to disciplinary issues.

Ridder says solving the discipline problem will take care of a lot of the safety problems in the school district. It has played a major role in the departure of more than half of the district's teachers.

And yet it is not mentioned in the Joplin Globe.

Is the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce making the editorial decisions for Joplin's newspaper of record? Is there a fear that businesses won't locate here if they know the Joplin Schools have problems when it comes to student behavior?

Or has it reached the point where the Globe no longer reports news and prefers to create its own version of reality?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Illinois superintendent hired for Fayetteville post, Huff loses out

(From the Fayetteville, Arkansas Board of Education)

Fayetteville Board of Education Names Dr. Matthew A. Wendt as the New Superintendent

After collectively spending hundreds of hours recruiting applicants, interviewing dozens of leads and references by phone, and spending more than 15 hours in executive session interviewing candidates and discussing their possible fit with Fayetteville, the Fayetteville Board of Education has selected Dr. Matthew A. Wendt to be the next superintendent of the Fayetteville Public Schools. Dr. Wendt is currently the superintendent in Oswego, IL, heading a district of more than 18,000 students. The Fayetteville Board of Education voted unanimously to name Wendt as the new superintendent, pending the successful negotiation of a contract.

The board started with an applicant pool of more than 30 interested school administrators and narrowed the list to six candidates to interview, ultimately interviewing five after one withdrew before the interview was conducted. The initial list included superintendents from around the country, including at least two who had been named superintendent of the year in their respective states.

Board president Tim Hudson stated, “We are fortunate to have had such a strong applicant pool, and I appreciate the work this board did in researching and interviewing candidates. I am especially grateful to our current superintendent, Dr. Paul Hewitt, for his invaluable advice and for helping recruit or recommend a number of the top applicants. The board is confident that in Dr. Wendt we have found a leader who will embrace the district’s strategic plan that is being developed and build on our strengths to take Fayetteville Public Schools to national prominence.”

Dr. Wendt and his wife will visit Fayetteville next week."

Former Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff was one of the four finalists for the position.

More change for Joplin Schools- what a little transparency can do

It did not make for riveting television unless you are the type who spends your days watching CSpan.

Tonight's Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting did not include a presentation or performance designed to give the televised session more the appearance of a variety show than a public meeting.

No one's face reddened when questions were asked and we did not have any speeches toward the end of the meeting designed to push a particular agenda.

It was not must see TV.

It was a breath of fresh air.

For months, the Joplin R-8 Board of Education meetings were the stuff of soap operas. Who could forget C. J. Huff;s redfaced attacks on board member Debbie Fort or the unsuccessful efforts to appoint new board members that led to the decision being handed to the Jasper County Commission?

That type of meeting is a thing of the past, gone, but hopefully not forgotten, lest we allow it to happen again at some point.

In the January 24 Turner Report, I pointed out the changes that have taken place as a result of the Board of Education, changes that included the "retirement" of Superintendent C. J. Huff, the removal and impending departures of Director of Curriculum and Instruction Sarah Stevens and East Middle School Principal Bud Sexson, and the elimination of the expensive outside consultants of the Core Collaborative.

The change that has taken place in the R-8 School District is most evident in an item on tonight's agenda that will never be mentioned in the Joplin Globe and yet was probably the most important signal that a new day has arrived.

In the past, the Huff Administration used the consent agenda as a place to bury items that the superintendent did not want to discuss in open session. The consent agenda is supposed to be the place for mundane items that need to be done, but should not take up the board's valuable time. With C. J. Huff at the helm, some of the most important and controversial items were placed on the consent agenda and were voted on without the public ever finding about them.

That practice was slowed down after Debbie Fort was elected to the board in the April 2014 election. Fort questioned the placement of the items on the consent agenda and had many of them moved to the regular agenda for public discussion. Fellow board member Jim Kimbrough also began questioning the consent agenda items and after the April 2015 election, questions were also asked by board members Jennifer Martucci and Jeff Koch.

Items that Huff placed on the consent agenda included the proposal to pay $100,000 to get the right color for the bleachers in the Joplin High School gymnasium and paying $100,000 to hire the Core Collaborative.

At times, more than a dozen items were listed on the consent agenda, including far-reaching changes in district policy and items that cost more than a half million dollars.

Tonight's consent agenda was different- it only had two items on it.

One of the items was the approval of the minutes of the last meeting. The other were personnel recommendations by Chief Operating Officer Tina Smith.

Three policy changes were listed on the regular agenda, as was a purchase of 25 laptops for Stapleton Elementary and change orders for masonry at East Middle School and Soaring Heights Elementary.

Despite all of these items being moved from the consent agenda to the regular agenda, the meeting lasted less than two hours.

It is amazing what a little transparency can do.

Watch Joplin R-8 Board of Education live at 7 p.m.

C. J. Huff one of four finalists for Fayetteville superintendent post

Four candidates remain in the running for the superintendent position in the Fayetteville, Arkansas School District and one of them is former Joplin Superintendent C. J. Huff.

Huff was one of six candidates chosen to interview for the position, but one candidate withdrew before the interview and another took his name out of consideration after his interview.

The board is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. today and may select its new superintendent.

Originally, the board had intended to bring back one or two candidates for a day-long session in which they would meet the community. That is no longer the plan, according to an article in today's Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

With two candidates already withdrawing, (Board President Tim) Hudson thinks it's in the best interest of the district and the candidate to wrap up the selection process rather than present a finalist, bring the person back for a visit with the community and then start negotiating a contract, he said.

The other finalists are Kim Garrett, Fayetteville associate superintendent for secondary education; Jeff Collum, Benton superintendent; and Matt Wendt, superintendent of Community Unit School District 308 in Oswego, Illinois.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Joplin city manager provides weekly update

(Joplin City Manager Sam Anselm sent the following update to the City Council Friday.)

Good afternoon, everyone. Please see below for this week’s update.

Key Meetings

-On Tuesday, I met with Director Tuttle and a representative from SixTwo Digital, a consulting firm, to review their report on the Strategic Marketing Evaluation of JCVB marketing efforts.

-On Wednesday, AtCM Kelly and I traveled to Columbia for the MCMA winter professional development workshop. We spent the afternoon in a planning meeting for our annual conference, which will take place in May.

-On Thursday, we heard from AJ Wilson, ICMA Senior Advisor and former city manager of Kansas City, Missouri, on the topics of coaching and mentorship. During the afternoon, AtCM Kelly participated in a speed coaching session while I attended two committee meetings, one to discuss emerging issues in local government, and the other to discuss ways to improve regional efforts to promote better collaboration among cities.

-Earlier today, I met with our employee engagement committee to discuss our employee intranet/idea system, employee training and development opportunities, etc.


-Earlier this week, I received a report from our finance department that we have collected $559,506, or 86.13% of the total amount owed under the FEMA duplication of benefits program as noted in the state audit.

-Earlier today, our public information office issued a news release announcing the dates and times for the pre-disaster training workshop to be held in the council chambers at city hall, being brought to Joplin courtesy of the St. Bernard Project, for the benefit of homeowners and small- to mid-sized businesses. There is no cost to attend.

*Times and dates for the Homeowners Sessions are: 7 p.m. Thursday, January 28; 1 p.m. Tuesday, February 2; 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday, February 17; and 6 p.m. Thursday, February 18. o Sessions for Small to Mid-Size Businesses will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, February 2 and Wednesday, February 17.

In the Pipeline

-As discussed at our meeting this past Monday, please mark your calendars for a work session on Monday, February 8th, to discuss our change order policy. If there are any other items you would like to discuss, please let me know so I and/or staff can prepare for the discussion. The work session will be held at 6 p.m. in the council chambers.

Drunk driver who killed Joplin child, Neosho man headed back to court

When the diplomas were issued and the tassels were turned at the Joplin High School graduation ceremony in May, signifying the symbolic passage into adulthood, one name was absent from the list of those who enjoyed one of the most important days of their young lives.

It had been nearly 11 years since Jessica Mann had been the Joplin students' classmate. While the rest of them had enjoyed school activities, first dates, getting their driver's licenses, and all of the things that make the younger years so exciting, Jessica never had the chance to experience any of them.

In one fleeting moment on July 30, 2004, Jessica Mann's life ended, as did the life of her grandfather, at the hands of a drunk driver.

According to investigating officers, Edward Meerwald, intoxicated and driving at a high rate of speed, ran his car off Highway 86 near Neosho and killed Jessica and Jim Dodson, 69, who were standing in Mr. Dodson's driveway.

The deaths of Jessica Mann and Jim Dodson led to a new law in the state of Missouri, sponsored by Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, which allows prosecutors to charge drunk drivers whose actions lead to someone's death with second degree murder.

The law did not apply to Edward Meerwald, who was charged with two felony counts of involuntary manslaughter and after three changes of venue, first to Jasper County, then to McDonald County, and finally back to Newton County, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years on each count to be served consecutively.

Of course, no one ever serves the complete amount of time to which they have been sentenced, it seems, so Meerwald is already back on the streets, though Missouri Department of Corrections online records do not indicate how long that has been the case.

Eleven and a half years have passed since Meerwald's actions ended the lives of Jessica Mann and Jim Dodson. Dodson's widow and Jessica's parents filed a lawsuit against Meerwald and the Pub Bar, the place where Meerwald drank far too much before he took to the road. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount, but no amount of money could bring back what the family had lost.

On March 29, for the first time since his sentencing more than 10 years ago, Edward Meerwald, 61, will be back in court, this time in McDonald County Circuit Court before Judge John LePage.

It is not the kind of hearing that generally draws much attention.

After all, all Meerwald is doing is asking Judge LePage to order the Department of Revenue to issue him a driver's license.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Reader: Martucci needs to go; nothing has changed in Joplin schools

Normally, I allow my readers to comment and don't get into a back-and-forth with them because it is usually simply trolls who hope to get me to say something they can use against me.

That being said, when I received a comment from a reader concerning a recent post about candidates who filed for the Joplin R-8 Board of Education, I felt compelled to respond.

This reader obviously is trying to get people angry by saying things that are completely false, but the comments may resonate with people who are not paying close attention. That is especially true in this day and age, when all someone has to say is to throw everyone out of office and the applause begins.

The reader's complete statement is printed in the following paragraph:

Martucci needs to go. In fact the entire board needs to be wiped out and start over. Give the public a chance to voice their opinion on where we are now. There has been very little progress or change. Joplin school's continues to be the laughingstock of Missouri. Turner definitely isn't the answer. He is like most other negative souls; bitching about everything with no solutions.

The only people who can claim that there has not been change in the Joplin R-8 School District are those who get their news from the Joplin Globe.

 Consider the following improvements that have already been made.

1. C. J. Huff is gone.

2. Director of Curriculum and Instruction Sarah Stevens is serving out the rest of her contract in purgatory and has already resigned effective at the end of the current year.

3. East Middle School Principal Bud Sexson has been replaced by the highly respected former North Middle School Principal Barbara Cox and is now doing busy work at the high school until his contract expires. 

4. Bright Futures is no longer the be-all and end-all of the Joplin R-8 School District as it was when Huff was in charge. It is an independent entity and will have to survive on its own. My guess is that the good parts of Bright Futures will survive, while the excesses will soon be a thing of the past.

5. More changes are reportedly in the offing as far as the people in upper administration are concerned. It would be a major surprise if many of these people return in the same position next year, and most of them are already preparing their resumes.

6. Instead of trying to fool the public into thinking that half of the faculty did not leave during the last three years of the Huff era, Interim Superintendent Norm Ridder acknowledges it, has had conversations with people who are no longer in the system to find out why they left, and has collected data comparing the Joplin system to area districts and and to similar-sized districts across the state.

7. The board rejected continuation of the contract with the Core Collaborative consulting firm, which was raking in more than $100,000 a year serving up warmed over nonsense and fooling the district's executive directors into thinking they had stumbled upon the Holy Grail.

8. Instead of delivering all public relations all of the time, Ridder has acknowledged that there are serious problems in the school district. In addition to the problem of teachers leaving the district in droves, Ridder's data gathering has shown something that teachers in the district have known for years.  While administrators were bragging about discipline statistics that showed a small number of referrals, it was painfully obvious to Ridder that there was a discipline problem in the Joplin schools and he has made improving that problem a priority. For the first time since C. J. Haff arrived in Joplin, teachers dare hope that the leader of the school district has their back.

The reason for these improvements has been the changes that have been made in the Joplin R-8 Board of Education since the election of April 2014. Voters overwhelmingly elected Debbie Fort in 2014 and Jeff Koch, Jennifer Martucci, and Lane Roberts in 2015 because they wanted changes to be made.

More changes would have been made except for desperate tactics which delayed them and cost the district more than $100,000. The idea of extending C. J. Huff's contract to its full three years, when it was obvious that a change was coming and Huff's removal was going to be part of that change allowed Huff to negotiate a deal that has the district footing the bill for two superintendents through the end of this calendar year. For those who criticize the deal, remember that Huff had already earned a reputation for spending outlandish amounts of money and for not being open and honest with the information he shared with the board. Keeping him another year would have sent more teachers scurrying for the exits, while trying to fire him and not pay him off would have resulted in another of those lawsuits which were a staple of the Huff era. Removing Huff was a necessity.

The cowardly resignations of former board members Randy Steele and Mike Landis also delayed some necessary change. Steele claimed he had been threatened by the people who wanted change. At first, the claim was only that they told him they would attend board meetings. After that, it became threats against him and his family. And yet to this day, no evidence of these threats has ever been produced.

Landis, with the help of Huff, as shown in the Sunshine Law e-mails the Turner Report obtained from the Jasper County Commission, resigned to force an obscure law that requires the Commission to appoint board of education members when there are three vacancies. This situation, which was spelled out in e-mails between Huff, Landis, and Commissioner Darieus Adams that occurred before Landis' resignation, enabled those who preferred the old way of doing things to appoint three board members to join with holdover Lynda Banwart and slow the change that the voters obviously wanted when they elected Lane Roberts knowing full well he would not be able to serve just to keep Anne Sharp from being re-elected.

Despite these desperation tactics and the contempt they show for the voters of the Joplin R-8 School District, the change, as noted above, is well underway. The only thing that can stop it would be for the Joplin Progress Committee type candidates  to gain seats in the April election.

As for the reader's claim that I am a negative soul, I would suggest you look at the change that is taking place in the Joplin School District. Everything that made it a "laughing stock,' and I don't believe anyone puts the teachers, staff, and students in that category, can be directly laid at the feet of C. J. Huff, Angie Besendorfer, and the unqualified administrative team they assembled.

While I certainly do not intend to take credit for the changes, I fully support them.

If that makes me a negative soul, I will wear that badge with pride.