Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Letter shows Bright Futures Joplin struggling for relevance

The struggle of Bright Futures Joplin to remain relevant is clearly spelled out in an update sent from the organization's board of directors to the Joplin R-8 Board of Education.

Bright Futures has been deemphasized in recent months and seeing the way things were going, its board opted for independence, albeit with the idea of continuing a working relationship with the school district and having taxpayers continue to fund a portion of the salaries of its full-time employees.

Some of the problems that occurred in Bright Futures are noted in the letter, including confusion with the C. J. Huff creation Bright Futures USA, spreading itself too thin by becoming involved in too many programs that veered from the organization's original purpose of providing for the needs of children.

The text of the letter is printed below:

To: Joplin Schools Board of Education

Cc: Dr. Norm Ridder
Bright Futures Joplin Board of Directors

Dear Distinguished Board Members,

Recently our Board convened with the expressed task of realigning and redefining our core mission and program clarity. We have added some new members to our Board and are very excited about the path forward. The result of our work is as follows:

1. Mission Clarity.

Bright Futures Joplin exists to serve children in need with the Joplin School District. Our critical focus is providing clothing, school supplies, food, and the basic necessities for Joplin students to be successful in school. These requests come directly from front-lines school personnel through the BFJ online request system.

This fiscal year, we have met 225 students needs for clothing, shoes and other essentials, 800+ students with school supplies, and supplied over 14,000 Snack Packs. In the six years since Bright Futures Joplin was born, we have met nearly 11,000 student needs. This year, BFJ has facilitated teacher supply give-a-ways valuing $75,374.55 to support classrooms and has processed $11,644.80 in donated goods for the benefit of Joplin students.

Additionally, Bright Futures Joplin is continuing to work closely with local non-profit organizations to ensure that there is no duplication or overlap of services. We desire the most expedient response for our students from the most qualified organization. BFJ was really designed to relieve the immediate needs of Joplin students that could not be met by local non-profits. BFJ is a mechanism for triage while referrals to local agencies that can support that student/family on a more long-term basis towards real sustainable change are being arranged. The model was developed together with the non-profit community (Economic Security wrote the original grant to begin BFJ) and continues to be supported by our local non-profit partners.

2. Financial Independence.

Bright Futures Joplin will be financially independent by the end of the 2017 school year. The BFJ board is committed to raising $125,000 in the next year to support BFJ efforts and to ensure long-term viability.

We will have one paid staff position who will carry out the critical components of our work. This person will be giving 95% of his time to the direct service work of Bright Futures Joplin. His current salary will be maintained.

We would request continued collaboration with the Joplin Board of Education on aligning funds within the district to support Bright Futures Joplin (per donor intent) as we strive toward this critical goal, spending down funds within the District and growing the BFJ donor base through the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.

3. Program Clarity.

In addition meeting the basic needs of our students (which is the primary focus), we will continue to support Joplin Schools by being vocal advocates for education and the role of the community in Joplin Schools to support children. BFJ is committed to increasing volunteer capacity and partnerships throughout the district. BFJ will continue with the TREK and Lunch Pals initiatives to bring support to Joplin teachers and students. These programs have had a decline in volunteer participation in spite of school appreciation of these efforts and requests for more community involvement. The programs will undergo evaluation by a committee of our Board members, program volunteers, as well as school personnel, and we will report their recommendations in a later correspondence.

This year, 30 students have been assisted by TREK, and 62 students have had the critical element of a mentor in their lives via Lunch Pals. We believe realigning these programs and re-launching them will help bring additional volunteer supports, as there are hundreds more kids who need the care and investment of a supportive adult in their lives (which BFJ believes to be critical to achieving our mission and ensuring that every child has the supports he/she needs to be successful in school).
The Bright Futures Joplin Board is working to refine our mission statement and community messaging to ensure that our task is clear to all stakeholders – meeting student needs and supporting our students.

4. School, Administration, Teacher and Counselor Alignment

Feedback from every building indicates that there is a great need for additional community volunteers and resources at their buildings. In spite of the 121 human service, faith-based, and business partners meeting at building-level councils throughout the district, every school indicated a need for more engagement. In the last 5 years since the tornado, volunteer engagement has waned, and our schools are feeling it. BFJ will work to re-invigorate active and engaged partnerships at each school. We are actively seeking input from all schools to align with their needs and address any concerns they may have.

Specific services we have offered this year to support classrooms and buildings:·
Classroom supplies for 800+ children, 30 additional classroom needs met
Classroom and school business alliances (121 confirmed partnerships
Support of the Joplin Schools Volunteer Breakfast

In closing:

While the original mission of BFJ was very clear, the tornado and the funds brought in after all of the national attention on BFJ created a situation in which BFJ took on more than was originally intended simply because of the gravity of need in Joplin and the resources available. The BFJ board was passionate about making an impact and took on many initiatives and efforts that spread the team too thin, unintentionally created burdensome programs/processes that school personnel could not sustain, and created confusion in the community regarding its real purpose. All of those efforts were well-intentioned, but not sustainable – with some of them really being the responsibility of the District, not BFJ. This muddied the water and caused confusion internally regarding what was “school” and what was “Bright Futures” and unintentionally created a culture that was less than collaborative in nature internally. 

 On top of this, the creation of BFUSA (a separate entity entirely) was a response to the requests of many neighboring communities with the explicit purpose of supporting those new Bright Futures communities (not meeting the needs of students). These efforts were important and valuable, but also caused confusion locally.

The truth is that every young group of world changers has a learning curve when you’re creating something new, and certainly Bright Futures Joplin has faced those challenges. In spite of the challenges and lessons learned the hard way, the BFJ board strongly believes that the Bright Futures model was born in Joplin and has now spread to dozens of other communities – something for which Joplin should be very proud. There is great ownership of Bright Futures as “our own thing,” and there is a strong commitment among board members to stay true to the original Bright Futures model and mission. BFJ has been working hard to get “back to basics” and will continue to do so in the months/years ahead. We appreciate your ongoing support and partnership as we realign and refocus for the benefit of Joplin kids.

We look forward to many years of continued partnership –

The Bright Futures Joplin Board of Directors

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bye Bye.

Don't let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya!