Saturday, March 05, 2016

School shootings, rape, discipline and Joplin High School

A freshman student is arrested for compiling a hit list and threatening a school shooting.

A student says she was raped in a hallway.

Sadly, incidents like these happen in schools across the country. They are not necessarily a sign that a school is out of control. We have had news reports of shocking shootings and other incidents happening at the best schools in the country.

It is also not just something that happens at sprawling urban schools. This modern nightmare has occurred at small schools, private schools, and schools that are highly regarded.

Some of the comments on this blog since the arrest of a Joplin High School ninth grader Thursday was reported have laid the blame on school officials for this threatened school shooting and for the reported rape.

One thing that should be noted is what went right this week. Whether a shooting would have occurred is something we will never know. What we do know is that students had the courage to come forward and tell administrators what they knew, making sure there was no chance of Joplin joining the ranks of Columbine and Jonesboro.

That is what worked right.

What should concern taxpayers is a situation that was allowed to develop over the past several years by an out-of-touch Board of Education that was more interested in basking in the reflected glory of a "hero" superintendent and the approval of an unelected group of community elites than in doing what was best for the children.

How else can you explain moving toward one of the biggest high schools in the state of Missouri at the same time that you are guaranteeing that it will be staffed by one of the most inexperienced faculties in the state?

It took the election of new board members for the focus to finally turn on the departure of more than half of the district's teachers, including a disproportionate number of veteran educators. It is always important to bring in a blend of passionate young teachers each year, not only to bring their energy and enthusiasm, but to make sure that they have the time to learn from experienced teachers before taking their place among the faculty leaders.

That model was never taken seriously by former Superintendent C. J. Huff and his Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer. An average of more than 100 teachers have left Joplin per year for the past four years. While some of those were inexperienced teachers replacing inexperienced teachers, more than half of the district's approximately 600 teachers have left.

Instead of taking this problem seriously, the board backed Huff, even while he changed his reasoning each time someone asked him why teachers were leaving.

At first, it was the tornado. That made it seem as if teachers were abandoning their school district because they, unlike the superheroes in upper administration and on the board of education, were heading for calmer pastures. Few, if any, teachers left the R-8 School District because of the tornado. An overwhelming majority of teachers place the future of the children ahead of their own personal comfort. Many of the teachers who have left the school district only did so after it became apparent that nothing was going to be done about Huff and Besendorfer.

Huff then took the sexist route, claiming that teachers were leaving because their husbands took jobs in other communities. That happened a couple of times. There was even at least one instance of a male teacher leaving because his wife received a better job in another state, but it was not a major factor in teachers continuing to flee the district.

After those excuses did not work, Huff, never a strong supporter of the classroom teacher during his seven-year tenure in Joplin, threw his former employees under the bus, claiming they were leaving because they were not capable of performing up to "Joplin standards." On the contrary, some of the teachers who left had no problem being hired by school districts which not only offered the teachers higher salaries and better benefits, but in many cases, performed up to a much higher standard than that set in Joplin.

At the same time, the area's newspaper of record, the Joplin Globe, did its level best to serve as a public relations trumpet for Huff. On the one time that it focused on the problem of teachers leaving the district, it did so in such a way that it made it appear as if there was nothing unusual in having that many teachers leave.

And when Interim Superintendent Norm Ridder has mentioned the mass teacher flight as being one of the biggest, if not the biggest, problem facing the Joplin R-8 School District, it has been relegated to the inside jump of board of education articles, if it is mentioned at all. This is being done despite statistics revealed in a recent board meeting that more than 50 percent of the teachers across the district have less than five years of classroom experience.

While Ridder and the current board of education have accurately termed this as the number one problem facing the school district, it has yet to receive page one coverage in the Joplin Globe.

Yet, during the past several weeks, the Globe has offered its prime real estate, space on page one of its Sunday edition, to the efforts of a woman to have an empty chair designated at the Joplin High School graduation for her son, who would have been a member of the Class of 2016, but he was killed in the Joplin Tornado.

While I wrote in favor of the seat and disagree with the high school administration's decision, pushing this story two times on page one of their biggest-selling newspaper of the week and not addressing the biggest problem that faces this district appears to be another case of the Globe editors putting their thumb on the scale against those who have attempted to restore sanity to the district.

That brings us back to the events of the past couple of weeks at Joplin High School.

While these things could have happened with a faculty consisting of 100 percent experienced teachers, the parents I have spoken to have mentioned time after time their concern about the number of first and second year teachers in the classroom, teachers who not only do not have the background to deal with some of the disciplinary problems that have arisen, but who have a dwindling number of veterans to consult.

Young teachers learn, not only by having to deal with situations in the classroom, but then by meeting with veteran teachers and asking them what they would have done differently. Under the Huff Administration, not only were those teachers no longer around, but teachers were seldom given the opportunity to meet with the ones who remained to receive that valuable guidance.

That, combined with edicts from up above to write less referrals to make discipline statistics look better, left the teachers sometimes feeling they were working in a war zone instead of a place of learning.

A larger number of veteran teachers may cost more in terms of salary and benefits, but the rewards are far greater. Students feel safer, parents are more satisfied, and younger teachers have a much greater opportunity to develop to their full potential by benefiting from those who have been in the trenches.

Ironically, this week as events came to a head at Joplin High School, the man who drove more than half of the teachers out of his school district, C. J. Huff, was speaking at the third annual Bright Futures USA Conference at Missouri Southern State University and being praised for his work as a "child advocate."

Real child advocates know that the best way you can support children is by ensuring that they have the best classroom teachers.

Not surprisingly, that was not one of the topics addressed at the Bright Futures USA Conference.

20 comments:

None None said...

This is a lie and a principal trying to make a name for himself..The student made no such threats.the list of so called names was a group of students to answer questions for his physiology class..

None None said...

This is an out right LIE.The names were from a class project..Interview kids about what they think is the perfect norm.He made no such threats.The school has a child that speaks up against other students being harassed and this is what happens

Anonymous said...

Randy, you are spot on. I was a teacher in the district for many years, and served many times as a mentor for new teachers. I also helped with implementation of the mentor/protege program, teaming up new teachers with veteran teachers, every summer. We would meet a few times a year and check on their progress. We were always available to lend a hand, in case a mentor or protege felt the need for extra support. There were always skilled veteran teachers willing to go the extra mile to take a new teacher under their wings, and give them the best start possible. Sadly, there are so few veteran teachers left, that often, the mentors themselves have only taught for a very few years. I, too, was a new teacher once, but, thankfully, I had supportive veteran teachers to help me get started. Today, in Joplin schools, many new teachers are not given the amount of support they need to be successful. Maybe, in 10 years or so, Joplin will have veteran teachers again. That is, IF Joplin schools get back on track. I'm hoping that will be true. And I'm counting on it for the sake of the staff, as well as the kids. They deserve better.

It's Always CJ Huff's Fault said...

This entire blog has but one premise: It is ALWAYS the fault of CJ Huff and anyone and everyone who had something to do with the inevitable firing of Turner. This entire blog is nothing but Randy Turner trying to re-write history in favor of simply letting the teachers teach whatever they please without accountability or restraint.

Forcing young people into confinement in which they have no ability or willingness to learn whatever foolishness is fashionable at the time there might well be incidents in which like prisoners they get all violent or at the very least unruly. The solution is to segregate classes upon the ability and willingness to learn the necessary curriculum offered, teach them up to the limits of their abilities, and let the rest go do something which they find profitable to themselves and their future.

Turner's solution to everything: Listen to Turner and punish CJ Huff and the former school board who detected Turner and gave Turner a hearing and fired Turner for cause. Otherwise Joplin will become another Columbine or Sandy Hook.

This is not only self-serving but patently ridiculous.

The last thing anyone should do is to listen to Turner other than to figure out what not to do. The basis for public education is that taxpayers and parents elect school board members who set policies as opposed to public educrats doing so. Any teacher who wants to personally set school policy and curriculum will end up like Randy Turner and usually sooner rather than later. These mental and moral mediocrities get into something that they think is easy going for those of their limitations and for a few years they energetically do what they are told. Then they get some "experience" and think about how easy it would be if only the school board comprised of non-educrats would listen to their "wis-dumb". Then they try to implement on a limited fashion on their own limited classroom their pet theories, and either get slapped down and buckle under back to democratically-elected policy or they get rebellious and are caught again, fired, or made to resign.

The CJ Huff Administration, for all its faults, was excellent in detecting such teachers like Turner and sending them packing. The glaring fault of the CJ Huff Administration and the Joplin R-8 School Board of the time was in going through the tax money while blaming the tornado. CJ Huff and the board of that time was sent packing by the taxpayers for such financial wastage, and NOT for firing incompetent teachers like Turner.

Turner got caught out several times, given the choice to "move on", decided to publicly fight the matter as opposed to sneaking into another district and then either behaving or getting detected again, given an open and fair hearing in which all sides were heard, and then publicly terminated.

Now in Turner's forced early retirement -- nobody will ever hire Turner as a teacher ever again -- Turner re-writes his memoirs in the form of this dishonest whining blog.

Now lest anyone of Turner's groupies and peers yawp about how "Nobody needs to read this blog", which is irrelevant as well as correct, let's say that many of us just love to read how Turner is suffering, how neither Turner nor Turner's fellow flunkies have any intention of learning from the consequences of their stupidity, and how upon every occasion Turner and those like Turner will seek to blame "society", i.e. the very foundation of public education (elected local officials to disburse and set policy for local tax moneies and local public property), which gives them employment in the first place.

They think that they all are Socrates -- who came to a bad end when the restored democracy has enough of Socrates "teaching" the very traitors and tyrants who destroyed Athens' Golden Age. Rather, these "teachers" are more like Daffy Duck and Wile E. Coyote: Unable to learn from their mistakes but wanting everyone else to suffer from their failed amoral stupidity.

Dusty Roads said...

Damn CJ what a windbag

Anonymous said...

Lol at you Dusty.
If it isn't CJ...I have a couple of other good solid guesses.
What a windbag. Lol

None None said...

You are all ignorant! !! Was no hit list...it was an assignment from teacher .. The school is trying to make it look like they saved lives..instead they are destroying innocent kids..Like the rape..girl was 18 boy 16 she recanted but boy is still locked up..

None None said...

They post things to this blog..and to the media..Destroy a kid destroy many kids ..befire facts are together..why would they offer probation to a kid if they thought he was going to shoot a school up

Anonymous said...

And the butt hurt continues.

Anonymous said...

None none.. You guys are saying its a lie.... you guys weren't there to didn't hear the details, you guys didn't see the list he had, you guys were NOT there seeing how he knew what he was going to do and even if it was just "sarcasm" or it was just a "joke" he took it way to far. He should know that in todays world things actually happen there is no more joking you go into detail like that you make the people around you scared and think its going to happen. I WAS ONE OF THE STUDENTS WHO TURNED HIM IN...now you say its a lie

How do we know who's lying when you are anonymous said...

anonymous @ 6:39pm?

How does anyone know who is lying when you all are anonymous?

There should be severe civil and criminal penalties for those who make a false police report.

And yes, Turner seems to blame the CJ Huff Administration when none of the alleged school shooting plots and rape attempts happened during the CJ Huff Administration.

But it is still all CJ Huff's fault every day for the next many years on this blog of Turners.

Anonymous said...

As usual, there is more misinformation being passed around on social media than the truth. Here are some things anyone can observe if they are in JHS:
1. At any passing time, the halls are lined with teachers doing passing time duty. There is rarely more than 30 feet between teachers. So to say no one is watching is ludicrous. There are, however, some places in that giant barn that don't have classrooms. It takes maybe a minute, tops, for staff to get to any one of those if alerted to an issue. If that is too long, blame Huff and Besendorfer and the architects who designed the building, as well as the patrons who voted for the plan. In this instance, big isn't necessarily better, but you all got what you said you wanted. Buyer's remorse is such a bite.
2. There was a list. The kid admitted that to his classmates. That's why they spoke up.
3. When you threaten to shoot people, list or no list, you make the choice to put your education at risk. You choose to ruin your own reputation. No one is doing that to you; you chose to make the situation happen. Deal with the results. No administrator anywhere can make a name for himself out of a situation like this. That was one of the more silly remarks made so far.
4. The behaviors seen are appalling. However, they are not unique to JHS. But, those behaviors reflect not just the school's policies but the upbringing of the children. Don't like it? Teach your children some manners and provide them with a good example of how to behave. Don't like how some of the other kids behave? Then start volunteering and reaching out, if possible, to help them out. Or report behaviors to personnel instead of on Facebook rants.
5. The music in passing time, as one mother referenced, is never inappropriate. I have subbed there many times and have never heard music that had swearing or violence or a sexual message. The music serves to tell the kids to get moving. When it ends they have about a minute to get to class. And I've observed that if the music is a little loud the kids don't stop to talk as long. It hurts no one.
6. If the fights are on social media, it's because one, the kids don't seem to know how to control themselves so they fight, and two, they haven't been taught better by their parents than to record and publicize such trash. The mother who said it took a long time for staff to break up the fight needs to provide that evidence. I would bet it took less than 30 seconds. If it took longer it was because a lot of students with no manners wouldn't get out of the way.

The parents of the district have a right to expect that their children will be taken care of at school. However, they must also accept that schools are a reflection of their communities, and like going to the movies and the mall, nothing can be 100% in control at all times. As soon as administrators are told to crack down on poor behaviors and to expel students who have a record of dangerous behaviors, or maybe as soon as an alternative school could be created, JHS will be safer for all. Look to yourselves to see where bad behaviors form. Tell central office you want a safer school. Insist that administration follow the student handbook guidelines for all students, including athletes and those Fusion leaders. Don't expect miracles after years of lax discipline. Insist on an alternative school, also, while you're at it. It is unbelievable that a district the size of R8 doesn't have an alternative school for students who cannot function in such an open setting. You have Memorial. Use it.

Anonymous said...

We had an alterative school. Dr. Simpson got rid of it.

Anonymous said...

It's always Cjs fault sounds like Anson

Anonymous said...

What happened to Anson's blog? Did it move?

Anonymous said...

If this is a lie then why did 4 people go to the principal separately and tell the same story? 4 different people heard Douglas threaten to kill the kids on the list. I hope you or someone you know aren't on that list.

Anonymous said...

I guarantee Douglas was not offered probation. He more then likely hasn't even been to court yet. Probably tomorrow since juvenile court is ONLY on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I suspect you are a high school student who has no idea what he is talking about or you yourself have been involved with the juvenile office. And from your experience you think you know it all.

Anonymous said...

It's not a lie. 4 separate students telling the same story at different times. No project list. Get your head out of the sand none none.

Anonymous said...

So well said. I am a parent of a student who went forward. The list was not part of an assignment. It was typed up as he divulged his plan to attack his supposed friends and classmates. His behavior is his own bad choice. Not jhs. Regardless , the fear and panic exist and the sheep who believe their pal couldn't do such a thing are a danger to themselves. Wake up kids.

Anonymous said...

As of today. No information has came forward saying the girl recanted or the boy was locked up. Facts will eventually come out one way or another.