Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Joplin School Board rejects Bright Futures funding request
The Joplin R-8 Board of Education cut the umbilical cord on the organization which drifted far from its original intent of meeting student needs within a 24-hour time period, earlier tonight by a 5-2 vote.
Bright Futures Joplin sought its independence in late 2015, preparing a memorandum of understanding, which the school board approved, asking to part ways from the school district in all ways except two. The donor money that had been given to BFJ could still be used for the organization and the district would pay for two employees through the end of the 2015-2016 school year.
BFJ became affiliated with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and said it would be financially viable by the end of the school year.
Sometimes, things don't work out the way you plan. Apparently, the organization was not successful at fundraising and came back to the board, hat in hand, seeking to have the two salaries paid for through the 2016-2017 school year when they would be able to pay for the employees.
That hope was dashed tonight.
Interim Superintendent Norm Ridder offered a compromise, which would call for the district loaning Bright Futures Joplin the money to pay for one employee.
Board President Jeff Koch made it clear early that he did not favor any continuation of salary payments, even through a loan."I have reservations about spending on administration and not activities," Koch said.
Koch said he thought the schools could do more for the students on their own, continuing to build on the relationships that have been developed through the community. He noted that the money donors have providing to Bright Futures has been for the kids, and that will continue. "We might be able to serve more kids. We need to put the resources toward the students."
Though Koch did not say it directly, a criticism of Bright Futures Joplin has been that it has spent a considerable amount of money on administrative costs.
The meeting was stacked with Bright Futures supporters, five of whom spoke during the public comment time.
Board member Sharrock Dermott noted that public support. "We had several people speak for Bright Futures and none against it," he noted. "I'm not sure who we're listening to."
Dermott offered his strongest argument. "If they didn't need the money, they wouldn't be asking for it."
But Dermott's reasoning dwarfed in comparison to board member Lynda Banwart's impassioned defense of Bright Futures.
"Bright Futures is a part of this community. It is embedded in this community. It's something we can be proud of."
Banwart and Dermott voted against Koch's motion not to pay for any Bright Futures employee, while Koch was joined in the majority by Debbie Fort, Jennifer Martucci, Lori Musser, and Chris Sloan.
Musser said, "I don;t feel like it's fiscally responsible for us to be making loans." She suggested Bright Futures Joplin could go to the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, Bright Futures USA or seek a grant.
(Another suggestion: Perhaps Banwart could go to the Jasper County Commission.)
Martucci agreed with Musser. "We're not a bank."
The board members who voted not to pay the salaries appeared to be committed to providing for student needs and to working with Bright Futures- if it can manage to exist without taxpayer handouts or loans.
After the vote, many of the Bright Futures supporters, including former R-8 board member Mike Landis, stormed angrily out of the meeting.