Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Joplin School Board rejects Bright Futures funding request

Bright Futures Joplin, you're on your own.

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.


Anonymous said...

More common sense: Spend the donated money where it was intended! Good decision, BOE

Jay S Harrison said...

Mike Landis and his associates made enough off of the contracts and community to offer personal loans to fund their pet projects ? Why be angry ? Hypocrisy does have its limits.

Anonymous said...

Mikey Landis leaving in a snit fit becarse he didn't get his way, priceless!!! When BF started paying rent and utilities in the thousands range for a single family, we all knew they had gone way off the rails. No more tax money for their bloated salaries! Good job, BOE, for saying NO!

Anonymous said...

Don't go away mad....just go away.

Concerned citizen said...

Come on Dr.Norm you can design a better program to help kids. Keep do gooder egos out of the solution and who knows we may really see a long term progress.

Anonymous said...

To quote Berkeley Breathed's Bloom County, "You're going down in flames, you tax fattened hyenas."

Anonymous said...

Question: If BF is such a wonderful, effective & efficient way to help our students and the BF leadership is truly concerned with the well being of students, then why would the BF leadership want to CHARGE school districts & communities for the information? Where is the altruism? Post on the net any and all information on how and why BF worked so that ANY AND ALL communities out there can benefit from what was learned/developed here. BF leadership...the word is ALTRUISM!

Anonymous said...

The original mission of Bright Futures was to make it possible for students to be successful and to graduate. That was a noble endeavor. Unfortunately, the mission expanded exponentially after the tornado, and no one knows for sure how much money was taken in or where it all went. The mission grew to include bicycles for high school graduates and hot water heaters. These things did not help. The graduation rate was increased by not allowing their teachers to have more than a 5% failure rate and by allowing kids to make up dozens of lost days with a few hours of what they call seat time. Maybe a few hours or a couple of weeks on the computer to make up their credits. This fluffed up data has been used to justify and qualify Bright Futures as well as some of the school programs. The emperor has been walking around naked, but no one wanted to call him out on it until last night. Good job, Board! Now, what other wasteful entities can you cut? Get the school's back to the business of education. Let social agencies and counsellors take care of the rest.

Anonymous said...

Why does Mike Landis continue to come to the meetings? He has no relevance. No one cares what he thinks. He can't squeeze any construction money out of it. But he still shows up. Trying to intimidate people? He's failing there, too. Give it up, Mikey. You're done with the Board. You stepped out, so now you need to step away.

Anonymous said...

The money that Bright Futures Joplin asked to use last night was NOT tax payer money. It was THEIR money that was given TO Bright Futures Joplin and cannot be used for any other purpose. They have ALWAYS been self-sufficient and have never asked for tax-payer dollars to continue the work. This last semester when Joplin Schools paid the two salaries, Joplin Schools offered to pay the salaries - BFJ did not ask. BFJ has always been funded through outside donors and in partnership with other human service agencies (and the leader is, in fact, a licensed therapist). Bikes were to help kids get to school (and they had a specific grant to do that work because the JHS leadership stated there was a great need there) and BFJ has never asserted that it could take all the credit for the improved graduation rate. BF was a PART, that is all. Those that understand the needs of at-risk kids and families realize that not all kids are going to fit into our education box...some will need different pathways to complete the task. It's not about lowering standards, it's about giving different options to achieve the standards and holding teachers accountable to ensuring their students are successful. If teachers are handing out "free" grades, that's on them.

Anonymous said...

I suggest that the Bright Futures fans and staff need make up some signs and start public demonstrations!

"Bright Futures Matters" should git-r-dun!

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 2:28

If Bright Futures didn't ask or need for Joplin R-8 to pay for two salaries through 2015-16, why the presentation to request Joplin cover the salaries for an additional year until BF was "self-sufficient". If they don't need or want Joplin schools (taxpayer) money why the appeal for the extension of another year? Why even need to ask for a loan when they already are "self-sufficient". Stating that the money was already BF money, it seems beyond stupid to ask for a loan of your own money. Doesn't make sense.

Anonymous said...

Exactly the point ^^^^^

The money in the district IS BFJ money raised by BFJ.

Anonymous said...

As with most of Huff stuff,rushed process,lack of experience but no lack of self promotion...a BF fund setup by Huffites used District to qualify for tax status as BF had NO status...they do now and have had for several years...why didn't their leaders raise money to sustain their program? Perhaps too busy bragging about their program and building BFUSA..ah the egos..