Thursday, August 11, 2016

Why Joplin R-8 does not need to pay $18,000 for graphic design work

One of the first things former Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff did after arriving in Joplin nine years ago was to push the Board of Education to rename the district from Joplin R-8 School District to Joplin Schools.

It was done to make it easier to market the district.

For the next seven years, Huff placed marketing and public relations above all else, including education.

Even from the beginning, this cost the taxpayers money. Everything in the school district that said Joplin R-8 had to be changed to Joplin Schools, including buses, stationery, and anything else that identified the district.

It could not be a gradual change, using the materials that were left over before ordering new materials or painting the new name on new buses as they arrived. Everything had to be Joplin Schools immediately. Heaven forbid that we send a mixed message about who we were as a school district.

By the time Huff was mercifully in his final year, taxpayers were footing the bill for a communications specialist who was making $48,000, an events coordinator at $38,000 and a graphic designer at $38,000.

The district has veteran teachers who do not make the salaries that these people were making. And they were not the only ones who spent the greater part of their time working on public relations rather than on anything that would have a direct connection to the classroom.

Though Huff is gone, in his final days, he promoted communications specialist Kelli Price to Director of Communications and increased her salary from $48,000 to $63,000. Last year, Price had an assistant (the former events coordinator) whose new position came with a boost from $38,000 to $42,000, and the $38,000 a year graphic designer.

The assistant position and the graphic designer positions no longer exist due to budget cuts, but the flash-before-substance mindset that infected the district continues to linger.

The Joplin R-8 Board of Education (sorry, I still cannot call it the Joplin Schools Board of Education, despite being scolded by the communications director) rejected Kelli Price's request to hire the former graphic designer, Christina Williams, at $50 an hour with an $18,000 cap.

Since I wrote about the 4-3 vote Tuesday night, Turner Report commenters have mostly been divided into two camps.

One group describes $50 an hour as a bargain and notes that top-notch graphic designers usually charge considerably more.

The other group believes this is another unnecessary frill and that perhaps the work could be done by students.

I have no problem with paying a graphic designer, whether it be Christina Williams or someone else, $50 an hour. If we have to have an outside agency doing professional work we are going to have to bear the cost.

My problem is with the decision to budget $18,000 for graphic design.

On Tuesday night, Kelli Price read off a long list of items that would need graphic design work done.

On some of the items, I fully agreed with the half of my readers who thought student work should be used. (And if graphic designers make $50 or $75 an hour, why do we not have a graphic design class at Franklin Tech?)

Why do we need to pay $50 an hour for graphics to promote the annual kindergarten roundup or to do school supply lists, or classroom leadership manuals? Why in the world do we need to spend that much money to provide graphics for Facebook, Instagram, and e-mail?

Price used the arguments that they must hammer home at all of those state and national School Public Relations Association meetings she has attended at taxpayers' expense to convince the board that the graphics are needed because you have to have pretty pictures to attract the "stakeholders."

Apparently, if you follow that line of thinking, parents won't bother to read materials unless they have all of the PR bells and whistles attached.

We need to get away from that mindset.

District officials should select one or two items that truly need a professional graphic designer and bid those projects out individually.

On other items, such as the kindergarten roundup, the school supply lists, and other such routine items that do not require a professional graphic designer in any school district that cares about the proper spending of taxpayer money, turn it over to the art students and let them have a crack on it.

For other items, let's simply consider dropping the fancy stuff and getting out the message in some other way. People are still willing to read when it is something that affects them, their pocketbook, or their children.

We are paying $63,000 a year to a director of communications. While that position is unnecessary, if we are going to have one, I would hope it would be a person who would be able to devise any number of ways to communicate with the public that do not require hiring additional workers or outside professionals.

Price delivered a tale of woe Tuesday night, telling the board how difficult it is going to be to do all of the graphic design work that needs to be done with only half of the budget that she had last year. On some things, she said, the district will have to reuse some of the design work from the past.

When you consider that there are teachers each year who have to buy supplies for their classrooms with their own money or when you consider that more than 60 percent of the students who go to Joplin schools are eligible for free or reduced lunches, it is hard to feel sympathy when someone who received a $15,000 raise last year and who is making far more money than 20-year veteran teachers make is talking about how hard she is having to work to make ends meet.


Anonymous said...

Excellent report . Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I have hired and have friends who do graphic design. Like any other private sector service, they charge what the market will bear. I have also been a "consumer" of what is touted as graphic arts by R8. The vast majority of this "art" is the logo of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, with District colors. Aside from a few photographic collages, I don't see the value of this service to R8. My intent is not to be dismissive or flipant. As a taxpayer and citizen, I would really like to understand what we are getting from this. The general arguments made in previous posts about professional worth and such are fine, and I am well aware of graphic design's place in business. However, I would still like to hear a coherent reasoning of why that which we have so far seen is truly worth the cost.

Anonymous said...

Franklin Tech does not have a graphic arts dept. anymore. Huff wanted to close programs and that was one of them in his first year to show he could save money, not that the program needed to closed down.

Anonymous said...

I understand why $50 an hour may seem extravagant at first blush. But what I read is complaining about somebody who lost their full time job with benefits and is submitting an alternative to do the same work for much less money and the added responsibilities of doing all their tax work, paying their health insurance without a large employer subsidy and no benefits.

I am inclined to believe if a local ad agency offered to do the school graphics editing work for $50 an hour most people wouldn't care they just think the school is paying somebody $50 an hour to do something that they once paid the same person much less. But instead of paying $38k to somebody they don't need 40 hours a week for a year plus at least $10k of fringe benefits they get the benefit of paying somebody $50 an hour to do the same work only when they need that person, you pay more for the privilege of having somebody only work when you need them but still manage to save money not funding a full time employee.

Additionally I'd bet if you called a local ad agency and asked what their hourly rate for somebody to do graphics work that rate would likely exceed $100 an hour. But we can balk at $50 an hour because we see an individual who we think is getting more than they deserve, I bet she would rather have her full time job back rather than be at the mercy of market demand.

I've worked with Interns frequently through my career and many do better work than their full time coworkers but you sometimes get the equivalent of a warm body who is just doing their time. And as for students doing the work I'd ask why is the school system teaching a career skill they are only willing to pay someone with good grades.

And I don't think any organization should trust their graphics works which will go on publications and websites that represent a organization with a budget in the tens of millions of dollars to interns and students.

I think this is a matter of picking on somebody that is making more than what they think that person deserves. And most of the people bothered by this (Not all) won't bat an eyelid when they give the next superintendent a total compensation package in the $300k a year neighborhood.

Randy I usually agree with you on many issues. I just think that the treatment of this proposal is unfair.

A Subscriber said...

Thank you to everyone. This is the discussion that should occur over public spending to prioritize expenses: needs vs wants. Unlimited spending can not occur with limited resources.

Anonymous said...

Please consider that the district already pays for an ad agency and a PR person. This is a public entity; what is there to advertise?
6:31 says there is no Graphic Arts department for the Graphic Arts Career Path being offered. How can this be?

Anonymous said...

FTC pays an ad agency: $60k was approved for StormStanley for the year.
That is correct: the Graphic Arts Career Path does not exist.

Anonymous said...

The ad agency is only to promote adult programs because there is competition and the FTC adult side competes for adult students. There is a wall between adult and secondary education required by the government for FTC. One side cannot pay for the other, that is why the adult programs pay for themselves, no local tax payer monies used at all for the adult side.

Anonymous said...

Small town mindset. The man-hours they spend to find someone else will now be the hidden cost that will probably more than offset any "savings" they make.

Anonymous said...

Cut Prices position immediately.

If you think it is really necessary, reopen it and invite Price to reapply.

Salary......same as a first year teacher

Anonymous said...

Have Randy do it all...he has all the answers. Fire them all!

Anonymous said...

They never brought back the graphic arts after the tornado. When student artwork has been used, the design has been sent to the graphic arts person to complete the job.

Anonymous said...

Having a graphic designer on the payroll might help prevent expensive mistakes like installing gym seats which are the wrong color. Spend money to save money.

Anonymous said...

Why would you want to have a Franklin Tech program for a career that our school district doesn't believe is worth paying for?