Thursday, August 11, 2016
Why Joplin R-8 does not need to pay $18,000 for graphic design work
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.