Monday, September 26, 2016

My response to readers who say I am attacking Joplin R-8 teachers

Sometimes I find it amusing when my critics think I have made a mistake and jump all over it.

Inevitably, they find out that most other people do not agree with their assessment and they drop the attack. I usually do not find it necessary to respond because other readers do it for me.

The same thing has taken place with the post I wrote Sunday about bills that the Joplin R-8 Board of Education will approve when it meets 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Memorial Education Building.

The critics, or perhaps just one critic as sometimes it is hard to tell, are jumping on the items I wrote about the amount of money spent to provide meals for the high school laptop checkouts. The totals were $95.40 to Domino's Pizza, $225 to Orient Express, $215.94 to Red Onion Cafe, and $206.25 to Sawmill Barbecue for a total of $742.59.

Since that money apparently went to meals for teachers who were helping with the laptop checkout, that gave the critics an opportunity to go after me because I don't want hard working, underappreciated teachers to receive meals.

As usual, there were a number of comments that took issue with the critics.

Here are a couple of the critics' comments:

Everyone involved in the laptop checkout at JHS arrived between 7AM and 8AM and were there until laptop checkout concluded at 4PM, because the flow of students was constant throughout the day this prevented anyone working the checkout from taking lunch so they could go eat, therefore lunch was provided. This included volunteers. This is not something that happens often, maybe a couple times a year.

Though, I am confused why you think a company buying lunch for their employee’s is out of the norm, that is simply not true. I’ve worked for many different companies where if a number of employees had to skip lunch because of work load, the company provided lunch for them. Even in school districts, all the day long meetings and conferences teachers attend, lunch is provided to them. It’s no different. :

And this one, which particularly irritated me:

As Randy points out these occurrences, I wonder...

Did Randy have the same moral ground as a teacher? Oh, I will not eat because this is not appropriate spending. I will go to my room and eat my bologna sandwich.

I worked at Wal-Mart and they fed us time to time. It is a part of the budget. I sometimes wonder why Randy cherry picks the expenses that he does. What qualifies a former journalist and ex-teacher to determine what exactly is appropriate spending? Is this the whole expenditure list?

During meeting days or really hectic days, schools will buy lunch for their teachers. It does not occur on a regular basis, 3-4 times a year. It helps with morale and it is budgeted into the whole plan.

If this bothers you, remember with whom you trust your child.

The reader accuses me of cherry picking the bills that I write about.

Of course, I do. It doesn't make sense to write about hundreds of bills, most of which are for routine items, including things like bread, milk, and utilities.

I cherry pick information for what I write on the Turner Report and I plead guilty to cherry picking on every article I have written since I began my journalism career in 1977.

I will let you in on a secret. Every reporter is guilty of cherry picking and there is nothing wrong with it. We have to make editorial decisions on what we consider to be important to the story because there is simply not room or time to write about every bit of minutiae that might come up while covering a beat.

Each month, I choose items from the bills that I consider to be noteworthy and I write about them. Another reporter or someone who is not reporting on the bills might consider other items to be more worthy subjects, but I make my choices because these are items that interest me and which interest my readers.

The reader's assertion that I am a hypocrite because I would never have turned down a free meal like that when I was a teacher and the talk about "moral ground" and the idea that I am against the teachers probably does not deserve a response, but I am going to provide one.

First, I have never printed any information about most of the meals that have been provided for teachers and staff. There are many occasions where such expenditures are justified. For example, for years, the district paid for meals or snacks for teachers who stay three or four hours after school for parent-teacher conferences twice a year. It probably still does, but I have not had one of those since March 2013.

What needs to be reported more often is that many of these meals are provided as a result of a culture that still follows the Huff-Besendorfer example of one meeting after another and the idea that each of those meetings has to be accompanied by a taxpayer-financed meal.

What is also lost in the billing for such items is that often not only is money being spent for teachers' meals, but a considerably larger amount is being spent on the substitute teachers who man the classrooms while these interminable meetings are being held.

As for the "moral ground," I would have eaten the free meals, but do not make it look like I am criticizing each of these and that I am an enemy of the teachers.

That is laughable and it reminds me of the "Whirlwind Tour" C. J. Huff took of R-8 schools in the week before school opened for the 2014-2015 school year. At that time, Huff told teachers they needed to do something about me because I was attacking them. He could handle the criticism, but he did not want them to have to endure it. (Obviously, he couldn't handle the criticism. For someone who built a reputation based on the way he handled the aftermath of the tornado, he certainly fell apart when he was challenged by me and by board members who were critical of the way he operated.)

At the same meetings, and it is another reason why the mention of my moral character offends me, Huff continued to spread the lie that I provided pornographic material to 150 eighth grade students, when in fact- 1. No Child Left Alive, despite what C. J. Huff, Anson Burlingame, and Jeff Caldwell said was not pornogrpahic, and 2. to this day no one has ever found an eighth grader from that class who read the book (though some of them may have done so later after Huff gave it all that free publicity).

Huff attempted unsuccessfully to turn Joplin R-8 teachers against me and this appears to be yet another attempt to make it appear that I am hurting the teachers and the children by continuing to write about how taxpayer money is being spent or misspent.

Even though many of the teachers who now work in Joplin were not in the district while I was teaching there, the new teachers are intelligent enough to know when someone is looking out for them, the students, and for the taxpayers. They are not going to believe that I am being critical of teachers.

As Dan Rather used to say, "That dog won't hunt."


Anonymous said...

I am not a critic, I actually appreciate what you do. I do think that you went off the deep end. Have you ever thought to read your comments (I know you do)? Do you not to see the nastiness?

The meals had nothing to do with Huff, and you know it.

Have you done your due diligence on the new Cognitive Coaching? How are other schools using it? Why is it bad- because it takes teachers out of the classroom? Easily said from your computer. Investigate, be the reporter. Explain what it is and its ineffectiveness.

Anonymous said...

If the "huff mentality" of every meeting has to include a tax payer paid meal isn't the case anymore than why are you nitpicking on things that happen once or twice a year? These aren't even enough to keep the lights on at a building for a month why not look at the bigger picture items and real waste? This cherry picked list of things you really don't know much about or even did research on just looks like poor journalism at best and pettiness at it's worst. You just grabbed things you thought sounded good and threw them in a list. No thought at to their use or how they fit into what is going on at the schools.

Anonymous said...

Harp on standards of journalism, then quote Dan Rather? Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

Why do you get angry when Carol Stark cherry picks her stories?

Anonymous said...

Oh look, the trolls are out again. It's always exciting when they slither out from under their rocks. It's okay, RR and SS, you can calm down now. It's all cool. Go back to selling your makeup and Bloomberg nonsense. And your souls. It's all fine.

Anonymous said...

Paid meals...part of the insider, I am with the in crowd, mindset. Just break, then resume.