Thursday, December 30, 2021

Parson to allow COVID-19 state of emergency to expire Friday

(From Gov. Mike Parson)

Today, Governor Mike Parson announced that Missouri's COVID-19 related State of Emergency will expire and not be renewed on December 31, 2021. Governor Parson first issued an Executive Order (EO) declaring a State of Emergency existed due to COVID-19 on March 13, 2020.

"Thanks to the effectiveness of the vaccine, widespread efforts to mitigate the virus, and our committed health care professionals, past needs to continue the state of emergency are no longer present," Governor Parson said.
"Over the last 22 months, we have coordinated with local, state, and private partners to mitigate COVID-19 and work towards returning to normalcy. We all now know how to best fight and prevent serious illness from this virus. The State stands ready to provide assistance and response, but there is no longer a need for a state of emergency."

Governor Parson extended the COVID-19 related State of Emergency five times before issuing a final targeted executive order for health care needs in August 2021. Currently, only three of Missouri's border states and 20 other states in the nation have state of emergencies related to COVID-19 in place.

At one time, nearly 600 statutory and regulatory waivers were approved across Missouri state government. Since that peak, waivers have reduced by nearly 80 percent. All remaining COVID-19 related waivers authorized under EO 21-09 will terminate on December 31, 2021.

Agencies, boards, commissions, and departments are able to pursue rulemaking if permanent changes to regulations are needed after December 31 to improve long-term outcomes for Missourians, health care facilitates, and businesses. The General Assembly can also make any needed policy changes when they return for the 2022 legislative session on January 5.

The state has communicated to its health care partners that there will be flexibility during a transitional period to fully resume pre-pandemic operations.

With the expiration of EO 21-09, the Missouri National Guard will no longer be activated for COVID-19 related missions.

"In Missouri, we never had mandates or forced lockdowns," Governor Parson said. "The main focus of our state of emergency was to provide regulatory flexibility to support and assist Missourians, health care facilities, and businesses and coordinate a COVID-19 response that saved lives and livelihoods. We encourage all Missourians to consider COVID-19 vaccination and to stay diligent, but we can work together to fight COVID-19 while living our normal lives. It is time to take this final step and move forward as a state."

The best method to prevent serious illness from COVID-19 is vaccination, and more and more Missourians continue choosing to get primary and booster vaccinations. In the month of December alone, more than 565,000 doses of vaccine were administered and 42 percent were part of a primary vaccine series.

Nearly 94 percent of Missourians 65 and older, the most vulnerable, have received at least one dose. More than 73 percent of Missourians 18 and older and over 62 percent of all Missourians have chosen to initiate vaccination.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

First confirmed case of Omicron variant found in Greene County

(From the Springfield-Greene County Health Department)

Results from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Genomic Surveillance System has confirmed that the Omicron variant has been present in Greene County since at least mid-December. This first case of Omicron was from a test sample taken on Dec. 17.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department is awaiting results of local genomic sequencing that will offer more insight into the presence of the Omicron variant in our community. Today, the 7-day average of new cases of COVID-19 reached 125 per day, the highest rate since Aug. 10. Additionally, hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have spiked to 147, including 52 patients who are in the ICU.


Omicron is spreading rapidly among many parts of the world, including the United States. This is likely due to a higher level of transmissibility compared to the original SARS-Cov-2 virus and the potential ability of the variant to bypass previous immunity from vaccination or infection. That is why the Health Department is encouraging vaccination, and for all eligible residents to get a booster dose.

Booster doses provide additional protection from the spread of COVID-19 variants like Omicron. For vaccination opportunities, visit or call the COVID-19 call center at 417-874-1211. Those receiving a first or second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the Health Department clinic are eligible to receive a $50 gift card while supplies last.

Anyone who has been exposed to COVID-19 or is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should get tested. Appointments are required for COVID-19 testing at the Springfield-Greene County Health Department and can be made online at or by calling the COVID-19 Call Center at 417-874-1211.

Thirteen COVID-19 cases reported in McDonald County


Sixty-five new COVID-19 cases reported in Jasper County

 (From the Jasper County Health Department)

COVID Update 12/28/2021

65 new positive cases
<1 year 1
1-4 yrs 1
5-11 yrs 0
12-19yrs 6
20-29yrs 12

30-39yrs 8
40-49yrs 10
50-59yrs 13
60-69yrs 8
70-79yrs 3
80-89yrs 2
90+yrs 1
Vaccinated = 21 (2 w/boosters, both asymptomatic)
Reinfection = 1 (not vaccinated)

Joplin Health Department confirms 26 COVID-19 cases

The Joplin Health Department confirmed 26 new COVID-19 cases, according to statistics posted Tuesday evening.

The new cases bring the city's total to 9,514, including 114 active cases.

Joplin has recorded 185 deaths due to COVID-19.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Audit details spending of Cares Act funding in Missouri


(From State Auditor Nicole Galloway)

The latest monthly report from State Auditor Nicole Galloway detailing state government's use of federal stimulus dollars intended for the COVID-19 response shows Missouri has received more than $5.1 billion since April 2020. 

As the state's financial watchdog, the State Auditor's Office has issued the reports since June 2020 examining Missouri government's distribution and spending of funding received under the CARES Act and other federal assistance programs passed by Congress.

The most recent report shows Missouri's spending of federal assistance for the month of November, as well as the cumulative expenditures since the state began receiving funding in April 2020. The state spent $116 million in November; through Nov. 30, 2021, Missouri had received $5.1 billion and spent $4.82 billion of this assistance.

A significant portion of the expenditures to date were for services through the state's Medicaid program, MO HealthNet and other programs receiving federal matching funds ($1.3 billion), and funding passed through to counties and the City of St. Louis ($521 million). Other funding has been provided to schools, institutions of higher education, child care providers, long-term care facilities and developmental disabilities waiver providers. Funds have also been used for mental health services, purchase of personal protective equipment, virus testing, contact tracing, vaccine preparedness and access, workforce development, economic development programs for small businesses, COVID-19 dedicated personnel costs, emergency rental assistance and other disaster relief purposes.

In addition to the monthly report examining the state's spending, the Auditor's Office also has an online tool to give Missourians a detailed look at expenditures. The COVID-19 Response page tracks not only how much is received and expended in relief funds, but also lists which state and local government departments, vendors and expense categories are receiving the most funding. The information on the website provides data on expenditures and is updated regularly.

Auditor Galloway's efforts are similar to work performed by the previous State Auditor's administration, which reviewed the state's use of funds received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Under Article IV, Section 13 of the Missouri Constitution, the State Auditor has a duty to ensure the accuracy of the state's accounting of its spending.

A copy of the report on Missouri spending of federal assistance in November can be found here.

Auditor's report shows Missouri's use of federal dollars from American Rescue Plan

(By State Auditor Nicole Galloway)

Through November, the state of Missouri has spent $344.6 million of the $1.81 billion received under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act for COVID-19 recovery efforts, a report released today by State Auditor Nicole Galloway shows. 

The report tracks spending of ARP funds, which Missouri began receiving in May 2021, and is in addition to monthly reports on CARES Act funding the state is receiving.

The report for November on ARP spending is part of Auditor Galloway's ongoing review to help ensure accountability for the billions of federal dollars coming into Missouri for COVID-19 response and recovery. Since June 2020, the State Auditor's Office has released monthly reports on the $5.1 billion Missouri has received to date through the CARES Act and other federal programs for COVID-19 response efforts.

The ARP Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden in March 2021. The funding received by or made available to Missouri state government agencies help pay for the state's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. ARP funding includes state and local recovery aid, funding for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education, and funding for various other assistance and benefit programs.

Additionally, the ARP Act makes available a two-year 5% increase in federal funding because Missouri implemented Medicaid expansion, and also provided temporary enhanced federal matching funds for other Medicaid programs administered by MO HealthNet. Through November, the state has received approximately $111 million additional Medicaid funding under the ARP Act.

With approximately $738,000 disbursed in November, the state has now distributed approximately $221 million to local governments from the Coronavirus Local Government Fiscal Recovery Fund. Approximately $1.2 million has been disbursed by the state so far under ARP to support COVID-19 screening and testing to maintain in-person learning in schools. More than $1.34 billion has been received for the Coronavirus State Government Fiscal Recovery Fund, but has not been appropriated by the legislature as of Nov. 30.

The ARP also makes available approximately $2.6 billion for distribution to Missouri's K-12 and higher education institutions. While none of this funding has been accessed to date, it is available until September 30, 2023.

The complete Federal ARP Act Funding for COVID-19 Recovery report for November can be found here.

The most recent CARES Act report from Auditor Galloway is here.

$1.5 million investment adds isolation rooms, efficiency to Freeman Neosho emergency department

(From Freeman Health)

Freeman Neosho Hospital cut the ribbon on a completely renovated Emergency Department on Tuesday, celebrating a $1.5 million dollar investment in the facility.

“Freeman Neosho Hospital is truly the heart of the communities it serves,” said Paula F. Baker, Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer. “These renovations focus on the protection of patients and staff from pathogens such as COVID-19. They also help us improve care and service to patients and their families.”

The floor-to-ceiling renovation of the emergency department includes the addition of three new negative pressure isolation rooms, a negative pressure triage screening room, a new nurses’ station, new cabinets and work surfaces, centralized storage, glass enclosures and new paint, floors and ceilings.

“These renovations are important because it helps us appropriately isolate patients of concern who are waiting for evaluation.” said Renee Denton, Freeman Neosho Hospital Chief Operating Officer. “And they help us minimize exposure to the virus. We now have two triage areas in the emergency department, with one being a negative pressure room for patients with COVID or other airborne diseases. We’ve also installed new heating and air conditioning systems to accommodate the negative pressure air flow design.”

These changes will mean faster turnaround times for nursing staff and result in reduced wait times for patients.

“This new space will save an incredible amount of time between patients,” said Kyle Bridges, Freeman Neosho Hospital Assistant Director of Nursing. “The downtime required for sterilizing a room after treating a COVID-19 patient was up to 90 minutes. That time is shortened dramatically with negative pressure rooms. The centralized storage also offers excellent functionality with our supplies in one place, allowing nurses to work faster and more efficiently.”

Three negative pressure rooms were also added to the intensive care unit and another four negative pressure isolation rooms were added to the medical surgery area.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Joplin Health Department reports 55 COVID-19 cases

The Joplin Health Department confirmed 55 COVID-19 cases today, according to statistics posted this evening. 

The city has recorded 9,488 cases with 110 remaining active. To date, 185 deaths have been reported due to COVID-19.

Jasper County confirms 81 new COVID-19 cases

(From the Jasper County Health Department)

COVID Update 12/27/2021
81 new positive cases

<1 year 0
1-4 yrs 2
5-11 yrs 8
12-19yrs 3
20-29yrs 12

30-39yrs 7
40-49yrs 11
50-59yrs 22
60-69yrs 6
70-79yrs 8
80-89yrs 2
90+yrs 0
Vaccinated = 25
Reinfection = 0

Omicron variant reaches Joplin; sewershed samples show spread to more than half of state

(From the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services)

More than half of community sewershed samples tested from the week of Dec. 20 showed presence of the Omicron variant. 

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) continues to partner with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the University of Missouri – Columbia, wastewater operators, and others to monitor COVID-19 trends by testing wastewater in communities throughout the state. 

For nearly a year, this team has been testing wastewater samples to look for the presence of variants of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Sequencing tests identified the first presence of the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) from two sets of sewershed samples collected on Dec. 7-8 in Jackson County and Buchanan County. In both wastewater systems, COVID-19 viral strands were identified as having mutations associated with Omicron which indicated that the Omicron variant virus is likely present among the population in these sewershed areas.

As a result of expanded testing the week of Dec. 20, 32 of 57 samples had mutations associated with Omicron variant. Those locations included: three Kansas City facilities (Blue River, Westside, and Birmingham), seven St. Louis facilities (Lemay, Grand Glaize, Coldwater Creek, Bissell Point, Fenton, Lower Meramec, and Missouri River), five St. Charles County facilities (St. Peters Spencer Creek, Duckett Creek Sewer District WWTF #1, Duckett Creek Sewer District WWTF #2, O'Fallon, and Wentzville), Branson (Cooper Creek and Compton Drive), Springfield Northwest, Interim Saline Creek Regional, Troy Southeast, Farmington East, Perryville Southeast, Columbia, St. Joseph, Atherton, Cape Girardeau, Nixa, West Plains, Washington, Oak Grove, Festus - Crystal City and Joplin Turkey Creek.

“Our robust program for monitoring COVID-19 through sewershed sampling provides us with reliable information regarding the presence of the virus and its variants,” said Donald Kauerauf, DHSS Director. “The existence of the Omicron variant is becoming much more prevalent each week, making the actions of COVID-19 individual testing, vaccination and other mitigation measures more important as we already face the threat of the Delta variant and an increase in flu cases.”

DHSS continues to recommend that residents follow prevention strategies such as wearing a mask in public indoor settings, frequent handwashing and maintaining physical distance from others.

“Gatherings are continuing during this holiday season, and I highly encourage testing before and after these events and any travels to help limit any unintended spread of the virus,” said Kauerauf. “If you’re not feeling well, stay home and don’t risk getting your loved ones sick. It is important for individuals to plan ahead when identifying a location and advance timing needed to get tested, as there is a growing demand for these services.”

Public health experts worldwide are working quickly to learn more about the Omicron variant and how it may impact the health and safety of citizens. The disease severity caused by Omicron is still unknown. Scientists are also studying the degree to which existing vaccines and therapies protect against Omicron.

The sequencing testing results are updated weekly and displayed in the COVID-19 sewershed surveillance StoryMap. The online storymap will be updated on Dec. 28 with the most recent variant data.

DHSS will continue to work with public health partners to monitor for an increase in the Omicron variant, as well as trends in other variants. To learn more about Missouri’s variant monitoring efforts, visit Health.Mo.Gov.

Everyone 5 years and older is highly encouraged to protect themselves from COVID-19 by getting fully vaccinated (and boosted if age 16 and older). Missourians should also take the opportunity to get their annual influenza vaccination as part of their risk reduction activities to protect themselves and others from seasonal respiratory illness.

Travelers to the U.S. should continue to follow CDC recommendations for safe traveling. Get the facts about COVID-19 vaccines in Missouri at

How Missourians can get a free COVID-19 vaccine:
Check for vaccine appointments at, where you can search for availability by vaccine type (e.g., Pfizer).
Call the CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine hotline at 1-800-232-0233 (or TTY 1-888-720-7489). Help is available in multiple languages.
Locate local vaccination events in Missouri at
Seniors and homebound adults can make arrangements using information at
Missouri DHSS COVID-19 Public Hotline
Mon.-Fri., 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.

How Missourians can get a free COVID-19 test:
Walk in or schedule an appointment for a test at one of the state’s free community testing sites: COVID-19 Community Testing Sites.
Order a test through the state’s free at-home COVID-19 testing program.
Find a free testing option near you through the federal pharmacy locations

Sarcoxie man pleads guilty to federal meth conspiracy, weapons charges

A Sarcoxie man pleaded guilty to federal meth conspiracy and weapons charges during a hearing this morning in U. S. District Court of the Western District of Missouri.

A pre-sentence investigation has been ordered for William E.Florian-Palma, 40. Sentencing will be held at a later date.

Florian-Palma's crimes and his long criminal history were detailed in the government's detention memo filed January 28:

To further support the Government’s contention that Defendant is a risk to the safety of the community and poses a flight risk, the Government offers that: 

The present charge arises from Defendant’s sale of approximately 86 grams of suspected methamphetamine to an undercover officer on December 20, 2018.

Additional controlled purchases of methamphetamine from Defendant were attempted or completed.

On January 9, 2019, an undercover officer arranged to purchase two pounds of methamphetamine from Defendant. Defendant travelled to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to secure the methamphetamine but was unable to obtain it that day.

On December 14, 2018, an undercover officer purchased approximately one ounce of suspected methamphetamine from Defendant for $500. 

On December 24, 2018, officers of the Carthage, Missouri, Police Department made contact with Defendant and found him in possession of a loaded .357 magnum revolver. A further search of Defendant’s person yielded approximately two ounces of suspected methamphetamine. An additional one ounce was discovered in his vehicle. 

On January 16, 2019, troopers of the Missouri State Highway Patrol executed a search warrant at Defendant’s residence in Sarcoxie, Missouri. Among other things, troopers found digital scales and unused plastic bags. Three bags containing suspected methamphetamine residue were also recovered.

Court records indicate Defendant has previously been convicted of the following offenses:

-Unlawful use of drug paraphernalia on July 30, 2015, in Jasper County;

Felony driving while impaired (persistent offender) on September 30, 2013, in Jasper County; and

Driving with an excessive blood alcohol concentration on August 16, 2009, in Jasper County. 

Moreover, law enforcement records suggest Defendant has previously been arrested for the following offenses:

-Domestic assault on December 12, 2015, in Jasper County, Missouri; and second degree domestic assault on January 21, 2007, in Jasper County, Missouri.

Missouri court records indicate Defendant was charged with delivery of a controlled substance on or about August 23, 2018, in Jasper County, and the charge remains pending.

Defendant’s continued criminal activity suggests an unwillingness or inability to abide by conditions of release that are crafted to protect the public from additional criminal conduct.

Gerald Ezell named Joplin fire chief

(From the City of Joplin)

Joplin City Manager Nick Edwards has announced Gerald Ezell as the new Fire Chief. Ezell brings more than 33 years of fire service to the community, with 20 of those spent in Joplin. He currently serves as Fire Chief for Maumelle, Arkansas.

“Gerald brings much experience to this position and will be an excellent addition to the City’s management team,” said Edwards. “As the City progresses with building Station 7 and addressing numerous actions plans involving the Fire Department, I am confident that he will serve the community well and lead the department with the intention of efficiency and cohesiveness.”

Ezell retired as a Battalion Chief from the City’s Fire Department in 2010. During his tenure in the department, he also served as a volunteer firefighter for the Diamond Area Fire Protection District. Upon his retirement from Joplin, he became the Fire Chief in Diamond and served four years in this role. Ezell then moved to Maumelle, Ark., to serve as their Fire Chief. He also is their emergency management coordinator.

Ezell is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer program at the National Fire Academy and holds the Chief Fire Officer designation. He has extensive training in safety and high-danger emergency response from National Incident Management Systems (NIMS) of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). He has a Bachelor of Science in management from Ashworth College in Norcross, Ga., and an Associate Degree in Fire Science.

“I am thrilled to be able to come back and continue my service to the citizens of Joplin and continue the rich tradition that the Joplin Fire Department has in providing top-notch customer service,” said Ezell. “Joplin is home and it is wonderful to bring my family back. I look forward to meeting with the tremendous employees of the Fire Department as well as the other City departments, and getting to work for the citizens. I want to thank City Manager Nick Edwards, City department heads, and employees for placing their trust in me."

Chief Ezell’s appointment will begin Monday, February 7, 2022. He and his wife, Nancy, have two daughters, Gabrielle and Kayla, and a son, Smoke.

Jason Smith: Our country needs to get back to the policies of Donald Trump

(From Eighth District Congressman Jason Smith)

On January 20, 2021, Joe Biden took his oath of office and promised to unify the country. But only hours after making that pledge, he abandoned that promise and pushed forth with the most partisan agenda I’ve seen in my lifetime.

Now, almost a year later, we are seeing the results of that radicalism. Families are struggling to put food on the table and medicine in their cabinet as inflation is at its highest level in 40 years, driven in large part by out-of-control government spending. 

Folks are struggling to afford gas after Biden reversed America’s energy independence by stopping key energy infrastructure through his executive orders. Nearly 2 MILLION people have crossed our southern border illegally, creating competition for jobs, after the president abandoned the wall and border security rules. 

Murder has risen drastically in nearly every one of America’s metropolitan areas, while the president attacks our police officers and makes it harder for them to do their jobs. Millions of Americans are scared of and angry at their government since the president began threatening their jobs and their ability to contribute to society if they don’t get vaccinated. 

And our country’s reputation is in shambles after leaving our own citizens to fend for themselves when he withdrew from Afghanistan. This administration’s record is shameful, but the worst part is they think the answer is more of the same.

In fact, the Biden Administration can’t even tell the truth about their agenda. Look no further than their recent attempts at forcing through their reckless $5 trillion spending bill through Congress. From the start the White House and Democrat leaders claimed this bill would be fully paid for and would cost zero. 

As the Republican Leader of the House Budget Committee, along with Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Lindsey Graham, we called on the Congressional Budget Office to conduct a full analysis and reveal the true cost of this legislation. 

What we discovered was shocking - it’s the most expensive piece of legislation in American history with over $5 trillion in new spending and $3 trillion in new debt. And while last week’s news that Sen. Manchin would no longer support this bill should be good news for hardworking Americans struggling with inflation, the administration’s response has been to attack the Congressional Budget Office and insist they will still try to pass their socialist bill.

This is a common theme with Joe Biden’s White House and the Washington Democrats: say one thing and do another – or in some cases, deliberately lie to the American people. We saw this when Joe Biden passed a $2 trillion spending bill supposedly aimed at fighting COVID, but less than 9% of the money spent went to combat the virus. It was the Biden Bailout Bill, NOT the American Rescue Plan.

Americans need a break from the multitude of crises they’re facing now. Under President Trump’s leadership our nation experienced record setting economic growth -- median household incomes hit the highest level ever seen, manufacturing jobs grew at the fastest rate in three decades, and unemployment was down to record lows. The reason was simple; jobs, wages, families, and small business were all thriving because of the tax and regulatory relief delivered under President Trump. Things like the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which resulted in the lowest tax rate on small businesses in more than 80 years and more take home pay for middle- and low-income workers, joined with unprecedented regulatory relief that saved families thousands of dollars had American families growing their own pockets instead of Washington’s. But in less than a year, Joe Biden undid all of that.

As the Republican Leader of the House Budget Committee and a 7th generation Missourian, I can tell you what our country needs most right now to get back on track is a return to the America First policies of President Trump. I will not stop fighting for rural Missouri, our way of life, and for the millions of working-class families who are suffering as a direct result of the current failed leadership in Washington. As the New Year approaches, you have my promise that I will keep fighting against this radical agenda and for a return to our commonsense values which put you first, not the government.

Springfield-Greene County Health Department urges post-holiday COVID-19 testing

(From the Springfield-Greene County Health Department)

After gathering with loved ones this holiday season, the Health Department encourages everyone to make an appointment to get tested for COVID-19. By getting tested after hosting, traveling, and gathering, individuals can determine whether they have become infected with COVID-19 over the holidays, and protect others from potential exposure.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the best time to get tested is 5-7 days after potential exposure regardless of vaccination status. Symptomatic individuals should seek testing immediately and isolate while awaiting results.

Appointments are required for COVID-19 testing at the Springfield-Greene County Health Department and can now be made online at Appointments can also be made by calling our COVID-19 Call Center at 417-874-1211 during regular business hours. Individuals who book an appointment will receive a test at the Health Department Vaccination Clinic, located at 1425 E. Battlefield Road (old Toys R Us). The tests are administered via a throat swab and results will be made available within 24 – 72 hours.

In addition to testing, the Health Department also encourages individuals to get vaccinated and boosted this holiday season. For vaccination opportunities, visit or call the COVID-19 call center at 417-874-1211. Those receiving a first or second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the Health Department clinic are eligible to receive a $50 gift card while supplies last.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Carthage R-9 Board accepts nine teacher retirements, resignations, hires five teachers


(From the Carthage R-9 School District)

The Carthage R-9 Board of Education met in regular session on Monday, December 20, 2021, 6:00 pm, at Carthage Junior High. Present were Board members Ms. Niki Cloud, Mrs. Karen Wilkinson, Mr. Ryan Ryan Collier, Mr. Jeff Jones, and Mr. Patrick Scott. Mr. Bill Lasley was absent. 

The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Ms. Cloud. 

The Board approved the Consent Agenda for the purpose of approving the meeting agenda, minutes of previous meetings, payment of bills, financial reports, and amendments to the FY21 budget. 

Renda Armstrong, DSWA, CPAs, reviewed the FY20 audit report. Carthage R-9 was in compliance with all requirements and received an overall clean audit report with no material weaknesses. 

Beth Hunt, Curriculum Director, provided an evaluative report on Curriculum, Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) I-5. An abbreviated District Report Card released by DESE indicates the District, when compared to state averages, experiences a larger percentage of students who qualify for free/reduced lunches, almost double the average percentage of Transitional Living/Homeless students, and almost seven times the number of English Language Learners. 

The district continues to see graduation rates higher than the state average. 

With the success and support of the Carthage Technical Center, the placement of CTE students into the workforce continues to rise. 

Mr. Gage Tiller, Carthage Technical Center Assistant Director, provided an evaluative report on Adult/Community Education, Missouri School Improvement Program Area G-6. Carthage Technical Center works with different community agencies and area businesses to provide a variety of community education classes. Certifications and licensing are offered in various fields and financial aid is available for those who qualify. The Practical Nursing Class of 2021 graduated 20 students this month. 

Mrs. Bonnie Schaeffer, Adult Education/Literacy Coordinator, provided an evaluative report on Adult Education/Literacy, Missouri School Improvement Program Area G-6. Over 185 individuals each year acquire skills through English as a Second Language (ESL) and High School Equivalency (HSE) classes offered at North Technical Center. 

Since reporting to the Board in 2019, Carthage AEL has developed and added the following new classes: Daytime HSE, Citizenship, Evening Multi-Level ELL Zoom Class, Fundamentals of Reading, Writing, and Mathematics Class, and HSE Boot Camp. 

Lee Florian Goetzinger was selected as the district’s Missouri School Boards’ Association John T. Belcher Scholarship nominee. Lee Florian Goetzinger will compete for a regional scholarship. One regional winner will be awarded a statewide scholarship. 

Ms. Cloud provided a Carthage R-9 School Foundation update. Look for flyers around town or check out the Carthage R-9 Foundation Facebook page for more information. 

Dr. Baker shared the average fill rate by day of week and lead time for substitute teachers for the months of August, September, and October. 

Dr. Baker revisited the 2021-2022 Tigers Together (SRCSP) Back-to-School Plan for approval of contract tracing, COVID dashboard, and expanding test to stay option within the district. 

Dr. Baker shared more in-depth layout designs for the Performing Arts Center, containing seating for 1250. In January the board will make the decision to add it to the ballot or pass. The board must approve ballot language in January to list on the April 2022 election. 

The Board approved Recruiting and Retaining Substitute Staff adding incentive, including full time sub positions, reimbursement for fingerprint fees, increase substitute rates for retired employees, monthly frequency incentives, and more. 

Renda Armstrong, DSWA, CPAs, reviewed the FY21 audit report. Carthage R-9 was in compliance with all requirements and received an overall clean audit report with no material weaknesses. 

Dr. Baker updated the Board regarding the following items: 

• Update on Board Candidates for the 2022 filing year 

• Importance of Recruit and Retain 

• Bilingual Stipend and Support Staff Educational Experience Degrees 

• Tigers and Lions Together 

• Tiger Fitness Center for Staff •

The Board met in closed session immediately following the regular meeting to discuss legal, personnel, and student matters in compliance with Section 610.021 (1), (3), (6), and (13) of the Revised Statutes of Missouri. 

In closed session, the Board approved the following personnel actions: 

The Board accepted the resignations/retirement of the following certified staff: 

Certified Staff Retirement: 

Meyer, Kimberly Library Media Specialist Columbian Elementary 
Reed, Carol EL Teacher Fairview Elementary 
Nelson, Randi Dual Language Kindergarten Teacher (English) Fairview Elementary 
Beshore, Jeff Science Teacher Junior High 

Support Staff Retirement: 

Parsons, Larry Custodian Columbian Elementary 

Certified Staff Resignation: 
Wiemers, David Instructional Interventionist Carthage High School 
Keck, Stephanie Kindergarten Teacher Mark Twain Elementary 
Webster, Audrey Special Education Teacher Carthage Intermediate Center 
McKnight, Jersvy EL Teacher Mark Twain Elementary 
Brinkhoff, Tammi ELA Teacher Junior High School 

Support Staff Resignation: 

Bourgeous, Ammon Custodian Steadley Elementary 
Sloniker, Carolyn Substitute Cook District 
O'Neill, Christian Head Custodian Carthage Junior High School 
Reyes, Elder EL Paraprofessional Carthage Junior High School 
Nichols, Laura Cook Carthage High School 
Musick, Sadie Administrative Assistant Carthage High School 

Extra Duty Resignation:  
Wiemers, David Assistant Football Coach Carthage High School 
Musick, Sadie Assistant Softball Coach Carthage High School 

Certfied Hire: 

Ogle, Coeta Practical Nursing Coordinator Carthage Technical Center - North 
Linder, Mary Bath Practical Nursing Instructor Carthage Technical Center - North 
Callen, Rebecca Special Education Teacher Carthage High School 
Otey, Matthew Instructional Intervention Specialist Carthage High School 
Branstetter, Jo Ellen Practical Nursing Instructor Carthage Technical Center - North 

Thursday, December 23, 2021

McDonald County Health Department reports seven COVID-19 cases


Twenty-eight COVID-19 cases reported in Jasper County

(From the Jasper County Health Department)

COVID Update 12/23/2021
28 new positive cases
<1 year 0
1-4 yrs 2
5-11 yrs 2
12-19yrs 0
20-29yrs 2
30-39yrs 8

40-49yrs 3
50-59yrs 8
60-69yrs 3
70-79yrs 0
80-89yrs 0
90+yrs 0
Vaccinated = 6
Reinfection = 0

Joplin Health Department confirms 15 COVID-19 cases

The Joplin Health Department confirmed 15 new COVID-19 cases today, according to statistics posted on the city website. The new cases bring the city's total to 9,433 cases, including 61 active cases.

The city has registered 185 deaths due to COVID-19.

Governor recommending $445 million tax rebate to 1.2 million Kansas taxpayers

By Tim Carpenter

Gov. Laura Kelly said the flow of state tax revenue was sufficient to propose Wednesday a $445 million tax rebate to Kansans who filed tax returns in the 2021 calendar year.

The Democratic governor said the recommendation would deliver a one-time $250 rebate to individual taxpayers.

“Thanks to our fiscal responsibility and record economic development success, we can return money to taxpayers and give every Kansas resident who filed taxes in 2021 a $250 rebate. These are significant savings for every family to be delivered by summer of 2022,” she said.

The 2022 Legislature, with a House and Senate controlled by Republicans, would have to concur with her strategy.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman, of Olathe, said the people of Kansas needed sustainable tax reform of the type Kelly vetoed in the past.Kanas

Inaccurate death certificates hide true toll of COVID-19

By Dillon Bergin and Rudi Keller

In Cape Girardeau County, the coroner hasn’t pronounced a single person dead of COVID-19 in 2021.

Wavis Jordan, a Republican who was elected last year to serve as coroner of the 80,000-person county, says his office “doesn’t do COVID deaths.” He does not investigate deaths himself, and requires families to provide proof of a positive COVID-19 test before including it on a death certificate.

Meanwhile, deaths at home attributed to conditions with symptoms that look a lot like COVID-19 — heart attacks, Alzheimer’s and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — increased.

“When it comes to COVID, we don’t do a test,” Jordan said, “so we don’t know if someone has COVID or not.”

Nationwide, nearly 1 million more Americans have died in 2020 and 2021 than in normal, pre-pandemic years, but about 800,000 deaths have been officially attributed to COVID-19, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

A majority of those additional 195,000 deaths are unidentified COVID-19 cases, public health experts have long suggested, pointing to the unusual increase in deaths from natural causes.

An investigation by Documenting COVID-19, the USA TODAY Network and experts reveals why so many deaths have gone uncounted: After overwhelming the nation’s health care system, the coronavirus evaded its antiquated, decentralized system of investigating and recording deaths.

Jasper County jury: Joplin R-8 must pay $817,000 in damages to rape victim

Following a five-day trial, a Jasper County jury awarded $817,000 in damages to a former Joplin High School student who claimed she was sexually assaulted at the school and school officials provided little help.

According to the lawsuit, the assault took place February 24, 2016. Jane Doe's stepmother took her to Freeman Hospital for a sexual assault examination and reported the assault to the Joplin Police Department.

It was also reported to district administrators, including the Joplin High School senior assistant principal, according to the lawsuit.

It was not the first time the male student who committed the assault had been involved in something of that nature, the petition said.

Prior to the assault, the District knew or had reason to know that the male District student who sexually assaulted Plaintiff had engaged in prior sexual misconduct involving female students.

Despite this, the petition said, the district "deliberately refused to take any action to protect (Jane Doe), took only late and ineffective remedial action when the District did decide to act (and) abetted the harassing student’s conduct."

Because of the assault and sexual harassment and the district's handling of it, the petition says Jane Doe has suffered "emotional distress, anxiety, fear, and depression."

Eventually, she had to finish the school year off-campus.

The girl told her story in a first-person account filed with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights.

I first met (the boy) at my school, Joplin High School, when we had a class together during first hour in the fall of 2015. The next semester, in January 2016, he began to message me on Facebook asking if we could have sex.

I said, "No way." That semester, I had fifth hour with (him) in the international foods class. We were on a team together with some other friends. We started talking again then the real harassment began.

He would message me asking if we could have sex, send me (penis) pictures and say he was horny.

When my boyfriend broke up with me, I told (a friend in that class) about it. Then he began asking me if I wanted to meet up and have sex. I told him no, I am going through a bad break up. I became infuriated with him pestering me to "show me your body" and other comments.

On February 24, 2016, I was already having a bad day after breaking up with my boyfriend and needed a hug from a friend. (He) had me sit down under a rock ledge under the back stairs, then he shoved me down, pulled down my pants and raped me.

I was telling him no, to stop, but he just kept going. Finally, I used my knee and shoved him off.

He sat down and while I was crying and slowing getting my pants back on, he said, "I was helping you get over (her boyfriend)."

I left in a hurry back to my seventh hour and my friend (name redacted) saw me (we had seventh hour together, as well). I told her everything that happened and then later reported the rape to police with my parents.

I was not able to return to classes at Joplin High School after that. It took more than a month for the school district to accommodate me with classes on line to take so I could finish my course work and graduate.

We found out from the prosecuting attorney's office while they were investigating my case that there had been 10 other incidents regarding Joplin High School, including three rapes.

Report: White, Kanakuk rejected supervisor's recommendation to fire sexual predator Pete Newman

An investigative report published this morning reveals for the first time that Joe White, director of Kanakuk, a Branson-based Christian sports camp, rejected the recommendation of the supervisor of sexual predator Pete Newman to fire Newman in 2003.

That decision appears to have enabled Newman to continue to molest hundreds of campgoers over the next six years before he was finally fired following his arrest.

Newman is currently serving two life sentences, plus 30 years, after pleading guilty in 2010 in Taney County Circuit Court to multiple counts of statutory sodomy.

Nancy French and David French, in an article posted on the Dispatch, revealed in interviews with Newman's supervisor at the time, Will Cunningham, and White's personal secretary, Vicki Morgan, that Cunningham recommended Newman's firing following incidents in which both Newman and children were nude, but was overruled by White, who said Newman was kept because of his proven ability to involve kids in Bible studies.

In a 2012 lawsuit deposition filed by the family of one of Newman's victims, White, under oath, said he kept Newman because Cunningham had recommended it.

The investigation also revealed a years-long pattern by Kanakuk officials of settling multiple lawsuits and forcing nondisclosure aggreements, as well as attempts to ward off legal action by showering concerned families with gifts:

After Newman’s confession, according to multiple families’ accounts, the camp sent victims’ families a copious amount of Kanakuk gear, PlayStations, iPads, iPhones, and snack baskets. They also reached out to victims directly, offering hunting trips and weekends away at White’s house. 

The camp offered free camp tuition to various victims—a policy still in place to this day—in an effort, as one person described, “to rediscover lost childhood.” Kanakuk COO Doug Goodwin, in a phone interview we conducted, explained that policy. “We wanted [the victims] to find healing via a counselor or the camp experience.”

The Turner Report broke the story of Pete Newman and Kanakuk in 2009 with a series of articles following his arrest, guilty plea and later lawsuits against Newman and the Christian camp. Despite the articles, largely because of Kanakuk's insistence on nondisclosure agreements and area media that was content to abandon the story after Newman's guilty plea (and not offer much coverage up to that point), the story remained off the radar, something the Turner Report wrote about in 2012 following national publicity over problems surrounding a Penn State assistant football coach who molested young boys and how Coach Joe Paterno looked the other way.

In that post, which was titled "A godlike man named Joe and sex with underage boys- and it's not Penn State," I wrote the following:

It has all of the earmarks of a national scandal.

A godlike figure, Joe, in charge of the fate of hundreds of young people. In the late ‘90s, one of his trusted assistants is charged with inappropriate activities with underage obys. The assistant is allowed to keep his job and continues his illegal, predatory activities.

When the assistant is finally brought to justice, a decade after the warning signals were sounded, the people at the institution gather around the godlike figure and mercilessly hammer at anyone who suggests that Joe might have anything to do with the evil that occurred on his watch.

I am not writing about Penn State, but the Christian sports camp Kanakuk, with its main location in Branson, Missouri. I was not describing the evils of Jerry Sandusky, but those of former Kanakuk camp director Pete Newman, and the godlike figure is not the late Joe Paterno, but the very much still in control Joe White, a nationally known motivational speaker connected with Promise Keepers.

The Kanakuk scandals began with Newman’s 2009 arrest on multiple charges involving sex with teenage boys over a 10-year period.

The crimes were described in the Taney County Sheriff’s Department report:

Between 2005 and 2008, Pete Newman became a close friend of his by attending family dinners, sleepovers, bible studies, taking vacations together and writing letters. Pete would hold one-on-one sessions with (the boy) in Pete's hot tub (at Pete's residence) and would request they be naked. Pete would discuss life's struggles with (him) and talk about masturbation. Pete would explain that if (the boy) would masturbate with him in his hot tub then there would be no lust and therefore (the boy) would not be sinning."

The boy told Roberts he and Newman masturbated together 10 times over a four-year period.

The sex went further than masturbation with another teenager, according to the report. After beginning with the masturbation sessions with the 13-year-old, the report said, "Pete started masturbating (the boy) and (the boy) would then masturbate Pete." That led to oral sex when the boy turned 15.

Newman allegedly used the hot tub trick on a 14-year-old, again resulting in mutual masturbation sessions.

When the Sheriff's Department began contacting former campers from other states, they heard more disturbing stories. Parents from Tennessee told the deputy their son, who was 14 at the time, reported engaging in the same type of activity with Newman.

Roberts described Newman's tactics, saying Newman became close to boys aged 11 to 15, hung out with them, gained their parents' trust, then beginning slowly with the hot tub and leading to sexual experiences. Roberts referred to it as "the grooming process" used by sexual offenders.

Sexual assault charges were also filed against Newman in Durango, Colorado, though those were dismissed after Newman pleaded guilty and was sentenced to serve two life sentences plus 30 years.
The questions about what Joe White knew and when he knew it were spelled out in two lawsuits filed against Kanakuk, one in Taney County and the other in a federal court in Texas.

Among the allegations in the Taney County petition:

-Kanakuk officials received sexual misconduct reports about Newman as early as 1999. (He remained in Kanakuk's employ until 2009.)

-Kanakuk's cost-saving policies encouraged employees recruiting campers in the off-season to stay with families, providing opportunities for Newman to zero in on potential victims.

-Kanakuk promoted Newman as a "camp director, devoted husband, loving, beloved friend and mentor to youth" long after being made aware of sexual misconduct allegations. Camp officials also allowed Newman to "continue to promote himself all over America as an expert on teenage sexual purity."

-Newman had one-on-one Bible studies with boys in his hot tub.

-Newman used his unrestricted access to Kanakuk facilities to lure underage boys to the facilities during the off-season for sexual purposes.

-Newman bombarded the plaintiff, referred to as "John Doe, J. G." in the petition with phone calls and letters and engaged in phone sex with him.
-Newman had sexual relations with boys in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. (Not mentioned was Colorado)

-At a "Purity Conference" in Memphis, Newman engaged a group of boys in sex talk, telling them what it was like to "have sex with a woman now that he was married."

-Newman invited the plaintiff to a conference in Oklahoma where he tried to get the boy to engage in sodomy, was turned down, and finally convinced him to engage in a mutual masturbation session.

According to the petition, the plaintiff was first seduced by Newman on Feb. 7, 2003, and then again the following day at K-Kountry in Taney County, at an area known as "The Pit," a foam pit next to the gymnastics equipment.

In the summer of 2003, the petition says, Newman lured the children with a yellow jeep into "spending time with him on Kanakuk property."

Kanakuk officials and Newman are charged with fraud, negligent supervision of a minor, breach of fiduciary duty, negligent infliction of emotional damage, breach of duty in loco parentis (serving in place of the parents) and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

It was the Texas lawsuit that placed Joe White’s role in a darker light.

The father of a child who was victimized by Pete Newman says White,a nationally known Christian motivational speaker, encouraged him to send his son to Kanakuk following a speech at a Promise Keepers meeting in Irving, Texas.

"Defendant Joe T. White appeared and lectured at a Promise Keepers event at Texas Stadium in Irving Texas. (The father) attended this event and heard (his) presentation advocating Christian values." White spoke of Kanakuk Kamp and distributed literature, and later sent letters and Internet messages to him, his wife, and other parents encouraging them to send their children to the Missouri camp.

When their son was sent to the camp, the lawsuit said, Pete Newman, the camp director, sexually molested him, "appearing nude with an erection in a hot tub for Bible studies with (the boy) as Newman masturbated himself, he masturbated (the boy) and had the boy masturbate him."

The abuse included games of naked truth or dare, and having the boy spend the night in Newman's living quarters, where he was sexually abused.

"At other times, Defendant Newman's inappropriate behavior and sexual abuse of (the boy) occurred in the presence of other Kanakuk Kamp personnel." The child was in the camp during the summers of 2005-2007.

The petition goes into specifics about White's prior knowledge of Newman's perversions:

"At least as early as 1999, Defendant Joe T. White, Kanakuk Ministries and/or Kanakuk Heritage, Inc. knew that Newman, in the nude, was riding four-wheelers at the 'kamp' with nude 'kampers,' who were minor children entrusted to the care of Defendants. In response to this sexually inappropriate behavior, Newman was placed on probation."

That was not the last time Newman's perverted antics were known to White and Kanakuk officials, the lawsuit charges. "In or about 2003, a nude Defendant Newman was streaking through the 'kamp' property with nude minor 'kampers.' Although this conduct came to the attention of Defendants Joe T. White, Kanakuk Ministries, and/or Kanakuk, Heritage, Inc., again Newman remained on staff in easy reach of his future victims, including John Doe I."

The lawsuit charged White and Kanakuk with negligence, fraud, misrepresentation, and unfair and deceptive practices, negligent infliction of emotional distress.

That case is scheduled to go to trial in the summer of 2013.

Where the Kanakuk case differs from Penn State is that Newman is not the only person connected with Kanakuk to be charged with sexual crimes involving underage boys.

Lee Bradberry, 22, Auburn, Alabama, pleaded not guilty Thursday in Taney County Circuit Court to two counts of statutory sodomy, two counts of sexual molestation and single counts of sexual misconduct and attempted statutory sodomy, with all onf the incidents taking place in June 2011 with boys aged, 9, 11, and 12.

A third person connected to Kanakuk is scheduled to plead guilty July 27 in Orange County, Florida to a charge of lewd and lascivious molestation, again involving underage boys.

Edward Ringheim, a former Universal Orlando employee, allegedly treated young men to free trips to Universal Studios by using his employee pass, one of the victims told authorities

Parents also let Ringheim accompany their children to Kanakuk's Branson facility according to published reports. Investigators say he brought about 30 kids to Kanakuk for summer camp over a four-year period.

The scandals surrounding Kanakuk have been almost ignored outside of local media.

Kanakuk, of course, is not the only sports camp, Christian or otherwise, to run into problems with sexual predators on staff. The April 1 Cape Cod Times reported that Camp Good News, which was shut down last year due to a sex scandal, took a proactive approach this year, bringing in an expert to talk to the staff.

Next month, Rick Braschler will also offer a workshop to teach camp leaders and others in the community willing to pay $100 how to protect children from predators. But the training goes beyond criminal background checks and establishing protocols to report abuse."We need insight into how does a person with bad intent infiltrate an organization and then gain trust so they can follow through on their bad intent," Braschler said.

The same day the newspaper ran that interview with Braschler, who is the risk management director for Kanakuk, Lee Bradberry was arrested.

Why isn’t anybody covering this story?

Thankfully, Nancy and David French are covering this story. Since they published the first article in their investigative series in May, an online petition demanding Kanakuk release victims from nondisclosure agreements has collected more than 25,000 signatures.