Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Steele: I've had threatening phone calls

Randy Steele, who resigned from the Joplin R-8 Board of Education prior to Tuesday night's meeting, tells KZRG that he quit because of the pressure that was being placed on him.

I've had people bring things to my work place; envelopes with letters telling me I need to make sure to vote for a certain person to be put on the board, and if not they'll show up to meetings."

Randy Steele quits: The thrill is gone

And then there was one.

In less than two years, six of the seven members of the Joplin R-8 Board of Education have either resigned, decided not to run for re-election, or have been booted out by the voters.

The latest resignation, that of Randy Steele, who has been a board member since 2008 (he and Superintendent C. J. Huff arrived at about the same time), was received by the board just prior to its Tuesday night meeting, according to a story posted less than an hour ago on the Joplin Globe website.

Steele told the Globe he was under too much pressure in trying to find the seventh board member to replace former Joplin Police Chief Lane Roberts. "The focus is gone. I've had enough," Steele told the newspaper.

The only remaining board member from April 2013 is Mike Landis, who has been on the board since 2001. Landis' term ends in 2016.

Of the other board members, two former board presidents, Anne Sharp and Jeff Flowers were soundly defeated by the voters, two others, Phil Willcoxon and Jim Kimbrough decided not to run again (though Kimbrough applied for the vacant board seat and is one of the finalists) and two, Steele and Dawn Sticklen, resigned.

Fun ways the R-8 District is spending your taxpayer money

A few items that the Joplin R-8 Board of Education approved when it paid the district's bills during Tuesday night's meeting:

-$99,668.75 to the Northwest Evaluation Association for the testing regimen that Curriculum Director Sarah Stevens sold the board on at the April meeting. For the first time, kindergarten through second graders will receive practice standardized tests. It should be noted that the district used McGraw-Hill's series of Acuity practice tests for years with test scores going down each succeeding year.

-$10,362.74 to the PI Group, the electrical contracting firm the district is suing (and which is suing the district, claiming that it incurred nearly $7 million in costs because of Superintendent C. J. Huff's push to get Joplin High School opened in time for the 2014-2015 school year. In its lawsuit, the district claims the PI group is guilty of shoddy work, something it never mentioned in the back and forth communications before the lawsuit was filed.

-$3,685 to the Core Collaborative, part of more than $100,000 the district spent on Common Core consultant Paul Bloomberg's group, which spent a year telling teachers to make students responsible for their own work. This revelation, which teachers have been doing since day one, was enough to make Sarah Stevens, C. J. Huff, and Executive Director of Elementary Education Jennifer Doshier push for a second year at a cost of $103,000. Thankfully, the board rejected that request by a 3-2 vote, though Mike Landis and Lynda Banwart were willing to fork over the money, no questions asked.

-$2,909.77 to WAAV, Inc., for bus wi-fi

-$72 to Jon Tupper for staff "Grit" t-shirts

-$1,242.40 to Peregrine Corporation for shirts and sweatshirts

-$45 to the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce to pay Director of Community Development Whitney Warren's dues for the Young Professionals Network

-$280 for a table for the Joplin Regional Business Journal's 2015 Most Influential Business Women. One of the honorees was Communications Director Kelli Price. If you remember, the same amount was paid last fall when Men of Distinction were honored and one of those honored was C. J. Huff.

Joplin R-8 Administration moving to Memorial this week

(From Joplin Schools)

This week, Joplin Schools Administration will be moving to its new location at Memorial Education Center, 310 W. 8th St.

The administrative offices at both the MODOT building and Memorial Education Center will remain open during the move. However, employees/ patrons of the district should expect minimal functionality until Monday, June 1.

On Tuesday, May 26, ATT is scheduled to transfer phone service from the MODOT building to Memorial Education Center. If employees/patrons of the district need to contact the administrative offices and have difficulty reaching us at our 625-5200 number, please call Soaring Heights Elementary at 625-5330. Secretary Debbie Stout will be happy to assist you in making contact with the individual you are needing to speak with at the administration building. This may be required for the entire week of May 25.

Our new address effective immediately:

Joplin Schools Administration at Memorial Education Center
310 W. 8th Street
Joplin, MO 64801

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Joplin R-8 Board fails to choose new member

Lynda Banwart just doesn't get it.

When Board President Jeff Koch, Debbie Fort, and Jennifer Martucci made the point that they wanted Jim Kimbrough to take the seat vacated when former Joplin Police Chief Lane Roberts resigned, they cited his nine years of board experience.

Banwart talked about change and said that if board experience was the primary requirement for the replacement, then why did they not vote for either Ashley Micklethwaite or Anne Sharp, both of whom were among the original applicants for the post.

What was the difference between those two and Kimbrough, Banwart asked.

For one thing, Lynda, Anne Sharp couldn't collect 300 notarized signatures on a petition if she handed out candy and led taxpayers in the wave. And considering that Micklethwaite was the board president after the tornado when the keys to the treasury were handed over to Superintendent C. J. Huff, it is unlikely that she could get that many signatures either.

As Martucci pointed out, the voters who elected her, Koch, and Lane Roberts were the same ones who were signing the petitions.

When the educational experience of Kimbrough, a former teacher and principal in the R-8 School District was brought up, Banwart let it be known that there was already one board member who had worked for the district, Debbie Fort, and it has become quite apparent over the last two regular board meetings that Banwart does not have much use for Fort.

So Kimbrough fell one vote short of receiving the four necessary, with Koch, Fort, and Martucci supporting him, and Mike Landis and Banwart voting against him. Randy Steele, who voted against Kimbrough at the May 12 special meeting, was absent.

The other two finalists for the position, Empire District Electric Company attorney Sharrock Dermott and Missouri Southern State University professor Marsi Archer, each fell two votes short with Landis and Banwart supporting them and Koch, Fort, and Martucci voting against.

Koch said he was voting for Kimbrough, but hoped that both Dermott and Archer would run next April, noting that he, Martucci, and Roberts all applied for the seat left open when Dawn Sticklen resigned, were all passed over, and were all three elected in April.

The decision was tabled until the next meeting.

R-8 Board says no to second year of $100,000 consultant

By a 3-2 margin, the Joplin R-8 Board of Education rejected a $100,000 plus contract with the Core Collaborative, an outside consulting firm.

The district had already paid $103,000 to Core Collaborative for the 2014-2015 school year, and Curriculum Director Sarah Stevens made a jargon-filled plea for another year, saying that the district was just getting started with Collaborative head Paul Bloomberg's work on visible learning. "It's still new to us," she said, and she stressed how important it was to have "outside people come" to Joplin and work with teachers and principals.

It was noted that Stevens is going to be presenting at a workshop being put on by Core Collaborative, in which she was going to tell about Joplin's first year experience with the group and what it expected to accomplish during the second year.

Board President Jeff Koch asked Stevens if she would be able to provide the training. Stevens said that while professional development "is my passion,"  she had too much to do to be able to do that.

Koch, Debbie Fort, and Jennifer Martucci voted against renewing the contract with Core Collaborative, while Mike Landis and Lynda Banwart voted to retain the consulting firm.
Randy Steele was absent.

The vote against Core Collaborative came despite Stevens' efforts to use the same tactics she used last month when she convinced the board to spend $300,000 over a three-year period for a new testing regimen, which will expand the district's practice standardized tests to kindergarten through second grade.

Stevens sent the following e-mail to building principals:


I will be taking the Core Collaborative contract to the board on Tuesday, May 26.
I am asking for a year long contract up to 30 days to include the days principals have asked for, departments have requested, and to finish helping with the bsip plans we have started and the work of self regulated learning. I will be also be including a couple of days for special ed iep work.
This is the same amount of days we used this year between three consultants with the Core Collaborative.

I would like a short blurb from you stating how the work we have embarked on this year with the core collaborative and visible learning has helped, guided, or changed the way your building is working together, performing, etc. If you feel inclined, include what you hope to gain from continuing this focus and support.

Please do not use the verbiage of Visible Learning since that technically was with Corwin, even though Paul (consultant Paul Bloomberg who heads the Core Collaborative) tied a lot of what we were doing all together to make it all fit. I will bring Visible Learning for Teachers to a different board meeting if JPDT votes to have it happen this summer.

I am hoping to provide a presentation to avoid the interviews and length of the last action item, but your visible support at the board meeting is always appreciated.

Joplin Pride official to speak to Southwest Missouri Democrats

(From Southwest Missouri Democrats)

Southwest Missouri Democrats will host their Monthly Breakfast on Saturday, May 30th, at 9:30 a.m. The breakfast will be served in the meeting room of the Laborers Local 319 at 2001 Empire, Joplin, MO 64804, where the Southwest Missouri Democrats offices are located. The meal will be potluck. Guests are asked to bring a breakfast casserole, fruit or baked good. Call Krista Stark at 417-437-8443 with questions.

We are pleased to welcome Carrie Coffey, Vice Chair of Joplin Pride as our guest speaker.

Carrie was born and raised in Neosho Missouri, which is where she currently resides with her partner and two daughters. Carrie served 2 years as the Chair of the Joplin Pride Board and is currently serving as Vice Chair. Joplin Pride strives to educate the community on LGBTQ rights and issues and hosts a festival for the community each year to celebrate diversity.

June is PRIDE month and the LGBTQ community and allies will gather to celebrate Joplin Pridefest in Landreth Park on Saturday, June 6th, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Construction of park at old St. John's site to begin this fall

(From the City of Joplin)

Park at 26th and Cunningham
Construction of a naturalistic park in the southeast corner of 26th Street and McClelland Boulevard should begin this fall. The proposed park will be located on land that was part of the former location of St. John’s Regional Medical Center and was donated to the City by Mercy Hospital.

Design options for the approximate 16 acres include developing the park as an open green space with passive activities, including an interpretive nature trail, a small lake and pavilion. The lake is scenic as well as functional by addressing water quality issues and providing storm water retention, which will help mitigate downstream flooding in the area during large rain events. Park options were completed by Deloitte Consulting and SWT Designs.

Trail connectivity will be developed to nearby Cunningham Park and adjacent facilities like South Middle School, the Ozark Center, currently under construction, and the new Kansas City University of Medical Biosciences recently announced.

“This will be a major enhancement and investment in this area of the community,” said Troy Bolander, Director of Planning, Development, and Neighborhood Services. “With the residential and commercial growth occurring, this area will again experience much activity, and the park provides a unique attraction to the neighborhood.”

In addition, the park design considers citizens’ feedback gathered in the City’s 2010 and 2014 Parks and Recreation surveys, as well as citizen input endorsed by the City Council as part of the Citizens Active in Recovery Team (CART) plan.

The City’s project manager Tony Robyn states, “Contrasted with the adjacent Cunningham Park and Pool that is full of activities and excitement for young children, this park area will be a natural place of healing, growth, and reflection, offering an opportunity to enjoy the surroundings, or simply stroll a trail through the beautifully landscaped vistas and shaded areas.”

The lake is part of the intention to restore a large water feature in Joplin; the one previously located in Parr Hill Park was lost due to the necessary redevelopment following the 2011 disaster. Robyn noted “The public loved that feature and this is an opportunity to bring something like it back.”

Funding for this $4.7 million project is provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery program. Construction will begin in fall 2015 with intention to be completed by May 2016. The new park will incorporated into the Parks and Recreation Department and a public naming contest will be announced at a later date.

Watch the Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting live tonight

The video is provided by Jet HD through its YouTube channel.

Charges against Joplin man upgraded to murder

A 9:30 a.m. Wednesday arraignment has been scheduled in Jasper County Circuit Court for Alexander C. Sewell, 40, Joplin, who is charged with second degree murder in connection with the May 18 shooting death of Sewell's roommate, James Swatsenberg, 49.

Sewell was originally charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, but the death was labeled a homicide following the autopsy. Sewell is also charged with armed criminal action.

Sewell's bond, initially set at $10,000 has been increased to $500,000.

Joplin Police discovered Swatsenberg's body after receiving a call about a shooting at K-Wood Mobile Estates, 200 E. Zora, lot 38.