Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A look at the group proposing the expansion of the JHS Performing Arts Center

The surprise announcement at Tuesday night's Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting that Connect2Culture wants to expand the Joplin High School Performing Arts Center (which is not scheduled to be completed until spring) and bring a touch of culture to the city was a highlight of the meeting, but certainly bears closer examination.

It would be a boon for Joplin and could bring in Broadway plays and major entertainers, the board was told.

Even better, it will not cost the taxpayers a cent, board members Sharon Beshore and Clifford Wert told the R-8 Board. It can be done through grants and private financing. The  school board agreed to pursue a relationship with the not-for-profit group,

Left unsaid for those who are not familiar with Connect2Culture is just who is this group? The plan to establish an amphitheater to attract major entertainers is not a new one. It has been the focus of Connect2Culture since the not-for-profit was formed five years ago.

It pushed the so-called SPARK plan, which would have set up the center downtown, but that like everything else connected to the redevelopment of Joplin (except for the redevelopment that has been done by people who have no connection to the official redevelopment sources such as master developer Wallace-Bajjali Development Partners) has been at a standstill.

The board of directors at Connect2Culture features a list of names that have become familiar in their efforts to remold the image of Joplin since the tornado. Many of the people are charter members of the Joplin Progress Committee, which pushed slates of candidates in the city and school board racers in April.

One person who sits on the Connect2Culture board, though I don't recall if it was ever mentioned Tuesday night is R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff. The following list of board members comes from the Connect2Culture website:

Board of Directors:
Sharon Beshore, President (Missouri Arts Council, Board; Spiva Center for the Arts, Trustee)
Clifford Wert, Co-Vice-president and Treasurer (retired US Bank, President, Joplin Region)
Cynthia Schwab, Co-Vice-president (Founder, Pro Musica)
Gina Atteberry, Secretary (Crossland Construction, General Counsel)
Paula Baker, board member (Freeman Health System, President and CEO)
Brad Belk, board member (Joplin Museum Complex, Executive Director)
Alex Curchin, board member (City of Joplin, Municipal Judge; Crossland Construction, General Council)
Troy Hill, board member (Baird Kurtz & Dobson, CPA)
C.J. Huff, board member (Joplin R-8 Schools, Superintendent)
Robin McAlester, board member (Empire District Electric Company, Corporate Communications)
Jo Mueller, board member (George A. Spiva Center for the Arts, Executive Director)
Rob O’Brian, board member (Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, CEcD — President)
Dan Stanley, board member (Edward Jones, Financial Advisor)
Carolyn Phelps, board member (Arts Supporter & Philanthropist)
Dot Willcoxon, board member (Arts Supporter & Philanthropist)
Trisha Patton, ex-officio (Downtown Joplin Alliance, Executive Director)
Tonya Sprenkle, ex-officio (Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, Vice-President)
Sam Anselm, ex-officio (City of Joplin, Interim City Manager)

Note to City of Joplin- We don't need a master developer

If Wallace-Bajjali is a master developer, I would hate to think how bad an ordinary developer would be.

David Wallace, the face of Wallace-Bajjali Development Partners, was nowhere in sight Tuesday night as the Joplin Redevelopment Commission heard one of his underlings explain how the master developers needed more taxpayer money to be able to function effectively.

After effectively playing a shell game for months with the purchase of the Cola-Cola building, the master developer now let the Commission know he wants (and he received) more time to close the deal on 15 pieces of property that are supposed to be used for a movie theater and shopping center at 20th and Connecticut.

A better question would be how anyone bought into the idea that the city actually needed a movie theater and shopping center at 20th and Connecticut and why we should spend millions to get it.

But we're past that point.

Wallace-Bajjali was supposed to buy the properties by the end of the year. Now the deadline will be February 6, and according to the Joplin Globe's account of last night's meeting, Wallace-Bajjali wants another $4 million of taxpayer money.

So let's take a look at what the city's relationship with Wallace-Bajjali has brought us so far.

All right. Now that we have taken a look at what Wallace-Bajjali has brought us, isn't it time that we sent our master developers packing?
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mike Landis: A man's pants are his castle and they'd better not be bluejeans

Mike Landis was ticked and he was quick to let everyone know it.

As the Joplin R-8 Board of Education discussed a policy on staff conduct, including dress code, that Landis thought was opening the door for- horror of horrors- bluejeans, steam was coming out of his miniature ears.

Board member Lynda Banwart, who is on the board's Policy Committee, was open to leaving it up to building principals to decide if teachers, who are currently allowed to wear bluejeans on so-called Eagle Pride days (the Friday closest to payday) could wear them on Fridays. Board member Debbie Fort had expressed a similar opinion at a recent meeting, noting that her employer, Missouri Southern State University, allowed bluejeans on Fridays.

That was not good for the senior board member Landis, who has been on the Joplin R-8 Board since students were brought to school on covered wagons.

In a voice even higher-pitched than usual, Landis squeaked, "I will not vote for that!"

In a lecture similar to the one given by Board President Annie Sharp at a recent meeting, Landis indicated there was no place for blue jeans in the Joplin Schools, at least not as far as teachers are concerned.

Landis noted that the school district was one of the largest employers in Joplin and the teachers needed to show professionalism.

Superintendent C. J. Huff expertly interjected, "A vast majority of our teaching staff wants to come to work every day looking professional."

Banwart noted that if the Joplin Schools want to be the "employer of choice" that things like that, which may not seem important to some, could be a factor.

Huff pointed out that parents also play a role in that, leaving unfinished what appeared to be a statement that parents do not want teachers wearing bluejeans.

The board unanimously adopted the policy, which does not specify anything about bluejeans, but the Policy Committee will go over the procedures that will be used to implement the policy and set guidelines on when bluejeans can be worn.

In the meantime, Joplin teachers will continue to wear pants, if nothing else to cover up their tattoos.

We definitely don't want to get that one started again.

The most important thing to the two longest-serving board members, Sharp and Landis, seems to be that no matter how close to financial ruin they may have steered the district, at least the teachers will be dressed for success.

(Photo: C. J. Huff makes a point, as board member Mike Landis wonders what the teachers would look like without pants.)
ADVERTISEMENT- The book that has caused C. J. Huff many a sleepless night.

Reader poses six questions on proposal to expand JHS Performing Arts Center

The following comment on Connect 2 Culture's proposal to add on to Joplin High School's Performing Arts Center to attract concerts and Broadway-type shows arrived a few moments ago.

1. Who pays for the upkeep?
2. Who pays for the heat and air?
3. Most important, how do you keep the "visitors" away from our children. You know, the children whose nude pictures CJ's chief of internet security had on his computer? And all of their peers? We know CJ isn't concerned for their safety, or he would have alerted parents to the possibility of exposure to a pedophile.
4. Is there no place else? Maybe 20th and Connecticut? There's no construction there.
5. How does this not crowd the school? Will more parking be created, or will our kids have to move over.
6. Don't exploit our children to build your sets, calling free labor and time away from class an "opportunity." They're out of their classes enough as it is.

It seems like the public ought to get some say in this. Joplin might be starving for culture, but it doesn't have to be on school grounds. Down the road is close enough.

How do you feel about the proposal?

ACLU member:on Ferguson: This is not the America I want

(From Marc Climaco, American Civil Liberties Union Action Team)

My heart aches today.

I'm in Ferguson – supporting the incredible work of ACLU of Missouri, meeting with activists, helping out legal observers, handing out Know Your Rights t-shirts and cards to protesters.

And, as a person of color, I'm here bearing witness.

Last night, we stood with thousands of others in Ferguson, listening to St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch make his announcement.
There was a hush over the crowd as we all strained to hear the broadcast. And then... what is there to say? We all had so much energy during the day – energy and solidarity. There was palpable excitement – we were all standing together for a cause. But even though we were all ready for the news, it was just so hard to hear it. And then all of a sudden, everything changed and the quiet was replaced with the crying and weariness of our shared grief.

I woke up this morning to news coverage of buildings burning. But what I saw yesterday and the days before in Ferguson was the passion burning in people's hearts. Early this morning, I attended a Clergy-led protest in Clayton, near Ferguson. People were still crying, saying this is not how I want to be treated as a Black person. This is not the America I want.

I met Larry Fellows III in Ferguson Рhe's a 29-year old organizer from St. Louis. Larry had never seen himself as an activist before. He told me that it wasn't till he went to a protest in Ferguson where there were rubber bullets and M-16s aimed at him that he was called to action. Larry was hit with tear gas Р"these weird Pokémon balls that spit out gas. All this stuff I had never seen before in my life."

Larry told me that "it just showed me we should be able to fight for our constitutional rights without being terrorized by the police." And he's done juBecause we're not just talking about Ferguson. The demonstrations across the country are about all the unarmed Black and Brown civilians killed by the police. They're about Akai Gurley, shot by a rookie police officer in a stairwell last week in Brooklyn. They're about Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy shot dead by police on a playground in Cleveland two days ago. They're about Eric Garner, who died after NYPD officers held him in an illegal chokehold in Staten Island this summer. They're about each and every person of color who has experienced this nationwide pattern of police using excessive force with impunity.

Is there hope to be had? I'm not sure – it feels like a hopeless moment, but a hopeless moment can be a seed for change. We're angry and mourning today, yet we need to make this the turning point. We need to fix the system. We need to make this the America we want.

Yours in solidarity,

Marc Climaco, ACLU Digital Media Associate, for the ACLU Action teamst that, becoming a part of a new civil rights movement in America.

Bud Sexson: We've had a culture problem at East Middle School

Out of 34 teachers at East Middle School last year, 10 are no longer there, Principal Bud Sexson told the Joplin R-8 Board of Education a few moments ago, but it doesn't matter.

The 10 replacements "are the best group we've had," Sexson said.

Among those who left East following the 2013-2014 school year were a number of veteran teachers, including eighth grade science teacher Mike Wallace, seventh grade reading teacher Jennifer Wallace, eighth grade reading teacher Kim Frencken, sixth grade math teacher Brian Neugebauer, and special education teacher Bridgette Titus.

Sexson acknowledged that East's test scores were down significantly in math, something he blamed on having a first year teacher in eighth grade, a first year teacher in seventh grade, and a third year teacher in sixth grade.

It might take a while to bring those scores up, Sexson said, mentioning it could possibly take three years.

One problem East Middle School has had, Sexson said, has been a culture problem. "There are some personal issues that have gone on," he said, not explaining what those issues were. "We know our culture has taken a hit."

Sexson left the board befuddled with his explanation of the new approach East is using so that students take control over their own learning. They all must decide that "I know what I don't know and I know what I know."

Referrals are down at East, Assistant Principal Jason Weaver said, with Sexson adding that many of the discipline problems have come from ED and BD students who have been mainstreamed into regular classrooms.

Sexson said the teachers are being taught strategies  to help them deal with these students.
Advertisement- East Middle School Principal Bud Sexson told PTO members this book would be a great thing and would help EMS students in their path to recovery after the Joplin Tornado. Of course, one year later he testified under oath that he had never heard of the book until two months earlier. He was right the first time. Scars from the Tornado is the book that tells, through first person stories from teachers and students the EMS experience with the Joplin Tornado and the first year in a warehouse school.

Group proposes major expansion of Joplin High School Performing Arts Center

Connect2Culture, a not-for-profit group that has been pushing for an entertainment complex (the SPARK project) for the city of Joplin since 2009, just proposed a public-private partnership with the Joplin School District, which would see private funding used to expand the Joplin High School Performing Arts Center and attract professional touring performers.

Retired U. S. Bank President Clifford Wert told the Joplin R-8 Board of Education that the added construction would not delay the return of JHS arts students to the high school. At the present time, students are attending classes and practices at the former Memorial Middle School. The performing arts center is scheduled to be ready next spring.

Not one cent for the project would come from taxpayer money, Sharon Beshore of Connect2Culture (pictured) and Wert said, though no specific figures were provided as to how much it would cost and Beshore and Wert indicated the fundraising process had not yet begun.

Beshore described the project as making a "significant contribution to the lifeblood of the community."

The addition would make the site attractive to contemporary musical performers, classic rock, "smaller Broadway productions, something for everyone," Beshore said.

One name that was never mentioned during the presentation was Wallace-Bajjali Development Partners. The City of Joplin's master developer has included this project, before the school district idea was proposed, in its presentations to the Redevelopment Board and City Council.

The Board of Education voted unanimously to explore the partnership proposal.
Advertisement- A rallying cry for teachers across the United States and most especially in Joplin, Let Teachers Teach.

Attorney general meets with victimized Ferguson business owners

(From Attorney General Chris Koster)

Attorney General Chris Koster today visited with business owners along West Florissant Boulevard in Ferguson. The business owners were busy cleaning up and recovering from the damages from last night's violence.

"It is absolutely critical to protect these establishments from looting and vandalism," said Koster. "These small businesses are the lifeblood of Ferguson, and they should not have to bear the cost of civil unrest. The protection and restoration of these businesses is essential for Ferguson's recovery."

Koster also stopped by the North County law-enforcement command center in Ferguson to thank members of the multi-agency force tasked with protecting public safety following the announcement of the Grand Jury decision. He spoke with officers from the St. Louis County Police Department and the Missouri Highway Patrol, as well as servicemen and women from the Missouri National Guard.

"Many of these officers and guardsmen and women will spend their Thanksgiving holiday away from their families and on the streets of Ferguson to keep the community safe," Koster said. "I am grateful to the dedicated men and women in uniform for their service in these difficult circumstances."

Nixon on Ferguson: No one should have to live like this

(From Gov. Jay Nixon)

Below are the prepared remarks made by Gov. Jay Nixon during a media availability today at the University of Missouri-St. Louis with state and local law enforcement leaders, and with leaders from the Missouri National Guard:

“Good afternoon and thank you for joining us. First let me introduce who is with me today:
Chief Dan Isom, the Director of the Department of Public Safety
Colonel Ron Replogle of the Missouri State Highway Patrol
Chief Jon Belmar of the St. Louis County Police Department
Assistant Chief Al Atkins of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department
We’re also joined by Major General Stephen Danner and Brigadier General Gregory Mason from the Missouri National Guard.

“Last night, criminals intent on lawlessness and destruction terrorized this community – burning buildings, firing gunshots, vandalizing store fronts, and looting family businesses – many for the second time.

“I am deeply saddened for the people of Ferguson who woke up this morning to see parts of their community in ruins.

“I just came from West Florissant, and it’s a heart-breaking sight. Seniors afraid to leave the house. School canceled. Kids scared to go outside and play.

“What they’ve gone through is unacceptable. No one should have to live like this. No one deserves this. We must do better and we will.

“This morning and into this afternoon, I met with Guard and law enforcement leaders. All agree that the violence we saw in areas of Ferguson last night cannot be repeated.

“That is why, in order to protect lives and property, we are bringing more resources to Ferguson and other parts of the region to prevent a repetition of the lawlessness experienced overnight.

“The National Guard presence will be ramped up significantly in Ferguson and ensuring they are ready to act quickly to prevent violence.

“First, we are deploying hundreds of additional Guardsmen to Ferguson who will be stationed throughout the community to protect homes and businesses.

“With these additional citizen soldiers, law enforcement officers will be better able to focus on protecting lives and property in the community.

“The Missouri National Guard will also continue to provide security at critical locations, including the Ferguson Police Department. Last night, more than 700 Guardsmen were at nearly 100 vital facilities throughout the region, and I thank them for their work. It is a testament to the professionalism of local law enforcement, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Guard that no one was killed or seriously injured last night.

“Third, the Guard’s rapid response teams will be positioned so that they are ready to act at a moment’s notice if challenges arise. Altogether, there will be more than 2,200 National Guardsmen in the region.

“Lives and property must be protected. This community deserves to have peace. We will provide safety and security to this region.

“I know this morning there is pain in the hearts of this community. I also know that it is vital for us to understand how we got to this place, and how to make it better.

“I continue to be heartened by the steadfast work that so many people in this region are doing on behalf of peace and understanding, to avert violence and to move forward together. Thank you.”

Watch Joplin R-8 Board meeting live tonight at 6 p.m.