Sunday, May 03, 2015

Julie Hartwell: Debbie Fort is an asset to the Joplin community

(The following letter to the editor ran in today's Joplin Globe. The author, Julie Hartwell of Joplin, was kind enough to allow the Turner Report to publish it, also.)


That was the word that came to mind when I was watching the Joplin Board of Education meeting on April 28. The divisive behavior on the board doesn’t fall in the sight of a disagreement on academic achievement, finances or many of the pros and cons the district faces. The disagreement comes from a lack of trust on two sides, and it is greatly fueled by comments made by Superintendent C.J. Huff. 

In the meeting, Huff said to board president candidate Debbie Fort that in her last 10 years, she was the “worst performing principal in the district.” That simply isn’t true. Huff went on to say that Fort had some of the lowest Missouri Accreditation Program scores in the district. Here are some facts: 

KSN-TV reported in February 2005 on MAP scores that Irving Elementary was one of five Joplin schools that made the state top 10 list for most improved schools ... with Irving seeing the school score jump 83 percent — the biggest increase in the district.” 

Furthermore, Huff also said that Fort had some of the lowest math MAP scores in the district. The Joplin Globe reported in April 2006 that “Irving Elementary also celebrated its MAP achievements, with 80 percent of its pupils reaching the top levels in social studies and 71 percent doing the same in math.” The facts need to be noted, and these are known facts that do not have any bias. 

Fort has been an asset to the Joplin community and its students for more than 30 years. She will continue to be as a board member. Joplin has gone through some of the most tumultuous times in our city’s history since May 2011. We have beaten the odds, rebuilt beautiful schools and have been the poster child for others who have been faced with recovery. Can the bad-mouthing please stop at the board meetings?

C. J. Huff: Randy Turner is texting Fort, Martucci during board meetings

When C. J. Huff publicly criticized Debbie Fort at last Tuesday's Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting, it received a scant one paragraph mention on the page seven jump in the Joplin Globe's coverage the next day. It was not even featured on televised reports.

Those who watched the spectacle, whether it was on Jet 14, YouTube, Jet 14 Live at the district website, or at the Turner Report, were shocked by Huff's display and that, combined with Huff's Facebook attacks on Jennifer Martucci, have directly led to a growing movement to rid our school district of the man who has been superintendent for the past seven years.

During his attack on Fort, Huff said she was the worst principal in the district when she was at Irving Elementary and rattled off statistics which supposedly proved this.

We all have heard Mark Twain's quote referring to people who try to bolster weak arguments by using "lies, damned lies, and statistics." As you might expect, C. J. Huff cherry picked some statistics, ignored others that would contradict the point he was making, including ones in which some scores at Irving improved during Fort's last three years as principal there.

I noted in an earlier post that blogger and frequent Joplin Globe columnist Anson Burlingame had written an April 2, 2014, post designed to derail Debbie Fort's school board candidacy, using the same information that Huff used Tuesday night.  I stated without equivocation that Huff supplied Burlingame with the information, trying unsuccessfully to defeat Fort, a result he repeated this year in his efforts to stop Jennifer Martucci. Burlingame has denied this and claims, unconvincingly, that he does his own thinking. If that is the case, why did he cherry pick the same information that Huff used Tuesday night?

Judging from years of Burlingame's blogging, there is absolutely no evidence that he has ever dug into public records to find out about anything. Yet on this one occasion he provides the same information that C. J. Huff used in an unsuccessful effort to discredit Fort.

I had planned to run a statistical answer to Huff and Burlingame today, but that is no longer necessary. In a letter to the editor in today's Joplin Globe, Julie Hartwell thoroughly tore apart Huff's attack on Fort. She has been kind enough to give me permission to run that letter, which will I do in my next post.

In the last few days, Burlingame has gone around the bend, with a series of statements that might explain why even the Joplin Globe is not running many of the things he was written about education. I have learned from administration sources that C. J. Huff's attack on Fort and Martucci for texting was based on his belief that I am the one who is sending the text messages and that I am the behind-the-scenes mastermind who is calling the shots for everyone who is opposing him.

Part of this, as I have noted before is that C. J. Huff does not like women questioning him. It makes it easier for him to believe that some man is actually the one who is causing his problems.

For the record, I am not texting anyone during the board of education meetings. And I am not leading the organized effort to fire Huff.

As I have also noted before, portions of Anson Burlingame's columns give a clear idea of how C. J. Huff is thinking.

Here are a few samples from recent days (You can check out his blog at this link.)

Dr. C J Huff knows more about the fundamental and underlying problems in our system of public education than anyone I have ever met, period.
Have I ever suggested to him how to deal with “that ….. Randy Turner”. Yes I have but not often. And as you can guess my advice falls into the category of politically incorrect (but not illegal either) as well.
The people that follow and support Turner seem to be very much of a mob mentality. And some BOE members now pay a lot of attention to that mob, even getting guidance from the “mob” via text messages, maybe, during meetings.

There is something common between the mobs in Baltimore and the disagreements in Joplin right now. Both disagreements, one over justice (or is it racism, or civil rights, or equality, or black lives matter, or…….) and the other is over a dysfunctional public education system? We see mobs trying to scream their way to solutions and their way is destructive to the two systems they are screaming about fixing, justice and education systems.

I also wonder how far behind some inner city ghetto school system Joplin might be today. Pretty far behind as long as we keep good and hard-working leaders in R-8. But why not just let Randy Turner take over R-8 and run it as he sees fit, letting all teachers teach as they so choose. Hell let’s make Fields (Ben Field, a frequent commenter on Burlingame's blog until he was banned yesterday for trying to hold Burlingame accountable) the Principal of JHS and Dr. Fort go back to Irving to see if she can improve things there this time around.

And for sure we need to put new yes men and women on the BOE so the Turner crowd has no mobs in their face to change things, again!! At least for a couple of years at least with no mobs, until the current mob finds our new schools burned to the ground or all the kids just watching porn on their Iphones all the time. Let’s see, what is a sexual act that is like eating a Popsicle? The “new superintendent” sure knows. Hell he wrote about it in a book.

Huff is NOT the problem in R-8. Even the poor little old BOE is not the problem, a bunch of citizens that want to help but have not much of a clue how, specifically to help. No Superintendent of any School is going to really fix any school in America. We have to fix some deep and systemic issues first and doing that is HARD, seemingly impossible, to do, anywhere.

Burlingame seems to have no problem with Huff's recent attacks on Fort and Martucci. He has not said a word on the subject.

You almost have to feel sorry for Burlingame. He has watched people he has praised lavishly on his blog, David Wallace and Mark Rohr, leave and now C. J. Huff is doing more to discredit himself than I could ever do with everything I have written.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Speaker of the House: We will override Nixon's veto of welfare bill

(From Speaker of the House John Diehl)

There are some simple truths that we all need to accept about our state's system of welfare, or at it is also known, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. First, the program is meant to be temporary as it serves as a bridge to get Missourians in need back on their feet and back into the workforce. Second, when it comes to this primary goal of the program, Missouri's system is a failure. In fact, according to objective analysis, it is the worst in the nation.
With the intent of moving the program in a better direction, and giving Missouri welfare recipients the tools they need to achieve self-sufficiency, the legislature passed a common sense reform bill in April. The bill takes some much-needed steps to transition folks out of a lifetime of poverty and dependence, and help them toward true independence. It would lower the lifetime benefits for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients to 45 months from the current limit of 60 months. It also would add Missouri to the list of 37 other states that require welfare recipients to take immediate steps to seek employment in order to receive benefits. It would then take the savings generated by these reforms and invest them in child care, education, transportation and job training assistance for participants in the program.
This is an idea that drew veto-proof support in both the House and Senate. Despite the fact we all know that something must be done to improve the welfare system here in Missouri, the governor vetoed the bill. In his veto he attempted to characterize the bill as being harmful to the children of Missourians on welfare. Again, the governor's dramatic, political grandstanding has attempted to draw attention away from the truth – that the program as it currently stands is failing the people it is meant to help. And nothing could be more harmful to the young people of our state than dooming them to a lifetime of poverty and dependence.
The truth is the bill we passed provides Missourians in need with almost four years of benefits, and invests the savings generated through these reforms in areas such as child care, education and job training, which will be a huge help to the families served by the program. I’m proud of my colleagues for standing with me to reform our welfare system so that it empowers Missourians to be self-sufficient. We passed the bill with a veto-proof majority and I am confident we will succeed in overriding his veto in the coming days.
The legislation received 111 votes in the House. A successful veto override requires 109 votes in the House.
Working to Make Missouri's Business Fees the Lowest in the Nation (HB 513)
One of the primary goals of the House is to find ways to level the playing field and keep government out of the way so Missouri businesses can grow and create jobs. This week we passed legislation that takes an important step toward that goal by giving Missouri businesses the lowest filing fees of any state in the nation.
The bill would cut more than 40 fees collected by the Missouri Secretary of State for both new and existing businesses including corporations, LLCs and nonprofits. In total, the fee reduction would save Missouri businesses approximately $6 million a year.
We are confident that lowering fees will allow businesses to keep more of their earnings that can then be invested in expansion and job creation. We also know reducing fees will eliminate a significant obstacle for new businesses. This is a good piece of pro-growth, pro-jobs legislation that now moves over to the Senate where I am hopeful my colleagues will take quick action to pass it into law.

Hartzler: I fought hard for our troops in budget talks

(From Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler)

It was a hectic week in Washington as the House and Senate came together to agree upon a budget for 2016. I am particularly pleased to see that we kept our priorities straight and sufficiently funded our country’s defense forces. I believe that our first priority in Congress should be to provide for the common defense. I fought hard as this budget was coming together to make sure our troops had the resources necessary to address both the expanding threats of today and the potential threats of tomorrow. Additionally, this budget balances without raising taxes, cuts $5.5 trillion in spending, calls for a fairer and simpler tax code, and it calls for the repeal of Obamacare, and I am happy to see it pass and to have been part of crafting this vital legislation.

Along with passing a budget, the House started the appropriations process. The last time appropriations have started this early in the year was in 1974! For reference, in 1974 “Happy Days” was just starting its run, Hank Aaron surpassed Babe Ruth’s homerun record, and St. Louis Cardinals’ Lou Brock was named Sportsman of the Year. It’s been a while, but I am pleased the House is operating under regular order.

The first of the two appropriations bills we passed this week was the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill. As I mentioned, we owe a great deal to the men and women who have stood in harm’s way for our freedom, and this bill ensures that our nation's veterans, servicemen and women, and their families have the benefits and resources they have earned and deserve. In fact, it increases discretionary funding for veterans programs by 5.6 percent from last year. Notably, this bill provides more funding and staff to help speed up VA claims processing and reduce the backlog. This is a balanced bill, providing rigorous Congressional oversight to ensure we are taking care of those who have nobly taken care of us.

The second appropriations bill we passed was the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill. In addition to funding critical national and regional waterways and ensuring the safety and reliability of our nuclear stockpile, this bill helps so many Missourians by prohibiting implementation of the EPA’s flawed “Waters of the U.S.” rule. This is a second strategy we are employing to stop this intrusive rule by defunding the EPA’s ability to carry out the rule, should the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act, a bill I co-sponsored, not pass. I am pleased our appropriations bill passed. Rest assured, I will continue to oppose such federal overreach at every turn.

Additionally, after over 18 hours of rigorous debate and voting, the House Armed Services Committee, of which I am a member, passed the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2016 to provide funding for our national defense. Among much-needed reform measures and other waste-cutting provisions, the NDAA also brings some great opportunities back home to Missouri.

Neosho mother and daughter featured in new book Disaster Heroes

(News release from author Suzanne Bernier)

NEW ORLEANS, LA - Suzanne Bernier, award-winning and internationally-recognized crisis management consultant, has published her first nonfiction book, Disaster Heroes, which profiles the incredible stories of ordinary men, women and children who have done extraordinary things in the face of catastrophe. To celebrate these inspirational stories and invisible champions of help, hope and healing, Bernier is hosting a Disaster Heroes book launch party at the Decatur Street Fire Station, located at 317 Decatur St, in New Orleans, Louisiana on May 19, 2015, from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., where local heroes Rebecca and Genevieve Williams will be honored.

Following the 2011 Joplin tornado, Rebecca and Genevieve Williams provided a new way to communicate during a disaster. The mother-daughter duo, dubbed ‘sheroes’ by the author, are social media in emergency management trailblazers. Their resourcefulness and ingenuity proved to be invaluable to their community after the tornado touched ground, and many more communities thereafter. Like many of the heroes in the book, the Williams’ stood strong in the face of adversity and exemplified the underlying attribute of the American dream, grit.

“Rebecca and Genevieve chose to respond in an innovative manner that served the community in a time of profound grief and need,” says Bernier. “They chose to employ all their knowledge, experience, and resources in helping the people of Joplin recover, rebuild, and carry on.”

Pre-release reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. “Suzanne Bernier has compiled a moving selection of stories from philanthropic men and women around the globe who acted with compassion and love in the face of catastrophe, be it natural or man-made. They didn’t just talk about what should be done; they did it. They helped rescue, rebuild, and restore a faith in humanity that, especially in the face of such misfortune, can at times seem a foregone idea,” says The Honorable Tom Ridge, First Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Following the event, Bernier will be available for media interviews and further inquiries. You can follow the book’s progress on Facebook and Twitter. For more information on the author, the book and crisis management consulting, please visit Pictures for news stories will be provided upon request. For any addition information or media inquiries, please contact Suzanne Bernier at 647-825-8744 or at

Billy Long: Budget resolution strengths defense, calls for Obamacare repeal

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

This week, the House and Senate agreed on a budget resolution, setting the framework for how Congress will appropriate funds for federal departments and agencies. It cuts $5 trillion and balances the budget within 10 years without a tax increase while calling for Obamacare's repeal, strengthening national defense and preserving Social Security and Medicare. With that, the House has begun one of its most important responsibilities, executing its "power of the purse."

The House passed two appropriations bills - one for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and military construction; the other for energy and water development programs - setting funding for various federal agencies and programs.

With this legislation, the VA would see a 5.6 percent funding boost, enhancing its ability to serve our nation's veterans while also strengthening the investigative arm of the agency, making sure the VA is held accountable for quality of care provided. The bill would move us closer toward a modernized and paperless VA benefit processing system to reduce the notorious benefits backlog. The Department of Defense would receive an increase for housing and training troops and ensuring our brave men and women on the frontlines have the equipment they need to succeed. It would also ensure 1.4 million military families have excellent housing, fund medical facility construction for 9.8 million beneficiaries and wounded warriors, and support anti-terror operations such as operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Regarding the energy and water development bill, the Department of Energy (DOE) would have to use additional funds to accommodate and prioritize an "all of the above" energy approach, efficiently utilizing all of our God-given domestic natural resources and moving us closer to energy independence. The bill also prohibits implementation of EPA's "Waters of the U.S." rule, which would have a major negative impact on southwest Missouri's agriculture and economy.

These are the first two of 12 appropriations bills Congress needs to pass ahead of each fiscal year, which begins October 1. This is the earliest the House has begun work on appropriations bills since 1974.

I look forward to working on the rest of the appropriations bills and carrying out my Constitutional duty while upholding fiscal accountability.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Joplin R-8 officials decline to participate in KSN Common Core report

(KSN has asked me to correct this report, saying that the district did not refuse to cooperate.C. J. Huff was gone and others were too busy to do a television interview. One of my sources for the story was someone in the R-8 administration who told me the district has refused this and other requests to talk about Common Core. I have also been told by local media sources that other stories have been done on Common Core on television, but had to do without any cooperation from Joplin. The last time the administration addressed Common Core was during a special extended Morning News Watch on KZRG several months ago, in which C. J. Huff took questions from listeners and ran into numerous problems. I have changed the wording since I do not want to cause any problems for KSN, but not making someone available for a report on the first time Common Core tests have been given in Missouri schools seems shortsighted and strange, since there are few R-8 officials who have ever passed up a chance to be on television.)

Since C. J. Huff and Joplin R-8 officials refuse the use the term Common Core, it's no wonder they declined to participate in this KSN report by Carla Pesono on Common Care.

This year is the first time Missouri school districts have had to take Common Core standardized tests.

Agenda posted for May 4 Joplin City Council meeting

May 4, 2015
6:00 P.M., Council Chambers
Call To Order
Pledge of Allegiance
Roll Call
Finalization Of Consent Agenda
Reports And Communications
Citizen Requests And Petitions
Public Hearings
A RESOLUTION granting a Special Use Permit (First Request) to DHH Investments for a parking lot located at 3101 South Delaware Avenue, in the City of Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri.
AN ORDINANCE amending Ordinance No. 2004-256, passed by the Council of the City of Joplin, Missouri, November 15, 2004, by removing from District R-1 and District C-1 and including in District C-3-PD property as described below and located at the northwest corner of 15th Street and Range Line Road in the City of Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri.
Consent Agenda
Minutes Of The April 20, 2015 Meeting
Documents: APR 20, 2015.PDF
AN ORDINANCE authorizing the City of Joplin to amend an Agreement with Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity dated on the 28th of July, 2010 to provide additional developer services related to the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), authorizing the City Manager to execute said agreement on behalf of the City.
AN ORDINANCE amending Section 86-5, Fees at Schifferdecker Golf Course, of Article I, In General, of Chapter 86, Parks and Recreation, of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Joplin to implement certain fee changes; and setting a date when this Ordinance shall become effective.
AN ORDINANCE requesting the review of the Final Plat of THE WOODLANDS located at John Duffy Drive and Cottage Circle in the City of Joplin, Newton County, Missouri.
Ordinances - Emergency
AN ORDINANCE approving the purchase of property near 29th and Arizona Avenue, a 5.908 acre tract located in the Southwest Quarter of the Southeast Quarter of Section 13, Township 27 North, Range 33 West, in the City of Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri and authorizing the payment of Three Hundred Thirty-Five Thousand and 00/100 dollars ($335,000.00) and containing an emergency clause.
Approval of a Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Joplin and Empire District Electric Company to have Empire make modifications to their facilities in close proximity to the construction of a new regional detention basin in the vicinity of 30th and Arizona.
Ordinances - First Reading
Ordinances - Second Reading And Third Reading
Unfinished Business
New Business
1702 South Connecticut Avenue - A request to review the site plan for a residential duplex development - Mayberry Construction.
Vote to go into closed session, which shall pertain to legal action, causes of action, or litigation including a public governmental body and any confidential or privileged communications between a governmental body or its representatives and its attorneys andconfidential or privileged communications between a public governmental body and its auditor, including all auditor work product; however, all final audit reports issued by the auditor are to be considered open records pursuant to this chapter—more specifically, for a Pre-Exit Status Report from the State Auditor’s Office, as set forth in Section 610.021(1) (17) RSMo, as amended, 2014.  This meeting, record, and vote to be closed to the extent provided by law. The City Council shall adjourn at the end of the session.

C. J. Huff attempted to influence 2014 election by slipping Fort information to Joplin Globe columnist

C. J. Huff's vicious attack on Debbie Fort at Tuesday's Joplin R-8 Board of Education was the first time he has attacked her in such a public forum, but it was not the first time Huff has attempted to smear Fort through the use of carefully selected test scores:

Well folks, look at MAPS scores on the DESE web site for all Joplin schools, alone. Then do the math to figure the changes in such scores, up or down, in Irving Elementary School alone for the last three years. What you will find, in public information is that the proficiency level of performance of 3rd, 4th and 5th grades students in Irving Elementary School have DECLINED by 12.8% in MAPS reading scores, 28.0% in Science MAPS scores and 23.6% in Math MAPS scores in that one school alone, a school under the leadership of, yep, Debbie Fort.

Not only has Debbie Fort failed to improve student achievement as measured by the State of Missouri over the last 3 years of her term as a principal. Nope, her students in 3rd, 4th and 5th grade have DECLINED (by double digit percentages) in terms of student achievement of just proficiency in the areas mentioned over that three year period. Is that the kind of leadership anyone wants on our BOE in Joplin for the next four years?

Improving academic achievement (not to mention behavioral changes for the better on the part of students) is one of three legs of Debbie’s platform. Yet she as a leader in one school achieved a DECLINE of double digit percentages in such achievement. She led her school in the wrong direction.
The three paragraphs above come from an April 2, 2014, post on the personal blog of frequent Joplin Globe guest columnist Anson Burlingame.

It was an unusual column for Burlingame since it is the only time I can recall that he has done any digging into public records to find information for one of his posts.

As he explained:

It has taken me a while to get such numbers. I have been told some wrong numbers as well, but chose not to publish them until I ran the matter to ground. But I am now comfortable that the percentage DECLINE in student achievement during Debbie’s watch at Irving Elementary over the last 3 full years of academic measurement, to publish such information herein and let the fray continue BEFORE the election.

Burlingame's post came six days before the election and, as you might expect, it had the same effect Burlingame's posts usually have- Fort received more votes than any of the seven candidates on the ballot. Burlingame's favorite candidate, C. J. Huff protege Shawn McGrew, finished sixth out of the seven candidates.

The post would not be worth revisiting, except it shows a pattern of C. J. Huff attempting (and failing) to influence elections by leaking carefully selected information about female candidates that he fears.

Of course, Huff took it to a new level Tuesday night, referring to Fort as "the worst principal in the district and making other comments about her performance that Jennifer Martucci, the candidate Huff savaged this year, correctly labeled "inappropriate."

The blowup was not only inappropriate, but appears to be the final straw as it has helped launch a movement to have C. J. Huff fired.

It should also be mentioned that not only have the test scores for the Joplin R-8 School District fallen for each of the seven years he has been here, but that his streak runs into double digits, since his scores fell all four years he was at his previous job as superintendent of the Eldon School District.

Citizens respond favorably to drawings of new Joplin Public Library

(From the City of Joplin)

Citizens and interested stakeholders viewed the plans for the new Joplin Public Library as progress continues in the relocation and development of this facility to the northeast corner of 20th and Connecticut Streets. Two Open House meetings were held Wednesday, April 29 at the current Library location, 300 Main Street.

Library Director Jacque Gage and others on the Library and City staff attended these meetings to talk with citizens and discuss the plans for this new facility. Representatives from the project team, including architect for the project, SAPP Design Associates (SDA), also were at the meetings to provide insight on the ongoing design work. The team has held a series of meetings with stakeholders to solicit the community’s ideas and requests which has focused on an adaptable, accessible and vibrant facility for Joplin. Information about this process was displayed at the open house, depicting the collaborative efforts that have taken place as the architectural elements of the Library and its surrounding grounds area are designed.

SDA of Springfield, Mo., is also working with OPN Architects of Cedar Rapids, Iowa which has been added to their team for this project. SDA officials noted OPN brings added depth to the planning process, as well as their special appreciation for a city in recovery, as OPN was selected for the planning and design of the new Cedar Rapids library after it was destroyed by devastating floods in 2008.

The Library project is a partnership with the Economic Development Administration, which awarded the City a $20 million grant to assist in the redevelopment of the 20th Street area following the 2011 disaster. The project will include site infrastructure repairs and improvements, as well as the new facility. It is a matching grant from EDA of 80% to 20% City resources, the City will fund $5 million of the project, which includes the land value of property that the City owns at 20th and Connecticut.

TriState Engineering of Joplin is currently working on civil site design, and construction is planned for fall 2015.

A work session with the Joplin City Council to discuss the plans of the Library is scheduled for May 11, 2015.