SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF!

April 16, 2014

SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF!

This blog is a follow-up to the last one posted, Praise in Public, Condemn in Private.

Is “condemn” too harsh a word? OK, if you think so then call it “correct”. Correcting something, an error made, begins first with noticing an error, a mistake. It could be a little error or a big one or anything in between. Then figure out the right way to do something, change the course of a ship, restore temperature in an operating reactor to the correct range or deciding what an employee should have done in a given situation, rather than what that employee actually did. Then tell the employee, first what was wrong with his actions and then what he or she should have done differently.

I am not trying to make this complicated, but believe you me, when you start “correcting people” they will resent the hell out of it. We have all felt that way, being “picked on” by a nosey boss, at least in our personal views of the matter, have we not?

But before getting into how employees might react when “corrected”, let’s first consider the supervisor doing the “correcting”. Note from above that the first step for ANY supervisor, be he the “head janitor”, manager of a design team doing engineering work, the man in charge of an assembly line or the CEO of a company (large or small making no difference, fundamentally).

Let me ask a question to make my point. What is the primary job of any supervisor? Is it not to “supervise”? Yes, sometimes a supervisor is tasked to perform other work, like clean his or her own share of an area, assemble items in a shop, write an important letter or other document, etc. But if such people are “double hatted”, have work of their own to perform as well as supervise others, which must come first? I suggest that if they are paid more money because they are supervisors then supervising must always come first, as a matter of priority.

Supervising, at any level, means to look for good or bad performance on the part of those under your supervision. People, all people, make mistakes and some excel, exceed expectations, on many occasions. The job of a supervisor is to notice those things and take action when they happen, good or bad performance by others.

As with any job, I also suggest that the “devil is in the details”. Tightening a bolt in an assembly line operation requires some attention to detail. Get it too loose and the part will fail. Tighten it too much and the bolt may break under added stress. Sure it is a detail, just how tight to tighten a bolt, but major disasters have occurred as a result of such errors as well. Failure to mop behind a toilet can leave a stinky mess for others to endure and complain about as well. Small stuff, maybe, but the small stuff can lead to more serious things over time. The job of a supervisor is to prevent such from happening, is it not?

I submit that if you are designated as a supervisor, of anything, then look for the “small stuff” as a matter of priority and take action to prevent little things from going wrong, again. It also goes without saying that finding the “really clean” area and acknowledging an employee’s effort to make it so is a very important part of your job as a supervisor every day. Just think about it. If you are a supervisor, ask yourself at the end of each day, how many people did I praise and/or correct during the course of that work day. If the answer is zero then why are you being paid to supervisor must be a question asked of yourself. If you don’t and things start going wrong in your area of supervision, then I can assure you that someone else should be asking the question of YOU.
Most employees, including those responsible for supervising other employees, do not like being “corrected”. A mechanic in a garage, a sailor swabbing a deck, an officer directing the movement of an aircraft carrier, etc. want to do their job and be left alone, without someone looking over their shoulder all the time, so to speak. I submit that if you do your job properly, the amount of time others spend looking over your shoulder will be very little. They will have developed confidence, based on sustained good performance, in your ability. And when, inevitably, you do make a mistake, the corrective action will be mild and very private, if the supervisor knows what he or she is doing, which is not always the case, for sure.

Take a teacher in a classroom, a real veteran teacher. Should he or she resent the presence of an Assistant Principal sitting in the classroom, observing how things are going? My guess is most teachers will call that “spying” and resent the hell out of such actions by a supervisor. They would much prefer the Assistant Principal just sit in his office and deal with problems brought to him, not be out looking on his own, to see what problems might exist BEFORE they land in his office as a “problem student”.

Then just imagine the reaction of a veteran teacher that gets a list of “errors” noted by such a supervisor, or a note saying “Well Done. Excellent class”. What if a student is raising hell in a class and the teacher does not get control of such a student? Should any observer, supervisor, just ignore such an event and say nothing to the teacher that failed to control even one student in a class? Should a teacher resent such an observation by a supervisor?

I suggest that if the Assistant Principal observing and the teacher teaching work as a team, supporting one another, then together they will begin to find ways to control errant students, just as an example. But if the supervisor and employee work against one another, one over correcting and the other complaining about “spying”, then the workplace, a single classroom for example, will not be operating at peak performance, which should be the goal of both people, the supervisor and the employee doing the actual work.

Because I am so interested in public education, I close this blog with the following question, observation if you like based on substitute teaching for about 8 years in several different schools and schools districts. Not ONCE in those 8 (about) years did I EVER see a “supervisor” come into my own classroom and observe, just sit in the back of the room for ½ an hour or so and watch how I as a substitute performed my job. It just did not happen, EVER, in my experience and I never saw it happen for regular teachers as well.

The ONLY time I saw Assistant Principals or Principals in any school in “action” was when they sometimes patrolled the hallways during class breaks, or sat in their office dealing with problems brought to them. They NEVER got out and watch the real action going on in the classrooms, the fundamental level where education of kids takes place.

Take that level of supervision to a higher level, the Assistant Superintendent, or even the Superintendent himself, much less a member of the BOE. When was the last time any of those high level authorities in our public schools got down to the classroom to see what really goes on in such environments? NEVER is my observation, which I admit is limited.

So Debbie Fort and Lynda Banwart, is it possible that both of you as new members of the BOE will spend some time in real classrooms, observing quietly, making a list of both the good and bad things you see and giving good feedback, professionally to those teachers, Assistant Principals, Principals, on up to the Superintendent himself (a man who is in FACT YOUR employee). If all you do is sit in a meeting once a month, read a few reports, get briefings with God knows how many “eye chart” vu-graphs, etc. are you really finding out what is good and bad, down in the classrooms where education takes place, or should take place, then are you really doing the job you were elected to perform?

PRAISE IN PUBLIC, CONDEMN IN PRIVATE

April 14, 2014

PRAISE IN PUBLIC, CONDEMN IN PRIVATE

The title to this blog was one of the first hallmarks of effective leadership taught to me at the U.S. Naval Academy. When people do well, perform above expectations or “standards” expected, then praise the hell out of them, publically whenever possible. It could just be a pat on the back on the bridge of a ship, in front of other watchstanders present. Or it could well be a public awards ceremony in front of the entire crew and gathered families and friends.

When things go wrong due to personnel errors, mistakes made by anyone, then very privately take them aside and tell them what they did wrong and how best to prevent such mistakes being made in the future. A manager, foreman in a shop, CEO of a company, large or small, must know how to do that, point out mistakes in an effort to prevent future mistakes of the same nature. Failure to provide such private counseling is a failure of leadership at whatever level it happens.

Any so called “leader” that fails for whatever reason to avoid private corrective action when mistakes are made is a failure as a leader, in my view. Schools, companies, organizations of any sort NEED effective leadership and correcting mistakes just comes with the job of being a leader in any such organizations.

BUT, that form of leadership and how to make things work better does not, nor should it, apply to politicians. They asked for public positions of leadership and in a democracy mistakes made by them must be addressed very publically, in my view, particularly when mistakes are real “whoopers”. So no whining from politicians when bad things are said or written publicly about how they are being “treated”. Public condemnation (non-violent for sure) is part of being in public office, period.

Now let’s talk about “public employees”, employees of governments, locally, state or federally. How should such employees be treated when they make mistakes? Well praise in public when it is deserved and condemn very privately, one on one with the appointed supervisor for starters. But what then should be done when such private counseling fails to improve individuals or collectively in a group of employees?

All my professional life I worked in a “public” organization (Navy) or when a civilian in a private company I worked for a very public customer, the Department of Energy. I assure you I followed the same “rules” as stated above, praise in public (but only when performance really exceeded expectations) or condemn in private (and demanded that those supervisors working for me did the same). That was step one, all the time and it made no difference whatsoever whether the individual or group making mistakes was union, exempt or non-exempt employees.

When individuals or groups made repeated mistakes, I made the effort to document any counseling provided to correct such mistakes. I also made sure any employee knew full well that I was keeping a record, a written record, of such counseling efforts. Those records were kept by me, usually countersigned by an individual at the time that I provided counseling, and were not initially made a part of anyone’s formal personnel file. But if repeated counseling did not improve performance, then such documentation was in fact entered into an individual’s personnel recorded maintained in the Navy or any civilian company for which I worked. As well they had the opportunity to write, formally, any objections they may have to such documentation of perceived poor performance on their part. Few chose ever to attempt to counter formal criticism in my experience however.

Ultimately some individuals simply never learned the lessons from counseling. They resented it, told all their friends how unfair such counseling might have been, in their view, etc. In other words they “whined” about being held accountable, sometimes publicly or at least semi-publicly. Such people were usually the first to call “foul” at least semi-publicly by just bitching about “management” to whoever would listen. If things were going wrong in the public eye in an organization, those whiners were usually to first to speak out on a “hotline” or other anonymous lines of communications as well.

Then of course when the time came to terminate a poorly performing employee, well if they are a “public” employee, or a union employee as well, then things could get very tumultuous, publicly. Many managers choose not to terminate such poorly performing employees because it is simply “too hard”.

Baloney, I say as when people are dragging down any organization because of repeated poor performance it is the JOB of any supervisor (leader) to get rid of such employees through termination. You can call people “on the carpet” every day and they STILL will not perform up to expected standards of behavior or professional performance in their jobs. Getting rid of such dead wood is part of a leader’s task, no matter how “hard” it might seem to be.

If a “leader” has been lazy and NOT provided counseling, failed to document such counseling, failed to give a poorly performing employee a reasonable chance to improve their performance, well it should be “hard” to fire such an employee. I would start with the manager in question as I considered who should be fired, first, quite frankly. Failure to LEAD is a management failure in and of itself, in my view and counseling is very much a part of leadership, when things go wrong.

Now I am NOT writing about really huge mistakes, mistakes where people get killed or severely injured or major financial loses are involved, legally or illegally. When such egregious, rare but still egregious mistakes are made, then terminations must be considered, for the sake of the organization, not the public sentiments at the time. And of course illegal actions by any employee must always be considered as possible termination offenses, at some point during or after the legal process winds its way to a final conclusion.

Expressing opinions about personnel performance, you own performance, the performance of your supervisor or the leader of the entire organization, large or small, should be a routine, two way exchange of opinions between honest and supposedly hard-working people, at any level in a smoothly functioning organization. If you feel like your boss is picking on you then a system to express your negative views about your boss must be available to anyone, any individual. Write it down if you like and keep your own file. If you are a manager overseeing employees do the same, open up to them in private and tell it like you see it, their poor performance. Then sit back and listen to the responses as well, with an open mind.

Holding people accountable, be they a low level employee, say a “janitor”, or the CEO of a huge company, and all others in between must be part of any system in place to manage people. The system should be simple, clear to everyone and everyone should use it as deemed necessary, for the sake of the organization to improve the performance of everyone involved.

Given such an approach to personnel management, which is more important, personal privacy or accountability to the organization? Remember if you whine to others you should expect others to whine about you, simply to get both sides of any story as public as needed to find the real “truth of the matter”.

Now compare the process suggested above in the case of either Mark Rohr or Randy Tuner. Both processes had problems, in my view, particularly in the Rohr case. For Tuner, it could be argued that his one mistake was egregious in and of itself (pushing pornography on to middle school students and calling it political satire), but then why bring up repeated violations of BOE policies on his part. I suspect he did so, violated BOE policies over time, but his “counseling record”, at least that one shown publically did not reflect attempts to correct Randy Turner’s actions over time as an angry and outspoken teacher.

THE PEOPLE DECIDED

April 14, 2014

THE PEOPLE DECIDED

I hope that I would write a blog of the same tone as this one had the recent local election turned out differently. But who knows for sure as I of course became deeply and passionately involved in the issues and thus the candidates for the City Council and BOE in this past election, about a week ago. For sure the people decided, rather decisively in my view to support all the candidates that I voted for, with two exceptions.

Let’s talk about the council election first of all. I publicly endorsed the five winners in that election with the first four being clear winners in the majority vote. Mike Woolston came in fifth, and thus remains on council, instead of replacing him with Jim West. I was mildly surprised in that outcome, but glad to see it happen for sure. My reasons for electing those five men and women have been previously and publicly expressed, creating a majority of 6 votes against the remaining 3 members that terminated Mark Rohr and generally oppose adhering to a Master Development Plan to rebuild Joplin.

Only after the election did I read Bill Scearce’s speech before council about “buying an election” in Joplin. I certainly don’t see the results that way nor do I believe the money collected and spent by the Joplin Progress Committee had much effect on the outcome either. In fact had the JPC not been formed nor a nickel collected or spent on behalf of those council candidates, I believe the outcome would have been the same.

People in Joplin, at least a significant majority of them, were really angry over the secret maneuvers of the Bloc of Five to fire Rohr and the attacks against Mike Woolston as well. Payment of excessive charges, almost twice the amount authorized by council for a biased and slanted investigation may also have contributed to that anger shown in the election results.

My guess is that had Scearce, Rosenberg and/or Colbert-Kean been running for reelection they would be joining Golden and Raney as new civilians without public office in Joplin (or Webb City perhaps in Raney’s case).

I have never before engaged in local politics during a campaign, anywhere that I have lived. But I learned a lot this time around and am glad that I joined the fray, for sure. I will attend tonight’s council meeting to see new members sworn in (to some applause from the audience I hope) and see who becomes our new Mayor. My choice in that vote is Gary Shaw. He opposed the Bloc of Five for sure but is also a non-confrontational man as well. He is the right choice to begin to heal the political wounds in Joplin and move this city forward in efforts to rebuild using the right mix of private and public capital and in accordance with a carefully developed Master Plan involving complete transparency and public participation as the rebuilding effort continues over the next decade or so.

Now for the BOE election. I spent time with Debbie Fort, got to know her a little better, understand more fully her background and current views on how to improve public education in Joplin. I have written previously why I ultimately opposed her election to the BOE but give her credit for a well-run campaign. Certainly the power of the union, the NEA and local teachers, was the reason she won a seat on the BOE with a wide margin of victory. I congratulate her on that victory and will now watch carefully just how she attempts to govern from a position on the BOE.

Banwart I know not at all except for her performance in the public forum with all other BOE candidates. Again I wrote previously on my views and decision to not support her election for the reasons given. I asked a good friend and an active member of the JPC why, exactly, Lynda garnered so many votes. Her reply was that Banwart had a huge “personal following”. I’m not sure what that means, but doubt that money spent on her behalf had much at all to do with creating such a following. I suspect it was a bunch of parents and friends that felt something more must be done to improve the education of our kids in Joplin and chose her to lead that effort. How she will attempt to do so is unknown to me but, as with Fort, I will be watching carefully over the coming months and years. Improving public education remains my top political priority, in Joplin and nationally and I will continue to write about my views on that subject, for sure.

And yes, the BOE keeps a rather strong majority to support Dr. Huff and his administration’s efforts to improve public education in Joplin, about a 7-2 majority for now. One or two current members might now decide to join Fort and Kimbrough to more actively oppose Huff’s efforts. So things could change, things more actively opposing the efforts of Dr. Huff and his staff on R-8. But we will also just have to wait and see how that turns out.

Is it possible to see another round of attempts to terminate the employment of a highly placed, local, public official? Could we now see a Get Rid of Huff effort just as we saw succeed in the Get Rid of Rohr efforts by the Bloc of Five on council? Yes, it could happen if the likes of Randy Turner and his gang of disgruntled teachers gain real influence on the BOE.

But I hope to God the new BOE saw the results of underhanded and dirty political tricks to remove Rohr from office. I also hope that if such an effort, GROH now, proceeds (as Turner so desperately hopes will happen) that it will be in the full light of public disclosure, each step of the way. For sure I will be watching and privately attempting to gain more and more understanding how individual members of the BOE might lean in such an effort and then writing a lot, publicly about what I can find on that single issue alone.

Keep in mind, all members of the new BOE that MY priority is to IMPROVE the education of every kid in Joplin public schools. Sustain efforts to help those with special needs, yes, but make a concerted effort to improve the performance of “normal kids” so that every graduate from Joplin High School can read, write and perform arithmetic calculations at GRADE LEVEL when they graduate. Nothing less is acceptable as the primary focus for our BOE, in my view.

To do so we of course must treat teachers as professionals and pay them accordingly. But face it Debbie, some teachers simply have not risen to the level of professional performance and behavior. So weed out those failures in the teaching profession and acknowledge very publicly and financially as best you can the true professional teachers in our classrooms in Joplin. There are a lot of them, real professional teachers that know how to teach, in my view and they deserve more than we the taxpayers are willing to provide to them.

Once I get the email addresses of all the members of the new BOE, well you can expect to hear from me, first privately but then more publicly as I learn more about each one of you. Remember as well the agreement on the buzz word “transparency” used by EVERY candidate for the BOE. I expect each member of the BOE to think carefully about how to improve transparency in how YOU, individually, decide to govern on the new BOE. We the people deserve to know what you are thinking and how you may decide to vote, one way or the other, on hot topics.

Step one in that direction is to check your email inbox from time to time and REPLY to questions, publicly or privately to tell us what you REALLY think about important issues. I don’t care whether you agree or disagree with Dr. Huff by the way. But keeping your views on important issues a secret is not going to work with this citizen, I assure you. That is a promise, not a threat by the way.

In closing, well done, in my view to the voters in Joplin. Many of you became very interested and involved in this election. By and large I thought your collective decisions were sound and well considered.

WHAT A TRAVESTY!!!

April 7, 2014

WHAT A TRAVESTY!!!

I have completed only one “read through” of the Loraine Report. I have yet to really study it in great detail in an attempt to find the real truth that could reside therein. On the other hand it may just not exist, any sort of real truth about malfeasance, misdeeds, etc. on the part of either Rohr or Woolston.

But I begin with some real truth about Bill Scearce contained both in that report and in conversations with Scearce and me, one on one. The report confirms such private conversations on one key point, a vital point that is directly related to ethics while in public office.

Scearce admits, in the report and privately to me, that he mislead (I could use another word but won’t) the public. He publicly stated in a response to a reporter that he had no knowledge of gambling activity during the duration of Lovette’s rental agreement with him. That folks is not true. Scearce knew that Lovette was a bookie and knew he ran some bookie operations out of that rented office space. When exactly he knew such information will never be proven, but he knew it for sure. To tell the public anything different is WRONG, period. It is also unethical as all hell, to make such a false statement to the public while holding political power in an elected office.

Forget what was said by Scearce during the FBI investigation. Only Scearce and the FBI really know what was said. If Scearce broke the law in such testimony during an FBI investigation, then the FBI must deal with it. They obviously have chosen not to do so, prosecute Scearce. Therefore we the people must believe that no laws were broken in that incidence.

But when MY REPRESENTATIVE gets caught in misleading ME, a public citizen, well I consider that unethical as hell and will say so, publicly based on the FACTS presented. You cannot spin that which was printed as a direct statement to a reporter and thus to we the people.

Now for how the report deals with Woolston.

I refer anyone interested to my blog posted on February 13, 2014 entitled “CAN INSIDER TRADING HAPPEN DURING REDEVELOPMENT”. I made a concerted effort to publish the actual process used to acquire land in Joplin to support a Master Plan for such redevelopment. I submit that first of all Tom Loraine did not in any way understand that process as established by contract with the Master Developer and the legal responsibilities for the Joplin Redevelopment Corporation, a group established under law by the City Council.

The conclusion in that blog is of course there is always the possibility of illegal activity, insider trading if you will. But I found no evidence of such malfeasance by anyone, particularly Rohr, WB, the JRC or Woolston. Had I found a hint of such wrong doing I would have written about it in that blog.

Now that the complete report is available for public review I see that Loraine had the opportunity to fully explore first the process in place and THEN look for malfeasance. In fact he was told the process by the Chairman of the JRC. But no mention of that testimony has been provided publicly up until now.

It is very much against the law to use insider knowledge based on one’s position in government, elected or appointed, to use that knowledge for one’s profit or the profit of one’s employer. Even if no laws could be proven as broken, it would be unethical as hell to do so for an elected official.

Now go read the full report and show me a single incident where there is evidence, much less proof, to suggest such insider trading by anyone, Woolston, Kuen (his employer), Rohr, or anyone else on the JRC, or WB. There is not a shred of such evidence contained in that full report that I could find.

Did any realtor, much less Mike Woolston, look around town immediately after the tornado, within the first few days and envision lots of future real estate activity that would unfold? Of course they did so as it is their profession to do so, look for emerging real estate transactions that might happen and then figure out a way to participate, legally, in that emerging “market”.

There were two “epicenters” of tragedy from the tornado, in my view. The corner of 26th and McCleland Blvd was one and the corner of 20th and Connecticut St. the other. Both were “war zones” to any observer, totally flattened landscape expect the destroyed shell of a hospital. Anyone with any sense would know full well that real estate activity would happen in that area, as well as other areas making up 30% of our city.

Think any realtors went “door to door” acting like professional realtors usually do, trying to buy or sell land for a profit. Did it take a position on the city council or JRC to give any realtor knowledge that such areas would be the areas for future business? Of course not. Woolston did nothing that any other ethical and professional realtor would have done and many probably did so. And there is not even a hint that he used insider knowledge to gain an unfair advantage over other realtors, not a hint of such in that report.

In fact Woolston thought very hard, early after the tornado, about ethics, perception, etc. to continue to follow his profession while still serving on the city council. He sought legal advice and was told he was doing nothing wrong, legally or ethically, by at least one lawyer. He decided to stay well away from any perception of undue influence and abstained from any and all votes related to land acquisition by council as well. Woolston did not attend a single meeting of the JRC where such land acquisitions were privately discussed according to the report. Only Scearce and Rosenberg attended such meetings.

Based on my reading of all the testimony I find no evidence of insider trading by anyone involved in land acquisitions by the city to support redevelopment. Yet Woolston was accused of unethical behavior, maybe even fraud (a violation of LAW), and other strong and pointed accusations by Loraine. Well based on what exactly, Mr. Loraine, buying and selling real estate like any other realtor has been doing in Joplin since the storm? Did any of THEM, all other realtors in Joplin operate unethically or break any laws?

No wonder Kuen decided not to talk to you. He saw a witch hunt in the first five minutes of any conversation with you. I submit that Kuen in no way thought he was breaking any laws or acting unethically but saw a lawyer hell bent to “prove something wrong” and decided to tell the lawyer to call his own lawyer. I would have done the same thing, essentially told you, Mr. Loraine, to go pack sand with your “investigation”.

I leave the evident debacle of rumor and innuendo used against Rohr for another blog. In that blog I will also comment on questionable behavior by the City Attorney. His footprints are all over this debacle and he needs to be held publicly accountable for such activity.

But in conclusion in this blog, I find ZERO evidence of illegal or even unethical behavior on the part of Woolston in that ridiculous “report”. I see Woolston as doing nothing that any other realtor would not do and probably did after the tornado. And for damn sure I see no evidence of the use of a government position to gain knowledge not available to anyone not in government on that part of Woolston, either. He simply did what he has been doing for 25 years, buy and sell land for clients, legally and ethically.

But yes, I did see PROOF of unethical behavior on the part of Scearce. But that is only my opinion and obviously not the STATED opinion of Scearce. He told me his opinion directly and I published his comment in a blog. He feels that it is ok to purposefully mislead the press, and thus the public, from time to time if one is an elected official.

Boy do I disagree with that sentiment, it is OK to purposefully mislead anyone in public statements by any elected official. I have always thought that only the truth be told OR make no comment at all on a given matter if the truth hurts too much.

I also have long felt that political battles be held in public, not behind the skirts of some witch hunt called an “investigation”. A fair investigation tells BOTH sides of any story and THEN draws conclusions. An investigation becomes a public mockery when it is seen as slanted and biased by only telling what some people, angry people have to say about other people.

Oh, one other point. Read the negative testimony from Stinnet, a former mayor. His title company did not initially get any business resulting from land acquisition activity by WB or JRC. Think he had an axe to grind over that slight of business opportunity? Is it unethical to use one’s former position in government to raise hell with one’s business concerns?

NOW FOR THE COUNCIL PUBLIC FORUM

April 3, 2014

NOW FOR THE COUNCIL PUBLIC FORUM

No, I have not forgotten that woeful performance in the public forum for council candidates. Frankly readers, I was bored to tears during almost the whole circus. Nothing of substance was said by anyone, hardly. There are issues tearing this city apart and all we heard was general bullshit about how hard each would work, how transparent they would be and a lot of other general platitudes. Damnit, where’s the beef, if I may be so bold as to ask.

I have been focusing intensely on the BOE candidates of late and thus have delayed this blog. But here it is now. In fact one candidate who will go unnamed asked me privately if I would blog on this matter. Here it is and no candidate will like it nor will the Globe in all likelihood as well.

First of all, with nine candidates in the field the format of the forum was all messed up. Putting all nine candidates before an audience and letting each one have equal time is a waste of time. As well no one can address complex issues in a minute. All that can be said in such a short period is platitudes and BS, short BS, like I want all work to be done by local businesses, for God’s sake. Popular to say it but impossible to do.

Everyone wants “dirt moved faster”, even me. But talking about it and doing it are two entirely different things. Woolston and Seibert touched on that point but given the short time to answer, were unable to drive it home, pointedly and accurately.

Anyone that has ever tried to mix public and private money together to do things knows full well the public money process bogs up the whole project. It takes forever for bureaucrats in Jeff City or DC to decide something and they will always dot every “i” and cross every “t” before releasing funds. And when funds are released there is always the threat the money will be recalled if the “city doesn’t do it right”.

I could go on of course. But I have already blogged at length on most of the matters of substance and at least my own views of how to resolve them. My point is CANDIDATES have not written a word, other than a silly “platform” statement that a 6th grader should be able to write. Everyone should just say in a platform, a local one at least, that they are for “Mom’s, apple pie and the American way of life (at least as it used to be)”.

And frankly folks, that is about all they have said publically during the campaign. Frankly Ryan Stanley is the only one putting his ass on the line so to speak in his strong support for recycling. He got it right. It is not a question of should we recycle, it is HOW to recycle, fairly and economically for all citizens in Joplin. Now let’s see what “public opinion” has to say on that count. My guess is the “non-binding vote” will say NO to recycling.

Oh by the way? Why in the hell do we spend the money and time for a “non-binding” vote on anything. I always thought the will of the people was the ultimate basis for government in America. If they say NO then NO should be answer, should it not? Any wise governor knows full well to never ask a question if you expect the wrong answer, of anyone. Bad lawyers even ask questions in court with no idea what the answer might be and those lawyers are lousy lawyers, most of the time.

Now for “listening to the people”!!! OMG. I have already opined on that point but restate it. If all a politician does is listen to the cacophony of sound coming from “the people” whatever that really means, then NOTHING will ever get done. Tough but correct decisions will NEVER be made, either. All government will do is run around polling the world to find out “what the people want”, which of course will change month to month, if not day to day. Build a cell phone tower in someone’s back yard and which people will you listen to, to make that decision, Mister Politician, or specifically Trisha Ramey or David Guilford in the BOE campaign!!

Governors are supposed to LEAD, not just follow the “whims of the people”. What do you think about that position, Mr. Harvey Hutchinson, who thinks only individual private companies will turn Joplin into the best city in America???? “Little people” and dumb politicians are the only ones that think that way, in my view. They have no vision of any sort and no idea how to lead people to achieve that long range vision.

So, all you candidates out there, thank you very much for putting me to sleep last Monday with your inane platitudes. Thank the sponsors as well. Yep, you achieved fairness for sure, but substance, debate, professional argument, points to make people really think about government, no way.

Fortunately, I am now very comfortable in my own mind for whom to vote come next Tuesday for council seats. I will say it again, vote for Seibert, Stanley, Lewis, Woolston and Shaw. Vote AGAINST, throw them out of town (metaphorically only), Golden and Raney. (you might not as well have to throw Raney very far as I am still not sure where she really lives???) Forget as well West and Hutchinson as non-players in terms of wise government in the future.

But how the casual voter can decide how to vote, well that beats the hell out of me. It certainly should NOT be voting based on “public statements” as such statements are all platitudes and BS having nothing to do with tough choices ahead, for Joplin to rebuild the RIGHT WAY for the future.

LET’S TALK ABOUT GETTING RID OF BAD TEACHERS

April 2, 2014

LET’S TALK ABOUT GETTING RID OF BAD TEACHERS

Does any candidate for the BOE believe we have no bad teachers in the R-8 system, not a single one? PLEASE tell me you think that way if that is your position on judging teacher performance, the BAD performance by some teachers.

OK, after a lot of questions asked by me of a variety of sources, all private sources but some being public officials and others teachers, and candidate as well, I now understand how executives within our public school system CAN, if they chose to do so, get rid of dead wood, bad teachers in the R-8 system. Here is how it works and includes not only teachers but any other employees in R-8, including Principals and other “executive” positions.

First, let’s discuss “contracts”. “Executive” positions, principles and assistant principles for example, as well as ALL non-tenured teachers receive an annual contract to work in such positions. In other words they are offered a new job, under a contract, or a new contract each year, to work in their current position. Such contracts are administered by R-8, ultimately the Superintendent of Schools, assisted by his staff in all the details.

BUT, and this is important though subtle as well, when a contract is NOT renewed, the BOE must approve that action by a vote in closed session. No, individual contracts are usually not discussed, most of the time. Instead the Superintendent gives the BOE a number of contracts that WILL be renewed. The BOE must then do the math to recognize that not ALL contracts in fact will be renewed each year. So by acclamation and voting, the BOE tactically agrees each year NOT to renew some contracts, of principals, non-tenured teachers, etc. Some will have to go elsewhere to find a new job or take a demotion within R-8 to work in a lower capacity and probably lower pay as well.

And of course any member of the BOE can raise objections, on an individual level if they choose to do so. “Why are you not renewing the contract for ……” is a perfectly legal and proper question for any member of the BOE to ask and demand an answer ANYTIME someone suffers non-renewal of their contract. And for sure such arguments or pointed questions ARE asked in closed sessions of the BOE and a closed debate is held and the BOE as a body decides what to do in individual cases.

NOW, tenured teachers, whether serving as teachers or not have a continuing contract, almost a lifetime contract to CONTINUE TO TEACH (only) unless they are formally terminated as a teacher. So for example if a Principal is also a tenured teacher, he must receive a new contract each year to continue to serve as a Principal. But lacking such a contract he can choose to demand a position, back in the ranks if you will, as a teacher, a tenured teacher. And yep, the BOE must decide in such cases to NOT renew the contract of such a Principal, serving as a Principal for the next year, but also MUST allow him or her to teach the following year, unless they formally fire that individual as a tenured teacher.

Is that simple enough to understand the process required by law and regulation and how that process actually plays out with R-8, year in and year out, over the years.

Every year some people, serving as tenured teachers choose to resign or retire or go elsewhere to find a new teaching job for a variety of reasons, not publicly offered unless they alone choose to make such a decision public knowledge. Sometimes, not often, a Principal (or assistant principal) is NOT offered a new contract to continue to serve in that capacity. They can then either leave, retire or accept a new job as only a teacher.

That is exactly what seems to have played out in the Master’s case, a principal whose contract was NOT renewed in 2010 (I think that was the year) and instead choose to go back “down” and serve as a tenured teacher. That action was approved or agreed up by the BOE by the way, in closed session. And yes, though he is now sueing Angie Besendorfer, Masters continues to teach within the R-8 system, today.

That case may or may not be decided in a public trial OR it will die on the vine as a viable law suit OR be “settled out of court”, which won’t happen as this is a personal lawsuit against one individual who does not have the money to pay out of her own pocket to “settle”. We’ll have to see how that one turns out.

Now the Turner case was the very public turmoil when a tenured teacher decide to “fight the system” and demanded a public hearing before the BOE to protest the action taken against him and reclaim his job as a tenured teacher. I will not elaborate herein on that process as I have blogged and “columned in the Globe” extensively on my own views of how that process was a measure of success for R-8 and our public schools. R-8, painfully and publicly, in fact got rid of a “bad teacher” exercising extraordinarily poor judgment, in my OWN view. The painful and costly process succeed in that one incidence.

Now let’s talk about Debbie Fort and how she has played a role in that process, arguing against it, publicly and privately.

First, Debbie and your supporters, I only ask a question and do not make any accusation. Have you participated in the ongoing legal process surrounding the lawsuit by Masters, a former fellow Principal in R-8, against Ms. Besendorfer? IF you answer YES, then can you tell us exactly how you have so participated? OR, you can tell us the public that you have not in any way been officially involved in that lawsuit?

I would also ask the same question of any CURRENT members of the BOE as to their “official” participation, in depositions, testimony, etc. in the Master’s case. Anyone of you current BOE members, running for re-election of not, care to tell us publicly if you have so participated? Might I also be so bold as to ask Debbie and other BOE members HOW you participated, which side do you support in that lawsuit. Certainly I have no access to such depositions or private testimony, nor do I or anyone else that was NOT in attendance at the closed BOE session where non-renewal of Master’s contract MUST have been discussed, have any direct knowledge of that situation.

I have no idea the “privacy rights” anyone may have to answer such questions. I certainly do not, as well, “demand an answer” as I have no legal basis to make such a demand, yet. I also have no idea if I can find WHO exactly HAS been deposed, testified, officially injected individual views, etc. on the Master’s case as it proceeds forward.

But someday, if the case goes to trial, we will all know who says what about others and how they acted or voted, will we not. If the case does not go to trial, well we can all just argue over rumor and innuendo as well.

Now I have explained, at some length how teachers and administrators can be moved out of the system within R-8. So the next question is how often does such happen, questionable performance is privately challenged, executives make a decision to no longer employee someone in their current positions and ultimately some employees move on in their life without public furor.

My sense is that such matters happen routinely in any public education system. People that fail to perform poorly as judged by senior executives are “moved out” of a given public school system. That happens frequently in the military, certainly in private companies and even in the halls of government bureaucracies from time to time. And such SHOULD be happening, when people fail to perform to acceptable levels or standards, fairly, consistently and with compassion as well. Any “system” MUST be able to get rid of “dead wood”.

The actual number of such changes in personnel due to perceived poor performance is NOT a public figure and thus I have no idea how many people within R-8 have been so “treated” in the past few years. But some have been demoted or moved out of R-8, for sure. Is ONE too many to have been subjected to such a process? Any BOE candidate care to offer an answer to that question? How many is too many is another question to be asked as well of all candidates.

I will tell you MY view on the matter. Any sane government (or private) system MUST be able to hire and fire employees based on rational and responsible decision-making. In my view, R-8 is doing so at about the right level of such control over who, exactly should be allowed to continue to teach or serve in other responsible positions within our public and local schools. I think the Superintendent ( and his administrative staff) is on the right track and for sure the current BOE has general knowledge of what he is doing and how he is doing it and has not yet thrown up any real challenges to his actions as the Superintendent of Schools.

Cut to the chase folks and THAT process and actions by Dr. Huff is the REAL basis of Debbie Fort’s decision to run for BOE. No doubt in my mind that underlays her incentive to gain a position on the BOE, to oppose how Dr. Huff and the current BOE decides who to “hire and fire” to use a vague term.

Which leads to my next point or question. Why exactly, did Debbie Fort decide to end a 33 year career in public education and retire, move from Webb City, her residence for about 19 years I am told, and then run for a seat on the BOE? It is only an unanswered question asked with specificity, not any accusation of any sort.

But I will refer to my last blog about how to “treat” marginal performance in a variety of ways. ONE way, a good one is DO NOT promote marginal employees as viewed by people in paid executive positions to make such difficult decisions.

I can only personalize a guess as to Debbie’s decision to retire from public school employment within R-8. If I had worked hard for 33 years doing the best I could to succeed AND advance in my profession, I might well “retire” while young enough to move to other challenges in my career, in a different job entirely. Actually I did exactly that, “retired from the Navy” after only working in that profession for 23 years. One could say I “Peter principled out” or became disenchanted with the profession itself. In my case it was the latter situation. When I reached the DC level of military decision making I did not like what I saw and lived within and decided to move on with my life seeking greener pastures.

But I did NOT turn around and run for national public office to criticize the Navy, the Pentagon or anyone else. Nope, I just, in the last 6 years, have publicly written some challenges to that system within the military, like them or not.

I do not believe Debbie was “fired”, nor do I believe she was threatened with a termination of her contract to continue to serve as a Principal within R-8. But it is possible that she felt a promotion to a higher level of authority within R-8 was deserved, failed to be so promoted and thus we now see her running for office, challenging the leadership in R-8 and the current BOE because of such circumstances.

Again, that is not an accusation, nor do I have any “inside information” on such a situation. I can only guess at what I might have done had I been in Debbie’s shoes. None of us will ever know the truth on that matter, unless Debbie chooses to speak publicly about how she MIGHT have been “mistreated” (or not).

You as voters must decide on such points based on many factors, some guesses, some rumor and innuendo (I have heard “Debbie Fort was Fired” and consider it totally false) and other ways to try to find out the “truth” in a “personnel matter”.

LET’S TALK ABOUT STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT

April 2, 2014

LET’S TALK ABOUT STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT

What I write, the numbers that I use, are publicly available numbers, if one reads the DESE web site and does the math on their own. The subject is student achievement, in Irving Elementary School for the school years ending in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Need I point out that Debbie Fort was the Principal in that school for those three years and thus should be held accountable, publicly, for what the numbers represent?

No one with any sense should be satisfied with student achievement reflected in MAPS scores. Generally speaking such scores show around 50% of students in Joplin, from 3rd grade through the 11th grade achieve a level of “proficiency” (or above). In other words around half the students in Joplin cannot achieve “proficient” levels of knowledge as determined by testing conducted by the State of Missouri. Is there any candidate out there for a position on BOE that would say such scores are “OK”?

So of course a common goal of any and all candidates should be to IMPROVE student achievement, not just talk about it. Is there any candidate for BOE membership that would argue otherwise? PLEASE let me know through a comment on this blog if you choose to take that approach, ignore or NOT call for improving MAPS scores over time?

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 DECLINCED (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 only way to counter such publicly available numbers showing a large DECLINE in student performance is to denigrate the manner in which students were tested. No wonder she is suspicious to implement Common Core Standards, standards that might well INCREASE the definition of success, or at least “proficiency” of her students. No wonder anyone that thinks teachers are mistreated would oppose those standards as well. But so what, as this is not a matter related to CCS. It is a matter related to MAPS, a Missouri set of standards, some of the best in the nation as I understand the matter.

So what Debbie is really saying, my words not hers, is ignore my own performance and those that worked for me as teachers and let’s argue about teacher morale and how tests of any sort are not a fair reflection of student performance.

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.

I can’t wait to read the rebuttal in the Turner Report. Unfortunately that is the only place I might find rebuttal of any sort. Debbie and others will just ignore this information and keep on calling for the wrong things to improve our schools, in my view at least.

Want more? Wait an hour or so and I will publicly address how teachers and principal’s get “moved along” when performance on their part is less than demanded by good executives, including the BOE. And yep, Debbie’s name will appear in that coming blog as well, along with others.

LOOKING CAREFULLY AT ONE BOE CANDIDATE

April 1, 2014

LOOKING CAREFULLY AT ONE BOE CANDIDATE

I am concerned about how all the candidates are not providing substance in their views on education, particularly the problems they see in Joplin. Sure, some speak of problems like teacher turnover rate which they consider too high. But solutions, none coming from anyone, that I can hear on that on other issues.

Anyone familiar with this blog knows full well that I have been spending a lot of time to research the issues and the candidates running for both council and BOE seats. For council seats, my votes are well decided, for me, at this point and I do not elaborate why in this blog. As well for the BOE I now have decided for whom I will cast my votes. McGrew, Flowers and Steele are my choices. But so what.

But that decision was not easily reached. In particular I spent a lot of time on my own research or due diligence to get to know, better, one candidate for BOE in particular, Debbie Fort.

On the surface she has deep experience in education, 33 years working in that field primarily of late as an assistant principal and then 13 years as a principal in the R-8 system. Based on such experience alone she should know what she is talking about and have sound ideas how to actually improve our public education, not just talk about the problems confronting it.

She was one of the first candidates to post a platform on Facebook. She presented herself well at the public forum on March 24th, sponsored by the Globe as well. She acted like and looked like a professional educator in that forum, at least in my view.

But then I began to pull the string, find out the details behind her statements and what her real motivations might be to run for a position on the BOE. What I found was not what I wanted to see and hear if I was to vote for her.

I met with Debbie, face to face, for about 2 hours. We had a long ranging discussion on broad public education issues or at least I tried to take that approach. As well I listened carefully to her local radio interview and comments conducted yesterday. I was disappointed to say the least.

Debbie is concerned about R-8 fiscal, financial conditions. Fine, as every public school system has such problems. But what to do about them, how to spend less money or tax the people more to get more money for schools is not discussed at all by Debbie, at least to any degree of specificity. She is quick to announce publicly that our Superintendent of Schools makes 175% above the Missouri average salary for a Superintendent. What she fails to say publicly, and in fact did not indicate she knew, privately, was that Dr. Huff is significantly UNDERPAID when his salary is compared to districts in Missouri of similar size and tax base within the community.

Of course if we simply did not fill the position of Superintendent or found someone to work for free, so what, as far as teacher pay goes. Try spreading $175,000 around and see how big a raise all teachers might receive. Hell totally eliminate all executive positions in R-8 and you only gain about 3.2% of the total budget which does not significantly increase teacher pay across the board.

She like any politician and most citizens calls for more pay for teachers. Great let’s do so, pay our teachers more, if they deserve it based on their performance as teachers. But Debbie does not make that distinction, pay for performance and for sure does not tell us where she will find the needed public funds to pay more money to all teachers.

But Debbie’s real interest is how to make teachers feel better or something like that. She thinks teacher turnover is way too high in R-8 for example, even though it is below the state average. But at a deeper level Debbie really thinks that R-8, led by Dr. Huff is not treating teachers fairly, listening to their views, taking action to resolve their concerns, etc. It is an oh so typical labor-management divide, at least on the surface of such debate, and thus no wonder that Debbie has the endorsement of the National Education Association for Missouri teachers, a labor organization, advocating only for teachers by and large. Debbie is suggesting that if we the people only fix issues of concern to teachers then student achievement, the real metric to improve in public education will just automatically follow.

Baloney I say, herein, and more politely to Debbie in person, I disagree. We could pay teachers $100,000 per year and still struggle to improve student performance. The best teachers in the world cannot motivate all students to learn that which is needed unless they DEMAND such performance from students, themselves, flunk them when the performance is “less than” and are backed up by each and every administrator, over screams from parents, when teachers take such action.

Do we have a bunch of students that fail to work hard to learn and act like hoodlums on many occasions? You bet we do. Go into any school and see for yourself. TEACHERS have to gain control over such students to be effective to teach them almost anything. And some teachers fail in that effort, miserably.

Incidentally if you think you can bribe a hoodlum to be a good student, well, if you can get through the porn, read Turner’s own book on that point. The way a fictional hoodlum was convinced to stay in school and control his own buddies was to give him free reign to sell drugs, exclusively in a school!!!

So the question boils down to the action needed to improve both student and teacher performance to improve the public system of education. Well my solution is to measure performance on a daily basis, accurately and consistently with fair and equal standards applied to all students (except those with special needs) and ALL teachers(do we have teachers with special needs as well?), without exception, period.

Such metrics, pass or fail metrics, must be measured on almost a daily basis. It is wrong to think that one test at the end of the year can determine such pass or fail scores, at least for kids in elementary, middle and even to a degree, High School. Instead the entire curriculum must focus on incremental learning and behavior, each day and action taken each day if needed to upgrade both knowledge gained and behavior. The system must constantly monitor success or failure and reward or retrain and ultimately punish those nearing or beyond failure.

Does any candidate for the BOE even understand what I am talking about? In old schools of Quality Assurance in industry, and yes, even in the military, such daily scrutiny is just part of the system. Why not our schools? Any thoughts on such a subject, Debbie, or any other candidates? It certainly requires a lot of reading, study, thinking and learning, as well as experience, to gain insights into such profound ideas, at least in public education it seems to me.

THEN when failures are revealed by such metrics, well DO SOMETHING about the failures and don’t ignore the problem or pass such problems on to others for a solution. The bottom line question to be answered by leaders in education then becomes “what to do with failures”.

Debbie ignores failures within the ranks of teachers. She has no idea it seems what to do about “bad teachers” and certainly is very uncomfortable talking about it, directly. Instead she only wants to talk about how wonderful teachers in general might be and the need to improve their “morale”, as if that would fix a hoodlum refusing to learn in a class room!!

Both students and teachers are human beings. Some are great, some are good, some are average and some are simply lousy. Well what action (not just campaign platitudes), for starters is appropriate to change the knowledge and/or behavior of lousy students AND teachers becomes the question.

Debbie will not touch that issue directly for sure. But neither will any other candidate for membership on the BOE, publicly. But guess what. Some of those candidates will engage in such private discussions and they usually have some really good ideas, privately spoken. They don’t try to evade the problem. They face it and try to come up with new ways to improve performance, by teachers, students and administrators, to mitigate failures and the consequences in their lives later on if they are young students at the time failure occurs.

I have found ONE candidate for our BOE that actually talked about things like that with me, privately. He was smart, engaging, knowledgeable and had executive level experience in private industry. No, he did not necessarily agree with all my points. No one would. But he could discuss the pros and cons with deep understanding and good reasoning skills. In other words he showed me the intelligence and ability to consider complex issues and not just come up with sound bite solutions.

So, yes, I will vote for Shawn McGrew. I will also vote, only because of their experience on the BOE, for Flowers and Steele. I wish that I could have found a truly experienced professional educator such as Debbie to take over that job as well. But such was not the case for this voter.

Debbie might just win a seat on our BOE. She certainly has the support of the Turner crowd of disgruntled teachers and maybe, just maybe, her platitudes and questionable statistics might convince enough casual voters to put her in office. OK, so be it.

But Debbie at least promised me that if she wins she will engage with me openly and constructively to seek improvement in our system of public education. Of course all candidates say that. So we’ll see if she is true to her word, IF she wins. If she loses, well, you gave it a shot, Debbie. Now work on your depth of understanding of all the problems in public education, not just those held dear by teachers, and maybe the next time you can win more votes, based on substance, not just a resume and platitudes in public.

But I could say the same to all the candidates for BOE as well and thus take that shot at all of them, except Shawn McGrew.

Note: I make these comments as a note to the first blog just to make sure Turner and his gang call me out to state my own views on how to deal with failures, or those approaching that pinnacle of poor performace in whatever they do.

First of all, you NEVER promote a failure or one close to failure. You keep him or her in their current position (depending on the failure) and supervise the living hell out of them, with rigor so to speak. Let them know exactly where they were wrong, teach them how to improve, then let them try again, to do the same job, not a different one.

Second, some failures are so bad they should not be left in their current positions, in school or a job. Demote them to a less stressful and demanding position and see if they can learn THERE to be successful.

NEVER fire someone out of the blue so to speak unless actual felony charges are the case, criminal actions, alleged. Even then putting them on admin leave until a case in court is decided may be the right thing to do, maybe, and therefore to be considered at least.

Counsel, counsel, counsel is the demand from any manager, much less an executive in real authority, when routine observation and monitoring of employee performance creates questions about such performance. This is where managers, even senior ones sometimes fail their employees in such cases. And with counseling, comes the need to document the counseling.

I find it egregious when people are fired summarily for “poor performance” yet there is no indication that supervisors attempted in any way to correct bad performance until it reached the termination stage. Any union will have a field day in protesting such a termination of any employee, short of criminal actions on the part of the employee.

Finally, when all else has failed an employee or a student must be “fired”. For students of course that means no promotion to the next grade, a rather mild form of termination. It is not similar in any way to the lose of a job where income is needed to feed families, etc.

In the case of Joplin schools, they were doing it right for terrible students or students terribly behaving. West Campus was the school of last resort, the last chance for failing students to reclaim the ability to actually learn something and graduate, deservedly based on knowledge gained and the ability to “behave” over a sustained period of time, under careful observation.

So why, any candidates for BOE, should we not bring West Campus back to R-8 for one last chance to teach those that seem unteachable?

THE GLOBE WON, ROUND ONE

March 31, 2014

THE GLOBE WON (ROUND ONE AT LEAST)

Judge David Mouton said today in court that he would rule as the Globe request to approve a writ of Mandamus ordering the City of Joplin to release the entirety of the Loraine Investigation Report. Good news for those demanding transparency in government and bad news for people that want their privacy protected all the time, not matter what they say and against whom.

In this case, I am one of the former, where transparency of events taking place within government is more important than protecting the rights of privacy for those advocating against certain people within government. Good work Globe to uphold that principle of demanding transparency in government.

In the hearing the judge asked the attorney representing the City if his argument that anytime derogatory information of any sort was offered to government decision-makers about the actions of individuals should such information, testimony, statements officially made, should be withheld from the public view. The attorney said yes, as such is a matter of personnel records or performance.

I leave to any sane reader to develop an example of how such a view, any and all statements about the performance of people in government, would be ridiculous, in the extreme. What if, for example, someone accused a policeman of being a pedophile? Should the accusation be withheld from public scrutiny? More important, what if the accusation was untrue? Should the accuser be held accountable for making such a statement for whatever reason? I don’t think so.

There was more to the Globe position, argued quite well in my view by the attorney on behalf of the Globe and lamely countered by the attorney for the City. But all the details I am sure, or hope at least, will be reported by the Globe, thoroughly and soon.

As to when the full report including all attachments will be released, who knows? This is only round one and appeals, etc. can further delay the legal process as I am sure some running for office on council certainly hope will happen.

Wonder if their views on that decision by the judge will be asked tonight at the forum for all council candidates?

MY CONCLUSIONS FROM THE BOE FORUM

March 24, 2014

MY CONCLUSIONS FROM THE BOE FORUM

My views on candidates has changed as a direct result of the forum held tonight. I will explain why my views have changed below. But first…….

Why in the world do we hold only one public forum, not invite the public to attend, and then have microphones that do not work properly while candidates try to “communicate” with the public. I could not hear several replies, important replies, made by candidates. It almost seems that Lynda Banwart was sabotaged with a bad microphone. No, I am sure that was not done on purpose but I just could not hear what she had to say on several occasions. Same with Jeff Flowers and even once or twice with Debbie Fort. Shameful to have such technology issues in a major political event. Someone was responsible for that failure though I have no idea who it might be.

Now for the substance of the issues discussed and my views of the responses from the candidates. I begin with changing my opinions, rather dramatically, on several candidates. First however I cut to the chase to eliminate certain candidates from my own consideration for a positive vote in their favor and why, briefly, I do so.

David Guilford remains on my do not support list. Yes, he is a nice man, but he has no idea how to govern, other than to always find out what other people want to do. Well David, to govern, you have to make up your own mind on issues of substance and not once did I hear you say “this is my view of what is needed”.

Jeff Koch. Limited, very limited in his views on substance related to education. He obviously opposes Common Core Standards, which is fine if his reasons are sound. But he provided no sound reasons for his position other than the much bally hoed “local control” stuff. As well he actually said he needed more information on several important issues, like funding. He should have been better prepared for the forum and not just rely on his quest for a popular view on such matters.

Lynda Banwart, an early choice by me just fell off my list. She was the quintessential light weight on issues of substance. She sounded like a really nice soccer mom, running for the BOE. I want a thinking governor, not someone that holds unthoughtout positions of substance on critical issues.

OK, three down and four to go, on my list to consider for a favorable vote, by me. They are McGrew, Fort, Steele and Flowers.

McGrew won that forum hands down in my view. He had obviously studied the issues, had reasoned opinions on every question asked (and answered clearly for each and every one), and did not try to pull any punches for the sake of popularity. As well his education and background provide substantial experience in how to deal with complex matters as well. Shawn, you just won my vote.

Now Randy Steele and Jeff Flowers. I find it hard to differentiate between the two of you as you both essentially defended, quite well in some cases, past BOE decisions. Obviously you understood how those decisions were reached and knew what you were talking about. I thought Randy’s comment about FEMA reimbursement, back to Fort’s concerns over smaller reserves, was a masterful stroke. What else are reserves for, Ms. Fort other than money available during a real emergency. And Steele clearly showed how we will replenish those reserves, from FEMA thank you very much.

But Jeff and Randy failed to address transparency on the part of the BOE adequately. Transparency demands a two way street. People must be able to express concerns, raise issues with members of the BOE, etc. But to fulfill the quest for transparency, BOE members must in turn engage with the citizens asking the questions. You both have failed to fulfill that second part of transparency, respond to citizens raising issues, publicly or privately being beside the point.

Randy said he got text messages, conversations on the street and yes, emails. Did he always respond to all those quests for information. No, is my direct experience with both Randy and Jeff while serving as the President of the BOE. Sure they were “nice”. Sure they might occasionally tell you that the questions raised were good issues. But get a reply in substance, nope, not ever or at least hardly ever has been my experience. The same goes for other BOE members currently serving as well, however.

There is indeed a transparency issue with our BOE and it needs to be fixed. Every one of those members has a public email address. If you want to ask a question, go to the BOE web page and send them, one or all a question. But don’t expect an answer back, most of the time. That needs to be fixed, period. If a member of the BOE does not tell an interested citizen how they feel, how they might vote, on a given issue then no wonder people wonder what is going on, the BOE waiting for Dr. Huff to tell them what to do. maybe. Wrong approach all you members, currently or prospectively on the BOE.

OK, now for Debbie Fort. Well Debbie you made my to be considered further list for whatever that is worth. Shawn is now my only sure bet to vote in his favor, unless something really screwy happens in the next two weeks. You are now very much in competition with Flowers and Steele for my second, or third, vote in favor of providing you a position on the BOE.

How can you gain more ground with this outspoken observer? Well Debbie, transparency on your part would go a long way, for this voter and blogger, may God help my soul for the latter. I have asked, publicly in my blog and in a more private email to your campaign staff a series of pointed questions of substance. You have yet to respond to most of them, however.

But I admit you gave me pause to really listen to you when you hit on my favorite point. Our students MUST HAVE HIGH STANDARDS set for them, period. I would only add, which you did not, that they then must be held completely accountable to achieve those MINIMUM standards so set. You and I are on that same page in that important point. Set high standards and then move towards achieving them, with rigor and completeness, no excuses allowed.

Now where did you and every other candidate tonight really fail in your individual and collective answer to one very important question. “How do you best measure teacher performance”? NO ONE answered that question, directly and with some careful and considered thought. No wonder this is so as it is a VERY hot topic right now in Joplin schools, how to best collect and apply good metrics to evaluate teachers, all teachers in R-8. NO ONE gave a satisfactory answer at least for this observer. Shame on you all and particularly you Debbie, considering your long experience in positions that REQUIRED you, as an assistant principal and then principal who had the RESPONSIBILITY to properly evaluate every teacher in your school(s).

Any person seeking executive authority, publicly or privately, must have the skills to evaluate the people that will work for him or her, the skills to hire the right people, fire those that deserve such termination, and always be evaluating performance, good or bad, back to the people working for the executive. It is simply a vital part of any executive position, which membership on the BOE certainly should be, an executive position with the inherent power to hire, fire, select, train, council, admonish or praise each and every employee within the system that you govern.

Sadly, not a single one of the candidates gave a good answer as to how they would fulfill that very important responsibility, except, maybe, Shawn McGrew whose current job depends in large part on doing exactly that within the Freeman Health System, or so he said.

Remember Debbie, if I might be so bold to offer such a thought. You have been a long term administrator in public schools. My question is have you also been a long term “executive” holding positions of power to select, hire, fire, evaluate, etc. the people under your supervision. There is a big difference in my view. As an administrator you administrate the policies set forth by other, you carry out the policies set. On the BOE your responsibility is first of all to SET the right policies.

Can you or any others show me achievement in such executive positions? Flowers and Steele at least have that experience from several years on the BOE. You are a newcomer to such a challenge, Debbie. Now show me you can do it better than one or the other of those two choices, Flowers or Steele.

Comments herein are always welcome and my email is abgame65@aol.com, if you prefer a more private venue to provide answers to me. Of course that transparency on your part, part of the problem with the current BOE in my view, is all up to you, public or private.


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