Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Five years ago- Todd Akin hands Claire McCaskill the U. S. Senate race

August 19 will mark the fifth anniversary of the day Congressman Todd Akin handed his Democratic opponent incumbent Claire McCaskill a victory in the U. S. Senate race.

Akin was answering a question on abortion when he gave an answer that was, to put it mildly, less than scientific:

Well you know, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, well how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question. First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.

McCaskill had already manipulated the GOP primary by launching attack ads against Akin, claiming he was too conservative. That sounded all right to the Republican base, so it gave Akin the victory in a three-way race with businessman John Brunner and former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman.

In observance of the five-year anniversary of Akin's controversial statement, I once again offer my 2012 song, Akin Breakin' Heart.

Trial date set in lawsuit claiming Carthage elementary teacher abused autistic boy

A November 28, 2018 trial date has been scheduled in Jasper County Circuit Court for a lawsuit alleging that a Carthage Columbian Elementary special education teacher abused a six-year-old autistic child.

The lawsuit, which was filed in May claims Deborah Westmoreland, who is no longer working for the R-9 School District, stepped on the boy's fingers and rubbed his face in spit on the floor.

The petition says the situation was referred to Child Services, the lawsuit said, and paraprofessionals who worked with Westmoreland told investigators that the teacher had unusual methods for dealing with students who were not behaving as she wanted them to behave.
In the Children’s Division report, Exhibit “A,” a paraprofessional reported that, “If children were acting out and were on the floor, Ms. Westmoreland would step on their fingers and would say, ‘Oop’s that’s what happens when you throw a fit or you’re on the floor.’ With the most recent event occurring on[at that time] December 2[2015].” Further, this same paraprofessional stated that, “It [standing on the fingers] happened more than once and then she[Ms. Westmoreland] asked us to participate; she said when they are on the floor me and Ms. Whitten should step on their fingers too.”

The lawsuit was filed by the parents of J. W. M., an autistic child who is "non-verbal and unable to effectively communicate with those around him."

The parents had noticed that J. W. M., no longer enjoyed school and cried and acted out when it was time to go to class.

He had begun wetting his pants and his mother suspected that the problem might lie with J. W. M.'s teacher.

The mother said she saw Westmoreland "physically restrain J. W. M. in the hallway, but the mother was not allowed to observe what was going on in the classroom.

She finally reported the situation to Child Services, which initiated an investigation.

The lawsuit names Westmoreland, Columbian Principal Brian Shalleburger and former R-9 Superintendent Sean Smith as defendants.

Shalleburger told Child Services, "Mrs. Westmoreland can be aggressive."

Westmoreland said no one had ever told her she had been aggressive and that there had been times when she "accidentally" stepped on children's fingers.

The six-count action charges the teacher with battery and the R-9 officials with negligence.

The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages, costs and fees and are asking for a jury trial.

Lawsuit response: Former Joplin city manager disruptive factor more interested in playing politics than working

In a lawsuit response filed Monday in U. S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, League City officials claim former Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr spent more of his time playing politics than doing city work during his short stint as that city's city manager.

In his lawsuit, which was filed July 19, Rohr claimed he performed exceptionally during his time in League City.

The response said that was not true.

He was a disruptive factor who appeared far more interested in playing politics than in working for the city.

The city also denied Rohr's claim that he was fired because he filed an ethics complaint against Mayor Pat Hallisey, who is listed as a defendant.

Rohr was terminated for legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons having nothing to do with his alleged exercise of rights he claims he holds under the First Amendment."

The city is asking that Rohr's action be dismissed with prejudice and that the former city manager be required to pay to League City's attorney fees, costs and expenses.

League City hired Rohr March 31, 2014, a few weeks after the Joplin City Council fired him by a 5-4 vote. City officials cited his experience in economic development and his ability to launch the rebuilding of Joplin after the EF-5 tornado swept through the city May 22, 2011.

Rohr said when he left office 92 percent of the homes had been rebuilt or were in the process of being rebuilt, and 90 percent of the businesses were back on track. In addition, he said the city still had $190 million in aid to spend.

"League City may not have a natural disaster - hopefully - but it will be in a better position by having me to manage it," Rohr said. "I can be a manager under difficult circumstances and manage well. You can't imagine the disarray and anxiety in circumstances when a third of your city is destroyed. If you can handle that, you can handle any circumstance that comes your way."

Rohr came to national attention for his leadership in Joplin following the tornado, but his time here, just like at his previous city manager jobs, came to an end following battles with elected officials who did not agree with his method of operation.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

At least Nixon made it through six years

The headline is just one of the thoughts I had after watching President Trump's session with reporters today.

I may share some more later.

$140 a year for the Neosho Daily News?

Expect a dramatic drop in subscriptions for the Neosho Daily News.

Monday, I talked to a long time subscriber to the Daily (more than 60 years) who made the difficult decision not to renew her subscription.

Perhaps things would have been different if the Daily had not recently trimmed its publication schedule to two times a week (and still calls itself the Daily).

I have written before about how I grew up reading the Neosho Daily and how I waited for it to arrive at Gum Mercantile in Newtonia every weekday. What is left of the Daily (and I am certainly not blaming the editor and reporters who are doing the best they can) is certainly not worth the prices GateHouse Media wants subscribers to pay:

Four weeks- $15.75

Thirteen weeks- $42.25

Twenty-six weeks $77.50

One year- $140

This brings up a question- Does GateHouse really want the Neosho Daily News to survive?

Carthage R-9 parents, taxpayers deserve to know why superintendent was fired

We have been through this in Joplin.

When C. J. Huff was hired as Joplin R-8 superintendent in 2008, we were told he was hired because he had a track record of improving graduation rates at Eldon. When he was fired, make that when he retired, in 2015, we were not given any reason, at least not any that made any sense.

Even worse, Huff walked away with a settlement that paid him his full salary for another year and a half or approximately $270,000, a $50,000 consulting fee so he could help the district with the lawsuits he had a role in causing, and expenses for him to attend a national convention for school public relations.

Plus, he was allowed to write his reference letter, which talked about how downtrodden Joplin was when he got here and how Huff rescued us, and it was stipulated that no board member could say anything bad about him.

We had a good idea of why Huff was gone. After all, his financial misadventures and incredibly high teacher turnover had been detailed with backing documents in the Turner Report, his last few months were filled with misogynistic behavior toward board candidates and board members and his continuing presence as the head of the school district had become a joke in the community.

It would have been nice if the board could have told the Joplin community the simple, unvarnished truth about the reasons for C. J. Huff's, but we had a good idea (except for the Joplin Globe and Joplin Regional Business Journal, which were shocked by the dismissal of such a wonderful man and successful leader).

That brings us to the latest Jasper County superintendent to be shown the door.

The Carthage R-9 Board of Education and Superintendent Sean Smith issued a joint statement Monday telling district patrons their honeymoon was over because their "goals were no longer mutually aligned."

Smith's resignation was effective two weeks ago, according to the Carthage Press, and it was just announced Monday.

Any time a joint statement of that nature is issued, that means the decision was made and then it was turned over to the lawyers.

As for the public's right to know, too bad.

We can be sure that the lawyers hammered out an agreement that calls for neither side to say anything negative about the other. If the board fails to live up to that, Smith can sue. If Smith is the one who breaks the agreement, he won't receive his $220,000 cash payout.

It is obvious that the statement, just like the nonsense that was issued by the Joplin R-8 District when Huff was given the heave ho, is a work of fiction.

If their "goals are no longer mutually aligned," the board certainly had the power to bring them into alignment. Smith was their employee. All the board members had to do was hold a closed session, turn to Smith and say, "Sean, you had better bring your goals into alignment with ours, or we are going to fire you."

Smith could have aligned his goals with the board goals and found himself another job.

It has only been a few months since the board held its annual review of the superintendent's contract, something all school districts do. Did his goals shift in the mean time.

Even worse, was Sean Smith hiding his goals from the board members?

In other words, the statement was a bunch of nonsense.

School boards shove these meaningless words down our throats because that is what the experts at the Missouri School Boards Association tells them to do. Everything has to be done in such a way that the board (and the district) do not open themselves to even the possibility of legal action.

While we certainly do not want our school districts to be sued, it should be remembered that these are public school districts.

How can taxpayers determine if the board members are truly representing their best interests when they make decisions behind closed doors and then issue a contrived statement that does not bear any resemblance to the truth?

When it comes time to decide whether to re-elect these board members, how can district patrons make an educated choice?

Board President Mike Diggs told the Joplin Globe that Smith did not do anything illegal or immoral.

If he did not do anything illegal or immoral, then what on earth could be bad enough to spend $220,000 of taxpayer money to get rid of him.

The public has the right to know.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

SW MO Democrats: Mr. President, use your bully pulpit for good instead of hate

(From Southwest Missouri Democrats)

The hate-filled demonstrations held yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia and the subsequent violent acts committed by white supremacists against counter protesters have shocked and saddened us.

These events should galvanize our nation to action. We cannot let those that salute Nazi and other symbols of racist oppression set our national narrative and we must all condemn racist beliefs. We as Southwest Missouri Democrats agree with the statement made by our MDP Chair, Stephen Webber, “this racist Nazi terrorist ideology cannot be given even the slightest space to exist in American politics.” And we also stand with Senator Claire McCaskill who tweeted, “The hate on display in VA is ugly, and morally repugnant. And it is the essence of anti-American. Shame on them.”

The hateful rally held in Virginia was coined by it’s organizers as, “Unite the Right.” Instead our nation must be united against racism. This message must be sent unequivocally and without hesitation. Our 45th President’s statement was lacking on both points. To qualify racist violence by tweeting “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides. On many sides.” -@POTUS, President Trump is participating in the worst type of victim blaming. The side that we expect our President to condemn is the side who took the life of 32-year old Heather Heyer in Charlottesville on Saturday. Other Republicans have not hesitated to speak out on this and we hope that they will continue this patriotic stance to raise our public discourse. We hope that these Republican Senators will join our Democratic public servants and organizations in this fight for equality and to raise our level of public discourse. We appreciate the statement of Senator John McCain (R-AZ),

“White supremacists aren’t patriots, they’re traitors; Americans must unite against hatred & bigotry #Charlottesville” and Senator Hatch (R-UT) re-tweeting Alejandro Alvarez who said,

“Their tiki torches may be fueled by citronella but their ideas are fueled by hate, & have no place in civil society.” Senator Hach later expounded tweeting, “we should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.” -OJH

The rally that took place yesterday is a symptom of a hateful undercurrent seething within the citizenry of our nation. This racism has many causes, but we must remember what former MO SOS Jason Kander noted on social media, “No one should forget that the birther movement emboldened white supremacists. Or that it was led by @realDonaldTrump.” Genevieve Williams, MDP Vice Chair added on Twitter, “if you build it (a space for white supremacy in public discourse) they will come (out of the woodwork with tiki torches). #Charolettesville

Our current President had a roll in feeding this racist undercurrent and it is time for him to own these actions and denounce the results. He is no longer a candidate; he is now our President and Commander in Chief. Once elected to be a public servant, a true leader must work for all citizens, not just his base. Mr. President, we ask you to own your past actions that directly enabled the events of yesterday and to use the “Bully Pulpit” for good instead of for hate.

Links provided to top Turner Report/Inside Joplin posts for the week

Those special people who take on the challenge of teaching our children often provide lessons and memories that last long after the students leave their classrooms.

That was certainly the case with my former Diamond Middle School colleague Larry Augustine, who died earlier this week.

My post "Remembering Larry Augustine" was by far the most visited post on the Turner Report this week, while Mr. Augustine's obituary topped Inside Joplin Obituaries.

Links to the top posts are provided below:

The Turner Report

1. Remembering Larry Augustine

2. Lamar State Representative's wife to run for term-limited husband's seat

3. State audit covers $90 million in inappropriate lab billings at cash-strapped hospital

4. Greitens message to Joplin, Clinton police, all officers- the people of Missouri stand with you

5. Greitens issues statement on capture of suspected killer of Clinton police officer

6. Greitens orders flags flown at half-staff for murdered Clinton police officer

7. Marionville man announces candidacy for Seventh Congressional District seat

8. Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News owner buys Topeka Capital-Journal, 10 other papers

9. Kim Frencken; The expense of back-to-school

10. McCaskill legislation designed to bring down cost of prescription drugs

Inside Joplin

1. Jasper Police arrest Lamar, Liberal residents on drug charges

2. JPD interrupts suspected meth sale at 4th and St. Louis Kum N Go, two arrested on felony charges

3. Police: Seneca man arrested after beating wife, taking off with children

4. Joplin Police Department Arrests August 9-10

5. Joplin Police Department Weekend Arrests

6. Jasper County Dissolution of Marriage Petitions

7. Police seeking information on Joplin woman missing for 25 years

8. Joplin police searching for woman, children; warrant issued for custodial interference

9. Pedestrian taken to Mercy after being run over in Wal-Mart parking lot

10. Joplin man charged with murdering Oklahoma prison escapee; bond set at $750,000

Inside Joplin Obituaries

1. Larry Augustine

2. Quita Henson

3. Bill Acord

4. Mario Delapena

5. Lucille Mayes

6. Sue Pequignot

7. Marjorie Cooper

8. Ronald Grunwald

9. Cecil Williams

10. Mary Emmert

Kim Frencken: Back to School Anxiety

What if I oversleep? What will I wear? What will I have for lunch? Will my friends be there? Sound familiar? Thought I was talking about a child? Nope. Teachers have anxiety too.

I used to practice getting up on time. For. Two. Weeks. I set two alarms, one by the bed and one in the bathroom. Just to be sure. I laid out my clothing. Set my breakfast, ready to eat, in the fridge. Even went as far as laying my toothbrush by the sink. A little overboard? Maybe, but the thought of oversleeping and being late terrified me. Needless to say, I didn't sleep much the first few weeks of school.

Over the years, I dropped the get-up-get-ready drills and simply let the alarm clock do it's thing. I also perfected my organizational skills and got clothes and food ready in advance. I continued having cooking marathons. Preparing meals over the end-of-summer to be ready for the back-to-school fatigue. I knew that I would be tired in the evenings and need to have some meals ready to go.

Preparation. That's the key to relieving anxiety. There is nothing worse than trying to get something ready while the clock is ticking. Like those surprise, "Mom, I need my uniform washed before we leave for school" statements (yeah, some of those are still going to occur). Or, coming home to discover that your husband has invited a friend over? Life is full of surprises. You can't avoid everything or, for that matter, be prepared for everything, but you can be prepared for the normal day-to-day occurrences.

So... here are a few tips from an over the top organizer!

1. Check out these recipes on my Pinterest board- Meal Ideas! I've tried the No Bake Chocolate Oat Bars, Mexican Stuffed Shells, super easy peach cobbler, my variation of Poor Man's Stew, some of the chicken recipes (baked garlic brown sugar), and the 1 pound ground meat with 1 packet of dry French onion soup mix (no name on pin!). They are delicious- Kim tested, husband approved! Since, I've made them over the summer, they are easier and quicker for me to prepare now.

2. Try organizing your kitchen. I know that with kids (or husbands) it isn't easy. It is also time-consuming, but in the long-run it pays off. My pantry is organized by type (vegetable, fruit, cereal, etc). All of the breakfast items are in one easy to see and access location. All can labels are facing out so I can read them. I keep a magnetic shopping list on fridge. I try to keep all recipe staples on hand.

3. Try to keep some mix-&-match outfits in your closet. I like the kind that are wash & wear (hate to iron!!!). I also like the tops (or bottoms) that will go with more than one other item. That way, if I put on something that doesn't fit anymore :( or needs repair, I can easily swap it out for something else. I've updated my Teacher's Life board to include meals, organization tips, and teaching ideas (anything that fell into the make-it-easier-during-the-school-year category).

4. Find a place to post your schedules, as well as, your own. Post them in a high traffic area with important dates highlighted. I carry my planner everywhere! I have all of our dates marked in it with some reminders posted a day or two in advance. May sound crazy, but it beats having to explain to the dentist why you didn't show up for your appointment.

5. Accept that things will not be perfect. Do what you do with your heart and then leave it there. You may burn supper (I do frequently) or a lesson plan may fail and that is ok. Life goes on. Find your mix and let it work for you. Make sure that you save some time for yourself. You can't be your best when you are running on empty!

Now, let's set those alarms and make this the best year ever!
(More of Kim Frencken's writing and information about her products can be found at her blog, Chocolate for the Teacher.)

Nancy Hughes devotion: The chain breaker

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains.”
Psalm 107:13-14 (NIV)

It’s not a sight that you see every day – people in identical orange short-sleeved coveralls shuffling along the sidewalk – but you see it in my town. They make their way from the jail to the courthouse and then back to the jail periodically.

Their pace is painfully slow. Chains and shackles keep them from moving any faster. Their heads are down as they struggle to make sure they are not stepping on the person in front and at the same time not getting stepped on by the person walking behind them.

Watching this procession, you cannot help but wonder why each one been arrested and detained. But you also find yourself wondering how it must feel to take every step chained and shackled.

No freedom to dance or jump or even turn. But rather, every movement held in place by metal links locked together to restrain the person wearing them.

And then I look at my life. No orange coveralls. Nothing on my arms and legs restricting me. And yet I too find myself in chains.

Can I name a few? Fear, anger, envy, loneliness, depression, greed, infidelity, jealousy, resentment, addictions, worry, unforgiveness. That’s the short list. Need I go on?

We have all experienced at least one of those “chains.” They can rob us of our ability to function daily because they steal our joy and, if we are not careful, consume our every thought and action to the point that our very faith and trust in the Lord is crippled!

Today’s Scripture speaks directly to breaking those “chains.” We cannot do it on our own. Psalm 107:13-14 says “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains.”

Are “chains” holding you tightly and robbing you of joy and hope and peace? Every single one can be broken to pieces by giving them to Jesus, the only true Chain-breaker!

I encourage you to talk with a prayer warrior friend, a counselor or minister and share what “chains” are wrapped around your heart and holding you hostage. Then go before the Lord and ask Him to free you from each one and replace them with mercy and forgiveness and love.

Today, this very minute, trust the Chain-breaker to do what He says He will do.

Father, there are chains in my life that are keeping me in darkness. Please take them from my heart and replace them with you. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up


· What “chains” in your life are keeping you from experiencing joy, peace and mercy from the Lord?


· Journal every “chain” in your life – past and present – that is holding you prisoner.
· Meet the Lord face to face during your prayer time and hand over each “chain” to Him.
· Thank Him for freeing you and replacing each one with His love, mercy and forgiveness.

Power Verses

· Psalm 107:13-14 (NIV) “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains.”

· Psalm 116:16 (NIV) “O Lord, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant; you have freed me from my chains.”

· Matthew 4:24 (NIV) “News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, and those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.”

· I Peter 5:8 (NIV) “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

· John 3:16 (NIV) “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

(For more of Nancy Hughes writing, check out her blog, Encouragement from the War Room.)

Nancy Hughes' latest children's book is available now and can purchased at the link below.