Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Administration source: Turner was targeted before No Child Left Alive was published

(From Sept. 9, 2013) Just a little more than three months ago, I went through a futile 10-hour hearing in the Joplin R-8 Administration Building in which the public and board of education members were told how I "dangled" my novel No Child Left Alive in front of impressionable young people, though my prosecutors were never able to produce even one student who had read the book.

The first few minutes of the hearing were spent warning parents and young people about the strong sexual nature of the book and the language they were going to hear and then the board's hired gun, a woman who gives seminars on how to get rid of teachers, spent the first part of the hearing reading selected excerpts from the book.

Why did she bother?

A highly-placed source within administration tells the Turner Report that if it had not been No Child Left Alive or Scars from the Tornado (which I supposedly wrote without administration's permission, even though my principal was thoroughly aware of it and two witnesses testified to that fact), it would have been something else.

Those in the bunker at 32nd and Duquesne were told to "find something on Randy Turner" more than a year ago, a command that reportedly began nearly 12 months of surveillance of everything I wrote on Facebook, Twitter, district e-mail, and some checking on my background. Just how much taxpayer money was spent on this venture is something that will probably never be known.

While the source did not know exactly what it was that triggered upper administration's obsession with me, the timing coincides with a meeting I had with East Middle School Principal Bud Sexson on March 12, 2012.

Human Resources Director Tina Smith, the same person who conducted the four-minute interrogation of me April 8, sent word through Sexson on March 12, 2012, that administration was unhappy with the Turner Report's coverage of Missouri Southern State University President Bruce Speck and was also unhappy that I had the nerve to refer to myself as a teacher in the Joplin School District.

Sexson also told me that "they," never specifying who he meant by "they," wanted me to stop writing about politics and politicians. "They see that it might cause problems because they are trying to get money from the state for the disaster."

The meeting, my notes from that day indicate, also included an admonishment about writing about a problem that was going on at McAuley High School, concerning a coach who had been fired. When Sexson brought up our discussion during his testimony at my May 23 termination hearing, the McAuley part of the conversation was the only thing he mentioned.

Sexson began the meeting by telling me that Tina Smith, and that was the first time I can ever recall hearing that name, wanted me to remove all mention of the school district from the message at the top of the Turner Report.

I noted that I had already changed that message, at administration's request, to reflect that any opinions expressed on the blog were mine and not those of the Joplin School District.

"That's not enough," Sexson said. "They don't want any mention of the school district. They do not want anything that identifies your blog with R-8."

At that point, Sexson brought up Bruce Speck. "I know some people see a conflict with Bruce Speck and what you have been writing about him."

A check of my Turner Report posts from that time period indicates I had written four recent posts about Missouri Southern State University. One was titled: "Memo: Bruce Speck tells Faculty Senate to stop being so mean," another about the Joplin Globe's"cozy relationship" with Speck, and a third describing how while faculty jobs were being cut, the university was spending half a million dollars to hire a consulting firm.

The final one was an opinion piece I wrote offering financial advice to Speck- stop hiring consultants.

That one was published March 10, two days before my meeting with Sexson.

The principal pointed out that there was a problem with me writing about Speck because he was an East Middle School "lunch buddy," and a member of our Site Council.

"They see it as creating problems with the professional relationship we want," Sexson said.

I asked if "they" were wanting me to stop writing about Bruce Speck and Missouri Southern State University entirely.

"That's what Tina Smith said would be the best thing," Sexson answered.

After that he said, "Don't mention that you are a teacher with Joplin R-8."

"I am a teacher with Joplin R-8," I said.

He said he knew that, but that was what "they" wanted.

Again, he did not specify who "they" were, but it was obviously someone higher up the food chain than Tina Smith.

At that point, I agreed not to write anything about Missouri Southern State University until after the bond election and I also said I would change the description at the top of my blog to remove any mention of the Joplin School District.

The one thing I did not do was stop writing about politics and politicians, something that apparently embarrassed or caused problems for the man at the top of the Joplin R-8 School District.

As the hunt for something that could me get fired continued, the existence of No Child Left Alive became known to upper administration in December and while neither C. J. Huff nor Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer was happy with the way the novel depicted education in general and some of the programs of the Joplin R-8 School District in particular, they also knew that the book alone was not enough to get rid of a tenured teacher.

Reportedly, a lower-level employee in the admin building was the one who uncovered the fact that I had inadvertently posted a link to No Child Left Alive on Room 210 Discussion, a blog that had been used in my classroom for about three weeks nearly three years earlier. At that point, not wanting to reveal the surveillance program that had uncovered Room 210 DIscussion, upper level administrators made sure the one who "discovered" the blog was another administrator, the one who eventually testified to that effect at my hearing.
From earlier:

Sources: Crackup imminent at Joplin Schools Administration Building

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