The Joplin R-8 superintendent was not getting what he wanted and it was such a simple request. He was days away from the deadline to submit the school district's proposal for 2012 Race to the Top funding from the federal government and he could not get the head of the Joplin NEA chapter to sign off on the request.
At stake was more than $10 million in possible funding for the school district. Huff dashed off an angry e-mail to the local NEA chapter president:
I'd like an explanation as to why you are refusing to sign off on our application for much needed Race to the Top funding to support the work with our kids in a time of limited resources. Is this your position, a JNEA position, or is this a NEA position that is being taken state/nation-wide. Without your signature we cannot apply. CJ
The JNEA president sent Huff this response:
I was not even given an opportunity to read the aforementioned document. The one page of the application that I was allowed to see states that:
*To the best of my knowledge and belief, all of the information and data in this application are true and correct.
*I further certify that I have read the application, am fully committed to it, and will support its implementation.
*I am aware that any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or claims may subject me to criminal, civil, or administrative penalties.
I have not been included in any of the planning, even though it is my understanding that this grant application has been in the district since August, and I have not been given a full copy of the application or budget to review. I have not said I would not sign it. What I have said is that I am not comfortable signing something I have not read and could be held liable for. I'm sorry for the confusion.
The Joplin NEA chapter never signed off on the Race to the Top application, nor did any other representatives of the local faculty.
The JNEA president sent the following message to chapter members:
I have been asked to sign Joplin Schools RTTT Grant. I was only given one page of the grant, the one I was asked to sign, and asked to return it today. The full grant application should be around 130 pages and include a budget. I cannot in good faith sign something I have not read and that I know includes things we do not agree with.
When R-8 Administration sent no further information, the JNEA president sent the following e-mail to C. J. Huff:
In response to the request that I sign the Race To The Top Application Assurances as President of the Joplin NEA, I am respectfully declining. The application states that my signature verifies that to my best information and belief all statements in the application are true and correct, that I have read the application, that I am fully committed to it and that I will support its implementation. I cannot sign because I have not been given the opportunity to read the complete application and therefore have no idea whether the statements are true and correct. Even if I did receive the complete application, my lack of involvement in the development of the proposal prevents me from attesting to the accuracy of statements in the application. Further, I cannot state that I am fully committed to it and will support its implementation when I have not been given the opportunity to engage my members and include their input into the proposal. I am sure you will understand why I cannot subject myself to the civil, criminal and/or administrative penalties that could occur by my making a false, fraudulent or fictitious statement or claim, as detailed in the application assurance.
The district's Race to the Top application was eventually rejected by the U. S. Department of Education and much of what is included in that application can be found in its critique on the department's website.
Much criticism was based on the district's lack of openness with the public and the lack of support shown by faculty for the initiatives outlined in the grant request.
In the August 18 Turner Report, I noted a part of the grant application that would have drawn questions from teachers and from patrons had it been revealed before the application was submitted: