Thursday, January 03, 2008


My first year as a reporter for The Joplin Globe started and ended with ice storms. Throughout the year, schools celebrated accomplishments and dealt with problems. My first year with the Globe has led me to meet many wonderful people, working hard to educate kids. It's been my pleasure to meet every one of those people.

And what good is a year-end introspective without a top 10 list? If there's any theme that can be found amongst them, it's that open is always better than closed. Here's my votes for the most important school-related stories in the area for 2007:

1. President Julio Leon retires: Though rumors of his resignation floated like fall leaves around the campus, Julio Leon surprised and stunned many on the MSSU campus when he announced his resignation days before the first day of classes.

2. MSSU Board's closed-session slip: In the fallout of Leon's resignation, the MSSU Board of Governors discussed and appointed members of a presidential search committee in closed session, an apparent violation of Missouri's Sunshine Law. Though Dwight Douglas, board chairman, felt discussion of the committee members was a proper use of the Sunshine Law, future discussions were held in open session.

3. $57.3 million election: The Joplin R-8 School District called for help from the community to pass a $57.3 million bond and 31-cent levy increase, in order to build three new middle schools. The measure passed in April with a safe majority; the district held a groundbreaking for East Middle School and approved plans for South Middle School in December.

4. School board elections, appointment: In the midst of the April bond election, four candidates ran for two open seats. Incumbent Mike Landis and newcomer Ashley Micklethwaite beat then-president Jim Coburn and newcomer LeRae Miller. The election helped to resolve a deadlock about replacing Rhonda Randall's vacated seat Ñ James Meadows was chosen after the election.

5. Synthetic turf: Three schools talked about installing synthetic turf on their football fields in 2007. Webb City installed turf surface at Cardinal Stadium with the help of a bond, and residents were thrilled to watch the installation process. Carl Junction approved a bid to replace theirs in December in an effort to gain playground space. In a controversial decision, Joplin installed it at Junge Field with the help of a $375,000 loan given by an anonymous person. The loan will be paid back by boosters.

6. Webb City election failure: For the first time in 10 years, Webb City voters said "no" to an election issue. In November, voters turned down a proposal to build a new library at the high school.

7. Snow day bill, ice storms: Two ice storms in one year caused havoc to school make-up days. The General Assembly passed a snow-day bill which forgave schools from making up too many of those lost days. Before the 2007 Christmas break, Joplin students had already missed five days of school.

8. Higher education funding: The state gave a sizeable increase to Missouri institutions of higher education. Gov. Matt Blunt's controversial proposal to sell MOHELA's assets was approved with the help of Sen. Gary Nodler. The sale gives MSSU about $18.9 million for a new health and sciences building.

9. Distinction in Performance awards: Several area school districts won the state's highest award for academic performance. Joplin celebrated the winning of "Distinction in Performance" for the fourth straight year.

10. Paperless boards: The Carl Junction and Joplin boards of education took a step into the future by switching to paperless systems. Carthage is considering the switch and Seneca would have switched if there was extra money in the budget.

I hope you all had wonderful holidays and that your 2008 is everything you wish it to be.

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