Bright Futures Joplin Update – March 29, 2016

The following update was sent to the Joplin Schools Board of Education on Tuesday, March 29, 2016 following a retreat of the BFJ Board of Directors.

To:  Joplin Schools Board of Education
Cc:  Dr. Norm Ridder
        Bright Futures Joplin Board of Directors

Dear Distinguished Board Members,

Recently our Board convened with the expressed task of realigning and redefining our core mission and program clarity.  We have added some new members to our Board (see attached) and are very excited about the path forward.  The result of our work is as follows:

1.  Mission Clarity.
Bright Futures Joplin exists to serve children in need with the Joplin School District.  Our critical focus is providing clothing, school supplies, food, and the basic necessities for Joplin students to be successful in school.  These requests come directly from front-lines school personnel through the BFJ online request system.


2.  Financial Independence.
Bright Futures Joplin will be financially independent by the end of the 2017 school year.  The BFJ board is committed to raising $125,000 in the next year to support BFJ efforts and to ensure long-term viability.


3.  Program Clarity.
In addition meeting the basic needs of our students (which is the primary focus), we will continue to support Joplin Schools by being vocal advocates for education and the role of the community in Joplin Schools to support children.  BFJ is committed to increasing volunteer capacity and partnerships throughout the district.  BFJ will continue with the TREK and Lunch Pals initiatives to bring support to Joplin teachers and students.  These programs have had a decline in volunteer participation in spite of school appreciation of these efforts and requests for more community involvement.  The programs will undergo evaluation by a committee of our Board members, program volunteers, as well as school personnel, and we will report their recommendations in a later correspondence.


4.  School, Administration, Teacher and Counselor Alignment
Feedback from every building indicates that there is a great need for additional community volunteers and resources at their buildings.  In spite of the 121 human service, faith-based, and business partners meeting at building-level councils throughout the district, every school indicated a need for more engagement.  In the last 5 years since the tornado, volunteer engagement has waned, and our schools are feeling it. BFJ will work to re-invigorate active and engaged partnerships at each school.  We are actively seeking input from all schools to align with their needs and address any concerns they may have.

Specific services we have offered this year to support classrooms and buildings:· 


In closing:

While the original mission of BFJ was very clear, the tornado and the funds brought in after all of the national attention on BFJ created a situation in which BFJ took on more than was originally intended simply because of the gravity of need in Joplin and the resources available.  The BFJ board was passionate about making an impact and took on many initiatives and efforts that spread the team too thin, unintentionally created burdensome programs/processes that school personnel could not sustain, and created confusion in the community regarding its real purpose. All of those efforts were well-intentioned, but not sustainable – with some of them really being the responsibility of the District, not BFJ. This muddied the water and caused confusion internally regarding what was “school” and what was “Bright Futures” and unintentionally created a culture that was less than collaborative in nature internally.  On top of this, the creation of BFUSA (a separate entity entirely) was a response to the requests of many neighboring communities with the explicit purpose of supporting those new Bright Futures communities (not meeting the needs of students).  These efforts were important and valuable, but also caused confusion locally.

The truth is that every young group of world changers has a learning curve when you’re creating something new, and certainly Bright Futures Joplin has faced those challenges.  In spite of the challenges and lessons learned the hard way, the BFJ board strongly believes that the Bright Futures model was born in Joplin and has now spread to dozens of other communities – something for which Joplin should be very proud.  There is great ownership of Bright Futures as “our own thing,” and there is a strong commitment among board members to stay true to the original Bright Futures model and mission.  BFJ has been working hard to get “back to basics” and will continue to do so in the months/years ahead.  We appreciate your ongoing support and partnership as we realign and refocus for the benefit of Joplin kids.

We look forward to many years of continued partnership –

The Bright Futures Joplin Board of Directors