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This page features news about the Diamond R-4 School District.




Continuing an annual tradition, the Diamond R-4 Board of Education fired me again Tuesday night (April 13).

I received my notification, fittingly, twice today (April 15). Both Superintendent Mark (the Knife) Mayo, an avid reader of Wildcat Central, according to sources close to the superintendent, and R-4 Board President Dr. Wayne Webb made sure to have their names on official-looking letters.

I received a letter signed by Dr. Webb and including Mayo's name, but not signature, in my mailbox. The other letter, containing a statement that was written in exactly the same words, but signed only by Mayo and not containing Dr. Webb's signature, was sent via the more expensive certified mail.

The letter read:

"Dear Mr. Turner,

Last summer the Diamond R-4 School District was forced to place you on an involuntary leave of absence for the 2003-2004 school year. In January of 2004, the district offered you the opportunity to return to work as a social studies teacher for the remainder of the 2003-2004 school year. You did not formally respond to the offer. The leave of absence will end with the 2003-2004 school year. Please be advised that on April 13, 2004, the Board of Education voted to not renew your probationary teaching contract. Good luck as you pursue your career in another district.

Very truly yours,

Mark Mayo, Superintendent of Schools"

This website has been critical of the superintendent, to say the least, but I will not allow untruths to be spread about a man who is responsible for making decisions that affect everyone in the school district.

Despite the rumors, these are the top 10 things that Mayo did not say at Tuesday night's board meeting.

10. We're going to fire Turner every year until we get it right.

9. Not renewing Turner's contract will save this school $245,000.

8. That Spongebob Squarepants is really nifty.

7. Let's fire some more teachers who are already gone. I'll send out the certified letters and you can handle the rest, Dr. Webb.

6. I practiced law for years, but I must have missed practice that day.

5. You know, we could save the district $103,209.52 by eliminating the language arts program. They ain't doing nothing anyway.

4. People with advanced degrees come and go, but you'd better be willing to pay through the nose if you want someone who can cut the grass right.

3. I am so upset with Edison that I am ordering that all lightbulbs be removed from district school buildings.

2. This is the way we did it when I was at Southwest.

1. Sorry, it must have been the chili.

Those things were not said, let me make that clear.

I can't say I am surprised that the board took the action it did, as obviously unnecessary as it was. I also can't say I am surprised that Mayo again took the easy way out and let me find out by mail (twice, at that). It's the same lack of decency the district has become known for since the board elevated this power-crazed personification of the Peter Principle.




Leaving no stone unturned, Superintendent "Dr." Mark (The Knife) Mayo continued to do the work of three men in his Herculean efforts to provide a cost-effective education for Diamond R-4 students.

Unfortunately, the three men whose work he is doing are named Moe, Larry, and Curly.

Less than a day after the Board of Education decided not to go along with the superintendent's suggestion of eliminating the band program, Mayo continued to tell people that the band program might have to be sacrificed. It would join the vocal music program, which Mayo has already eliminated, in the process eliminating the job of Billie Jo Hardy. That would have left no music program in the school. Mayo has also targeted the drama program, following a one-year experiment of overpaying by around $10,000 for that program.

The band program has been a shining example of success for the Diamond R-4 School District, but that success came under the direction of Rob Lundien, whose resignation was accepted by the board Thursday night. Lundien has accepted a counseling position with the Neosho R-5 School District.

Drama teacher Steve Burnett has also resigned, affording Mayo the opportunity to eliminate nearly the entirety of the school's fine arts program.

The superintendent's mindset continued to be revealed at Thursday night's meeting as he proposed the elimination of the cheerleading program so the money that would be saved could go to football coach Brad Hocker and boys basketball coach Allan Woods to run a summer weights program. That proposal was wisely rejected by the board. Already, the superintendent has authorized the conversion of the new bus barn, which was part of the bond issue package passed in 2000 by district voters, into a field house for the football team.

Reports from the school also indicate that Mayo is trying to save a few dollars by strongly encouraging veteran teacher and coach Larry Cunningham that it is time for him to let go of his burden and quietly slip into retirement. It is not known whether Mayo will use the same kind of tactics he used last year on former middle school math teacher Larry Augustine. Augustine had not made up his mind about retirement so Mayo continued to tell people in private and at board meetings that he had a really good math teacher prospect, but he couldn't make a move until Augustine "makes up his mind." Mayo also took it upon himself to go to Augustine's room late in the school year and began yelling at a man who had given more than two decades of his life to the children of Diamond because Mayo had heard that Augustine had been saying "bad things" about him. For the record, no one that I have talked to has any recollection of Augustine ever saying anything about Mayo. After that performance, which could be heard all the way to the end of the hall (and was heard by me in the room directly across from Mr. Augustine's) there was no way that Augustine was going to return for a 22nd year at Diamond. Of course, now that Augustine was out of the way as an obstacle to Mayo's plans, the superintendent was happy to present Augustine with the Diamond Gem Award (the awards were resurrected by Mayo because he believed they would improve staff morale and not cost a cent) at the high school graduation ceremony.

Whether Cunningham receives the same treatment as Augustine remains to be seen. Mayo has put the track and cross country programs, both of which are coached by Cunningham, on the list of programs to be cut if the tax levy issue did not pass.Cunningham's resignation would also enable Mayo to use the health teaching position for one of the new coaches he has brought in.or perhaps as a slot for a new coach.

It is not known how the decision by Governor Bob Holden to release $197 million in state funding for education, approximately $100,000 of which will go to the Diamond R-4 School District, will affect the superintendent's master plan. That decision, combined with the apparent resolve of the state legislature to pour more funding into education should be causing the superintendent and the board to be reconsidering the elimination of these fine arts program, as well as the elimination of these teachers. However, it is doubtful that any of those teachers will be retained since Mayo has already let them know he has no use for them

After all, he can still blame the school funding problems on Edison Schools, whose officials apparently picked Diamond as the only school that would lose money using their summer school program. Mayo, in his incomprehensible column in Monday's Joplin Globe, tried to explain how the district lost money. What he didn't tell the readers is that the Diamond R-4 School District is paid for three years based on the amount of students who attended summer school the year Edison ran it...even though the district has not held summer school at all for the past two summers. Diamond, under Mayo's direction, is one of the few schools that has taken full advantage of that loophole in state law.

Diamond voters soundly rejected the tax levy proposal Tuesday. I hope school officials do not allow Mayo to blame this on people not wanting higher taxes or on chicken farmers (Mayo's words, not mine) who cannot understand complicated school financing issues the way he does. Diamond voters will support issues that will benefit their children...but not if the money is going to be handled by people whom they do not trust to spend that money wisely.

They have watched as Mayo has eliminated the gifted program, the vocal music program, the Vo-Tech program, the middle school writing class, the seventh and eighth grade reading classes, left the school with only one full-time counselor (and the other counselor was teaching a full load of classes, so a sub had to be hired if he were needed), paid the golf coach $3,000 (according to the extra duty pay schedule provided by the school) during the 2002-2003 school year, and hired a man at the rate of about $40,000 per year, to oversee building and maintenance, a job normally handled by the superintendent in districts the size of Diamond.

Mayo also bullied the salary and benefits committee of the Diamond teachers until it existed in name only. He misled the board into thinking that Diamond teachers were paid on the same level as teachers at similar-size schools in southwest Missouri. He did this by cherrypicking schools that did have lower salaries than Diamond and then saying that the district naturally could not compete with salaries in Carthage, Joplin, Neosho, and Webb City.

Even though you could argue that point, since the district was in danger of losing quality teachers to those four districts, his thesis was cloaked in lies. It only took an hour of research two years ago for me to determine that of out 25 school districts in the Seventh Congressional District of Missouri that had between 600 and 1,000 students (Diamond had about 800 at that time), only six paid their teachers less than Diamond. And nearly all of those were smaller schools. In other words, he had no problem with misleading the board with selectively chosen facts, while showing his contempt for the teachers, the people who provide the backbone of any good school district.

A good school district, that is what Diamond once was. Now the Diamond R-4 School District is known as the district that hired the clown prince of superintendents.

The kids deserve better than this. Diamond R-4 voters know that. That is why four incumbent board members have been voted out in the past two years. The voters have been sending a message. Hopefully, the right people will hear it and the name Mark Mayo will fade into well-deserved oblivion. <javascript:EditItem('','Para',0)> <javascript:EditItem('','Para',0)>


Band director Rob Lundien and high school counselor Anne Bryan have submitted their resignations, and resignations of several more veteran teachers in the Diamond R-4 School District are expected in the next few weeks.

Lundien and Mrs. Bryan have reportedly accepting counseling positions in the Neosho R-5 School District.

Lundien is in his fifth year as instrumental music teacher for the Diamond schools. When he came to Diamond, the high school band had less than 20 students. Through his efforts, the band has more than quadrupled in size and has also improved in quality. It has consistently won awards marching in various area parades and has brought home top honors from district and state music contests.

The crowning achievement of the DHS band came when it qualified to march in the Liberty Bowl Parade and at the Liberty Bowl football halftime show in Memphis, TN. The band won the honor on the strength of its performance, but was only able to go after a sustained fund-raising effort which earned more than $30,000.

Ms. Bryan has served as the only full-time counselor in the R-4 School District for the past year. During the 2002-2003 school year, Diamond had three counselors, with two of them, Mrs. Bryan and Mrs. Cleary, serving full-time. The other was Lundien, who had two hours per day devoted to counseling in the middle school.

This year, Ms. Bryan was the only counselor with regularly scheduled time for that duty. Ms. Cleary was put on an unpaid leave of absence last summer, which she found out about, not in person from the superintendent, but in a certified letter she received while she was in the hospital recovering from surgery. Because of other cuts made my the superintendent, Lundien no longer had two hours for counseling duty, leaving Ms. Bryan to effectively serve as counselor for grades K-12.

The resignations of Lundien and Ms. Bryan will likely be just the beginning. Other teachers, some of whom have been in the district for a long time, have already been interviewing for positions in area school districts.

Teachers have said they do not trust the superintendent, that he has not been honest with them or treated them fairly, and they do not see any change happening soon.

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May 22 Board Meeting- "I look at Vo-Tech and I'm paying $50,000 a year." (This probably comes as a surprise to the taxpayers who thought they were the ones paying for it.)

May 22 Board Meeting- Mayo asked the board to promote Harold Bridges to head of maintenance and the custodial staff, saying there would be "no raises, just additional duties." (A few months later, Bridges requested a $5,000 pay increase and reportedly was given $3,000.)

May 22 Board Meeting- "I have tried to maintain a sense of stability regarding budget issues." (Every board meeting needs a little humor.)

Feb. 20, 2003, interview with Joplin Globe. "Any changes next year will be due to attrition and not to layoffs."

Dec. 7, 2003, interview with Joplin Globe. "There are lots of frills that I can't begin to think about, and I have to be frugal to provide the basics."

Introductory letter to faculty, dated July 11, 2001- "I will be 40 something in August. I am married (to my first wife) and I have three children."

Feb. 12, 2003 meeting with faculty- "I'm odd in a lot of ways."

Same meeting- "I'm not firing anyone and I'm not laying anyone off."

June 19, 2003 board meeting- (explaining why spending more money than you bring in is not really deficit spending) It's not really deficit spending. A true deficit budget is when you don't have the money."

May 8, 2003 board meeting- "The board can vote to raise the levy from $2.75 to $3.13 without putting it on the ballot. That will raise $150,000."

At the next board meeting, on the same topic- I've talked to a lawyer, who told us we can't do that."

At meeting of the new faculty leaders for the district on the topic of teachers whose jobs were posted on a state Internet site before they even knew they were losing their jobs- "Tiny must have done that."

Same meeting, same subject- "MSSC put it out. I didn't know that was their policy. (It isn't and MSSC didn't put it out.)

Same meeting, asked why he didn't follow board policy about advertising jobs within the district first- "I don't know. I'll check it out."

Same meeting- "You get bigger savings by cutting out personnel."

Same meeting- "Our food services are way over budget. The food services budget for the year is $90,000 and as of Dec. 31, we had already spent $70,000."

Same meeting, same topic, asked how that could happen- "I don't know."

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The Grandview School District signed on with Newton Learning (formerly Edison) for summer school services this year, according to an article in the March 13 Kansas City Star.

"Newton promises growth with incentives and recruiting efforts that already have brought more students into summer school programs in recent years in Raytown, Hickman Mills, and Independence," the article said.

Newton Learning is providing summer school for more than 70 school districts in Missouri, the article said.

Grandview is not the only school district to add Newton Learning this year. The Crystal City District, near St. Louis, also has opted to go with Newton, according to the Jan. 31 St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Crystal City Superintendent Ron Swafford said that during a period of economic instability caused by state cuts in education funding, district officials "are looking at different ways to generate revenue.

"Newton Learning has a proven track record of making money for the company and the school districts it works with," Swafford said.

""We're doing this for an economic reason," he said in the Post-Dispatch article. "We can get more money. They have a good curriculum, so it will be good for the students. But this is an economic decision."

The Post-Dispatch article pointed out that Newton Learning makes its money by "increasing summer school enrollment and sharing the money the state pays school districts to provide summer school education classes with the host district."

Both articles noted that Newton attracts students through various incentives, including gifts and prizes. The company uses the districts' teachers, paying them at a much higher level than they would be pay if the host district was operating its own summer school.

The curriculum of Newton's schools in Missouri is geared toward the MAP tests, the standard by which state schools are judged.

One school that swears by Newton Learning is Independence, where the superintendent is former East Newton superintendent, and Carthage Columbian Elementary Principal Jim Hinson. Last year was the first year the Independence School District contracted with Newton. Summer school attendance increased from 3,000 students in 2002 to more than 5,500 in 2003.

Newton Learning has been used for the last several summers in the Sarcoxie R-2 School District and in McDonald County and has earned money for those districts.

The only place where anyone claims it has cost them money has been Diamond.

It has been two years since Newton Learning (then known as Edison) had control of summer school in Diamond. By all accounts, attendance was up, the district benefited from a large number of supplies donated by the company, the company handled nearly all of the costs for the session and all R-4 school officials had to do was sit back and count the money.

And that's exactly what Superintendent Mark Mayo has done ever since. In the Jan. 29, 2003 edition of The Joplin Globe, the superintendent said that the summer school program cost Diamond $285,000.

In the July 27, 2003, Joplin Globe, Mayo again took shots at Edison."Mark Mayo, superintendent of schools, said the budget includes a $285,000 bill from Edison Schools for handling the summer-school session. That bill was paid out of the district's reserve fund.

" 'If you take out the Edison bill, the budget is balanced and shows a positive balance of $50,889,' Mayo said."

Nowhere did Mayo explain why the Edison bill was paid for out of reserve funds. The company receives its pay from the state funding the school receives for summer school. That pay was approximately $415,000, of which Edison received $295,000, according to a letter to the editor from Newton Learning President Larrie Reynolds in the March 10 Joplin Globe.

That leaves the district with a net gain of more than $100,000 from that summer school session. However, if the Edison bill was paid for out of reserve funds, what happened to the $295,000? The state appropriated the money to pay for the summer school session. There should have been no need to dip into reserves to pay for it.

The big summer school bill was used as Mayo as a large part of the justification for the elimination of the Vo-Tech program, two teaching positions, and a library aide position. <javascript:EditItem('','Para',0)> <javascript:EditItem('','Para',0)>

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Vocal music in the Diamond R-4 School District is on the chopping block. So is the speech and drama department. The district already eliminated the Vo-Tech program and middle school reading skills classes.
One program appears to be headed in the other direction. The high school football program has escaped the budget cleaver of Mark the Knife.
Sources close to the R-4 Athletic Department confirmed that when the high school football team takes the field next year, it will be in brand spanking-new uniforms.
When the Wildcats are at home, the players will put on those new uniforms in their new field house, the site which voters approved as a bus barn in the April 2000 bond issue election.
The rest of the athletic department has not been spared the knife. According to information released by the superintendent, if the 50-cent tax levy proposal fails in April, baseball, softball, golf, cross country, and wrestling will be headed for extinction.
Well, maybe not wrestling. Mayo told a group of parents at a recent PTSA meeting that if they raised enough money and filtered it through the Booster Club, the wrestling program might be able to continue.
He did not say if such an approach could be used for the middle school reading skills classes, the Vo-Tech program, the vocal music program, speech and drama, and other academic-related programs that have been or are on the chopping block


There also appears to be an effort to make it look as though I am negative toward interim high school principal Danny DeWitt. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have always had a great deal of respect for Mr. DeWitt, especially now that he has been placed in such a difficult position. A position, I might add, that he is handling well. When I spoke of the best method of passing a tax levy increase being the guarantee that the administrators resign, I was not including Mr. DeWitt in that group. In fact, people at Diamond High School have evidence to the contrary. Thia Wiggins recently contacted me for comments for an article she was doing for the school website about the alleged job offer that was made to me. My response was four paragraphs long. In the first three paragraphs, I explained briefly how I came to lose my job in the first place and the legal requirement that I be offered any job that comes up for which I am qualified. The superintendent lived up to his legal responsibility, even though I understand he was offering me a job he had already given to someone else.

In the fourth paragraph, I made it clear that I would have enjoyed working for Mr. DeWitt. I also commented on how much I missed the students at Diamond. I asked Thia that my comments not be used unless they were used in their entirety.

I was e-mailed the next day by Alicia Bradley, who said Mr. Burnett only wanted to use the fourth paragraph and not the others. I had expected this and this is no criticism of Mr. Burnett or the student reporters.The reporters were only doing their jobs and doing them well. As for Mr. Burnett, I have no problem with his stance. When I was editor at The Carthage Press and The Lamar Democrat, I would have had a problem with someone who wanted to direct how his quotes were used. So, as far as I can tell, the story has never run. But I definitely have no problem with Mr. DeWitt, as that e-mail message, which Thia, Alicia, and Mr. Burnett (and possibly others) have read, shows.


The latest news coming out of the Diamond schools is that the school district is again looking at cutting teaching positions. The fine arts appears to be one area that is being considered. Mr. Mayo recently told one teacher in the fine arts area that the teacher's program "sucked" (exact wording). Reportedly, the administration is considering putting the vocal and instrumental music departments under the direction of one person. Some other teachers have reportedly also been targeted for elimination, including one who went against Mayo at a board meeting last winter. The superintendent, exhibiting pachydermial tendencies, never forgets.


As a public service, I would like to present my proposal for cuts that should be made in the school budget in order to let the public know that its money is being well spent. I was able to come up with more than $100,000 in cuts that would not hurt the school district and would not have any negative effect on the children.

1. Eliminate the non-education position that the board and Mr. Mayo created and hired Harold Bridges for last year. I have nothing against Mr. Bridges, but the idea of paying someone over $40,000 a year for doing the type of supervising that in most school districts Diamond's size is done by the superintendent, in conjunction with the janitorial staff, is ridiculous. It is even more ridiculous when you consider that the position was added at a time when it was already obvious that a serious budget problem was on the horizon.
2. How in the world can the board and administration justify paying more than $35,000 to the superintendent's secretary, another non-educational position? This is not a knock at the quality of the work Mrs. Bridges does, but the person who holds this job should be receiving about $10,000 less. There are a number of larger school districts in which the superintendent's secretary receives far less than what is paid for that position in Diamond. The secretary, and forget that administrative assistant title. That's just a fancy description for secretary. To give you an idea of how ridiculous the salary is, consider that teachers who have earned advanced college degrees, do not receive anywhere near that much in the Diamond R-4 School District, including some who have been here for far longer than the superintendent's secretary.
3. Leave an administrative position open for at least one year. Have the same principal run both the high school and the middle school, or perhaps have the high school and elementary principals share the middle school duties. Maybe even have the superintendent lend a hand every once in a while. This would save approximately $50,000 and would work at least on a temporary basis. It is a far better idea than eliminating teachers and increasing class size.
4. As a measure of good will, the superintendent should give back the $5,000 pay increase he received last year. He had already received a considerable increase when he was promoted from middle school principal to superintendent. At a time when teachers were lucky to receive any extra money at all, it was a slap in the face to hear the superintendent had received a $5,000 pay increase.

5. If Mr. Mayo has not convinced Mr. Burnett to remain at Diamond by offering him more money&nbsp;(and I hear he is still trying to convince him to stay), he should show a little restraint this time in hiring a replacement. A school district with financial troubles does not need to pay $37,000 for a drama teacher. A good teacher can be hired for more than $10,000 less, even if it means hiring someone with less experience than Mr. Burnett's three years.
6. Eliminate the ISS position for the time being and have it filled by teachers who are already on staff. This year, after it was initially supposed to be filled by a full-time substitute, the administration elected to fill the position with yet another coach, an assistant at that. That is not sending a good message at a time when fiscal responsibility is a must. The elimination of this position would save at least $23,000.

7. Drop the golf program. I feel bad for the students who do well in this program, but if you ever want to pass a levy increase, this has to go. Diamond does not have a golf course so students have to be driven to another town to use its golf course. The district has to foot the bill for a coach, transportation and greens fees. The savings would be in the neighborhood of $3,000. The sport could be considered both a boys and girls sport, which would mean that there would be no Title IX requirement to drop another sport. Plus, Diamond boys have the option to run track or play baseball in the spring. Having three sports is a luxury that a small school district cannot afford in this day and age.

I don't expect to see any of these changes implemented, but they would save the district approximately $140,000.

   (The following certified letter was received by former Diamond Middle School teacher Randy Turner on Friday, Jan. 9, 2004.)
   Re: Diamond R-IV School District Reduction in Force.
Dear Mr. Turner,
   As you are well aware, due to declining enrollment and funding the Diamond R-IV School District put you on unpaid leave of absence under your contract for the 2003-2004 school year. Due to a change of circumstances, we now have a vacancy for a Grades 9-12 social studies teacher for the remainder of the 2003-2004 school year. Pursuant to RSMo Sec. 168.124, we are extending to you (pursuant to this letter) the opportunity to return to work in the Diamond R-IV School District as a social studies teacher for the remainder of the 2003-2004 contract year.
   If you choose to accept this opportunity to return to work in the Diamond R-IV School District will need to receive notice from you, in writing, stating your intention to return to work in this district for the remainder of this school year under your 2003-2004 contract. If we do not receive your notification of intent to return to work by January 14, 2004, we will proceed to retain the services of another teacher to fill this vacancy. Should you accept this offer, the projected start date for you to return to work under the 2003-2004 contract would be January 19, 2004.
Very truly yours,
Mark Mayo, Superintendent of Schools
cc: Wayne Webb, President of the Diamond R-IV Board of Education, Virginia Fry Edit

   That headline is a little misleading. I have no plans whatsoever to talk to Mark Mayo about a teaching position or anything else.
  When I was growing up, I couldn't decide whether I wanted to be a teacher or join the circus. Thanks to the Diamond R-4 Board of Education's elevation of Mr. Mayo to the superintendent position, I was able to do both at the same time for nearly two years.
   No sincerity is involved with this offer of a contract. It is being made for two reasons. One, he is legally required to offer me the job. If you recall, the board offered me a teaching contract for the 2003-2004 school year and I signed it and returned it.
   With only a few weeks remaining before the beginning of the school year, I received a certified letter telling me that I would not have a job. I was the victim of something called "reduction in force," which allows a school board to eliminate teaching positions, even if a contract has been signed, just by saying it has financial problems. It doesn't matter if there is any proof of the financial problems, or if the problems are being caused by malfeasance or mismanagement, or whatever reason. All the board has to do is say it's necessary and it can make the decision.
   I will never forget the wonderful things my students and Mrs. Nickolaisen said about me when the board had my hearing. I will also never forget the rude way in which they were treated and the way the board proceeded during the closed session to tear down everything I had ever done at Diamond.
   It wasn't important that I had been in charge of publicity for the bond issue which resulted in the construction of the new high school, the board members told me. It wasn't important that I had written positive news stories about the district to put in area newspapers and on Wildcat Central for more than three years. It wasn't important that my teaching had played a big part in increasing communication arts MAP scores for seventh graders. It wasn't important that I had established a school website and was never paid a cent for it, though Dr. Smith had promised to do so. All of these things were "frills," I was told.
   Mayo and Dr. Webb pointed out that Dr. Smith had left no documents behind indicating that I was to be paid for my work In other words, they were not only taking away a job I loved, they were saying I wasn't important to the district or to the students, and that I was also a liar. There were numerous other people who could have told them about Dr. Smith's intentions, but those people were never asked.
   I pointed out that I had helped supply good news about the district at a time when The Joplin Globe was writing about a female school board member getting into a fight with another woman at a youth wrestling match and about three elementary kids who were sexually harrassing an elementary girl on the school playground while school was in session.
   Dr. Webb quite correctly pointed out to me that there are always going to be bad things written about schools. Judging by what has happened recently, he didn't know the half of it. 
   I was fortunate enough to be able to land a job with the Joplin R-8 School District. So I actually had signed contracts to teach at two schools this year. I will readily admit that losing a job I loved at Diamond hit me hard. I was depressed for quite a while, but I threw myself into my work at South Middle School.
   I tried either not to say anything about the Diamond school district or to concentrate on positive things, especially when it came to the operation of Wildcat Central. I kept hearing from students (and from teachers) that bad things were being said about me during school time and in class by two classroom teachers. Oddly enough, these teachers were not even in the R-4 School District last year. One of them I only met one time for a minute or two. The other one I have never met. Criticisms were leveled at the quality of my teaching, at the fact that I did not just hand over Wildcat Central to the school district, and even my skill at journalism was questioned. Attempts were made to discredit me with the students who had been my biggest supporters. As far as I can tell, these efforts did not pay off. Teenagers are not stupid.
   But before too long, those things really didn't matter much to me. I had bigger worries on my mind. My health began to fail me right about the beginning of the school year. I was constantly tired and could barely make it through the school days. I figured things would improve once I was finally able to get over what had happened to me at Diamond.
   But things did not get better. Because I believed it was the Diamond situation that had me under par, I ignored some other warning signs and did not go to a doctor. Thanksgiving night, I returned to my apartment in Carthage and found I could hardly walk up the stairs. I would walk two or three steps and have to stop to catch my breath. This was a harbinger of things to come. When I reached the top of the stairs, I had to go into my bedroom and lay down for 20 minutes just to recover.
   This became the way of life for me for the next couple of weeks. My principal, Mr. Mitchell very quickly told me I needed to call a doctor and I did, but the quickest appointment I was able to get was 11 days off. I just thought I had a touch of the flu, even though I had taken a flu shot. In the back of my mind, though, I worried that I had heart problems.
   When I finally had my appointment with Dr. Dailey (Diamond freshman Bryce Dailey's father), a blood test was taken, and when he saw the results, he told me I would not be going home that night. In fact, he took me out to his truck and drove me over to St. John's to have me admitted immediately. Apparently, over a period of several months, I had lost a little over three-fourths of my red blood cells. The teachers at South had been telling me that I looked really pale. There was a good reason.
   The doctors were surprised that I was able to stand up, much less teach every day and drive back and forth between Carthage and Joplin. It probably would have only taken a few more days to kill me, I was told.
   Over the next two days, thanks to the good people who donate blood, I had 10 fresh units pumped into me to replenish what I had lost. I underwent a number of tests to determine what was causing the loss. Cancer was ruled out, silent ulcers were ruled out, and I would just as soon not tell you what the reason finally was because it was more than a little embarrassing. The problem was hemorrhoids.
   Things are much better now. I feel better than I have in months and I am regaining the enthusiasm for which I have always been known.
   I don't blame Mark Mayo or the school board for my problems, but without the red herring of depression lurking around, I probably would have realized a lot sooner that I had a serious medical problem and I might have been able to have handled it without having to be admitted to the hospital. There's no way of  knowing. On the other hand, if I had still been with the Diamond R-4 School District, and I had been admitted to the hospital, I would have had to have paid a lot more due to the new insurance coverage that Mark Mayo scouted high and low to find. Again, there's no way of knowing. The medical problems were my fault, but the Diamond situation definitely did not help.
   I wasn't ever going to mention any of those things, but this certified letter brought it all surging to the forefront. Maybe the law requires it, I didn't look, but why in the world is he wasting the taxpayers' money by sending a certified letter? Pick up the phone and give me a call. He can record the call if he likes so he can prove that he offered the job to me as the law requires.
   I am afraid I will have to turn down your generous offer, Mr. Mayo. I signed a contract to teach communication arts in the Joplin R-8 School District, and I, unlike you, believe in the sanctity of a signed contract.
   I have no doubt that you already know that and know that I can't afford to take the pay cut it would require to return to Diamond. I also doubt the sincerity of the offer, since you told me July 17 that I would not return to the active faculty because you didn't plan to hire any social studies teachers who couldn't coach. And I still do not coach.
   I miss the kids at Diamond a great deal, though I have already come to love the ones at Joplin. I have always loved working with kids and I can't think of a better job in the world than being a teacher.
   In the coming days, the R-4 Board of Education will consider putting a tax levy increase before the voters. The money is needed, that no one can deny, but I would be surprised if any such proposal is passed. The people in the Diamond R-4 School District are intelligent. They recognized the need for a new high school, more room for the middle school, and the addition of a middle school library, when they approved the bond issue in the year 2000. They trusted Dr. Smith to do the right thing and they also trusted the decisions he made, even if they didn't always agree with them, would be backed with solid, logical reasoning.
   There is no trust in this current administration. The way I have been treated is actually pretty good compared to the things that have been done to others who were in the district far longer than I was. Probably the only way a tax levy increase would pass would be if the administrators agreed to submit their resignations on the day that it passed.
   Unfortunately, we live in the real world.

   Two Diamond High School Band members were among those who played with the Southwest Missouri All-District Band in a concert at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin.
   Freshman Spencer Snow was selected on trumpet and freshman Alicia Bradley made the elite band playing clarinet. The two were selected after auditioning Nov. 4 at Webb City High School.
   Superintendent Mark Mayo extolled the virtues of the new R-4 website, to the R-4 Board of Education at its Nov. 13 meeting.
   Mayo said the number of visitors to the site compared favorably to the number of visitors at a competitor site. He did not mention the name of the competitor.
   The site would be even better, he said, if more teachers would send in material. He said the website manager, Steve Burnett, would be able to do even more for the site after the high school musical Burnett is directing, "The Sound of Music," has finished its run.
   Mayo did not mention how much the taxpayers are paying for the website and for Burnett to operate it.
    He also did not mention that the competitor site, Wildcat Central, has not had 5,000 visitors since the beginning of the year, but more than 6,100 since June 1 when a counter was added to the site.
   He failed to note that while the allegedly cash-strapped district is forking over money for a new website, it had a website that provided nearly all of the same features (and had the capability of providing all of them) being provided free of charge for the past three years.
   Those oversights were probably made because of the superintendent's desire not to have a lengthy board meeting. Most likely he will address them in the superintendent's corner at .
   It was nearly buried within an overlong assembly, but the hours of work put in by DHS freshman Alicia Bradley and eighth grader Kasey Hockman during the National History Day competition was recognized Nov. 11.
   The two, who placed second place nationally in June at the NHD finals at the University of Maryland (other stories about their accomplishments are featured on this page) received a proclamation from State Representative Marilyn Ruestman during an assembly which also featured the annual observance of Veterans Day.
   Despite the positive publicity brought to the school by Miss Bradley and Miss Hockman for their academic endeavor, they may not get a chance to try to better that second place finish.(Miss Bradley and Miss Hockman's older brother, Luke, also qualified for the National History Day finals the previous year.)
   The school administration appears to have elected not to pay for a sponsor for the event, blaming budget problems. It has asked for volunteer sponsors and indicated that Career Ladder money might be available.
   The Diamond High School Wildcat Marching Pride Band is headed for the Liberty Bowl. The fund raising process was successful, the student body and the public were told today.



   The family of Diamond Middle School social studies teacher Grant Reed suffered a loss last week with the death of his older brother, John Reed. The following obituary information was provided by The Pittsburg Morning Sun.

John Joseph Reed, 51, of Pittsburg, died suddenly Monday, Oct. 27, 2003, at his home.

He was born July 7, 1952, at Kansas City, Mo., to Joseph and Nona Jean Reed. He was a 1970 graduate of Liberal High School. He served in the Army Engineering Battalion from 1972 to 1974, where he was a bulldozer-heavy equipment operator.

Mr. Reed was in construction for many years. He was a supervisor at Able Body Design for five years and at Vinylplex for about 10 years. At the time of his death, he worked at Pillsbury at Joplin, Mo.

Survivors include two daughters, Lacy Jean Reed of Pittsburg and Gretchen Smith of Riverside, Calif.; his mother of Frontenac; one brother, Grant Reed of Mulberry; and two sisters, Becky Fornelli of Pittsburg and Shirley D. Giacometti of Frontenac.

He was preceded in death by his father.

Graveside services were held Thursday, Oct. 30, at Barton City Cemetery with the Rev. Verl Strong officiating. A flag -folding presentation was provided by the Benjamin Fuller American Legion Post No. 64. Arrangements were under the direction of Friskel Funeral Home, 230 E. McKay, Frontenac.


 The first quarter Diamond Middle School honor roll trip will be held Thursday, Nov. 6. The top fifth through eighth graders at the school will leave after third hour, eat at Northpark Mall in Joplin, then spend the afternoon bowling or playing games at Carl Richard Bowl in Joplin.

Students qualifying for the trip were:

  Eighth grade- Jennifer Buening, Ronald Byrd, Lacey Carneal, Caitlin Carter, Amanda Cupp, David Dodson, Crystal Harrall, Kelsey Henson, Eli Hicks, Kasey Hockman, Jayma King, Lauri Kuri, Zach Manley, Krystal Morgan, Cody Palmer, Kaci Scribner, Andrew Smith, Courtney Sweet, Sarah Sweet, Stephanie Taylor, Michael Turner, Courtney Wall, Becca Warthen, Jessica Webb.

   Seventh Grade- Josh Bentley, Sheena Chung, Garrett Cox, Sabra Driskill, Lindsey Gilbert, Travis Goodwin, Alec Johnson, Rikki Lee Jump, Sharon Keefer, Crystal Lane, Kirsten Lee, Ashley Nickolaisen, Samantha Olson, Shaela Smith, Michael Testerman.

   Sixth Grade- Amanda Brand, Veronica Buening, Samantha Burnett, Brianna Carneal, Ernest Chavana, Emilee Dailey, Keysha Danner, Jeffrey Ellis, Samantha Enayati, Erin Esposito, Nychelle Goad, Samantha Hare, Matthew Holland, Harold Jansen, Justin Jinks, Jonathan Paul, Kadey Rea, Chase Starr-Kercheval, Jinger Renae Thomas, Taylor Tuter, Craig VanLue, Morgan Wirth.

   Fifth Grade- Victoria Albrecht, Caitlin Blizzard, Turner Brown, Kaci Clark, Jordan Comer, Lynsey Copley, Derick Devins, Christopher Epperson, Eric Esposito, Hayley Etter, Chelsea Flint, Kylie Gates, Emily Gilbert, Micah Harp, Jacob Henson, Carrie Hobbs, Katherine Hughes, Rebecca Johnson, Jaycee King, Jayde King, Jodi Lawson, Brooklyn McGlothlin, Jacob McLees, Gabrielle Palmer, Sara Schmitt, Brent Skinner, Shelby Sloan, Hannah Snow, Brittanie Sparlin, Taryn Stevens, Miranda Thomas, Shelbi Thurman, Jordan Welch, Dylan Youngblood.


Diamond High School senior Dezi Powers has been selected to the All-State Choir for the second year in a row.

Only 16 students were selected for the elite choir from the southwest district. Dezi and the other students will perform in concert in January 2004.


The Diamond Middle School Fall Choir Concert was held Oct. 30 in the middle school gymnasium. The concert was under the direction of Mrs. Billie Joe Hardy.


It has been a long time since Halloween parties have been held at Diamond Middle School, but that changed last week when parties were held in both the fifth and sixth grades.

School officials apparently felt the children were not ready to totally wean themselves from the things they enjoyed while in elementary school.


The Diamond Police Department is seeking a grant which would enable it to provide a resource officer for the Diamond schools. Police Chief Brian Misner told the R-4 Board of Education his department will apply at the end of the year for the grant, which would pay for the officer


   The Class of 2004 Project Graduation Fund received a boost Saturday, Nov. 1, from a Pancake Feed and Turkey Shoot held at Shepherd's Dance Studio in Diamond.

   The Diamond Middle School First Quarter Honor Roll has been released. Those making it are:
   Eighth grade- Jennifer Buening, Ronald Byrd, Lacey Carneal, Caitlin Carter, Amanda Cupp, David Dodson, Crystal Harrall, Kelsey Henson, Eli Hicks, Kasey Hockman, Jayma King, Lauri Kuri, Zach Manley, Krystal Morgan, Cody Palmer, Kaci Scribner, Andrew Smith, Courtney Sweet, Sarah Sweet, Stephanie Taylor, Michael Turner, Courtney Wall, Becca Warthen, Jessica Webb.
   Seventh Grade- Josh Bentley, Sheena Chung, Garrett Cox, Sabra Driskill, Lindsey Gilbert, Travis Goodwin, Alec Johnson, Rikki Lee Jump, Sharon Keefer, Crystal Lane, Kirsten Lee, Ashley Nickolaisen, Samantha Olson, Shaela Smith, Michael Testerman.
   Sixth Grade- Amanda Brand, Veronica Buening, Samantha Burnett, Brianna Carneal, Ernest Chavana, Emilee Dailey, Keysha Danner, Jeffrey Ellis, Samantha Enayati, Erin Esposito, Nychelle Goad, Samantha Hare, Matthew Holland, Harold Jansen, Justin Jinks, Jonathan Paul, Kadey Rea, Chase Starr-Kercheval, Jinger Renae Thomas, Taylor Tuter, Craig VanLue, Morgan Wirth.
   Fifth Grade- Victoria Albrecht, Caitlin Blizzard, Turner Brown, Kaci Clark, Jordan Comer, Lynsey Copley, Derick Devins, Christopher Epperson, Eric Esposito, Hayley Etter, Chelsea Flint, Kylie Gates, Emily Gilbert, Micah Harp, Jacob Henson, Carrie Hobbs, Katherine Hughes, Rebecca Johnson, Jaycee King, Jayde King, Jodi Lawson, Brooklyn McGlothlin, Jacob McLees, Gabrielle Palmer, Sara Schmitt, Brent Skinner, Shelby Sloan, Hannah Snow, Brittanie Sparlin, Taryn Stevens, Miranda Thomas, Shelbi Thurman, Jordan Welch, Dylan Youngblood.
   The annual Diamond High School Junior-Senior Prom will be held in the high school commons area April 24, 2004.
   The R-4 Board of Education made that decision last month.
   No word has been received on whether the district will try to make extra money by renting out the school van for limousine services.
   CARL JUNCTION- The Diamond Middle School Academic Team took second place in a meet against much larger schools Wednesday, Oct. 22, at Carl Junction Middle School.
   The team, consisting of Lacey Carneal, Josh Bentley, Sarah Sweet, Ashley Nickolaisen, and Tim Enayati, barely lost to the host team, while beating Joplin, Neosho, and Lamar, among other schools.
   The squad, which is coached by Mrs. Nancy Berry, will compete at Verona Nov. 19.
   A new incentive program to improve behavior has been adopted at Diamond Middle School.
   Students who collect 200 points during the second quarter will be eligible to attend the activity for the quarter, which will be either a lock-in, bowling or skating.
   Students may collect points in the following ways:
   -Honor Roll, 40 points
   -Positive referral, five points each, maximum 15 points
   -Less than three tardies, 15 points
   -No absences or absences with verification the next day, 15 points
   -Non-school hour, school-sponsored, school-related community service, five points per half hour
   -Attend sporting events at school, two points each
   -Extracurricular activities, active participation, two points each, maximum 20 points
   -No missing or incomplete assignments at mid quarter and end of quarter each class, five points per class
   -Raising grade by 10 percent or more, five points per class
   -Write their name on a sheet and turn it in, five points
   The Diamond Middle School Student Council is once again selling snacks to raise money for its activities.
   The R-4 Board of Education in September approved the purchase of a snack machine for the council. The machine is being paid for by money that was already in the council's account.
   The 2002-2003 Student Council raised that money by selling snacks out of the concession stand before school. Prior to the 2002-2003 school year, the council had received its operating money, approximately $900 through sales from one pop machine. Even though the move to the new school brought with it an additional three pop machines, the administration cut the money the council received from those machines to $600 and funneled the remaining profits toward the athletic department.
   Through the sale of snacks, the council was able to maintain its previous funding and even held an extra dance last year. Other activities sponsored by the council included Project CAT, an essay contest, a short story contest,  the planting of a tree in honor of the late Kelsee Anderson, and the purchase of a digital camera for the school.
   The first activity sponsored by the council this year was a dance Oct. 3 in the middle school music room.
   The Student Council sponsor is Mrs. Renee Jones. This year's STUCO President is eighth grader Tim Enayati.

   The Diamond High School Wildcat Pride Marching Band took top 2A honors at the annual Carthage Maple Leaf Parade Oct. 18.
   Rob Lundien's crew also garnered an overall first place in the color guard category, following up on the band's outstanding performance in the annual Missouri Southern State College Homecoming Parade on Oct. 11.
    The Maple Leaf performance concluded a hectic 16 hours for the DHS musicians, who also performed at the Football Homecoming game Friday night.
   Seniors Greg Fetters and Kenzie Greenwood were crowned Diamond High School Football  Homecoming king and queen during halftime ceremonies Oct. 17.
   Other king contestants and attendants were: Derrick Schvette, Josh Miller, Landon Dees, Clint Myers, and Jeff Morris.
   Other queen contestants and attendants were: Dezi Powers, Jessi Youngblood, Megan Kinney, Lauren Fetters, and Katie Dodson.
   The football team made it a perfect night for the royalty, shocking previously unbeaten Skyline 16-0. For more information on the game, see the Diamond Daily Sports page.

   Fewer Diamond Middle School students scored in the bottom two levels of the Communication Arts MAP tests, according to statistics released recently by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
   Diamond's report showed that 33.8 finished at the bottom two levels, compared to the 45.9 percent who finished at the bottom two levels in 2002.
   The major difference between the 2001-2002 school years and 2002-2003 school years as far as planning for the communication arts MAP tests was the addition of reading skills classes at the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade levels, with Miss Merri Brummett teaching sixth grade and Mr. Randy Turner teaching seventh and eighth grade.
   The move paid off since state statistics show that on the reading portion of the communication arts test, Diamond seventh graders finished with their highest scores in the past five years. A total of 64.8 percent were rated satisfactory and above, nearly 10 percent above 2002 and almost 20 percent above 2000. The number of students receiving unsatisfactory scores stood at 35.2 percent, down from 44.3 in 2002 and 54.3 in 2000.
   Despite the success of the nine-week reading skills classes, they are no longer being offered at Diamond Middle School. New additions to the wheel classes include study skills and vocational agriculture.
   The district's new website, emphasizes the school's award-winning band and its vocational agriculture program, as well as its drama department. Excellence in math, science, communication arts, and social studies are not mentioned, but will likely be added at a later date.
   The seventh graders were down slightly in the top two rungs of the MAP Communication Arts test, placing 29.6 percent in those categories, down from 32.7 in 2002.
   Third grade communication arts scores were on the rise with 41.4 percent placing in the top two categories, up from 28.3 percent the previous year. The number in the bottom two categories dropped from 35 percent to 29.3 percent.
   Eleventh graders did not fare as well. Only 12.8 percent were in the top two categories, down from 16.4 percent in 2002, while 38.3 percent were in the bottom two categories, up from 36.3 in 2002.
   Sizable gains were seen in the eighth grade math scores, with the number in the top two categories nearly doubling from the previous year from 11.7 percent in 2002 to 21.9 percent in 2003. The number at the bottom also decreased from 50 percent in 2002 to 39.3 percent in 2003.
   The same kinds of improvements were not seen in the elementary or high schools. At the fourth grade level, 22.4 percent finished in the top two levels, compared to 25 percent in 2002, while 29.3 percent finished in the bottom two levels, compared to 28.2 the previous year.
   High school sophomores had 9.2 percent in the top two levels, down from 10 percent in 2002, while 63.1 percent were in the bottom two levels, up from 56 percent the previous year.
   Diamond was one of the few area school districts which dropped the science and social studies MAP tests due to budgetary reasons during the 2002-2003 school year.
    Those wishing to see how Diamond compared with other schools in the MAP tests should check out the link on the home page and on the links page labeled as Missouri MAP Scores.
   Diamond Middle School communication arts and math scores on the 2003 MAP tests were almost the only ones in the district that were in compliance with the federal "No Child Left Behind" law.
   According to statistics from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the only other Diamond grades that were in compliance came from the elementary and high school mathematics tests
   The results for the R-4 School District are similar to half of the school districts in the state. The complicated federal law requires that goals be met in each subgroup of students. The entire school district failed because students who received free or reduced price lunches did not meet the goals set by the federal government. In the category marked "all students," the only test which Diamond students flunked, according to the federal standards, was high school communication arts.
   Results from all Missouri schools can be found by going to
   Dezi Powers will lead an all-star cast in the Diamond High School production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, "The Sound of Music," scheduled for Nov. 13-15 at the high school.
   Miss Powers will play the role of Maria, immortalized in the Broadway and movie productions of the play by Julie Andrews.
   Other cast members include: Renee Forest, Erica Welch, Lendi Stirewalt, Chelsie Baker, Kyle Bridges, Scott Gill, Alex Chavana, Casey Welch, Colton Griffin, Emily Daily, Seth Cronister, Jennifer Dunlap, Kaleigh Clark, Chelsie Flint, Aaron Garbet, Graham Cox, Katie Dodson, Josh Matthews, Sarah Hale, Casey Brown, Kacee Baldwin, Alyshia Bowles, Shelby Thurman, Brittany Barwick, LeAnn Dardenne, Michelle Nickolaisen, Amanda Nally, Megan Frazier, and Amanda Ferguson.
   Krystle Allan is the student director, while Sarah Hale is serving as stage manager.
   For more information, call 417-325-5188.


   I want to thank all of you for being here tonight. This is the hearing where I am supposed to come before the Board of Education and plead to get my job back.

   That's not going to happen.

   I 'm not going to beg, Im not going to plead. I don't intend to let the actions that were recommended by the superintendent rob me of my dignity. I appreciate, however, the opportunity to ask the board to reconsider its decision.

   Prior to the four years I have served as a teacher in the Diamond R-4 school system, I was a reporter and editor for various newspapers in southwest Missouri for 22 years. During that time, I covered approximately 1,200 school board meetings. I thought I had seen just about everything that could happen at a board meeting.

   I was wrong.

   This was the first time in 26 years of being around school boards that I saw a board vote to take jobs away from people without even knowing who those people were. It was also the first time I had seen a school administrator brazenly use a serious situation, our state's budget problems, to get rid of three people he did not want to have in the school system.

   I have never seen administrators act in such a cowardly fashion as what I observed at the June 26 meeting. This meeting was the first time that any mention had been made in open session of eliminating teachers positions due to budget considerations. After a brief closed session, the board approved the superintendents recommendation, without knowing who the three people were, then came out of the library and headed home.

   I made an effort to talk to the superintendent, but he quickly dashed by me, went into his office and shut the door. I asked Ms. Mounts if I was one of the three people. "I can't talk to you about that," she told me. "I'm not supposed to say anything about that."

   After that, I went into the parking lot and asked Dr. Webb the same question. That was when I discovered that the board members did not know whose jobs they had eliminated. They, too, would have to learn by registered letter.

   When I was an editor at The Lamar Democrat and The Carthage Press, there were times when I had to fire reporters, sometimes because of performance, sometimes due to budget considerations. I would never have dreamed of letting those people know by sending a letter. That is not the way decent human beings behave. I can only imagine how Mr. Badley and Mrs. Cleary felt when they received their letters. At least I had an inkling that I might be one of the three people who had been targeted by the superintendent.

   The timing of this "leave of absence" is also suspect. You have three people who have been valued employees of the Diamond R-4 School District, who are put on unpaid leave when it is obviously too late for them to find teaching jobs for the next school year.

   I am also reminded of what the superintendent said during the June 26 board meeting when the subject of Career Ladder came up. He indicated that the district "would live up to our commitment and pay our share of Career Ladder money." I had always considered a signed contract to be a commitment. I was telling this school district that I would come back and teach here for another year. Apparently, the superintendent believes in living up to his commitments when he is unable to find loopholes to get out of them.

   I also question the necessity of eliminating these three positions due to budget concerns. I would hope that the board members would have begun questioning the superintendents logic the minute they saw the names of the three people whose positions had been eliminated.

   It's hard to believe a rational person could say that having my name and Mrs. Cleary's names on that list is just a coincidence. We all remember the recent exchange of letters between the superintendent and myself concerning Wildcat Central. Well, let us remember the problems that happened during the first semester of the 2002-2003 school year. Suddenly, all kinds of Diamond teaching positions were being advertised on state websites. Most of those positions were still being held by people who had no idea that they were going to lose their jobs. One of those people was Mrs. Cleary.

   At about that time, the superintendent was putting together a committee of teachers, supposedly to supply leadership to the school district with the impending retirements of Larry Doennig and Larry Augustine. At the first meeting, we found out that the most urgent concern of this school district was the adoption of a calendar for the 2003-2004 school year. No other subjects were addressed.

   At the second meeting, which was held shortly after the Christmas break, the superintendent was challenged about numerous things that he had done. When he was challenged about advertising the positions that were still being held, at first, he tried to blame Missouri Southern for putting it on the state website, something that the college has never done and never will do. Later, he passed the blame on to his secretary, Mrs. Bridges. He was also challenged about the obvious violation of your school board policy, which says that job openings must first be advertised within the district. "I didn't know about that," he told the group. Apparently, he still doesn't know about that. I might add, that was the last time the leadership group met. It appears that subservience, not leadership, was what the superintendent was looking for.

   When Dr. Smith and Mr. Mitchell first hired me in August 1999, I was told that my class was designed to help prepare students for the MAP tests, especially seventh graders who take the communication arts test.

   My first year of teaching, and I believe almost every teacher will tell you this, was more of a learning experience for the teacher than for the students. I learned a lot from the other teachers on the middle school staff. They probably got tired of me asking them question after question. I learned a great deal from Mr. Augustine and Mrs. Patrick, two teachers who would still be teaching in this school district, if not for the superintendent. After that first year, I spent the summer of 2000 designing a new curriculum for my class, one which I hoped would improve the Communication Arts MAP scores. It did. Working together with Mrs. Jones and Miss Brummett, we succeeded in bringing up the seventh grade scores dramatically, just in time for the MSIP evaluation. That year, approximately 80 percent of the seventh graders took current issues, my writing-based class. Our scores were better than every school district in a five-county area except for Nevada and Seneca. They were better than Joplin, Carthage, Webb City, Neosho, East Newton, all of them. Unfortunately, that was the last time I would ever have that many of the students in my classes. The scores those kids posted that year would have ranked them in the top 10 percent of the state last year.

   Since the school district had paid me $180 to write the curriculum for my class, imagine my surprise when school started in August 2001 and only 12 seventh graders were taking that class. Part of that was due to the success of Mr. Lundien with his band program. Part of it was because when given the choice between band, a new choir class where you sing and a class where you write 35 one-and-a-half page papers and two longer research papers per year, some of the students quite naturally opted to take music.

   I talked to the superintendent about this problem in early October 2001 when he was still middle school principal. I told him we were looking at a decrease in MAP scores if we didn't do something. I suggested we work something out with the wheel classes. Students should not have to choose between taking a writing course and a music course. The superintendent said that studies show that students who take band do better in math. To this day, I haven't the slightest idea what that had to do with what we were talking about. As it turned out, I was just going through an experience that is not unusual for teachers in this school district. The superintendent was simply not paying any attention to what I was saying.

   After the death of Dr. Smith, when Ms. Mounts took over as middle school principal, I talked with her about the problem with the numbers for the writing class. I suggested that we at least work out a way for seventh graders to take my class, even if they were in music. She said that sounded like a good idea. And when I left for summer vacation, I was told that I would have all the seventh graders for the 2002-2003 school year. When I returned, nothing had been done. The schedule was exactly the same and there were fewer and fewer students in my classes. This school district had set up a class to help seventh graders do well on the MAP tests. During the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 school years, only about 15 percent of seventh graders took the writing class. Last year, the MAP scores reflected that.

   The current issues class not only was designed to help the students with their writing but they also had the opportunity to learn about and discuss issues that affected them. We talked about Sept. 11, 2001, we talked about the election of 2000, we talked about issues ranging from capital punishment to the war in Iraq to cheating in school and bullying. Bullying is not just something that happens with school children. In the Diamond R-4 School District, it is something the teachers, school employees and the principals have had to deal with every day since the death of Dr. Smith.

   Toward the end of the 2001-2002 school year, the superintendent came up with the idea of having me replace Mrs. Doennig as the yearbook sponsor. I was not interested in teaching yearbook, but he asked me to think about it, so I did. During the conversation, other positions were discussed, not at my prompting. They were brought up by the superintendent. He said, "We can't you put in journalism. Mrs. Miller does a great job." I had no problem with that. I wasn't trying to replace anyone. He was the one who brought up the journalism job. Then he brought up the job that would be opening in high school social studies when Mr. Doennig retired. "Were going to want a coach for that position," he said. I didn't say anything.

   I did think about the yearbook position and I decided against it for two reasons. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of going to Mr. Blizzard about my decision, naively believing that in the Diamond R-4 School District the high school principal is the one who makes decisions about who is going to teach in the high school. I told Mr. Blizzard that at that time I wanted to continue to teach writing to middle school students. I also believed that the amount of work that being yearbook sponsor would require would force me to shut down the school website, Wildcat Central. I believed at that time, and I still believe, that Wildcat Central is an important educational tool. I had made the mistake of going to someone other than the superintendent. In this school district, that is an unforgivable mistake. Teachers and school employees who have talked to board members without the superintendents okay, or who have rejected one of the superintendents ideas, have been shouted at, threatened with loss of employment, been humiliated and have been told that when the time comes, they will not receive tenure.

   I was not yelled at. I was not threatened. The superintendent never said I would not receive tenure. I would like to think it's because bullies are afraid when they know someone is not going to back down. In truth, I believe the reason was Wildcat Central. It is easy to threaten people who have no one to turn to. I always had the option of taking any complaints I had to Wildcat Central, an option, I might add, that I never used until June 26.

   The superintendent never threatened me personally, but he took several steps to undercut my standing at the school.

  1. He again rejected a plan that had been approved by the principal to put seventh graders into the Current Issues classes for the 2003-2004 school year. I never heard a reason for his objection.
  2. Several months ago, the superintendent came up with a plan to save $25,000 by eliminating a middle school teaching position and by putting some teachers teaching just sixth graders and the others handling all of the seventh and eighth graders, even though it appears likely this plan will cause classes to have as many as 35 to 40 people in them. Mr. Reed suggested an alternate solution. This would have required eliminating my writing class, but have me teach sixth and seventh grade social studies. The position would still be gone, but the class sizes would remain the same and the educational value would have been far greater. The superintendent rejected this, saying that my certification is for 7-12, so I couldn't teach sixth graders. All I would have had to have done was to go to Southern, take a test and I would have been certified to teach sixth graders.
  3. The middle school principal proposed that class sizes be cut down in seventh and eighth grade social studies and language arts by having me teach one unit of each. The superintendent rejected that idea because "That would be unfair to the math and science teachers." In other words, to be fair, we have to see to it that all of the students core classes are crowded and not just half of them.
  4. School officials decided to make Mr. Doennig's social studies job a full-time position instead of half-time. Instead of having the principal talk to any teachers who might be interested in the position, the superintendent set up a session with Mr. Blizzard, Ms. Mounts, Mr. Reed, Mr. DeWitt, Mrs. Madden, and me in the middle school library. Mr. Reed had already said he was not interested in the position. Mr. DeWitt clearly had no reason to want to change all of his lesson plans. During the meeting, it became clear to me that the decision had already been made and the job would go to Mrs. Madden. I heard one of the administrators comment, "That will work out so much better. She'll be closer to her girls," referring of course to the high school basketball team. The meeting, I understand, had been set up so all social studies teachers in the district would have an opportunity to have a shot at the position. However, it appears more likely it was set up to make it look like I was getting a fair shake, since some other people in this district who were qualified to teach high school social studies were not even invited to the meeting.
  5. Despite concerns about the budget, the superintendent hired a new speech and drama teacher, who when all of the extra frills on his contract are added, will make $38,000. This teacher was also brought in to teach high school journalism and do a district website, in association with the new technology coordinator. Again, these jobs were never advertised in house. My qualifications for both the website and journalism positions are far greater than the man who was hired. But there was never any chance of the superintendent putting me into positions that involved communication with the public. He has made it clear that the only information he wants to come out is information that comes directly from him.
  6. When Mrs. Madden resigned, a new high school social studies teacher/coach was hired. If we were trying to save money, why wasnt I moved into the teaching position and, for heaven's sake, let's put one of the many coaches we have in this school system who are no longer coaching anything back into a coaching position.
  7. When teaching positions had to be eliminated, why is it that teachers who have offered years of service to this district, at discount prices, were let go, while teachers who have not done one thing for the children here, brand-new teachers hired by the superintendent, are kept at budget-breaking, salary-schedule-smashing sums.

   Of the teachers who were let go, I know that Mrs Cleary and I both have had problems with the superintendent. Mrs. Cleary had to threaten legal action in order to keep her position when the superintendent tried to get rid of her earlier. The only reason I can think of for Mr. Badley's elimination is that it is designed to show Mr. Blizzard that he can't cross the superintendent. If you remember, last December, the superintendent called Mr. Blizzard into his office and told him he would not be rehired. Mr. Blizzard had the audacity to actually fight for his job and he got it back. So let's make him be the full-time principal and teach three math classes.

   The reason Mr. Blizzard was able to keep his job was because the superintendent couldn't keep quiet about his plans. He didn't keep quiet this time either.

   During the first week of June, I stopped by the middle school to work on my website. Several janitors were eating lunch in the commons area. They seemed surprised to see me. "We were told you weren't going to be coming back this year," one of them said. The others were nodding in agreement. I was a bit surprised, but after a brief conversation, I was convinced that the information had come directly from the superintendent. I asked Ms. Mounts if she had heard anything about this. As far as I can remember, she never gave me an answer. This was well before any of the budget meetings had taken place. That was one reason why, when I heard that three teachers were going to lose their jobs, I knew that I would be one of them.

   This was not a spur-of-the-moment decision made by the superintendent because he found out the state budget problem was worse than anticipated. My elimination, the elimination of Mrs. Cleary, and the elimination of Mr. Badley, were part of the superintendent's plan all along.

   And if we really wanted to bring in revenue to this school district, why are we not using Wildcat Central? I have the ability to do on-line auctions, sell institutional advertising to civic-minded businesses and patrons. It also could be used as a central clearing house for fund raising from patrons and alumni. Plus, as many of you are aware, I also a member of a musical group that performs at benefits and has performed at benefits for school programs. Why are we not using our imagination to come up with revenue ideas? We could use camcorders to film ballgames, dances, National Honor Society installations and other school events, then sell the videos.

   And why have we not set up a foundation to allow people to make tax-deductible contributions to the school district? We might have a business donate 50 computers or the money to buy 50 computers. Someone else might pay for our high school library to have a subscription to U. S. News and World Report. Each contribution could help relieve the financial burden that our taxpayers face.

   People should not have their livelihoods threatened because the best ideas the superintendent has come up with are renting out a school van that is about to fall apart, increasing the tax levy, and extorting $9,000 from the Booster Club so kids who can't afford it won't have to play to pay sports.

   The ideas I propose could work, but I warn you, people are going to find it very hard to give money to this school district when they have been watching the way it has been spent.

   There is a lack of trust in this school system.

   That same problem existed three years ago when Mr. Mitchell and Dr. Smith asked me to start Wildcat Central and to write news articles to publicize the good things that go on in this school district every day. I was told at that time that I would eventually be paid for these services. If you recall, this began at a time when we had just had a board member get into a fight with another woman at a youth wrestling match. It was a time when we had received negative publicity about two little boys doing unmentionable things to a little girl on the school playground. For three years, at no charge to the school district I have provided nearly all of the good news that has reached district patrons, through articles I have written, articles my students have written, and through Wildcat Central. The superintendent is suggesting that we save money by eliminating the job of a person who has been saving money for this school district for years. When the administrators came up with the idea for a reading skills class, but did not provide any books or materials for it, I established a reading curriculum in the computer lab at no cost to the district.

   When this district passed a bond issue, emphasizing that we would have a middle school library, but didnt consider where the books would come from, Mrs. Jones and I worked with the Middle School Student Council and we have a wonderful library today. I put a lot of my own money into the library so these kids could have the best library they could possibly get. They deserve the best and God knows they certainly have not been getting it lately.

   If the superintendent tells you that getting rid of me is going to help with this budget situation, I suggest you specifically ask him how. Remember, this is the same man whose logic dictates that we bring in somebody at $38,000 to do a website and teach journalism, when we have somebody already here who can do those things and who is the lowest paid teacher in the middle school at $24,500.

   I'm not going to beg you for my job.I shouldn't have to. I've earned it. If Mr. Badley, Mrs. Cleary, and I are still unemployed when this meeting ends tonight, youre going to have a hard time finding anyone who will trust anything that comes from the Diamond R-4 School District. You have a chance to turn this around and bring an end to the bullying that has every employee of this school district in constant fear and has done serious damage to the education of the children, the main reason, the only reason why we are here.

   That is what I am asking you to do.



Diamond Daily Staff Writer
   Former Diamond Middle School teacher Randy Turner Tuesday announced the donation of 500 books to the DMS Library.
   Turner was one of three teachers who learned late last week that they would lose their jobs due to the ongoing state budget problems.
   "I just want to leave something for the school because the school and especially the students have done so much for me," Mr. Turner said.
   Only two short years ago, there was no Diamond Middle School Library, the new school was under construction and several classes were still being taught in trailers. There wasn't room for much in the middle school building, much less room for a library. The closest thing the middle school had to a library were the boxes of books that covered the entire back wall of Mr. Turner's trailer classroom. Other than that, students were forced to either go to the high school library or to the elementary library if they wanted to check out books.
   The next year, the new high school was finally finished, allowing the middle schoolers to take over the former high school building. When that happened, there was more room for everything, including a library.
   They needed books for the library, though. The plans for the middle school included a library, but there were no plans for where the books were going to come from, so the DMS Student Council held a book drive and collected more than 5,500 books for the new library.
   The drive took two years with Student Council President Sarah Simpson leading it during the 2000-2001 school year, and co-presidents Ryan Cosby and Brittney Stevens in charge during the 2001-2002 school year. Those students and the rest of Student Council were very serious about the library.
   The new school librarian, Mrs. Becky Johnson; and her aide, Mrs. Kristi Harp, managed to have the library ready for the opening of the 2002-2003 school year. The books that Student Council received through the book drive make up well over half the books that are currently in the library.
   "For a brand-new library, I was very proud of it," Mr. Turner said. "Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Harp had very little time to put things together. They did an excellent job."
   Many of the books that were donated came from the collections of the Student Council sponsors, Mrs. Renee Jones and Mr. Turner. "I do not know how many books Mrs. Jones donated, I know there were quite a few, but by the time the books that I just donated are on the shelves, approximately 1,000 books in the library were originally mine," said Mr. Turner.
   Besides books that were originally in his collection, Mr. Turner said he bought several books from sales, including some that the Carthage Public Library held where books were sold for 10 cents for paperbacks and 25 cents for hardbacks. Those books were among many he bought specifically for the Middle School Library.
   Most of the books he is donating are non-fiction. "If they keep most of the books I donated," he said, "the middle school library should be the best in the area for doing reports and research papers on items involving history, government, and journalism."

Re: Diamond R-IV School District Reduction in Force
Dear Mr. Turner:
   Tough times call for tough decisions. Over the past five years, the District has suffered a consistent decline in pupil enrollment. During the 1998-99 school year there were 880 students enrolled in the District. During the 2002-2003 school year, there were only 812 students enrolled. Declining enrollment means that the District will receive a significant decrease in funding which has required numerous cuts in the budget. The District has attempted to preserve jobs for existing teachers during the last few years by not filling the teaching positions for seven teachers who resigned or retired.
   This year the District received yet another setback. The State of Missouri is in a budget crisis, which has resulted in significant cuts in education. The District will receive approximately $390,000 less than it received during 2002-2003 budget year based on current foundation formula projections from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The District has made every effort to make cuts that would not impact the jobs of its teachers. Unfortunately, after cutting the entire Vo-Tech program and cutting a portion of the food budget, terminating the positions of two teacher aides and a cafeteria worker, the District is forced to further cut costs by eliminating certain positions. This is authorized by Missouri law, and by District Policy GCPA which provides that:
   "The Board of Education may place as many teachers on unrequested leave of absence as may be necessary due to a decrease in student enrollment, schools district reorganization or the financial condition of the school district. The Board of Education shall be the sole judge that one or more of the above conditions exist."
   (Page Two of Letter)
   I am sorry to inform you that your position as a probationary teacher will be eliminated for the upcoming school year. This was an extremely hard decision, but in evaluating the curriculum requirements it became obviouis that your duties could be reassigned to others. I have evaluated the other positions for which you are qualified and have no positions available for you at this time. As a result, it will be necessary to place you on an unrequested leave of absence for the 2003-2004 school year. This means that no salary or fringe benefits due you under your part time teaching contract will accrue or be paid, except as required by law. You will be free to engage in teaching or another occupation for other employers during the period of the leave of absence.
   If you would like to respond to this letter, you may do so by addressing the Board of Education at their regularly scheduled meeting on July 17, 2003, at 7:00 p.m. in the high school library. This meeting will be held in closed session. I would appreciate it if you would let me know in advance if you plan to attend this meeting.
   Please call me with any questions or concerns. Otherwise, I wish you the best of luck and offer you my thanks for your years of service.
Very truly yours,
Mark Mayo
Superintendent of Schools
(The letter indicates that copies were sent to Robert Blizzard, high school principal, Denise Mounts, middle school principal, Wayne Webb, president of the Board of Education and all members of the Diamond R-4 Board of Education.)

By Randy Turner
   I have had several people ask me over the past couple of weeks, "What happened to the student websites" which had been on the Links page of Wildcat Central? I added the websites, which were built by Alicia Bradley, Joseph Carpenter, Alex Chavana, and Michelle Nickolaisen, a couple of months ago. The idea was to encourage their creativity and improve their writing skills and also to encourage other students to build websites and work on their writing. The plan was working.
   Early this month, I stopped by the high school to get a copy of the honor roll to put on the website. As I was leaving, I was stopped by Superintendent Mark Mayo, who told me he had concerns about the websites, because "I do not have any control over their content." I was never asked why I had placed the sites on the Links page, but I went ahead and removed them by 10 a.m. the next day.
   Six days later, I received the following letter from Mr. Mayo:
   As per our discussion outside the high school building last week, I have a concern about posting links created by students on the Wildcat Central website. You and I both know that while the district has consented to Wildcat Central being an informational page for the district, no grant of authority to represent the district has ever been issued. However, because of your employment status with this district, Wildcat Central is looked upon as being operated either by or on behalf of the school district. With this in mind I feel compelled to intervene regarding the website and request that all links not approved by you and the administration of this district be removed from the website. If you feel you cannot comply with this request please let me know. I know that this goes against your reporter's instincts and your attitudes toward free press and free speech, but I simply don't want this district to be in any way responsible to monitor what these kids can put on these web pages in the privacy of their own homes. Some of their comments and photos could be quite inflammatory and hurtful, not to mention dangerous, and I do not want the district name tied to such statements in any way, shape, or form.
   I know that you want to have a significant role when the institutional website is implemented. I think that is something that we should consider. As we discussed, I envision you taking on the reporting responsibilities for the Middle School while Steve Burnett would have those responsibilities for the High School. Once we get our technology person hired I would like to meet with you, Steve, and the tech to see how we might organize such a vehicle. Mr. Doennig and I have discussed, as I mentioned to you, that the school would like to obtain ownership of Wildcat Central. Please advise me of your thoughts on the matter. I am not sure what, if anything, might be the cost of such a transfer, but if you have a price I would like for you to get me that information.
   Thanks for your attention to these matters. I would request that you address the issue regarding the links to Wildcat Central with me at your earliest convenience.
Very truly yours,
Mark Mayo
   (Copies of the letter were mailed to Wayne Webb, Board president, Denise Mounts, middle school principal; and Robert Blizzard, high school principal.
My response
   I felt I had to respond to Mr. Mayo's letter since he had made it appear that I had not done what I had been told to do.The following letter was distributed to Mr. Mayo, the board members, and the principals at the June 12 board meeting.

June 11, 2003

Mark Mayo


Diamond R-4 School District

401 S. Main

Diamond, MO 64840


I was disappointed to receive your letter this morning. Apparently, you have not checked Wildcat Central recently or you would be aware that I removed the links to student-generated websites within 24 hours after our initial conversation. If memory serves me correctly, that was one week ago. To me, this letter is an attempt to make me appear to be some renegade element running wild within the school district.

I made it perfectly clear during our conversation that I would remove the websites and that no more such websites would be added. Therefore, this letter was totally unnecessary.

I have remained quiet about the condescending manner in which I have been treated concerning the implementation of a school website. Your letter, however, was the last straw, and I feel I have to respond, even though it will probably cost me any chance of receiving tenure next year.

Let me review the history of Wildcat Central. In the spring of 2000, as an experiment, I constructed a small website for the middle school, using Homestead as the website host. Dr. Smith and Mr. Mitchell asked me to do a prototype website for the district in the fall of 2000 and I created Wildcat Central. At the same time, I was asked to start doing public relations work for the district.. (During the previous year, I had been in charge of publicity for the bond issue drive.) I was told that eventually I would be paid for both of these activities.

With the full approval of the administration, I constructed Wildcat Central with an emphasis on education. The key ingredient was the links page, which was designed to help students with research papers and reports. I also worked with teachers who had research assignments. When Mrs. Jones had her students researching the Holocaust, I found Holocaust links and placed them on the page. When Mr. Reed and Mrs. Madden's students were researching foreign countries, I found links to help them.

Since the Diamond R-4 School District does not have a hometown newspaper to speak of, a second key ingredient was the creation of the Diamond Daily and Diamond Daily Sports pages, which are designed to provide up-to-date information about the school district. At first, these pages concentrated mostly on the middle school, but more and more items about the high school and the elementary school were added as we went along. Initially, I did most of the writing for these pages, but eventually, more and more of it was done by seventh and eighth grade students to add to the educational aspect of Wildcat Central.

With everything that happened during the 2001-2002 school year, I thought the last thing that needed to be addressed was Wildcat Central. That was a mistake on my part, as I discovered during the 2002-2003 school year. During the year, I continued to improve the website, adding photos and increasing the amount of information that was available to the public. I also regularly sent news articles to the Neosho Daily News, Carthage Press and Newton County News, all of which reflected positively on the Diamond R-4 School District.

Since you became the interim superintendent in November 2001 up until late March of 2003, not one time did you ever ask to talk to me about Wildcat Central. In late March, I e-mailed you, sending you copies of the original plan for a district website and the public relations plan that Dr. Smith had asked me to draw up.

One day later, I received a reply, in which you indicated I would need to take this up with the District Technology Committee. I e-mailed you back later that day, noting that the plan had already gone through the Technology Committee. I was simply trying to find out what the district's plans were for my website and when, or if, I was going to receive any compensation. I was disappointed when you wrote back and pretty much told me that you had not bothered to read my first letter all the way through. You said your main concern was to not be paying more than one person to do the same job. I had always assumed that I would have to work with whomever the district hired as a technology director. This was the first inclination I had that someone else had been brought into the picture.

At the conclusion of your second e-mail, you suggested that I stop by your office and set up an appointment to meet with you and Mr. Doennig to discuss the website. I stopped by the following afternoon. Mrs. Bridges indicated to me that you were in your office if I wanted to talk with you. After a brief conversation, I asked you if you had a chance to look at the new prototype institutional-style website that my eighth grade students and I had designed. You said you had not. I asked if you had a couple of minutes, intending to show it to you. You said, "I would really rather not." I pointed out the educational value of the site and how important it was to have students working on it. I was disappointed when you said, "Well, it's all right that the students are involved, but that's not really what I am interested in in a school website." You went on to tell me you were more interested in something that will help you "be able to speak directly to the people in the school district."

During that meeting, I learned, for the first time, that the new speech and drama teacher, Mr. Burnett, had also been hired to teach the journalism classes and to take care of the website. You have since amended that to say the high school portion of the website, but I don't think I was wrong in deducing that your plans for a district website did not include my participation in any way, shape or form.

At the conclusion of that brief meeting, which took place on March 27, you said you would set up a meeting with Mr. Doennig and me to talk over the website. As of today, June 12, 77 days have passed, eleven weeks in which I have waited for this meeting to take place.

To this day, I have never heard a complimentary word about Wildcat Central from this administration. The only time you have mentioned anything about the site is when something didn't meet with your approval. I might add that as far as I can recall the only time that happened was with these student websites.

I have kept my mouth shut for nearly two years, but I do not intend to let you walk all over me any more. During my time in the Diamond R-4 School District I have done the following things:

-Served as publicity director for the successful bond issue drive.

-Worked with Mrs. Jones to spearhead the successful Middle School Student Council Book Drive that made the middle school library possible. The drive brought in more than 5,500 books. I personally donated more than 500 books that are on the shelves in our library. For this and the rest of the work we have done with Student Council, Mrs. Jones and I have received no compensation.

-Served on the committee which created Project CAT, a positive incentive-based way to help with discipline in the middle school. For this, I received no compensation.

-Created and maintained Wildcat Central for three years, keeping it constantly updated. For this, I received no compensation.

-Continued to cover school activities, both academic and athletic, write them up and put them on the website and send them to the area newspapers. For this, I have received no compensation, either from the district or from the newspapers.

-Created a prototype institutional website and oversaw the creation of a site for elementary students. For these things, I have received no compensation.

-These things have all been done, with considerable effort and time, even though I have been the lowest paid teacher in the middle school during my entire time here.

For a long time, I debated whether I should bring these things up. I am well aware of the financial problems that all Missouri school districts, including Diamond, are facing. I have become involved in these activities because they help the students of this school district and the students are my number one concern.

Two things made me decide to write this letter. The first was when I learned that Mr. Burnett, with only half of my classroom experience, was being paid $38,000. (I currently receive $24,500) I will readily concede his skill in speech and drama, but he is also being paid to take over high school journalism (a position I don't recall ever being advertised.). He has a masters degree in journalism, true, but I have 22 years of experience in journalism, during which time I received more than 70 awards for my writing, including national awards for investigative reporting, sports writing and feature writing. I also ran a program for high school reporters from 1986 through 1999. Reporters who went through that program have worked for The Kansas City Star, the Independence Examiner, Jefferson City News-Tribune, Joplin Globe, Carthage Press, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Country Music Weekly, and other publications. During my last year as managing editor of The Carthage Press, the newspaper finished third in the Missouri Press Association Better Newspaper Contest, trailing only the two biggest newspapers in the state the Kansas City Star and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I also have had considerable success with Diamond Middle School writers, who have had stories printed in the Neosho Daily News and Newton County News. Mr. Burnett is also supposed to take over the high school portion, at least, of the website. I have three more years of experience at working on school websites. What I cared enough to do for no charge for three years, someone is going to be paid nearly $40,000 a year to do. And you never talked to me about either position.

The second thing that caused me to write this letter was the wording you used in your June 9 letter. I don't recall the district ever "consenting to use Wildcat Central as an informational page." Since I had already removed the links, I can only determine that the letter was sent out to make me look bad and to improve your image. I was also disturbed by the line, "I know that this goes against your reporter's instincts and your attitudes toward free press and free speech." I was a reporter four years ago, Mr. Mayo. My primary job now is schoolteacher and I have worked hard to be a good one.. I have always received top evaluations from the building principals (even though that may change after this letter). Educators also have a stake in free speech and freedom of the press. The public has even more of a stake. My website has been a positive influence for the Diamond R-4 School District since the first day it was published. I am sorry that you don't feel the same way about it.

Trust has always been very important to me. The students and parents have trusted me to provide an educational, informational website and I have done my best to live up to that trust. To consider selling the website to the school district at this time would be a betrayal of that trust. The offer appears to be a cover for the administration's true goal, which is to turn the website from an educational tool into a public relations vehicle for the superintendent.

Apparently, my background as a reporter is something that concerns you. I am sorry about that. I am proud of it and I feel it has been a benefit to the students and patrons of the Diamond R-4 School District.

Thank you for your time and consideration.




Randy Turner


cc: Wayne Webb, Board President, Denise Mounts, Middle School Principal; Robert Blizzard, High School Principal, Larry Hicks, Mike Harp, Trish Greenwood, Mike Holland, Steve Johnson, Becky Forest



By Randy Turner
Diamond Daily Sponsor
   Registered letters will be sent out Friday morning to three teachers whose jobs were eliminated Thursday night when the Diamond R-4 Board of Education approved its budget.
   The teachers' names were not released. Board President Wayne Webb says that even the board members do not know who they are. Superintendent Mark Mayo and the building principals, High School Principal Robert Blizzard, Middle School Principal Denise Mounts, and Elementary School Prinicipal Deanna Yokley worked to come up with areas in which personnel could be cut for the upcoming school year. District officials say they were forced into making the cuts because of the continuing problems with the state budget.
   Since the three teachers have signed contracts, they will be eliminated by what is called RIF (Reduction in Faculty), which school boards are permitted to invoke during a serious financial crunch. The teachers have to be notified by registered mail and will be permitted to have a hearing with the board of education, Mayo said.
   The three teachers' jobs are not the only ones to be eliminated under the budget, which was approved by a 7-0 vote. At the June 19 special meeting, the board accepted the resignation of fifth grade teacher Chris Rakestraw. Rakestraw's position will not be filled. Fifth and sixth grade students will now share the same teachers, with the entire class moving from room to room. An elementary library aide position was also cut.
   The new budget does not include funding for the vo-tech school or the snack bar in the high school cafeteria (which will enable one job to be eliminated). Additional cuts are listed in other stories on this page.
   The budget includes $9,000 in additional revenue for the athletic department, but that will not come from student activity fees. Booster Club member David Towers told the board his organization had agreed to pay for these fees.


Alyssa Simpson, Leanne Ross, and Lydia O'Donnell spent some time between their eighth grade and ninth grade years attending a MASH camp at Crowder College.
Diamond Daily Photo by Rob Lundien

   Three Diamond eighth graders were among 14 students attending the second annual M.A.S.H. Camp at Crowder College earlier this month.
   Lydia O'Donnell, Leanne Ross, and Alyssa Simpson were among those given hands-on experience in different aspects of the health field. The students were helped by medical professionals, who donated their time and supplies for the camp.
   According to the Neosho Daily News's story on the camp, the students practiced giving vaccinations to fruits and listened to presentations on such topics as health care for the elderly, emergency room medicine, and physical and occupational therapy.
   The Daily News article indicated that presentations were given by representatives of the Newton County Sheriff's Department, Neosho ROTC, Newton County Ambulance District, St. John's Regional Health Center, Medicalodge, Freeman Neosho, Family Pharmacy, American Red Cross, Anderson Animal Hospital, and Crowder College.




   The second semester honor roll has been announced by Diamond High School officials.
   A Honor Roll
   Seniors- Stephanie Barwick, Deke Beckett, Amanda Brown, Ana Carvalho, John Cendroski, Kevin Filarski, David Forest, Charlene Gibson, Matt Harp, Kathy Harrell, Isabe Jaramillo, Cheryl Johnson, Rebecca Jones, Mark Neidert, James Riediger, Candace Stebbins, Rusty Stewart, Addie Whitehead, Rachel Whiteley, Sean Wiggins.
   Juniors- Ashley Beegle, Ashley Brummett, Robin Bullis, Nicki Bunn, Stephanie Darr, Melissa Gallagher, Brittany Gilliam, Andrew Hoffman, Brenda Leuellen, Falicia Phipps, Dezarae Powers, Meagan Wirth, Saori Yamanatsu, Jessi Youngblood.
   Sophomores- Josh Beckett, Patrick Beckett, Zachary Billings, Whitney Brushwood, Graham Cox, Aaron Garbet, Kristen Hicks, Susan Johnson, Courtney Payton, Anthony Shipman, Sarah Simpson, Lendi Stirewalt, Matthew Sutherland, Jolene Topham.
   Freshmen- Taunie Brewer, Casey Brown, Michelle Darr, Stephanie David, Lauren Fetters, Luke Hockman, Casey Patterson, Brittney Stevens.
   B Honor Roll
   Seniors- Adam Alford, Jeff Carr, Rachelle Gilliam, Andy Henson, Justin Lane, Ashley Parker, Ashley Richardson, Corey Stripling, Elliot Sutherland, Robert Taylor, Lyndsey Tuter, Dustin Weidler
   Juniors- Krystle Allan, Kristen Bishop, Chelsea Blizzard, Andy Bradley, Candace Clouse, Casey Crane, Greg Fetters, Renee Forest, Casey Holland, Julie Johnson, Tracy Killion, Kelli Price, Jesse Sweet.
   Sophomores- Cara Ablett, Amy Cokerham, Jonathan Cook, Sarah Hoffman, Genoa Johnson, Megan Kinney, Jerret McNett, Dustin Newsum, Brandon Webb.
   Freshmen- Brittany Busse, Ryan Cosby, Greg Dodson, Ami Epperly, Ricki Fountain, Chad Leuellen, Amanda McKee, Jeffrey Morris, Darci Price, Carra Shaffer, Rachel Turner

By Randy Turner
Diamond Daily Sponsor
   Decisions on proposals to eliminate the vo-tech program and to add student activity fees will be among those considered by the Diamond R-4 Board of Education when it meets in special session 7 p.m. Thursday, June 26, in the high school library.
   The meeting is the second of two special sessions scheduled to discuss the budget. The district is required to submit a budget to the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education by the end of June, though it does retain the right to amend the budget later.
   During the first special session, held June 19, board members unanimously agreed that they would not put a tax levy increase issue before the voters.
   Another suggestion that did not get anywhere was a proposed elimination of seventh grade sports. The only money that would be saved, Athletic Director Eddie Jones said, would be the pay for a coach, since the eighth grade teams travel to the same places at the same time. The elimination of seventh grade athletics would also place middle school football in danger since the school fields a combined seventh and eighth grade team.
   Among the steps the board discussed Thursday and will continue to consider during the June 26 special session:
   -Not hiring a replacement for fifth grade teacher Chris Rakestraw, whose resignation was accepted at the June 19 meeting. Under a proposal made by Middle School Principal Denise Mounts, Elementary Principal Deanna Yokley, and High School Principal Robert Blizzard, fifth and sixth grade students would share teachers for the four core subjects, keyboarding (which would be offered for the first time at that level), fine arts and P. E.  To make this possible, two high school choir classes taught by Billie Jo Hardy would be eliminated, as would be an hour used by band instructor Rob Lundien to counsel middle school students.A positive for this proposal, Ms. Mounts said, is that fifth graders would have access to the middle school science lab. A potential problem is that fifth and sixth graders could be required to move between the elementary and middle school buildings.
   -Eliminating an elementary library aide position. The jobs of shelving books would be done by a combination of adult volunteers, fifth and sixth grade volunteers and high school aides. 
   -Have teachers be responsible for turning off lights and adjusting the thermostat when they leave the school. This could save an estimated $800 to $1,000 a month, Ms. Mounts said. The board gave the administrators the go-ahead for this proposal.
   -Increase monitoring of field trips. This proposal also received the board's approval. Teachers requesting field trips will be required to submit more paperwork and an administrative committee will review each request.
   Mayo presented the board with an updated version of a list of cuts he had presented at the regular board meeting June 12. The proposed cuts amount to $74,650 and are distributed as follows:
   Elementary general supplies $1,000, FFA $4,000; wrestling $500; football $700, cross country $200, track $300, choir $600, vo-tech $29,000, high school library-books $2,800, elementary school library-books $2,800, building level principal supplies $1,500, drivers' salaries $18,000, cook $8,000, assistant baseball coach $1,200, assistant wrestling coach $1,200, elementary music $100, high school instruments $250, varsity athletics $1,000, cheerleading $100, volleyball $600, boys varsity basketball $500, girls varsity basketball $200, Accelerated Reader $100.

   Months of work paid off for Diamond Middle School representatives Alicia Bradley and Kasey Hockman when they took second place at the National History Day competition at the University of Maryland. The announcement was made June 17 during an awards ceremony that was webcast over the History Channel site.
   The first indication that Alicia, who will be a ninth grader at Diamond High School this fall, had that she and Kasey had submitted top-quality work came when she sat and watched her video, "Selma: The Shame and the Solution," with the judges.
   "It was really cool to sit back and watch our documentary with the judges, for once see how everyone else sees it," Alicia said. "It was surprising, even for me. I've seen it so many times. I guess I've been close to it. I was thinking the best we could hope for would be like 10th, but as I was watching it, I was thinking, 'This is good.' "
   Alicia continued, "I don't know if Kasey thought that, too, but that's really when all of the hours upon hours upon hours of research pays off, reading periodicals with a font size of like -2, finding books and pictures and videos all pays off, all of the headaches from staring at a TV trying to put the video together, recording and re-recording and re-re-recording and timing every little picture down to 1/30 of a second so that whoever watches it can see what we're saying, splitting down video and music clips to the exact timing and matching it all up with background music...It's all worth it."
   The $500 check the girls received for their efforts didn't hurt either, Alicia added.
   The Diamond team had the top placing of any Missouri entry in any National History Day category. First place went to a team of Fruitvale Junior High School, Bakersfield, Calif., which also examined a civil rights topic, "The Little Rock Nine, Foot Soldiers for Freedom: A Test of Rights and Responsibilities."
   Neosho took 10th place in the Junior Group Documentary category with its entry, "The Easter Offering."
   Diamond qualified for National History Day by taking first place in the state competition. The local team took second at the regional competition at Missouri Southern State College, losing to Neosho, but worked and worked on their entry until it was able to avenge that loss at state.
   In addition to the $500 check, Alicia and Kasey received silver medals for their accomplishment.
   "Not gold," Alicia said, quickly adding, "but there's always next year."

   Proposals to eliminate the vo-tech program and to assess student activity fees will be discussed when the Diamond R-4 Board of Education meets in special session at 7 p.m. today (Thursday, June 19) in the high school library.
   The board has scheduled two budget work sessions, with the second one slated for 7 p.m. Thursday, June 26.
   Superintendent Mark Mayo outlined $72,200 in cuts to the board at its regular meeting June 12. Mayo has recommended the elimination of the vo-tech program at the last three meetings. According to a worksheet he handed to the board members, this would save the district $29,000 for the program and an additional $18,000 for a bus driver.
   Other cuts recommended include:
-$1000 in elementary supplies
-$4,000 FFA
-$500 wrestling
- $200 cross country
-$300 track
-$600 choir
-$2.800 books for high school library
-$2,800 books for elementary library
-$1,500 supplies for building principals
-$8.000 eliminate snack bar in cafeteria, thus eliminating a cook position
-$1,200 eliminate assistant baseball coach
-$1.200 eliminate assistant wrestling coach
-$600 eliminate dance team
   Mayo proposed a $35 per sport, per student fee, which he estimated would bring in $9,000. Board members expressed concerns about families that could not afford the fee and those who have several children involved in activities.
   At the June 12 meeting, the board also:
   -Heard from High School Principal Robert Blizzard that the master schedules for high school and middle school have been completed for the 2003-2004 school year.
   -Heard from Middle School Principal Denise Mounts that one-fourth of the middle school's students made the honor roll all four quarters.
   -Heard from Elementary Principal Deanna Yokley that 59 kindergarten students have been enrolled.
   -Heard from Mayo that the sale of surplus property June 5 brought in $12,000.
   -Discovered that the cost of repairing the gymnasium floor,after damage was done to it at Project Graduation, would be more than $5,000.

   The Diamond Middle School team of Alicia Bradley and Kasey Hockman qualified for the finals of the National History Day competition Monday.
   The top 14 teams in the junior group documentary category will compete tonight (June 17) at the University of Maryland with the winners to be announced shortly after the final presentation.
   Among the other 13 teams to survive from across the nation is one that is quite familiar to Alicia and Kasey. The Neosho Junior High team, which took first place at the district competition at Missouri Southern State College with Diamond finishing second, then placed second at state while Diamond took the top prize, is also among the 14 national finalists.
   "We are the only two groups from Missouri that made runoffs in any of the categories," Kasey said. "That is kind of cool."
   The presentation that catapulted Kasey and Alicia into the finals did not go off without a hitch. Technical problems had the duo fearing their dreams of a national title were to go for naught.After they entered the presentation room and presented their papers, Alicia and Kasey decided to check on their video while the judges examined the papers.
   "We started playing our video to make sure it worked," Alicia said. "We did the first 10 seconds or so, it worked, so I pressed stop and what I thought was rewind. Apparently, that button was the record button, however, and it started recording, and we couldn't get it to stop. Finally it did, and I didn't think it would haev recorded over our video, so I left it in there. We announce ourselves, play our tape, and 10 seconds into it the video suddenly statics out and starts screeching. Rather embarrassing. We had to get another tape."
   The technical problems didn't sway the judges who picked the Diamond entry, "Selma, The Shame and the Solution," as one of the two to continue from that room. (Two were selected from each of the seven presentation rooms.)
   The 14 finalists are:
   - Sequim Middle School, Washington, "Makah Whaling"
   -Denver School of the Arts, Colorado, "Ludlow: A Massacre of Human Rights"
   -Drew Academy, Texas, "To Inoculate or Not to Inoculate"
   -Neosho Junior High School, Missouri, "The Easter Offering"
   -Abraham Lincoln Elementary School, Illinois, "The Right to be Safe in School: A Nation's Responsibility"
   -Fruitvale Junior High School, California, "The Little Rock Nine, Foot Soldiers for Freedom: A Test of Rights and Responsibilities"
   -Dupree School, South Dakota, "Married Women's Property Acts in the 19th Century"
   -Minco Middle School, Oklahoma, "I Am an American"
   -Central Junior High School, Kansas, "Fight for Control: The Creation of the Birth Control Pill"
   -Easter Middle School, Maryland, "Cesar Chavez and the Table Grape Boycott"
   -Diamond Middle School, Missouri, "Selma: The Shame and the Solution"
   -Lakewood Middle School, Kansas, "Jackie Robinson: Striking Out the Color Barrier"
   Sunrise Park Middle School, Minnesota, "Religious Liberty at Stake: Wisconsin vs. Yoder"
   Alfred G. Berner Middle School, New York, "Boys in Men's Shoes: The Newsboy Strike of 1899"
   The National History Day Awards Ceremony will be webcast from 7:30 to 11 a.m Thursday, June 19,.on the History Channel website. The featured speaker will be President George W. Bush. To watch the ceremony, go to

   Alicia Bradley and Kasey Hockman will find out tonight if they have reached the finals of the National History Day competition at the University of Maryland.
   Alicia, an eighth grader, and Kasey, a seventh grader, during the 2002-2003 school year, were scheduled to make their presentations at 11 a.m. today (Monday, June 16).
   The two qualified for nationals by taking first place in the state competition. They have continued to improve their presentation since that time, right up to the end of last week. Kasey and Alicia's topic is "Selma: The Shame and the Solution," a thorough exploration of the racial strife in that Alabama town in the 1960s. On Friday, they were able to interview a key participant in the fight for voting rights for African-Americans.
   During this morning's competition, the judges will read the girls' bibliography, watch their video, then ask them questions. The top two in each room advance to runoffs.
   The competition for Alicia and Kasey is as follows:
   Ohio- McCarthyism: Irresponsible action, violation of rights
   South Carolina- Communist Until Proven Innocent: The Era of Joseph McCarthy
   Georgia- American Holocaust
   Vermont- Keeping an Environment We All Can Enjoy
   Oregon- Education in Black and White
   Rhode Island- Rights of the Cherokee Nation, Responsibilities of Andrew Jackson
   New Mexico- Allan Houser Haozous: Native American Artist
   North Dakota- The Right to be a Child: Child Labor in the U. S.
   Oklahoma- Rights of American Prisoners in the Vietnam War and the Responsibilities of the Governing Nations in Relationship to the Geneva Convention.
   Illinois- The Right to be Safe in School: A Nation's Responsibility
   Washington- A Rich Man's War and a Poor Man's Fight: The Rights and Responsibilities of Conscripted Men
   Nevada- The Rights and Responsibilities of Legalized Gambling in Nevada.
   After the first round and the runoffs, the winners will be announced during a special awards ceremony, which will feature President George W. Bush as the speaker.

   The Diamond Wildcat Bands will be featured on a 30-minute news program, "Newsmakers with Judy Stiles.The program will feature local band students, the Diamond Band program, information on the Liberty Bowl Trip and excerpts from the Band's Spring Concert.
   The program will air 5:30 a.m. Saturday, July 26, on KOAM-TV, Channel 7; 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 30, on KGCS, UHF Channel 57 or Channel 7 on both the Joplin and Carthage cable systems; and 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7, on KOZJ-PBS.

   Diamond Middle School honor rolls for the fourth quarter and second semester have been released.
Second Semester
   Eighth Grade- Alicia Bradley, Amanda Brashear, Carrie Castor, Alex Chavana, Ryan Clouse, Kacie Cooper, Bryce Dailey, Katie Dodson, Jake Edge, Shane Gallagher, Cameron Harrington, Paul Holland, Jacque Lasiter, Clint Myers, Michelle Nickolaisen, Clay Norwood, Lydia O'Donnell, Kevin Ortega, Leanne Ross, Alyssa Simpson, Spencer Snow, Daniel Testerman, Zach Towers.
   Seventh Grade- Shala Bass, Gram Boman, Jennifer Buening, Ronnie Byrd, Lacey Carneal, Caitlin Carter, Amanda Cupp, David Dodson, Tim Enayati, Devin Greenwood, Crystal Harrall, Kelsey Henson, Eli Hicks, Kasey Hockman, Lee Hollars, Jayma King, Lauri Kuri, Krystal Morgan, Amanda Morris, Cody Palmer, Brice Reavis, Kaci Scribner, Tanner Seward, Courtney Sweet, Sarah Sweet, Stephanie Taylor, Michael Turner, Courtney Wall, Rebecca Warthen, Jessica Webb, Kayla Webb.
   Sixth Grade- Eris Baker, Jason Beckett, Josh Bentley, Skylar Callis, Sheena Chung, Whitney Cosby, Garrett Cox, Chris Cupp, Emily Edge, Lindsey Gilbert, Travis Goodwin, Toshia Grissom, Macy Harp, Emily Sewell, Garrett James, Rikki Lee Jump, Sharon Keefer, Zach Kettner, Crystal Lane, Kirsten Lee, Samantha Morgan, Ashley Nickolaisen, Samantha Olson, Shaela Smith, Michael Testerman.
Fourth Quarter
   Eighth Grade- Alicia Bradley, Amanda Brashear, Carrie Castor, Alex Chavana, Ryan Clouse, Bryce Dailey, Jake Edge, Shane Gallagher, Cameron Harrington, Clint Myers, Michelle Nickolaisen, Lydia O'Donnell, Kevin Ortega, Leanne Ross, Alyssa Simpson, Spencer Snow, Daniel Testerman, Zach Towers.
   Seventh Grade- Jennifer Buening, Justyn Burrows, Lacey Carneal, Caitlin Carter, Amanda Cupp, David Dodson, Tim Enayati, Kelsey Henson, Eli Hicks, Kasey Hockman, Jayma King, Lauri Kuri, Krystal Morgan, Amanda Morris, Cody Palmer, Kaci Scribner, Courtney Sweet, Sarah Sweet, Ben Taylor, Stephanie Taylor, Michael Turner, Becca Warthen, Jessica Webb.
   Sixth Grade- Josh Bentley, Skylar Callis, Sheena Chung, Whitney Cosby, Garrett Cox, Chris Cupp, Emily Edge, Lindsey Gilbert, Travis Goodwin, Toshia Grissom, Emily Iceberg-Sewell, Rikki Lee Jump, Sharon Keefer, Zach Kettner, Crystal Lane, Kirsten Lee, Ashley Nickolaisen, Samantha Olson, Shaela Smith, Michael Testerman.

   Top accomplishments in academics, clubs, and organizations were honored Thursday, May 22, at the annual Diamond Middle School Academic Awards Day.
   Those receiving awards included:
   From Mrs. Renee Jones, language arts teacher:
   Top Eighth Grade Language Arts students- Jake Edge, Leanne Ross
   Top Seventh Grade Language Arts students- Cody Palmer, Stephanie Taylor.
   Outstanding Novel Award- Michelle Nickolaisen, Cameron Harrington.
   From Mr. Grant Reed, social studies teacher:
   Top Seventh Grade Social Studies students- Kelsey Henson, Eli Hicks
   Top Eighth Grade Social Studies students- Alicia Bradley, Michelle Nickolaisen, Cameron Harrington, Spencer Snow
   Eighth graders receiving "We, the People" certificates for outstanding accomplishments on the U. S. Constitution test were: Chelsie Baker, Alicia Bradley, Amanda Brashear, Alex Chavana, Kayla Ching, Ryan Clouse, Kacie Cooper, Bryce Dailey, LeAnn Dardenne, Katie Dodson, Jake Edge, Charles Forest, Shane Gallagher, Kevin Harrall, Cameron Harrington, Michael Lane, Jacque Lasiter, Nick Long, Samantha McCallum, Clint Myers, Jake Newsum, Michelle Nickolaisen, Clay Norwood, Lydia O'Donnell, Kevin Ortega, Genaro Rangel, Jessi Rawlings, Leanne Ross, Chase Sexson, Alyssa Simpson, Spencer Snow, Daniel Stone, Daniel Testerman, Zach Towers, and Thia Wiggins.
   From Mrs. Rachael Madden, social studies teacher:
   Top Historians, sixth grade- Samantha Olson, Lindsay Gilbert, Mike Testerman, Garrett Cox, Ashley Nickolaisen.
   Top Historian, seventh grade- Stephanie Taylor, Sarah Sweet, Courtney Sweet, Mike Turner.
   Most Improved, sixth grade- Cameron Scribner
  Class Clown, sixth grade- Derek Paradeis, Chris Cupp
  Best Presenter, seventh grade- Ben Taylor
  Class Clown, seventh grade- Brad Morris
   From Mrs. Nancy Berry, math teacher:
   Top students, algebra- Alicia Bradley, Leanne Ross, Shane Gallagher
   Top students, eighth grade math- Amanda Brashear, Kevin Ortega
   Championship Ozark 8 Math Team- Eighth graders Leanne Ross, Shane Gallagher, Chase Sexson, Alicia Bradley, Amanda Brashear, Kevin Ortega, LeAnn Dardenne; seventh graders, Tim Enayati, Daniel Jones
   From Mr. Randy Turner, current issues teacher:
   Top Current Issues students, eighth grade- Leanne Ross, Zach Towers
   Top Current Issues students, seventh grade- Courtney Sweet, Mike Turner
   Diamond Daily Certificates of Participation- Zach Towers, Leanne Ross, Amanda Brashear, Shane Gallagher, Jacque Lasiter, Michelle Nickolaisen, Lydia O'Donnell, Shala Bass, Kaci Scribner, Chase Sexson, Courtney Sweet, Sarah Sweet, Stephanie Taylor.
   Diamond Daily Top Reporter Awards- Lydia O'Donnell, Kaci Scribner
   SWAT (Students Working to Advance Technology) Team Certificates of Participation- Michelle Nickolaisen, Alicia Bradley, Alex Chavana, Shane Gallagher, Zach Towers, Daniel Stone, Joseph Carpenter, Chase Sexson.
   Technology Star of the Future Award- Michelle Nickolaisen
   Student Council Short Story Contest winners- 1. Alicia Bradley, 2. Sarah Sweet, 3. Michelel Nickolaisen, 4. Leanne Ross, 5. Jake Edge, 6. Shane Gallagher, 7. Kasey Hockman, 8. Jacque Lasiter, 9. Courtney Sweet, 10. Stephanie Taylor
   Student Council Essay Contest winners- 1. Alicia Bradley, 2. Leanne Ross, Lydia O'Donnell, 4. Lindsey Gilbert, 5. Rikki Lee Jump, 6. Michelle Nickolaisen, 7. Sarah Sweet, 8. Kasey Hockman, 9. Mike Turner, 10. Kyle Lowry.

By Kaci Scribner
Diamond Daily Staff Writer
   Whitney Leigh Mounts and Dale Benfield were married outdoors May 24 at the Shoal Kirk Retreat Center, three miles south of Diamond. The new Mrs. Benfield was a substitute teacher and volleyball coach at Diamond Middle School. She is taking classes to become a teacher.
   Mr. Benfield teaches English and photography at Diamond High School.
   Ms. Denise Mounts, Whitney's mom, helped with the preparations. The couple first had to decide on the colors of the wedding and where it was going to be. Then Whitney had good times and a few laughs trying on the sample dresses, which were never the right size.
   The dresses for the six bridesmaids were different styles, but were all red. The wedding colors were red, orange, yellow, hot pink, and light pink. The Benfields left after the wedding for a week-long honeymoon in Hawaii.
   Their wedding day marked five years that the couple has been together. They met at their high school in Joplin and were high school sweethearts. Both of them were nervous before the wedding.
   Ms. Mounts said the wedding reminded her of the movie, "The Big Fat Greek Wedding." There were six bridesmaids, a sister and two girlfriends who all helped Whitney prepare for the wedding. Ms. Mounts said it was kind of funny, but noted that one difference is the family isn't Greek.
   The couple walked through sparklers instead of the traditional running through rice after they exchanged vows.
   Ms. Mounts was thrilled with her daughter's wedding. "They are very good friends and very much in love."

   The Diamond R-4 Choral Department has released a tentative calendar of events for the 2003-2003 school year.
   The first performance will be Sept. 12-13 at the annual Gem City Days. Other items on the calendar include:
   -All-District Auditions, Sept. 20
   -Neosho Fall Festival, Oct. 4
   -Fall Concert, Oct. 20
   -All-District Concert at Missouri Southern State College, Oct. 25
   -Veterans Day Program, Nov. 11
   -Christmas Concert, Dec. 11
   -Ozark 8 Choir Festival, Jan. 14, 2004
   -NEO Music Festival, Feb. 18
   -Junior High Honor Choir, Feb. 21
   -Elementary Honor Choir, March 6
   -District Music Festival, March 25-26
   -Junior High NEO Music Festival, April 7
   -State Music Festival, May 1
   -Spring Concert, May 6

By Derek Blankenship, Tim Carver and Courtney Sweet
Diamond Daily Staff Writers
   The electricity went out Wednesday, May 14, at Diamond Middle School, with classes reacting in different ways.
   Many classes just talked, while some teachers went on teaching their lessons. Ghost stories were told in Mrs. Renee Jones's language arts classes.
   The lights went off near the beginning of seventh hour. Though most students seemed to want them to stay off, they came back on at about 3 p.m.

By Derek Blankenship, Tim Carver and Courtney Sweet
Diamond Daily Staff Writers
   Diamond Elementary students were able to see farm animals Thursday, May 14, during the annual Food for America Day sponsored by the Diamond FFA chapter. The children saw horses, cows, chickens, goats, and sheep. Also, they got to go through the greenhouse.
   Jesse Sweet, FFA president, said, "We have Food for America Day because it gets kids involved in agriculture and FFA."
   Kindergarteners through fifth graders saw the animals.

   The Diamond Vocal Music Department held its spring concert May 8 in the high school. Performances were given by the Elementary Wildcat Choir, the Middle School Choir and the High School Choir.
   Seniors giving their final performances were: Ashley Shelton, David Forest, Carla Garoutte, Zach Testerman, Bob Taylor, Jenna Holland, and Saori Yamanatsu.
   Major accomplishments made by vocal students during the 2002-2003 school year were recognized during the concert.
   All-District Choir members were: David Forest, Dezi Powers, Kaci Testerman, Dana Bridges, Casey Welch, Sheena Chung, Tanner Seward, Chris Kyger, Curtis Russell, Chelsea Flint, Shelbi Thurman, Johnathan Paul, Emilee Brewer, Shelby Thompson, Haylee Etter, Victoria Albrecht, Cody Studyvin, Kaci Clark, and Taylor Tuter.
   Dezi Powers was named all-state.
   Those receiving I ratings at contest were: Dezi Powers, Kacee Baldwin, Krystal Morgan, Jacob Nelson, Katie Dodson, Casey Welch, and Kayla Ching.
   Receiving II ratings were: Renee Forest, Megan Atkins, Dana Bridges, Sheena Chung, Jessica Harrison, the boys trio, consisting of Kevin Harrall, Aaron Johnson, and Jacob Nelson, and the girls sextet, consisting of Kacee Baldwin, Dana Bridges, Chelsie Baker, Jessica Harrison, Kayla Chung, and Alyshia Bowles.
   Choir officers were: Ashley Shelton, president; Renee Forest, vice president; Dezi Powers, secretary; and Nicki Bunn, David Forest, and Zach Testerman, librarians.
   Choral highlights during the 2002-2003 school year included:
   -High School Choir performances at Gem City Days and the Neosho Fall Festival.
   -Middle School Choir performance at the Neosho Fall Festival.
   -All-District Honor Choir for high school and middle school
   -Fall Concert
   -Christmas Concert
   -Playing host to Ozark 8 Music Day
   -All-State Choral Concert at Tan-Tar-A
   -NEO Music Festival for high school and middle school
   -Elementary Choir performances at local nursing homes
   -Middle School Choir competed at Branson
   -The high schoolers performed for the National Day of Prayer
   -State Music Festival
   -Spring Concert

By Randy Turner
Diamond Daily Sponsor
   Rumors that the Diamond High School softball program was going to become a victim of the current budget crunch were put to rest by Superintendent Mark Mayo and the R-4 Board of Education May 22.
   "I'm surprised about softball being mentioned," Mayo said. "I specifically took that off the table last meeting." At the May 8 board meeting, Mayo said that if softball were eliminated, a boys sport would have to be cut as well to keep the district in compliance with the federal Title IX act. Title IX requires that equal educational opportunities be offered to boys and girls.
   Board President Dr. Wayne Webb said, "We have not cut softball," but he added, "Everything is on the table."
   The budget, for the second straight meeting, was at the top of the agenda. Mayo reviewed the latest budget figures he and his secretary, Tiny Bridges, had compiled.
   They showed a balance of only $26,620, but that, too, could be gone quickly, Mayo said, because the figure did not include several items. No money was penciled in for a teacher for the gifted program, another for an elementary special education position and another elementary teacher that "we want to hire," he said.
   The holdup on that hiring, he added, has been the lack of a resignation from long-time R-4 teacher Larry Augustine. ""We're still kind of waiting on Mr. Augustine's retirement," Mayo said. Augustine submitted his resignation May 23.
   The budget also did not include a technology coordinator to replace Larry Doenning, who is retiring at the end of the current school year.
   Though the board took no action, Mayo once again singled out the Vo-Tech program as a target for elimination. "I strongly recommend that we walk away from the vo-tech program." It wouldn't be a permanent cut, he added. ""We can go back to it as we get closer to MSIP."
   Vocational training is one of the factors heavily considered when the MSIP (Missouri School Improvement Program) officials evaluate the school. The next evaluation is not scheduled for another four years.
   Mayo said at the May 8 meeting that he had eyed the vo-tech program for elimination because of the amount of money it cost and the relatively few students it serves. "I look at Vo-Tech and I'm paying $50,000 a year," he said. "This benefits 15 students for 2 1/2 hours a day."
   About half of those students graduated earlier this month. Mayo said he did not know how many sophomores had signed up to take vo-tech next year."
   Board members suggested caution in thinking about cutting any programs. Dr. Webb said, "I see no reason to get in a hurry on this."
   Larry Hicks said he wanted to have more information about what funding will be available before any cuts are made.
   Ways to trim costs in the athletic program were also mentioned, including the possibility of an activity fee. The legality of paying the money for families that cannot afford it was discussed. The possibility of corporate sponsors to put money into athletic programs such as softball and wrestling was discussed. School officials have talked over the possibility and received advice from Missouri State High School Activities Association officials about the idea.
   One action the board won't take to bring in money is to raise the tax levy without voter approval. Mayo said at the May 8 meeting he believed the board could increase the levy from $2.75 per $100 assessed valuation to $3.13 without voter approval. After consulting with Greg Bricker, the lawyer for the district's bonding company, George K. Baum and Co., Mayo said he was told that a 2001 change in the law prevented any such action. "You're not going to be able to generate any revenue that way without a ballot issue."
   Bricker also said the district could not help its situation by refinancing the bond issue that built the new high school. Because of the money that would have to be placed in escrow to refinance, it would not be economically feasible until the year 2010, he said.
   In other action, the board:
   -Heard a report from Mayo on extensive damage that was done to the high school gymnasium floor during the recent Project Graduation. Bids are being taken for repairs.
   -Heard from Mayo that a digital sender/scanner had been purchased for $600.
   -Received a recommendation from Mayo that Career Ladder for teachers be completely funded for the 2002-2003 school year. School districts across the state have received varying information about exactly how much the state will pay.
   -The next board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, June 12.


Graduation ceremonies for Diamond Middle School eighth graders were held Monday, May 23, in the high school gymnasium.
Diamond Daily photo by Stephanie Taylor

By Randy Turner
Diamond Daily Sponsor
   It wasn't disrespect that found Clint Myers seated when the National Anthem was played at the opening of the Diamond Middle School Eighth Grade Graduation ceremony Monday, May 23. Clint's as patriotic as the next guy.
   The next guy, however, wasn't playing the National Anthem on his guitar. Clint was.
   The more than 300 people who attended the promotion ceremony in the high school gymnasium enjoyed Clint's rendition...far more than he did. He had missed a couple of notes toward the end of the song and it ruined it for him.
   After he played the final note, he slammed his hand against his knee, taking out his frustration. The sound of that solitary slap was lost in the sea of applause that filled the gymnasium and the yelps of approval from his classmates.
   It was a night of special moments for the eighth graders, beginning with the ceremony and ending with a dance at Memorial Hall.
   For some, it was a bittersweet evening.
   Take Jessica Harrison, who was unable to walk into the gymnasium with the other eighth graders. Jessica was hit by a rock thrown from a lawnmower Sunday and was on crutches. She was already seated when the recording of "Pomp and Circumstance" began.
   "I'm in pain, but..." Jessica left the sentence unfinished.
   Later, she sat as Paul Holland picked up her diploma.
   No one enjoyed Monday night's ceremony more than Colton Drake. When the Eighth Grade Choir was singing "Lean On Me," it was Colton who placed his hands over his head and led his classmates in clapping along with it. He was the one who had the ever-present smile during the entire ceremony.
   Smiling was a problem for Michelle Nickolaisen. She simply didn't want to do it. She resolutely kept a stern look as she entered the gymnasium, walked down the center and toward her seat. As she turned, she saw a couple of her classmates smiling at her and suddenly the frown vanished, replaced by a wide smile. Fortunately, she was able to quickly regain her composure.
   The eighth graders listened to speeches from Middle School Principal Denise Mounts and Superintendent Mark Mayo, but paid even more attention as their classmates, valedictorian Alicia Bradley and saluatorian Jake Edge, relived memories of their first nine years of school and gave them something to think about for the future.
   Jake stressed the need for the class to stick together as it goes through the high school years. ""Some of us might fly through the next four years of school with a breeze and not a thought in the world about it," he said, "but others will be faced with problems and as a class we need to help and support each other as much as possible, in every way we can."
   Alicia Bradley extolled the virtues of attending Diamond Middle School. "Although Diamond is a small school," she said, "we're lucky that it is. Everyone knows everyone by name, and we know about the ups and downs in each other's lives. Though we have our differences, were usually very supportive of each other. That kind of closeness can't be found in larger schools like Joplin or Webb City."
   She concluded by saying, "I'd also like to challenge our class to stay true to themselves. We're probably going to be pressured to change the way we are sometime throughout high school to fit in with everyone else, but just remember the words of comedian George Carlin - 'Those who dance are considered insane by those who cannot hear the music.' "
   After the speeches, the students received certificates from the superintendent. After Thia Wiggins received hers, her sister, Nancy, armed and ready with a camera to record the moment for posterity, yelled, "Stop," but Thia didn't slow down as she headed back to her seat.
   Once again, Michelle Nickolaisen was faced with a dilemma. How in the world was she going to maintain her frown with her classmates smiling all around her.
   She almost succeeded, getting through the line and all the way back to her seat. Then she made the same mistake she had made earlier. She looked at her friends who were smiling at her and the frown was gone in an instant.
   It was that kind of night.
   Members of the Diamond Middle School eighth grade class were: Chelsie Baker, Kacee Baldwin, Brittany Barwick, Clint Blizzard, Whitney Booyer, Alyshia Bowles, Alicia Bradley, Amanda Brashear, Dana Bridges, Darren Burrows, Joseph Carpenter, Carrie Castor, Alex Chavana, Kayla Ching, Ryan Clouse, Kacie Cooper, Bryce Dailey, Chris Dalgleish, LeAnn Dardenne, Katie Dodson, Colton Drake, Jake Edge.
   Also, Charles Forest, Shane Gallagher, Scott Gill, Colton Griffin, Kevin Harrall, Cameron Harrington, Jessica Harrison, Paul Holland, Victoria Holmes, Layton Hoyer, Aaron Johnson, Kyle Jones, Michael Lane, Jacque Lasiter, Nick Long, Kyle Lowry, Caleb Lucas, Josh Matthews, Samantha McCallum, Clint Myers, Jacob Nelson, Jake Newsum.
   Also, Michelle Nickolaisen, Clay Norwood, Lydia O'Donnell, Kevin Ortega, Genaro Rangel, Jessi Rawlings, Leanne Ross, Jade Schany, Chase Sexson, Alyssa Simpson, Spencer Snow, Daniel Stone, Andy Struewing, Raymond Tapp, Daniel Testerman, Zach Towers, Samantha Vincent, Casey Welch, Thia Wiggins and Wade Youngblood.
   Top 10 students were: Alicia Bradley, Ryan Clouse, Jake Edge, Shane Gallagher, Cameron Harrington, Michelle Nickolaisen, Lydia O'Donnell, Leanne Ross, Alyssa Simpson, and Spencer Snow.

8th Grade Valedictorian
Good evening, and welcome to the Class of 2007's 8th grade graduation. We've gone through nine years of school to get to this point in our lives, and I'd like to start by thanking the people who have supported us - the teachers at Diamond, our families, and especially my Lord Jesus that has guided and carried me throughout my life. None of us would be here without their love and dedication.
   As I was beginning to write this speech, I began thinking of our class and all that we've been through. There are 38 of us that began kindergarten at Diamond that are here tonight, and in the years between now and then many more have joined us. Our class has been together since fall of 1994 when we started school. Throughout elementary we've braved new teachers and new challenges, and witnessed a lot of unforgettable things. None of us will ever forget our third grade class picnic, when Zach cracked his head open with a golf club.
   After elementary we moved on to Middle School, where we were introduced to lockers, 7 classes and tardy bells. Middle school activities have given us the chance to develop as individuals. Many members of our class are involved in sports - football, volleyball, basketball, cheerleading, track, and cross country - while others are involved with academic challenges. We have a first-place Academic Team, and our class often takes tops at the Ozark 8 Math and Science Competition. A large part of our class express their musical talent in the DMS choir or award-winning high school band. Throughout our years in middle school, we've made several memories. Someone in our class has had experience with running down the court to make a basket for the other basketball team. We've moved from a single hallway to a whole building, and next year we'll move yet again into the new high school.
   There are some things from middle school that we'll miss, like the Passage Penguin and Mr. Turner's corny jokes, which I've been advised not to tell while I'm up here. But the 2003 8th grade class is full of talent and leadership that will make us great additions to the high school student body next year.
   Although Diamond is a small school, we're lucky that it is. Everyone knows everyone by name, and we know about the ups and downs in each other's lives. Though we have our differences, we're usually very supportive of each other. That kind of closeness cant be found in larger schools like Joplin or Webb City.
   Four years from now, we will be graduating as the Senior Class of 2007. In those four years, people will come and people will go, but I'd like to present a few challenges to our class:
   First of all, to keep the friendship that we've had as a group;
   Secondly, to finish out high school, even though it may be tough at times, and make it to our senior graduation.
   I'd also like to challenge our class to stay true to themselves. We're probably going to be pressured to change the way we are sometime throughout high school to fit in with everyone else, but just remember the words of comedian George Carlin - those who dance are considered insane by those who cannot hear the music.

8th Grade Salutatorian
   Hello everyone! And welcome to the 2003 eighth grade promotion for the class of 2007. I would like to start off this evening with a couple of thank yous. First of all, I would like to thank God for his wonderful guidance, wisdom, and support through the thick and thin of every situation. Then I would like to thank all of the families that are here tonight for their help our past nine years of school. And last, but not least, all of our teachers and administration for giving us their knowledge to use in our own lives.
   This evening, however, is not just about our wonderful past, but also about our new future when we first open the doors of a new world, Diamond High School. In this new world, we will be ninth graders with more challenges to face, new teachers to get to know and a lot of new peers. Although many of us would like to keep Mr. Turner and his interesting  jokes, Mrs. Berry and her algebra class, Mrs. Jones and her language class, Mr. Reed and his collection of jokebooks, I mean historical literature, Mr. Danner and his wonderfully old cow skeleton, Ms. Mounts, and Mrs. Snow, we have to face our fears and move on.
   As ninth graders, we will be on the bottom of the food chain once more, where challenges not only come from school, but from friends, and our new teachers. Some of us might fly through the next four years of school with a breeze and not a thought in the world about it, but others will be faced with problems and, as a class, we need to help and support each other as much as possible in every way we can.
   As we move through high school, our lives will change with the coming of new friends and the leaving of old, but we still will be a class that sticks together through anything no matter what and we will grow closer as we move on.
   Then we, as seniors, will move on to college and into its challenges that may, in some cases, decide our future as adults in the real world. As adults, we will be able to make our own decisions and mistakes, whether good or bad. However we end up is our choice and ours alone, so before I leave you tonight I would like to say this:
   Don't take your future for granted because soon that future will be your present and today's present, now, will be the past.

   Graduation ceremonies for Diamond High School seniors were held Friday, May 16, in the high school gymnasium. The class of 2003 was the first to hold ceremonies in the new high school building.
   Baccalaureate services were held Sunday, May 11, in the DHS gymnasium. The guest speaker was Curtis Cox, minister of Diamond Christian Church.
   Candace Stebbins was the class valedictorian. Salutatorian was Deke Beckett.
   Graduating seniors were:
   Adam Alford, son of Dale and Terri Alford; Christopher Atler, son of Penny Richards and Albert Atler; Stephanie Barwick, daughter of Todd and Shelly Barwick; Deke Beckett, son of Biff and Beth Beckett; Amanda Brown, daughter of Martin and Cheryl Brown; Daniel Brown, son of Jerry and Iva Jackson and Glen and Judy Brown; Kristina Buerge, daughter of Theresa Lewis and Leonard and Kim Buerge; Shawn Buzzard, son of Kyle and Kelly Kay Buzzard.
   Also, Jeffrey Carr, son of Jeffrey and Helen Carr; Ana Paula Carvalho, daughter of David and Teresa Gilliam, host parents; and Tadev and Marvia Carvalho; John Cendroski, son of Mike and Margaret Cendoski; Derek Cullum, son of Dennis and Katherine Cullum; Justin DeGonia, son of Jerry and Janet DeGonia; Isaac Drake, son of Star Drake and Kelly Prator; Alan Farley, Jr., son of Alan Farley and Marlene Farley; Kevin Filarski, son of David and Kathy Filarski; David G. L. Forest, son of David B. Forest; Carla Garoutte, daughter of Larry and Carol Garoutte; Charlene Gibson, daughter of David and Tami Gibson; Rachelle Gilliam, daughter of Dave and Teresa Gilliam.
   Also, Matt Harp, son of Mike and Kristi Harp; Kathy Harrell, daughter of Cheryl Harrell; Andy Henson, son of Randy and Kenda Henson; Jenna Holland, daughter of Paul and Peggy Holland; Isabel Jaramillo, daughter of Jack and Sarah Rubottom, host parents and Mario Jaramillo and Praxedes Abadia; Brandon Jessip, son of Matt and Suzanne Jessip; Cheryl Johnson, daughter of Danny and Helen Johnson; Becca Jones, daughter of Tom and Cynthia Bradley.
   Also, Kody Kelso, son of Kendall Kelso and Nancy Fletcher; Justin Lane, son of Chris and Becky Lane; Nathan Long, son of Lesa and David Brown and Paul Long; Cristie Minyard; Mark Neidert, son of Ron and Patty Neidert; Ashley Parker, daughter of Nancy and Dave Roddy and Mark Parker; Ashley Richardson, daughter of Dot Nicolas and Steve Richardson; James Lee Riediger; Chris Shaner, son of Merlin and Jo Shaner; Ashley Shelton, daughter of Gaylen and Margaret Shelton; Aaron Smith, son of Rex Jr. and Valerie Smith; Candace Stebbins, daughter of Julie and Roger Stebbins; Rusty Stewart, son of David and Delberta Stewart; Corey Stripling, son of Bryan and Glenna Stripling.
   Also, Elliot Sutherland, son of Glen and Bonnie Sutherland; Bob Taylor, son of Bob and Bonnie Taylor; Zack Testerman, son of Alan and Kelli Testerman; Lyndsey Tuter, daughter of Randy and Peggy Tuter; Zach Weaver, son of John and Sheila Weaver; Dustin Weidler, son of Sandy and Randy McNett; Danelle White, daughter of Brenda Miller and Mike Kelley; Addie Whitehead, daughter of Dan and Carolyn Whitehead; Rachael Whiteley; Sean Wiggins and Tabatha Wiggins.

   Eighth Grader Alicia Bradley won top honors in two Diamond Middle School Student Council writing contests last week. She will receive a $10 cash prize for each contest, which will be presented during Awards Day ceremonies 1:30 p.m. Thursday, May 22, in the DMS gymnasium.
   Miss Bradley won the essay contest, which was judged by Diamond High School students Amanda Ferguson, Anthony Shipman, and Ryan Cosby, then claimed top honors in the short story contest, which was judged by DHS students Nicki Dame, Lauren Fetters and Carra Shaffer.
   During the 2001-2002 school year, Miss Bradley won the essay contest and finished in second place to Miss Fetters in the short story competition.
   Those placing in the Essay Contest and the prizes they won were: 2. Leanne Ross, $5; 3. Lydia O'Donnell, $3; 4. Lindsey Gilbert, $2; with the fifth through 10th place finishers Rikki Jump, Michelle Nickolaisen, Sarah Sweet, Kasey Hockman, Mike Turner and Kyle Lowry receiving $1 apiece.
   Others finishing in the top 20 were: Amanda Brashear, Alex Chavana, Le Ann Dardenne, Jake Edge, Paul Holland, Jacque Lasiter, Kirsten Lee, Kevin Ortega, Courtney Sweet and Stephanie Taylor.
   Those placing in the short story contest were: 2. Sarah Sweet, $5; 3. Michelle Nickolaisen, $3; 4. Leanne Ross, $2; with the fifth through 10th place finishers Jake Edge, Shane Gallagher, Kasey Hockman, Jacque Lasiter, Courtney Sweet, and Stephanie Taylor receiving $1 apiece.
   Others finishing in the top 20 were: Whitney Cosby, Clay Norwood, Mike Turner, Kirsten Lee, Karie Baldwin, Shala Bass, Sharon Keefer, Levi Ellison, Wade Youngblood, and Bryce Dailey.

By Randy Turner
Diamond Daily Sponsor
   Word that the vo-tech, wrestling and cross country programs were going to be sacrificed to help ease budget problems brought more than 50 people to the Diamond R-4 Board of Education meeting Thursday, May 8.
   Letters had been sent to the coaches of the sports by Superintendent Mark Mayo indicating that they could very well be eliminated when the board begins its budget deliberations later this month.
   "I have tried to maintain a sense of stability regarding budget issues," Mayo said, noting that word of state cuts had caused him to begin considering items that could be eliminated from next year's budget.
   Mayo said the elimination of wrestling would save $5,500 and cutting cross country would save $4,500. "None of these things are set," he added, as board members noted they had not even begun the budgeting process.
   Mayo said he had eyed the vo-tech program for elimination because of the amount of money it cost and the relatively few students it serves. "I look at Vo-Tech and I'm paying $50,000 a year," he said. "This benefits 15 students for 2 1/2 hours a day.
   A representative of Crowder College, where Diamond students take Vo-Tech classes, spoke of the benefits the program offers students, while parents who were at the meeting to protest the possiblie elimination of Vo-Tech said it was providing their children with the opportunity to receive training and be able to land full scholarships to Crowder, possibilities that would vanish if Vo-Tech lands on the cutting floor after the final budget is prepared.
   Proponents of wrestling and cross country were just as vocal, pointing out that some of the financial cost could be absorbed through grants and through the Booster Club.
   Wrestling Coach Joe Douglas offered another solution to cut costs, saying he would not charge the district anything to coach next year. "I'll take the pay cut to keep the program," he said.
   In other action, the board:
   -Heard from High School Principal Robert Blizzard that he, Middle School Principal Denise Mounts, and Elementary Principal Deanna Yokley, had decided to forego pay raises and have the money put toward increasing teacher salaries.
   -Heard from Ms. Mounts that 38 percent of the middle school students made the third quarter honor roll.
   -Heard from Special Education Coordinator Rita Coburn that the district's special education programs were found to be in full compliance following a recent inspection by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
   -Heard from Athletic Director Eddie Jones that Bubby Farley had made the All Ozark 8 Conference golf team.
   -Watched a presentation from eighth grader Alicia Bradley and seventh grader Kasey Hockman, who recently qualified for National History Day competition, which will be held next month at the University of Maryland.
   -Approved paying the district's share of Career Ladder money following a presentation by Professional Development Committee member Nancy Berry.
   -Accepted the resignations of elementary teacher Janice Stirewalt, who is retiring after 29 years in the district, Dustin Miller as middle school boys basketball coach, and Penny Brashear as an elementary aide and bus driver.
   -Approved Mayo's promotion of Harold Bridges to head of maintenance and the custodial staff. Mayo noted that there would be "no raises, only additional duties."
   -Watched Mayo give a detailed explanation of the district's budget woes. Mayo said the district could legally increase the tax levy from $2.75 per $100 assessed valuation to $3.13 through board action.
   -Heard a brief presentation from eighth graders Michelle Nickolaisen and Zach Towers about the SWAT (Students Working to Advance Technology) team. The group, which is headed by Miss Nickolaisen and consists of eight eighth graders, has been designing a website for elementary students, working on a prototype website for the Diamond R-4 School District, and has been helping with Wildcat Central.

   Diamond High School sophomore Anthony Shipman recorded a perfect 36 in his reading score on the ACT, High School Principal Robert Blizzard told the Diamond R-4 Board of Education at its Thursday, May 8, meeting.
   Shipman, the son of Jerry and Cathy Shipman, received a composite score of 34, with his lowest score, a 30, coming in math.
   "He wants to take the test again," Blizzard said. "Thirty-four isn't good enough for him. His composites are the highest I have seen here," the principal added.

   The seventh grade will be headed for the Jones Center in Arkansas Wednesday celebrating their second semester Project CAT victory.
   After leading for most of the second semester, the seventh graders fell behind the hustling sixth grade during the first part of the last week of competition, but staged a comeback, thanks to numerous student-initiated volunteer activities during the final days.
   The final point totals were: Seventh Grade 1249, Sixth Grade 1094, Eighth Grade 596.
   The annual MAP tests were completed April 17 at Diamond Middle School. Seventh graders took four days worth of tests in communication arts, while eighth graders took math tests for three days.
   This year was the first year in which the students did not take science or social studies tests. The state stopped paying for the tests this year because of budgetary problems. The Diamond R-4 School District elected not to pay for them out of district funds.

Seventh grader Eli Hicks enjoys the recent honor roll trip.

   The third quarter honor roll has been released at Diamond Middle School.
   Those making the list were:
   Eighth Grade- Alicia Bradley, Amanda Brashear, Carrie Castor, Alex Chavana, Ryan Clouse, Kacie Cooper, Katie Dodson, Jake Edge, Shane Gallagher, Cameron Harrington, Jackie Lasater, Clint Myers, Michelle Nickolaisen, Clay Norwood, Lydia O'Donnell, Kevin Ortega, Leanne Ross, Alyssa Simpson, Spencer Snow, Zach Towers.
   Seventh Grade- Jennifer Buening, Ron Byrd, Lacey Carneal, Caitlin Carter, Amanda Cupp, David Dodson, Tim Enayati, Levi Forest, Cody Harris, Kelsey Henson, Eli Hicks, Kasey Hockman, Lee Hollars, Jayma King, Laureano Kuri, Krystal Morgan, Amanda Morris, Cody Palmer, Kaci Scribner, Tanner Seward, Courtney Sweet, Sarah Sweet, Stephanie Taylor, Michael Turner, Courtney Wall, Rebecca Warthen, Jessica Webb, Kayla Webb. 
   Sixth Grade- Eris Baker, Jason Beckett, Josh Bentley, Skylar Callis, Sheena Chung, Whitney Cosby, Garrett Cox, Chris Cupp, Emily Edge, Lindsey Gilbert, Toshia Grissom, Macy Harp, Garrett James, Rikki Jump, Sharon Keefer, Zack Kettner, Crystal Lane, Kirsten Lee, Samantha Morgan, Ashley Nickolaisen, Samantha Olson, Shaela Smith, Brett Starr, Michael Testerman.


The resignation of Mrs. Rachael Madden, sixth and seventh grade social studies teacher and high school girls basketball coach, was accepted by the Diamond R-4 Board of Education at its June 12 meeting. Mrs. Madden is shown with three of her seventh grade students, Shala Bass, Jessica Adkins, and Tim Enayati.
Diamond Daily photo by Sarah Sweet

Memories of the 2002-2003 School Year

Ozark 8 Math and Science

2003 History Day

Second Quarter Honor Roll Trip

Basketball Homecoming

Project CAT 7th Grade Lock-In

Student Council

Project CAT 8th Grade Lock-In

Student Council Fall Dance


Eighth grader Spencer Snow won the Chess Club Tournament May 24 after school in Mrs. Renee Jones's classroom. He defeated classmate Shane Gallagher in the championship match. Others who participated in the tournament were: Chris Dalgleish, Raymond Tapp, Daniel Testerman, and Gram Boman


Mr. Larry Augustine, left, received the Diamond Gem Award for excellence in teaching at the middle school level. Mr. Augustine's accomplishments were noted at the Diamond High School Graduation ceremony Friday night, though a few were left out including his guidance of the DMS Academic Team to 10 consecutive Ozark 8 titles, the numerous rock 'n' roll shows he put on over the years and the auctions he held which enabled students who had earned points throughout the school year to bid for prizes. Mr. Augustine is shown with his conference champion academic team. Front row, from left, Michelle Nickolaisen, Daniel Stone, Lacey Carneal, Jake Edge, Alex Chavana; back row, Mr. Augustine, Shane Gallagher, Chase Sexson, Alicia Bradley, Zach Towers, and Mr. Randy Turner, assistant academic team sponsor.
Neosho Daily News photo

   Two retiring teachers were among those who were presented with Diamond Gem Awards during the Diamond High School commencement ceremonies Friday, May 16.
   Janice Stirewalt, who has taught in the elementary school for 29 years; and Larry Augustine, middle school math teacher, and a teacher in the R-4 system for 22 years were honored. Stirewalt recently submitted her resignation to the Board of Education. Augustine has indicated he will do the same.
   The Gem Award recipient for the high school was band instructor Rob Lundien. Lundien has been in the Diamond system for the past three years.
   Nine DMS students were named cheerleaders for the 2003-2004 school year following tryouts last week.
   Those selected were: Lacey Carneal, captain; Kelsey Henson, co-captain; both of whom will be eighth graders, Lindsey Gilbert, Hannah Hoyer, Eris Baker, Sheena Chung, Samantha Olson, Hannah Carr, and Cierra Gravett, all seventh graders.
   The Diamond Wildcat Pride bands held their spring concert Sunday, May 4, in the DHS commons area.
   The Jazz Band, Sixth Grade Beginning Band, Seventh Grade Concert Band; and High School Wildcat Pride Concert Band all performed under the direction of Mr. Rob Lundien.
   Pre-concert entertainment was provided by the instrumentalists who received one ratings at the District Music Festival at Missouri Southern State College in Joplin. Dezarae Powers performed a flute solo, followed by the clarinet quartet, Erica Welch, Tosha Loyd, Kacie Cooper and Amy Cokerham; and a flute trio consisting of Dezarae Powers, Renee Forest and Lendi Stirewalt.
   The High School Jazz Band performed four numbers, with featured solos from David Forest, trombone; James Riediger, trumpet; Matt Harp, guitar; Justin DeGonia, bass guitar; Luke Hockman, alto sax; Greg Dodson, trumpet; Spencer Snow, trumpet; and Clint Myers, trombone.
   Top honors received by band members during the 2002-2003 school year were noted including:
   SMSU Band's Alive- Luke Hockman, Kasey Hockman, Morgan Fickle, Alicia Bradley, Alex Chavana.
   MSSC Homecoming Parade- DHS Band, first place in class, best band overall.
   All District High School Honor Band- Luke Hockman, fourth chair alto saxophone.
   Central Missouri State University Honor Wind Symposium- Krystle Allan, Renee Forest, Dezi Powers
   All District Junior High Honor Band- Levi Forest, Lauri Kuri, Mike Waddell, David Dodson, Gram Boman, Harrison George, Alicia Bradley, Spencer Snow.
   NEO High School Band Festival- Flute trio, Dezi Powers, Renee Forest, Lendi Stirewalt, 1+ rating; clarinet quartet, 2 rating; Krystle Allan, flute solo, 2 rating.
   Monett Middle School Band Festival- Seventh grade flute trio, Crystal Harrall, Kasey Hockman, Kelsey Henson, 1 rating; Spencer Snow, trumpet solo, 1 rating; Ray Tapp, trumpet solo, 1 rating; Alyssa Simpson, flute solo, 1 rating; Jake Edge, sax solo, 1 rating.
   Drury University Jazz Festival- DHS Jazz Band, three 1 ratings; first place in Class 2A, Justin DeGonia, outstanding soloist in Class 2A. International Association of Jazz Educators Solo Certificates were awarded to: Luke Hockman, Matt Harp, Greg Dodson, and James Riediger.
   Missouri State High School Activities Association- DHS Concert Band, four 1 ratings; overall composite score, state honor 1 rating (second year in a row).
   District Solo and Ensemble Festival- State qualifiers, Dezarae Powers, flute solo, 1 rating; flute trio, 1 rating; clarinet quartet, 1 rating. Those earning 2 ratings were: Lendi Stirewalt, flute solo; Renee Forest, flute solo; Krystle Allan, flute solo; and Luke Hockman, alto sax solo.
   Members of Sixth Grade Beginning Band are:
   Flutes- Karie Baldwin, Karen Bass, Lindsey Gilbert, Cierra Gravett, Chelsea Scribner.
   Clarinets- Hannah Carr, Whitney Cosby, Emily Edge, Amber Hankins, Kirsten Lee, Samantha Olson, Shaela Smith, Brittany Riggs, Dakota Vincent.
   Alto saxes- J. J. Basinger, Travis Goodwin, Hannah Hoyer, Crystal Lane, Ashley Nickolaisen, Cassie Sharon.
   Tenor saxophone- Seth Cronister.
   Trumpets- Eris Baker, James Cook, Garrett Cox, Trevor Devins, Macy Harp, Samantha Morgan, Bellamy Moss, Michael Testerman, Katelin VanLue
   Trombones- Joshua Bentley, Emily Iceberg-Sewell, Zack Kettner, Houston Lietzke, Ethan Lucas, Cameron Scribner
   Baritone- Derek Paradeis
   Percussion- Jason Beckett, Chris Cupp, Jonathan Eaves, Sami Holmes, Garrett James, Jared Miller.
   Members of the Seventh Grade Concert Band are:
   Flutes- Crystal Harrall, Kelsey Henson, Kasey Hockman, Becca Warthen
   Clarinets- Lacey Carneal, Caitlin Carter, Cassi Cullum, Tonya Loyd, Zach Manley, Courtney Wall, Kaycee Watts
   Bass clarinets- Brad Morris, Ben Taylor
   Alto saxes- Jessica Adkins, Morgan Fickle
   Tenor sax- Gram Boman
   Baritone sax- Lee Hollars
   Trumpets- Jennifer Dial, Eli Hicks, Amanda Morris, Cody Sales, Jessica Webb
   Trombones- David Dodson, Levi Forest, Devin Greenwood, Lauri Kuri, Mike Waddell
   Baritone- Daniel Jones
   Tuba- Harrison George
   Percussion- Amanda Cupp, Tim Enayati, Isaac McLees, Cody Palmer
   Members of the High School Concert Band are:
   Flutes- Krystle Allan, Renee Forest, Dezarae Powers, Alyssa Simpson, Lendi Stirewalt
   Clarinets- Heather Atler, Alicia Bradley, Robin Bullis, Alex Chavana, Amy Cokerham, Kacie Cooper, Tosha Loyd, Erica Welch
   Bass clarinets- Courtney Ching, Bob Taylor, Daniel Stone
   Alto saxes- Jake Edge, Cameron Harrington, Cheryl Johnson
   Tenor saxes- Taunie Brewer, Susan Johnson
   Baritone sax- Luke Hockman
   Trumpets- Sarah Hoffman, James Riediger, Spencer Snow, Ray Tapp
   Trombones- David Forest, Clint Myers, Mark Neidert, David Spry, Daniel Testerman
   Baritone- Greg Dodson, Scott Gill
   Tuba- Justin DeGonia
   Percussion- Ryan Clouse, Graham Cox, Charles Forest, Paul Holland, Michael Lane, Jake Newsum, Saori Yamamatsu
   Members of the High School Jazz Band are:
   Saxophones- Luke Hockman, Cheryl Johnson, Cameron Harrington, Erica Welch, Susan Johnson, Taunie Brewer, Jake Edge
   Trombones- David Forest, Mark Neidert, Clint Myers, David Spry, Daniel Testerman
   Trumpets- James Riediger, Greg Dodson, Spencer Snow, Sarah Hoffman, Ray Tapp
   Rhythm- Dezarae Powers, Renee Forest, Justin DeGonia, Matt Harp, Paul Holland, Graham Cox


Seventh grader Kasey Hockman and eighth grader Alicia Bradley showed the video they made for the recent History Day competition to members of the Diamond R-4 Board of Education May 8. Miss Hockman and Miss Bradley won the state title and will compete at National History Day at the University of Maryland next month.

Debate champ
Sixth grader Samantha Olson recently captained a debate team in current issues.