By Emily Younker
JOPLIN, Mo. —
C.J. Huff, superintendent of Joplin schools, has been named Missouri’s Superintendent of the Year.
The award, given by the Missouri Association of School Administrators, was announced Saturday at the group’s annual conference at Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach.
Huff received the award along with a commemorative ring and a $500 scholarship to be given to a Joplin student. He will represent Missouri in the National Superintendent of the Year program of the American Association of School Administrators.
In a news release announcing Huff’s award, the state association noted Huff’s role in leading the Joplin School District through the aftermath of the May 2011 tornado, which damaged or destroyed several school buildings and deeply affected many students, faculty and staff.
State Sen. Ron Richard, who nominated Huff for the award, said Huff’s leadership after the tornado was the primary reason he submitted the superintendent’s name for recognition.
“Sometimes great people are created by the circumstances around them,” he said.
Richard said he was particularly impressed with Huff’s determination to begin the 2011-12 school year on time, less than three months after the tornado, despite the loss of at least five buildings. An empty warehouse and a vacant section of Joplin’s mall were among the buildings that have been turned into temporary schools.
“When you have what happened in Joplin, and then you have those hurdles that seem insurmountable and the decision you have to make on the fly, not everyone can do that,” Richard said. “We were lucky that the school board had someone who was capable of that.”
The state association also noted Huff’s efforts to launch the community-based program Bright Futures, which partners schools with businesses, faith-based groups and relief agencies to meet students’ basic needs. Bright Futures is credited with reducing the district’s dropout rate and amassing more than 1,000 volunteers who have donated 5,000 hours of service, according to the release.
“That would in itself be worthy of recognition, for the superintendent of schools to try to do something with kids that have a tougher time getting through the process, getting education,” Richard said.
Richard said nominating Huff was “an easy choice” to make.
“It was easy to recommend someone (who is) a good guy and someone who has the leadership ability that few other districts have,” he said. “I think we’re very fortunate.”
C.J. Huff has been superintendent of Joplin schools since July 2008. He previously served as superintendent of the Eldon School District, and as a principal in the Nixa and Springfield districts.