C.J. Huff is a speaker working with Kirkland Productions through Safe & Sound Schools.
A native of rural McCune, Kansas, Dr. C.J. Huff earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Pittsburg State University, his Master and Specialist in Education from Missouri State University. Most recently he earned his Doctorate in Education with a focus in Educational Leadership from the University of Arkansas in 2003. He is the proud father of three children and has been married to his best friend, Jennifer, for over 20 years.
His wide range of experiences as a classroom teacher, building principal, and superintendent prepared him to lead his district of 1,100 employees and 7,700 students through the recovery effort that followed the most costly tornado in US History that ripped through the heart of Joplin, Missouri on May 22, 2011. This EF-5 tornado with winds in excess of 200 mph destroyed or damaged 10 of the 19 buildings in his district…leaving over half of his students without a school to return to on May 23. The Joplin community suffered loss more precious than the buildings though. In just 32 minutes that powerful storm killed 161 people and injured over 1,000 others including a staff member and seven students.
His commitment to school/community engagement in the years leading up to the disaster is credited with being a key factor that rallied the community of Joplin to efficiently and effectively support children and families impacted by the storm. His declaration that “We will start school on time” just days after the tornado provided a positive light for the community, the nation and the world to rally around Joplin’s children in the midst of such tragedy and destruction.
Since his retirement from public education in 2015, C.J. has remained committed to supporting the education and safety of all children. In addition to his role as founder of the national not-for-profit Bright Futures USA, Dr. Huff currently serves as a subject matter expert to the US Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students, the Missouri Center for Education Safety and other organizations across the country supporting leaders in the education and safety of our nation’s youth. Most recently he has served as the Senior Advisor for Education to the US Department of Health and Human Services as a part of the Hurricane Harvey long-term recovery effort.
Huff is well-respected by the community and his peers as a man of vision and a man that keeps his word. People magazine named him as one of their “2011 Heroes Among Us.” Other recognitions include the 2013 Missouri Superintendent of the Year award, 2012 Missouri National Education Association Horace Mann Award, National School Public Relations Association’s Bob Grossman Leadership in School Communications Award and the 2011 American School Board Journal Magna Award/Grand Prize Winner for Joplin’s Bright Futures initiative focusing on community engagement and drop-out prevention.
Community Engagement 2.0: A Whole Community Approach to Educating Our Children
In this 1-hour keynote, Dr. Huff will share an inspirational message of hope and provide proven strategies to engage your school community's "time, talent and treasure" to:
Create integrated systems of community support to meet any child's needs within 24 hours
Grow circles of influence to build community leadership and resource capacity
Give kids a chance to give back to their community in an intentional effort to grow a generation of children who clearly understand the ideal of service above self.
Our noble purpose as educators is not about test scores and should not be impacted by the politics of our time. Our noble purpose begins with good people coming together, finding common ground in our children, and working together to create new opportunities for children today that didn't exist yesterday. (Audience: All)
*This presentation can also be a 3-hour interactive workshop.
School Safety: Students First
This presentation, offered by several of our speakers and educators, is designed with students in mind. On our website, we offer a complimentary download of our Safe and Sound Youth Council Kit. This guide is designed to help 6th – 12th grade students, their parents, and their advisors take the first steps toward being a proactive part of the their school’s safety plan. For those schools and school districts who want to take the extra step, Safe and Sound Schools offers speakers who can assist in guidance and implementation, help launch the program, lead site walk-throughs, and ensure that you have all of the tools you need to institute safe school principles for all students. Each program is customized to the unique needs of that school’s community. Our presenters share their personal stories followed by a powerful call to action directing the youth of our nation to step up for school safety. As leaders and problem-solvers in their own right, our next generation is essential to our mission: safe and sound schools for all.
May 22, 2011—it was graduation day for over 400 seniors at Joplin High School. A day of great celebration. But Mother Nature had other plans. At 5:41pm a deadly EF-5 tornado touched down on the west side of Joplin destroying everything in its path. In times of crisis, real leaders step up. In this keynote Dr. Huff will provide a detailed accounting of the response and recovery of Joplin Schools following the most costly tornado in US History. His emotional and inspirational message highlights the importance of community-wide leadership, teamwork and a consistent focus on what’s best for children - no matter what. (Audience: All)
Crisis Happens: Lessons Learned the Hard Way
Crisis happens. In this 1 hr. keynote, Dr. Huff highlights lessons learned that are applicable to not just natural disasters, but also day-to-day crisis that often have devastating impacts on organizations. His key points highlight leadership examples and provide clear strategies around lessons learned regarding internal/external communications, development of pre-need relationships as well as effective leadership behaviors and leader self-care that are applicable to any challenge. This keynote is designed for today’s modern leader interested in creating a better prepared and more resilient leadership team and organization. (Audience: Leaders and Aspiring Leaders)
After all, a lot of you could’ve spent your senior year scattered throughout different schools, far from home. But Dr. Huff asked everyone to pitch in so that school started on time, right here in Joplin. He understood the power of this community, and the power of place.