Dr. C.J. Huff is the retired superintendent of Joplin Schools. His experiences as a superintendent, principal, teacher, and farmer all helped prepare him for the formidable responsibility of leading Joplin Schools through an unexpected disaster recovery effort.
At 5:41 p.m. on May 22, 2011, less than an hour after the completion of graduation ceremonies, an EF-5 tornado with winds in excess of 100 mph ripped through the heart of Joplin. As a result, six of his schools were destroyed and four others were damaged. Most tragically 161 members of the Joplin community suddenly lost their lives in the disaster including 7 of his students and a staff member.
Within 48 hours of the aftermath of the costliest tornado in U.S. History, now known as “The Joplin Tornado,” Dr. Huff and his team of educators promised to reopen schools on time on August 17, 2011 – just 87 days after the disaster. The school community of Joplin immediately got behind the effort. With a constant focus on what was best for kids, the end result of that commitment was making good on that promise.
As a speaker, C.J. tells his inspirational story of tragedy and triumph with humor, emotion, and sincerity. C.J. has been recognized by People’s Magazine as a “Hero Among Us” and was named the Missouri Superintendent of the year in 2012 and one of four finalists for the National Superintendent of the Year in 2013. C.J. currently serves as a Subject Matter Expert for the U.S. Department of Education and as a consultant for the not-for-profit organization Bright Futures USA. His passion for kids and community engagement remains steadfast through his on-going work with both of these organizations.