Kansas Media Watchdog Attacks JCCC Educator's Salary, Then Backtracks

Aug 18, 2017

A Johnson County Community College instructor who teaches welding for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad was attacked in an editorial in The Sentinel, a self-described media watchdog. The editorial suggested her six-figure salary was connected to her race and gender.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

An online news site that says it "holds government and mainstream media accountable" attacked an instructor at Johnson County Community College Thursday, suggesting her six-figure salary was related to her gender and race.

The Sentinel, created this year by the libertarian Kansas Policy Institute (KPI), wrote an editorial about salaries at JCCC. The editorial called out a welding instructor named Mioishi Neal-Stovall for making $134,353 last year. The editorial went on to say, "That Neal-Stovall is a female and a minority may have something to do with her salary, but if so, this is not something JCCC administration would be quick to admit."

At some point, that line was edited out of the piece. But not before someone running for the JCCC Board of Trustees spotted it and sent out a news release.

"I am disgusted the Sentinel will single out one professor in what appears to be a racist, sexist attack," Angeliina Lawson wrote. "The Sentinel owes Professor Neal-Stovall, JCCC, and Kansas women and minorities a retraction and an apology."

The editorial was written by Jack Cashill, who is also executive editor of Ingram’s Magazine. Cashill has also written books promoting various conspiracy theories, including that TWA Flight 800, which crashed in 1996 after takeoff from JFK airport, was shot down by a missile. 

Cashill did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

However, Dave Trabert, President of KPI and a board member of The Sentinel, did respond. He said the line about Neal-Stovall's race and gender was "unnecessary speculation" and "inappropriate." 

The line about Neal-Stoval's race and gender was edited out but here is a cached version of the piece.
Credit The Sentinel

As it turns out, The Sentinel editorial was not entirely right about how Neal-Stovall is paid.

"The most surprising employees on the top end of the JCCC payroll are the welding trainers," Cashill wrote.

While that's technically correct, JCCC is "fully reimbursed" by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, says college spokesman Chris Gray.

BNSF trains hundreds of welders, mechanics and engineers at its facility on the JCCC campus. Gray says BNSF instructors earn a base salary, but if demand for their course goes up, they make more money. That would account for the 21 percent pay increase Neal-Stovall received between 2016 and 2017.

Gray bristled at the suggestion that Neal-Stovall's salary had anything to do with her race. "JCCC prides itself for inclusiveness in every aspect of its being and the fact that this comment was even suggested is unfortunate and completely false," he says.

Neal-Stovall declined to comment.

In a profile in an online publication called The Fabricator in 2011, Neal-Stovall was described as starting out as a welder in 1977 at age 19 and becoming an instructor for BNSF in 2006.

"I came from poverty so we never had anything growing up. My goal was to make it somewhere in life," she told the publication.

Sam Zeff covers education for KCUR and the Kansas News Service and is co-host of the political podcast Statehouse Blend Kansas.