Updated 6:25PM on 4-8-2011
Incredulous as it may seem, our very own School Superintendent and some members of the Lee County Board of Education appear to have pulled a Wisconsin minority legislator stunt, and left the state for a more suitable educational environment– San Francisco, CA.
This is no joke! At a time when dollars are tight and virtually every public discussion laments the public school funding plight, we have six highly visible public officials schmoozing with the National School Board Association (NSBA) at the Moscone Center in the left coast’s favorite conference destination. http://annualconference.nsba.org/ac2011/public/enter.aspx
Total cost you ask? Well, the Herald originally reported the trip cost was $700. In truth, the costs are much higher: $318 airfare; $695 conference registration; $200 or so per night (plus tax and fees) at the Nikko 4-diamond Hotel; plus transportation, mileage and per diem on meals. Total cost per individual should be between $2000-$3000 for three days of immersion in non-mandated school board topics. http://hotelnikkosf.com/
Now, recent revelations about possibly losing Lee County middle school athletics brought a public outcry. I, too, was sympathetic. But then, we also learned that each of the three middle schools is only allotted around $8500 a year for their sports programs. If that’s the case, then this school board boondoggle to San Francisco just cost one or two of our three middle schools their total sports budget for the year. Seriously! I wonder how the parents of middle school athletes are feeling now? Just how real is our money problem if our most senior officials are comfortable taking such an expensive junket?
Frankly, this trip and its timing are inexcusable. At precisely the time when we’re all wringing our hands over cut-backs in public school funding, our tone deaf administrators (and reportedly, accompanied by some of their “friends”) are frolicking in the city of streetcars. While county commissioners, state legislators, and the NC Governor are hunkered down trying to find every nickel they can in savings, our elite K-12 Administrators are rubbing shoulders with the NEA and co-miserating with school board officials from across the country about their collective woes. Golly gee, I sure hope the NSBA had the foresight to supply suitably monogramed crying towels! The Herald quotes Shawn Williams as saying the trip is necessary for required annual training for Board members; however this also isn’t accurate. Their mandatory training can be accomplished closer to home at a much lower cost and AFTER the budget crisis passes.
Here are a few other little known facts about this conference. First, many of the conference materials are available for download directly from the conference site– in advance of the proceedings. Moreover, 4-1/2 hours of the general conference presentations, including Condi Rice’s keynote address, are available for FREE streaming off the website. (Yes, I registered for free, and I will be watching some of these talks myself at no cost to Lee County taxpayers.) So, you may be asking, why would one need to travel to San Francisco, lose two days or more of work, and charge Lee County taxpayers over $12,000 if they can get most of the same information from the comfortable confines of their offices? Good question!
An even better question, why is Jeff Moss attending? This is a School Board Association function. Last time I checked, Moss was a Superintendent, not an elected official. Maybe I missed a memo somewhere and Dr. Moss has now become an honorary school board official. After all, he pulls their strings anyway. Now that I think about it, his “crew” only seems to be capable of doing what he tells them to do. Given that fact, perhaps he needs to be there in San Francisco to ensure Tatum, Williams, Smith, Smith and Akinosho get to all the meetings and briefings he has mapped out for them.
A shout out to Republican School Board Members Cameron Sharpe and John Bonardi, the two local school board officials who grasped the significance of how the public might perceive this travel. Both Bonardi and Sharpe opted out of the conference and remained in Sanford while their counterparts fled the Lee County coop. Initial reports were that Pastor Mark Akinosho is paying his own way to attend the conference. According to theLCSS Public Information officer, though, he has left the taxpayer holding the bill. No self-respecting fiscal conservative would dare charge off that kind of money for an optional conference like this. It was also reported today that Bill Tatum is paying his own way for travel and attendance at the conference, and all but $295 of his registration fee. Can’t fault him for that. As for the rest– time will tell if they indeed have ‘stuck’ Lee County taxpayers for their weekend by the Bay.