From the time I became a member of the school board and began looking at the budget, one of the expenditures that really jumped out at me was Travel. Line items within the budget labeled "Travel" are for reimbursement to school employees for employment related travel expenses.
In all fairness, with all the new requirements mandated on the state and federal level, teachers and administrators are required to participate in continuing education and should be reimbursed for their expenses.
This years budget contains $124,461.00 for travel reimbursements. If you add funding in the budget labeled as "In Service/Staff Development", which is also used mostly for travel expenses, that brings the total to $187,811.00. As you can see, there is a lot of money going for travel expenses. The debate this time is just how much should tax payers have to pay to send school board members on expensive trips.
This years budget included $13,000.00 for school board members to travel on. The board was asked by the director to add an additional $13,000.00 to this budget. According to Mr. Vance, we, the board, have had more board members taking trips than in the past and the additional 13k would be needed to cover the remainder of the year if board members wanted to take more trips and have an out of town retreat.
I'll be the first to admit that there are board members who could use extra training but why is it the place of the tax payers to foot the bill for that training. Why can't board members pay for their own training if they feel it's so necessary and important?
$26,000.00 is a lot of money. I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to find places in our schools where that money could be better spent. After all, isn't it all about the little children?
Board nixes retreat: Sets aside additional funds for member training
The idea of Loudon County Board of Education members taking an offsite retreat led to a lot of discussion Thursday night.
"While I do believe it is a beneficial thing for this board to learn to work together better, I do not believe that this is the best use of these funds," said Robert Scheffer, a parent who attended the regular monthly meeting.
But he had a few ideas how the board could find money for a retreat.
"If you feel a retreat is valuable or required, then may I suggest you as a board do a fund-raiser like our schools are having to do," he said. "Maybe you can cut box tops, sell discount cards, sell coupon books or have a walkathon."
He said his personal favorite was a carnival, where each board member would take turns in a dunking booth.
"As you all well know, I'm probably the strongest fiscal hawk here," Van Shaver, BOE member, said. "I have a serious problem with this travel stuff. In my view, an awful lot of it is pork and wasted money."
Shaver said if the board moved the entire $13,000 saved from not having to hire a new teacher into the BOE budget, it would have $26,000 at its disposal.
Director of Schools Jason Vance said in order for the board get training in Nashville for the Tennessee School Board Association, and all of the other travel that is planned to happen this year, there needed to be at least an additional $7,000 to $8,000 moved into the BOE travel expenses line item. As far as the retreat is concerned, Vance said an additional $5,000 or $6,000 would be needed.
"I don't think there's a one of them sitting here, myself including, that if I want to go take some training, I can't pay for it myself," Shaver said.
Shaver wasn't alone.
"If I have to start a fund-raiser to get (to the training), that's what I'll do," Craig Simon, board member, said. He added that there was no way he was going to vote for the additional $13,000.
Gary Ubben, board member, said the board desperately needs the training.
"Under TSBA there are a series of training activities they recommend to stay as a board in good standing," he said. "There are two parts of this, the training we go through and ... the retreat. I'm willing at this point to go back on the retreat."
Bobby Johnson Jr. said he felt the board needed the TSBA training.
"I went this year and with every change that's coming down the pike, it's getting tough to understand unless you're there asking questions," he said. "I don't stay at the Marriott with the hot tub ... I'm going to work. ... I'm elected to try to do the best that I can."
"Standards have changed," he said, explaining why he felt it was necessary for board members to attend the training sessions.
The final decision was to move an additional $8,000 in the BOE travel line.
In other business, board members:
• Made changes to Funds 142 and 143. The board moved funds around within the approved budget in anticipation of expenses. According to Chad Presley, business manager for the schools, Fund 142 has to be approved by the state.
• Re-elected Scott Newman board chairman.
• Elected William Jenkins vice chairman.
• Approved Newman, Jenkins, Ric Best and Lisa Rusell as delegates to the Tennessee Legislative Network.
• Nominated Leroy Tate for the C. Hal Henard Distinguished Service Award.
• Approved six non-faculty coaches. They were Kent Russell (Loudon High girls volleyball), Jackie Lefler (Loudon High boys basketball), Adam Cook (Loudon High girls soccer), Chris Johnson (North Middle girls soccer), Michael Davis (Philadelphia soccer) and Christy Russell (Philadelphia girls basketball).
• Granted permission for E-911 to use Loudon County Technical Center.