We learn them from our parents (hopefully) even before pre-school: ‘a penny saved is a penny earned;’ and ‘penny wise but pound-foolish;’ and other such penny-pinching proverbs.
‘If we drive to six different grocery stores to get the best bargains on everything we buy, with gasoline so expensive, that’s penny-wise and pound-foolish.’
And if we send six Clover Park School Board members (five plus the Superintendent) to five (and counting) National School Board Association annual conferences, with another expensive levy looming on the ballot horizon, are the travel-related expenses penny-wise or pound-foolish?
The practice of being extremely watchful, exceedingly careful, and otherwise exceptionally, excessively, and extraordinarily frugal even to the extent of cheeseparing miserliness – demonstrating a radical reluctance to spend taxpayer money – should apply as much to travels by Clover Park School District (CPSD) Board members as it does to the travails of teachers in the classrooms.
In both cases, classroom and boardroom, “communicating fiscal responsibility and effective resource stewardship” pertains (CPSD Board Goals and Expectations #3, board minutes, November 25, 2014).
CPSD board members perennially, and unanimously, have approved spending department funds for the entirety of their board, including the Superintendent, to hobnob with others of similar profession at the annual three-day confabs of the National School Board Association (NSBA).
According to school board minutes, in the last five years these events were hosted in: San Francisco (2011); Boston (2012); San Diego (2013); New Orleans (2014); and this coming March 21-23, 2015: Nashville, home of the Grand Ole Opry and the 75th Anniversary of the NSBA conference.
Let’s say (since my February 1st request for public records detailing the expenditures for the above conferences has not been acknowledged by the CPSD, nor has my email ‘to whom it may concern’ at NSBA headquarters to persuade me otherwise given my opposition to our school board attending; and since March 6th is the deadline for any hope of cancellation to be received in writing – although a $125 nonrefundable fee per registrant would be incurred) that all five local school board members and the Superintendent will fly out next month to Music City.
And why wouldn’t they given the NSBA promo: “Nashville Attractions & Tours – from historical landmarks, fabulous eats, great views, honkytonks, symphony halls and fine art museums, you are sure to get the true Nashville experience at the 2015 NSBA Annual Conference. See all the attractions Nashville has to offer.”
Here are the rates per board member.
Airfare, say with Alaska, round trip: $500.
Lodging: 32 hotels are listed on the NSBA website with an average single occupancy of $199.72/night. Arriving the 20th and leaving the 23rd equals three nights: $600.
Shuttle from the airport, roundtrip: $20.
Full conference registration: $895.
Pre-conference workshops not included in the full conference registration: $320.
Visiting the Grand Ole Opry, an educational event hosted by the NSBA: $155.
Tour the Nissan Plant: $140.
Meals. Since these are not likely to be sack lunches nor consumed in hotel rooms equipped with kitchens, estimated for the three days: $100.
Total, even conservatively rounding off and skipping the tours of the Opry and the Nissan Factory: $2,450 per board member.
Multiply by five school board members and the Superintendent: $15,000.
Do this every year for the last five years: nearly $100,000.
Benefit to the CPSD? According to a perusal of the school district board minutes: Unknown.
There was this though.
When culinary students at one of the local high schools traveled to the other Washington for the privilege of cooking with none other than the White House Chef, they paid their travel costs through student fundraisers, donations, foundations, corporate/business sponsorships and were out-of-their-own-pockets for the rest.
When local teachers took advantage of opportunities made available to them for training on topics such as “sexual misconduct, boundary invasion, bullying, reports to child protective services, et.” they traveled as far as their school (maybe home) computers and online obtained the necessary tools to advance their skills.
“An added benefit,” per the school district report for this in-house educational experience, “is that this also allows the district to easily track and document the training.”
Yet in every set of minutes of the CPSD Board of Directors, while there is a section entitled “Written Reports for Board Review,” no reports were found documenting board member’s takeaways from having been hither and yon.
Nearly two-years ago to this day, a certain U.S. Senator kept close tabs on expenditures for things as small as “paper and ink cartridges – everything we buy.” In one year through thus frugal operation of his office, and in keeping with a campaign promise, Rand Paul, R-Ky, returned $600,000 to the U.S. Treasury.
“‘It’s not an enormous savings,’ he said, but the savings would add up, if purse strings were so closely watched throughout government.’”
This past February 2nd, a Wisconsin treasurer was reported in the New York Times as likewise having made good on a campaign promise to eliminate needless government waste – everything from “tiny blue plastic piggy banks with the department’s name printed on the side” to in fact recommending his own job be terminated.
How much could $2,450 buy – the cost of just one board member to attend the Diamond Anniversary of the NSBA? It would buy, as just one example, the priceless memories of 24 seven-and-eight-year-old boys, registered and fully uniformed, to run around the baseball diamond in the PONY league – Protect Our Nation’s Youth.
And it could buy votes.
When the CPSD nutrition staff won second place in the annual February Chamber Cook Off for its chili recipe, it was on the eve of the vote the last time the district placed its four-year levy on the ballot in 2012. Next year, in 2016, according to district board minutes, “the school district will likely place a four-year maintenance and operations replacement levy on the ballot. Already the board plans to activate its facilities advisory committee and citizens committee as it considers additional school construction bonds to upgrade schools in the future.”
But as with the fine cook’s chili entry entitled “Every Vote Counts,” as regards the financial books:
So does every penny.