“How to deal with difficult people seminar” was one of the takeaways from the National School Board Association (NSBA) annual conference held last year in New Orleans, Louisiana, attended by four of the five members of the Clover Park School District Board of Directors (CPSD).
Count me among the difficult-people group as I have a hard time reconciling the expenditure of “department funds” – presumably tax-payer dollars – for such getaways.
“Financial awareness in the community” was also noted as noteworthy – a New Orleans new insight – according to a CPSD board member NSBA attendee.
Now that the results of a Public Disclosure Request (PDR) have been provided, the community can be made financially aware of what was spent and what was learned – the return on the investment – by your elected representatives to participate in these events.
Based upon figures made available on the NSBA website – conference fees, pre-conference fees, hotel fares, plane tickets, meals, tours, etc. – a previous article “Pinching Pennies for Education” estimated $2,450 would be spent per board member at the upcoming 75th Anniversary of the NSBA conference in Nashville.
Low, but close.
The estimate supplied by the school district places the total at $10,310 or $2,577.50 per board member with four of the five evidently planning not to cancel after all – which they can do by March 6 incurring a $125 conference cancellation fee.
Accounting for the $127.50 (the difference between $2,450 – my earlier estimate, and $2,577.50 – the school district’s) could be the inclusion of the cost charged to tour the Nissan Factory which the NSBA Nashville committee is promoting.
You can read who spent what at the San Francisco (2011), Boston (2012), San Diego (2013), and New Orleans (2014) NSBA confabs, in addition to who is estimated to spend what at the Diamond Anniversary of the NSBA in Nashville, home of the Grand Ole Opry.
You can also peruse their feedback forms, the completion of which is required by school district policy.
In the last four years (2011-2014), a total of 14 school board members flew about the country learning this and that. Six (6) completed questionnaires were included in response to the PDR that sought “copies of written conference follow-up reports by attending board members.”
In the few forms submitted, “accountability” is a reoccurring theme of stuff learned at these across-the-country junkets.
A presentation on “bullying” was offered at the Boston conference which one of the school board members found informative. Local teachers, not privileged to travel hither and yon, learn about bullying online – as well as “sexual misconduct, boundary invasion, reports to child protective services, et.” – an in-house educational experience that “allows the district to easily track and document the training.”
Another board member reported he’d like to learn more about “teaching math based on students mastering a skill before moving on to the next level.”
You can. Here. At the Kahn Academy. And so can teachers and parents. It’s free. And not only can you discover how to add and subtract and other complicated math computations, you can “learn for free about art, computer programming, economics, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, finance, history, and more,” per the website.
Online, at home, in front of your own computer thus saving thousands of taxpayer dollars that would otherwise be spent for travel, main conference fees, pre-conference fees which are not included in the main conference fees, etc.
Is financially underwriting 14 board members to attend five national conferences (research based on just the last four years and the one upcoming) totaling $44,606.75 for which six feedback forms were submitted – is this really in keeping with the best-bang-for-the-buck educational dollar the latter of which is often touted at levy time?
You’ll evidently have that opportunity to answer that question in 2016 when “the school district will likely place a four-year maintenance and operations replacement levy on the ballot.”
Image source: “Teaching your kids how to be financially responsible.”
I do believe that we might possibly have an opportunity to replace some of those school board members in 2015.
Betsy Tainer says
Once again… THANK YOU David Anderson.
Dave Shaw says
If the same people run unopposed, this kind of thing will continue. If newly elected people do not choose to attend costly “field trips” then, of course, they’re not a “team player”. I wonder how much “value” there would be in attending if the cost came from their own pockets?
Greg Horn says
When I first read David Anderson’s comment I agreed with him, but after thinking it over, I strongly disagree. The school board members oversee a huge business without pay. I don’t always agree with them, but if you had a company with a $140 million annual budget, wouldn’t you want your top managers as proficient as possible in their field? Think of it as continuing education for the management staff.
Betsy Tainer says
Let’s don’t forget that that’s public money. Wouldn’t it be better spent to send a pair of officers and have them share their knowledge and points of interest on their return?
David Anderson says
Thank you Gregory for presenting another viewpoint. Your observation about “school board members oversee(ing) a huge business without pay” initially seems to imply their attendance at the NSBA’s annual events should be a ‘perk’ or reward for their labors. However, when you add your valid point that top managers should be “as proficient as possible in their field” I, at that juncture, most wholeheartedly concur. However, “continuing education” the national conferences are not. Certainly not the best bank for the professional development buck.
Hopefully you perused the attached PDF in the article supplied by the school district. It is at best a stretch to read the very few one page takeaways (six in all by a total of 14 school board members over a four year span) and call that continuing education. Especially when, for example, the seminar on dealing with difficult people that one of the school board members reported as helpful is the subject of a book by Robert M Branson entitled “Coping with Difficult People.” It’s available for $5.49 at Wal-Mart just down the street from the CPSD administration building where the school board meets.