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Waste in BoE travel
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Editor, Last month, I shared with citizens the waste of money our local board of education members have dedicated to school buildings that we do not currently need. In this letter, I wish to give details of another area of wasteful spending by our elected board of education members. The reason I say elected board members is because the school board members must vote on how funds are spent, even though these items are presented by the superintendent of schools.
The next area of wasteful spending is money approved and spent for travel. On Oct. 4, 5 and 6, two central office staff members and elected school board members will travel to Washington, D.C., for a conference. Oct. 5 and 6 are furlough days for all employees. The July 28, Liberty County School System board minutes stated that travel to Washington, for Oct. 4-6 was approved for Mary Alexander, Jason Rogers and an unlimited number of school board members.
Our school board members voted to take a trip the same day they voted to furlough all staff for three days during the first semester of the school year. While teaching staff lose their pay, our tax dollars will pay airfare, hotel, rental car or taxi service, food and other expenses for anywhere from two to nine people to travel for three days to Washington.
At the Aug. 11 board meeting, board members voted for six people from the finance/personnel department at the central office to travel to Orlando, Fla., for a conference from Oct. 25-28. During the same month that school system staff members are being docked pay, our tax dollars will spend money for eight to 15 central office/school board members to take trips.
Our elected school board officials clearly have no concern about money or respect for the people working to teach, assure safety, clean up after, or feed our county’s children. How can there be money for adult travel here in Liberty County when other school systems have had to completely cut transportation for their students because of the budget cuts in the state?
Hopefully, we will soon read a report from the current grand jury that will tell us how many millions of dollars are now in the reserve bank for the system. After all, not only are they cutting the salaries for the 3 percent return to the state budget, but they are also hoarding federal and local money that pays salaries for staff not funded by the state. You see, our central office and elected board members decided to furlough all staff not just the staff whose salaries are supplied by the state and, of course, they are banking money by not having to pay everyone’s local supplement for the three days.
There is a school board policy that addresses the number of professional learning trips and days that a teacher may take. However, our tax dollars pay for trips made by central office staff and boards members that far exceed the number of days a teacher is allowed for workshops.
Many times, six or more of the central office staff and school board members may travel out of state to attend the same conference. There are secretaries at the central office that attend more days of workshops/training during a school year than a teacher is allowed.
In order for schools to afford to send teachers to workshops within the budget allotted by the central office, the teachers must share rooms when staying overnight. There are times spouses of school board members and central office staff have made trips, creating situations where rooms cannot be shared. In June 2008, a central office staff member was approved to go to Hawaii for seven days. His spouse went along.
I wish I could encourage you to keep up with the board minutes and the number of trips our tax dollars are paying for. However, on the LCSS Web site, you will only see the out-of-state travel discussed and no indication of how often the central office staff and school board members are spending tax dollars to travel within Georgia.
Currently, students cannot take field trips unless the principal at the school pays the expense out of their school’s general fund. The cheerleaders, band and dancers cannot go to out-of-county athletic events this year unless the group that sponsors their program pays for the gas, the driver’s salary, etc. It is ridiculous that my tax dollars are paying for adults to go on professional “vacation” trips but the students in our county cannot go on field trips or to out-of-county games after spending hundreds of dollars for uniforms, instruments and fees.
It is time for us to elect new people to our local school board. We need people who truly have the best interest of our children at the front of their spending, not people who see a position on the school board as a way to take out-of-state trips with their spouses or who are self-employed or work part-time and see the position as a way to get group insurance benefits and a salary. Yes, our school board members are salaried employees of the Liberty County School System. If you look at their meeting schedule on the Web site, you will see that the school board members have not furloughed themselves by canceling three board meetings and cutting their salaries by three meetings before Dec. 31. Remember, we can elect four new school board members, including a new school board chairman, in November 2010. Just how much do you value your hard-earned dollars? I value mine a lot.

Bucky Keel
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