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Teacher: Las Vegas trip no junket for instructors

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From page A4 | February 15, 2014 |

FAIRFIELD — Trips by teachers to Las Vegas, Nevada and Glendale, Ariz. have won approval from Fairfield-Suisun School District trustees.

The travel was part of the consent calendar, reserved for routine items, at Thursday’s board of trustees meeting, and was approved without comment.

Armijo High School teachers attending the Las Vegas conference at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino will go there to learn, said a teacher who writes about education.

James O’Keefe, a English teacher in Texas, said in a phone interview he distinguishes between classroom instructors and educational executives.

“I’m sure those teachers going to Las Vegas are not living high on the hog,” said O’Keefe.

But he added that companies putting on such conferences do well while facing little scrutiny.

“Nobody supervises what professional development providers do,” O’Keefe said. “There’s a lack of transparency.”

“I’m sure they make millions in taxpayer dollars,” he said.

It will cost $10,200 for the Fairfield-Suisun School District to send six teachers to the three-day Leadership Now conference. Assistant Principal John Lammon will also attend the April 1-3 event that will cost approximately $1,700 per participant, according to Fairfield-Suisun district.

The Las Vegas event, as well as a separate Common Core standards conference scheduled April 29 to May 1 in Glendale, Ariz. at the Renaissance Glendale Hotel & Spa, were before Fairfield-Suisun trustees for consideration.

Four teachers from Armijo High and Assistant Principal Sheila Smith plan to attend the Arizona conference that costs about $1,650 per participant.

Costs of the conferences include registration, airfare, hotel, ground transportation and meals.

A representative of the professional education development company putting on the conferences has said about 32,000 people a year attend its events.

Robert Marzano, described by the Fairfield-Suisun district as “one of the nation’s top educational researchers,” is a keynote speaker at the Arizona event and his organization Marzano Research Laboratory is facilitating the conference. Marzano is also a keynote speaker in Las Vegas.

O’Keefe said the big names among speakers in education may receive $5,000 for an appearance and make more in one day than most teachers earn in a month.

“I don’t see them in classrooms working with kids,” he said of such speakers.

He said conferences get little review from school boards.

“I’m not sure your typical school board member,” O’Keefe said, “understands what goes on inside this business.”

O’Keefe said some conferences are valuable but that much of what is presented is gimmickry.

“A lot of it is the preferred ideology of the day,” he said.

He has written that teachers don’t choose the work to get rich but that education can be a way to wealth for the testing industry, the textbook business and consultants.

Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]

Ryan McCarthy


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