Draft Fairfield-Suisun schools budget: Travel, conference costs to reach $1M

By From page A3 | June 13, 2014

FAIRFIELD — Spending on travel and conferences by the Fairfield-Suisun School District is estimated to increase by 11 percent to $1 million, according to a draft budget.

The figure includes costs for employees, such as psychologists, to travel from school to school, as well as the expense for teachers and other staff to attend conferences in California and other states.

Laneia Grindle, director of fiscal services, did not immediately have available after the Thursday school board meeting what part of the $1 million pays for school-to-school travel by employees.

Trustee Pat Shamansky asked about the 11 percent increase during a review of the draft budget.

“Can you help me understand why?” Shamansky asked.

Grindle said increased professional development that takes place at conferences is part of the reason for the higher costs in the draft budget. She said the draft document estimates what costs will be in the 2014-15 budget.

Fairfield resident John Takeuchi, president of the Central Solano Citizen-Taxpayer Group, has said that public agencies, including Fairfield-Suisun School District, can save money spent on conferences by using Skype and other technology. That will reduce expenses associated with sending a group of teachers to a conference, Takeuchi said.

Travel that won approval by trustees this school year has included sending seven teachers, the principal and a secretary from Dan O. Root Elementary School to Seattle for a conference at the Tulalip Resort Casino.

Steve Patton, a teacher at David Weir Preparatory Academy in Fairfield, said during a February board meeting that he had returned from San Diego for what critics call a junket – but told trustees what he learned at the conference changed how he teaches.

He later said that participants left at 4 a.m. for the three-day conference of the California Association of Teachers of English that took place at the Town & Country Resort and Convention Center in San Diego. Patton said that early morning departure allowed teachers to take a 6 a.m. flight and avoid the cost of an additional day of lodging.

“You’ve got to get out there and learn new things,” he said about the value of conferences. “You can’t just stay in your classroom and expect to become a better teacher.”

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

Ryan McCarthy


Discussion | 7 comments

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  • Mr. PracticalJune 13, 2014 - 5:36 am

    Replace attending a conference with Skypeing? I think it would serve John Takeuchi well to actually attend one of the conferences so he can make more informed judgments.

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  • George GuynnJune 13, 2014 - 8:05 am

    Mr. Practical, you just can't stop promoting using taxpayer money for wasteful purposes, can you? Your used to do it with the BID and Redevelopment in Suisun and now you want to do it with the school district! Skype is used by the private sector with much success and needs to be used by big fat blotted government!!!!!

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  • AlfJune 13, 2014 - 12:33 pm

    I have never used or heard of a business having its people attend conferences by Skype. A conference is meant to be attended in person, and a good conference attended in person can be extremely valuable. A conference meant to be attended electronically is usually done in the form of a Webinar. Webinars can be valuable too, and less costly. Good managers encourage their reports to improve themselves and their skills, including attending conferences and webinars. The issue is about being wise and prudent with taxpayer funds. Banning all travel and attendance at conferences is ridiculous. Controlling it is not.

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  • Skeptic..June 13, 2014 - 1:44 pm

    Yeh, right, Alfie. We really need to send a mob to attend a vital conference in A CASINO RESORT! Madness! We must stop this profligacy now. The fatcats running the schools need to get their hands out of my pocket and start living within their means.

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  • AlfJune 13, 2014 - 9:01 pm

    A mob at a casino resort is not wise or prudent.

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  • Mr. PracticalJune 13, 2014 - 7:46 pm

    As long as the conference costs are controlled with proper oversight, and provide a return on investment, I'm fine with it. Alf hit the nail on the head. Webinars are valuable in some situation. The interaction at a conference can't be replicate by Skype or Webinars in many cases.

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  • Rick WoodJune 13, 2014 - 10:15 pm

    Well said. But I guess we're going to have to say it again and again, as the DR insists on highlighting this issue with every government budget.

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