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.”
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