Lee Schools spends nearly $1M on pizza, ice cream
$825,135 spent on pizza and frozen treats over two years
How the lee county school district is spending your money. And you might be surprised to find out just how much it's costing you. Four in your corner investigator matt grant showing you what he's uncovered. We've already showed you how the school dis Video by fox4now.comvideo
FORT MYERS - Pizza, ice cream, trips to batting cages. It sounds like a party but it's how the Lee County School District is spending your money.
"I just graduated from college and just walked into this blindly not knowing that I would have an empty classroom with everything I needed to fill for it," said a Lee County elementary school teacher who didn't want to be identified because she's afraid of losing her job.
To fill that classroom she says she spent almost $1000, out of pocket, with little help from the district.
"We were given $75," she said, rifling through receipts that cover her kitchen table but not her classroom supplies.
"Is that enough to cover expenses?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.
"Not at all," the teacher said.
As the district trims millions from its budget we looked over thousands of pages of invoices to see how your tax dollars are being spent.
How is your money being spent?
Our investigation found that over the past two years the school district spent $825,135 on pizza and ice cream.
"Actually I need to look into that," said school board member Don Armstrong. "Because I'm shocked."
Armstrong says that's a lot of money to spend at a time when the district is cutting back.
"Do you think this is excessive?," asked Grant.
"Oh yes," said Armstrong. "To the extreme."
Take-out pizza is sold in cafeterias during "Pizza Tuesday's," even though the district's mission is to "provide nutritious meals that nourish children enhancing their readiness to learn."
The district says they don't make ice cream and it's cheaper to buy pizza than to make it.
Our investigation also discovered over two years you paid for:
- $312,209 on coffee cups and lids
- $2,912 for party supplies like balloons and bounce houses
- $1,157 for a Christmas party at the Westminster Golf Club for 49 people that included a bartender and a DJ
- $60,429 for golf carts to make getting around schools easier
Over two years you also paid for summer camp and after-school activities like:
- More than $6,000 at Mike Greenwell's batting cages
- $760 to go roller skating
- $4,300 bowling
- $9,944 at Sun Splash
- $12,112 at the movies
- $440 at Chick-fil-A
- $1,662 at Beef O'Brady's
- $7,985 at Carrabba's Italian Grill
- $908 at Chuck-E-Cheese
"Where's the educational resource value with Beef O'Brady's?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.
"Can't answer the question," said district spokesperson Joe Donzelli, who said he needed to research it further.
After looking into some of the expenses, the district sent us a statement saying all of the expenses are "within district policy" and "appropriate."
But what about pizza and frozen treats?
Donzelli says that money comes from the school's food budget. He says that money is approved by the school board and can't be used in the classroom even if they wanted it to.
"Could you understand why maybe some people would be frustrated to hear that the district is spending $800-plus-thousand on pizza and frozen treats?," asked Grant.
"Nobody's more frustrated than me," said Donzelli.
Except maybe the teacher we spoke to, who continues to pay for a job she loves.
"I'm going to do whatever I need to do to help my kids learn," the teacher told us. "So if that means spending my own pocket money that's what I have to do."
Last week the school board approved a $300,000 bid from different pizza chains to serve up slices at school.
To read the district's full response to our story click on the above link "Lee County Schools explains invoices."
Matt Grant, Reporter