School board member raises questions about $400k training program
Superintendent accused of proposing program without enough notice
LEE COUNTY - A Lee County school board member questioning why the district is shelling out more than 400-thousand dollars on a new training program. That board member says the Superintendent proposed spending the money without giving the board or the public a chance to weigh in. Four in your Corner investigator Mike Mason looking into this one.
One of the board members who voted to approve the program is the same one who has been outspoken against them in the past. Now questions are being raised about whether this is the best use of the district's money.
You may have missed it...but when the Lee County school board met on March 12th, they approved spending hundreds of thousands of tax dollars on a training program.
Dr. Joseph Burke: "It's nationally recognized, research based."
At a time when money is tight, district officials have recently shot down pricey proposals. In 2011, board member Don Armstrong was outspoken about it, saying educational conferences and training seminars are a bad use of district dollars.
Don Armstrong: "I'd rather put that money back in the teachers' pockets, back in the classrooms."
But Armstrong voted to support the latest program, saying: "I approved it, I looked into it and I found it was a worthwhile program. It will help teacher retention."
Superintendent Joseph Burke presented the proposal to board members on a consent agenda...asking for their vote without prior discussion or a public workshop. Board member Jeanne Dozier says that raises a red flag.
Jeanne Dozier: "I didn't hear anything that evening that convinced me this needed to be spent."
Mike Mason: "That's a lot of money to just accept and vote on right then and there."
Jeanne Dozier: "Absolutely, it is especially when you don't have any backup."
Mike Mason: "What do you guys really know about it?"
Jeanne Dozier: "We know very little about it."
Dozier has supported similar programs in the past but feels board members should have been given more time to review this one. Armstrong previously suggested allowing the public to vote on them.
Don Armstrong: "It brings transparency to the board so the public can see what we're voting on and what is going on at all times with their tax dollars."
The training program endorsed by Burke is called a Professional Learning Community. Essentially, 410 teachers and district workers would attend a conference in Orlando. Then there would be six 2 day sessions in July, November and next March. The total cost....$408,000 dollars.
Dozier says the district could have saved a lot of money by hiring trainers to come to Lee County to teach the program.
Jeanne Dozier: "We could bring those trainers here into Lee County and it would not even cost a third as much."
The company that conducts this training is based in Indiana. The $400k will come from various grants which are funded by state and federal tax dollars.