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Board to debate conference costs
School Board leadership wants to revisit policy for their expenses

Date published: 12/9/2012


Nine months after the Spotsylvania School Board revised its expense policy to address concerns over a board chairman's practice of billing the county for near-daily trips to central office, current leadership wants the policy revisited.

Board Chairwoman Linda Wieland and Vice Chairman Jim Meyer said they believe the policy approved on March 1 is too restrictive.

It authorizes only two of the board's seven members to attend any training or conference at taxpayers' expense. Those two are then to report back to the others what they learned.

Wieland and Meyer placed the proposed change on the agenda for Monday night's meeting in hopes that additional members could attend a Virginia School Boards Association event Jan. 23-24 in Richmond.

They said the change is needed now to avoid incurring late fees for registration.

However, board member Ray Lora said he's outraged at the idea of spending additional tax dollars on board members at a time when the school division is facing a $7.9 million deficit for the next budget.

"We have to show leadership. We have to show our teachers, our bus drivers, our cafeteria workers that we care," Lora said. "We're not going to go out here and spend money just because we can. We have to show restraint."

Meyer and Wieland said all board members should be able to take part in professional development to be consistent with the division's strategic plan.

"If our objective is to develop professional learning communities [in the division], our board needs to be modeling that," Meyer said.

"If it's a priority, we need to identify the funding for our priority," he added.

But that goes to the heart of Lora's objection.

He said the additional money that would be spent on conferences and travel would be enough to pay for a teacher, or at least several bus drivers.

"If I have extra money, I would rather give it to the homeless kids," he said.

Wieland and Meyer said they would like to see all board members have the opportunity to attend the annual VSBA convention held in Williamsburg each November.

This year, the division paid for two board members. Wieland and Meyer went because they are the board's leadership. Board member Dawn Shelley attended at her own expense.

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The Spotsylvania School Board meets at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the administration building, 8020 River Stone Drive in the Massaponax area.