It’s the annual Model Schools Conference scheduled June 24-27 at the ritzy Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center, “sun-drenched and spectacular,” per its website. The conference is being staged by the International Center for Leadership in Education, a player in the education consulting industry that thrives on selling “hope and change” to school districts. Among the speakers will be Bill Daggett, the center’s founder and CEO, who talked to about 500 Cobb district employees last January for a lucrative $11,000 fee, typical of the sweet deals in the edu-consulting industry.
The cost of the Cobb group attending the June conference is “an estimated minimum” of $300,000 “or, at least $2,000 per person,” — but it could be twice that, according to superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa, as the MDJ’s Lindsay Field reported last week. The actual cost could hit $4,000 per person, a total of $600,000, depending on how many of the attendees decide to carpool or fly or share hotel rooms.
But not to worry about the costs or how inappropriate this is when the school district is facing a $62 million deficit and possibly giving the ax to 350 employees to balance the budget. Hinojosa said, “This isn’t going to impact our general fund at all.” The money will fall from the sky, so the speak, in the form of grants and teacher-training funds to cover most of the costs.
The money can’t be used for paying teachers, Hinojosa claimed, “but we can use this money to make teachers better.” Poppycock. The school board needs to check into this. Don’t tell me the district cannot move money from one line to another in its budget and pay teachers instead of firing them in this time of severe budget crunch.
The superintendent called the conference “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us, our principals and teachers to come meet with these schools that have been very successful. It would be impossible for us to go visit all these schools all over the country.”
Right. And unnecessary. Instead of blowing $300,000 to $600,000 on this outing, the district could tap its own resources – successful schools, model teachers and principals right here in Cobb and the models to be found in metro area schools, private and public. It could be done cheaper than the $11,000 already blown on consultant Daggett. Or how about using teleconference technology, as suggested by Connie Jackson, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators.
But it’s the traveling season for educators with Hinojosa and board member David Banks deciding to take in the National School Board Association annual conference in Boston last weekend at a cost of about $4,000 apiece paid by the Cobb school district.
If these junkets in the middle of a recession and a budget crisis aren’t irresponsible, what are they?