By Greg Gelpi
With pending state budget cuts looming, two Clayton County school officials attended a conference in San Francisco, totaling about $3,370 in expenses.
Superintendent Barbara Pulliam also attended the conference. The American Association of School Administrators Conference paid her registration and expenses for the conference since she is a national officer of the organization.
Luvenia Jackson and Susie McCray participated in the conference from Feb. 19 to Feb. 22.
Jackson and McCray incurred $1,590 in registration fees for the conference, since they registered after Jan. 31 and were not members of the AASA.
"I did not use local funds," Jackson said, explaining that funding came into the school system through a grant. Jackson said she serves on the resolutions committee of the National Education Association, and the NEA took part in the conference.
Jackson, a 28-year veteran of the school system, said the conference had several nationally known speakers and presenters, who gave information on educational topics, such as the No Child Left Behind Act. Specifically, Jackson said she learned about "closing the gap" of various "sub groups." No Child Left Behind breaks scores into groups so that schools know how minorities and special education students are performing.
McCray is a specialist with ChildTec and works under Jackson.
The state has proposed budget cuts for education, which could leave Clayton County schools short $4 million, Chief Financial Officer Lee Davis said.
Although travel should be minimized, Davis said he understands the importance of traveling for professional growth.
"I think things can be gained from conferences," he said. "It shouldn't just be a vacation, though. You don't want people not to grow academically and professionally."
Davis said travel makes up little of the budget, although "every penny counts."
"We're looking at things we have a little more discretion with," Davis said of proposed cuts. "The bottom line is the savings from freezing travel isn't that great."
Pulliam at a recent retreat encouraged board members to travel to conferences. Board Chairwoman Nedra Ware, who went everywhere from California to Florida at taxpayers' expense last year, echoed the benefit of the conferences at the retreat.