Training money used for travel, not training

By Greg Gelpi

Although school board members are allotted money annually for state-mandated training, three Clayton County Board of Education members have yet to receive training.

Three board members have spent their travel money meant to be used for required training, but neither the school system nor agencies that hold training have records of training them.

According to documents from the Georgia School Boards Association, the primary agency for board training, board members Linda Crummy, Ericka Davis, Bob Livingston, LaToya Walker and Barbara Wells have received training this fiscal year. In addition to the school board members, GSBA also trained Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Pulliam and Jack Warren, the administrative assistant for policy and legislation.

The GSBA had no record of Nedra Ware, Connie Kitchens or Carol Kellam receiving any training this fiscal year.

The GSBA sends its schedule of training sessions to the state Department of Education each year for approval, GSBA Executive Director Sis Henry said. The department may also approve other training classes from other organizations.

The Georgia Association of School Leadership also offers training, but the organization's training is done in conjunction with GSBA, Herb Garrett of the organization said. GSBA documents the board members who receive training through those joint sessions.

Jean Hicks, the chief of staff for Clayton County schools, serves as the school board liaison. Hicks said she was not aware of any board training, other than that documented by the GSBA, although she joined the school system in April.

Georgia Leadership for School Improvement officials said their organization does not provide training for school boards.

The Georgia General Assembly approved the Quality Basic Education Act in 1985. The act requires that school board members receive annual state-approved training.

"I think that this is invaluable," Henry said. "I think that you have to remember that school board members are lay people. They come from all walks of life."

The GSBA offers a wide range of training for school board members, but those who don't take advantage of the training are asking for problems, she said.

"You have to be prepared or you open yourself up to all kinds of liabilities," Henry said.

The school system allots $2,500 to each board member to travel for training and staff development.

Before the board amended the policy at its last board meeting, board members engaged in a heated discussion. The board narrowly approved changing the policy to require board members to pay their own way for trips that exceed the $2,500 and are not pre-approved by the board. Wells raised the question of why some board members had spent their travel allowance, but had yet to receive state-approved training.