By Curt Yeomans
A year after the Clayton County Board of Education came under fire for an expensive trip to a national conference in California, School Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson said several board members have opted not to attend a similar conference in April, to save the district money.
Last year, eight members of the school board -- and former Superintendent John Thompson -- attended the National School Boards Association (NSBA) Conference and Convention in San Diego, which Anderson said came at a cost to the district of $2,300 per person. But this year, school system officials and school board members are working on a way to handle $85.2 million in budget cuts.
School Board Member Jessie Goree will go to this year's NSBA conference, which will be held April 10-12 in Chicago, as the school board's lone representative, Anderson said.
"It will be a good thing for her to go and represent us at the conference," Anderson said. "We don't all need to go to this thing. We need to save all the money we can, especially in light of all the budget issues we're dealing with. We can at least send one person, and then they can report back to us on what they learned at the conference."
Goree said there is much the school board can gain out of what is discussed at this year's NSBA conference, since the school system is still working its way out of a period in which it is on probation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
"I probably would have gone, whether the school system paid for it or not," Goree said. "We need to have some representation at this thing. It's not going to do us any good to not go to the conference. We pay membership fees to be a part of NSBA. It's a waste to pay those fees, and then nobody goes to the national conference."
Featured speakers scheduled to be at this year's NSBA conference include broadcast journalist Charlie Rose, Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak, national Teacher of the Year Anthony Mullen, and jazz musician and arts education advocate, Wynton Marsalis, according to the NSBA web site.
The association's web site also states that sessions and workshops will focus on topics including parliamentary procedure; school system and school board ethics; school system governance; becoming a highly qualified school board; superintendent evaluations, and school finances.
Those are the kinds of issues the Clayton County school board needs to work on to meet its long-term goal of becoming a Georgia School Boards Association Board of Distinction, Goree said.
"We still have a long way to go as a board," she said. "There is still a lot we have to learn. We need to take advantage of every opportunity to grow as a school board."
With only one member of the school board attending NSBA's national conference, the Clayton County school board's participation in this year's conference will be significantly toned down from the 2009 national conference.
During last year's conference, the eight attending board members took time out during the event to interview candidates for the school system's superintendent position -- including their eventual pick, Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley, Anderson and Goree said.