8/11/11 School board ponders travel policy

School board ponders travel policy
Proposal would allocate up to $2,800 per member
By Mike Wilder The Times-News 8/11/11     
Reprinted with permission.

 The Alamance-Burlington Board of Education is considering a policy that would regulate travel by its members.

 Board members discussed a draft of the policy during a work session Monday. The draft now goes to board attorney Trey Allen, and will be returned to the board for its consideration.

 A proposal drawn up by Steve Van Pelt, the board’s vice chairman, would provide as much as $2,800 a year for each of the board’s seven members that could be used for conferences, workshops and similar training.

 That figure is based on the total annual amount budgeted for school board members to get training, with the total divided by seven.

 Van Pelt suggested the board could settle on a different figure, but said dividing current funds for travel by seven seemed to be a logical way to start.

 Board members are required by state law to receive 12 hours of training each year.

 “Any expenditure for individual board members above the current allocation must first be approved by a majority vote of the board,” the draft states. The exception would be that one board member could choose to share funds with another member.

 The draft stipulates that unused funds could be rolled over for the board member’s use the next year. Discussion during the work session was inconclusive as to whether money could continue to be rolled over for more than a year.

 Members whose time on the board was expiring during a fiscal year or who were seated on the board in the middle of a fiscal year would receive less money for training based on fewer months of service.

 The policy includes language encouraging board members to attend a national conference once every three years.

 Board members Patsy Simpson and Tony Rose said they wanted to be sure language in the policy would not make it appear board members who chose not to travel to national events were not fulfilling their duties.

 Cole said online participation in conferences could make it possible to keep costs down while still allowing board members to learn about a wide range of topics.

 She said staying connected with what is going on in different parts of the country is important in keeping local education strong.

 Cole said money spent on attending a conference, if it leads to good ideas being implemented locally, “could bring back huge returns into the system.”

 Board members also talked about sharing what they learn during conferences and other training in order to maximize the benefit.

 Simpson asked how $2,800 per board member compares to training for teachers in the system. While unable to provide an average per teacher, Superintendent Lillie Cox said large amounts have been spent at schools in which educators received training in the Literacy First effort. She also mentioned five days in 2011-12 during which teachers will be trained in relation to the state’s new curriculum standards.

 Van Pelt said Rhonda Schuhler, the system’s executive director of professional development, told him new teachers receive training that involves $23,000 in direct and indirect costs during their first three years.

 “We spend a lot of money on our beginning teachers,” he said.