Board Shines More Light on Travel

FAIRFIELD – Fairfield County School Board Chairwoman Beth Reid (District 7) announced a new policy regarding travel during the Board’s regular meeting Tuesday night, one she said was aimed at bringing more transparency to large expenditures incurred by the Board. Reid said effective immediately, all intended travel by Board members should be brought before the full Board.

“For several reasons,” Reid said. “One, for knowledge of other Board members, so we know who’s going and who’s not, who’s going to be in attendance and who can report back to us after attending a conference. Two, so we know we’re not stepping all over each other. We don’t necessarily need for all Board members to be at all conferences.”

Reid said “Board Travel” would be added as a permanent item under the Board Chair’s Report in future agendas and Board members would be asked to report to the full Board after attending a conference and to bring any proposed travel to the knowledge of the full Board. Reid said the proposed travel would not necessarily be subject to approval by the Board, “but for knowledge of the entire Board, as well as the public, so that we can all be transparent on the expenditures going forward,” Reid said.

Reid also reported that legal fees in the last fiscal year have dropped more than $138,000. Bills from the District’s main law firm, Childs and Halligan, fell from $246,772 in the 2011-2012 fiscal year to $128,210 in 2012-2013. Total fees from all firms employed by the District fell from $351,402 to $213,028 in the last fiscal year.

“I think that’s significant and it speaks very highly of the leadership and the Board attitude,” Reid said. “You know what we can do with that money? We can hire folks and use it in instruction. That’s where it ought to be.”

The Board also approved student fees and fines for Fairfield Middle School Tuesday night, but not without some minor discussion about ID cards.

The $12 base fee represents no change from recent years, Superintendent J.R. Green said, and covers the cost of a student’s ID card and academic planner, as well as assembly fees and fees for student recognitions and rewards. There is also a $10 band fee and $5 fees for Family and Consumer Science and Industrial Technology. Students who lose their ID cards or their academic planners will have to pony up $5 for a replacement and late fees for library books will run 5 cents a day.

“I just get caught up in these ID cards,” Board member Henry Miller (District 3) said. “I understand we want them to be responsible, but is there any way we can have ID cards where there’s no charge this particular time? Some children just can’t afford it.”

Green said most principals use judgment when it comes to which students can and can’t afford to replace an ID card and the fine discourages student carelessness.

“If you don’t have things in place so that students feel they need to be responsible for keeping up with their IDs, you’ll find yourself printing up IDs every day,” Green said, “because there will be no incentive to keep up with IDs.”

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