Board Approves 26 Field Trips Costing $175,000

WINNSBORO – The Fairfield County School Board approved 26 out-of-state and overnight student field trips at its regular called meeting Tuesday, Oct. 20, despite the concerns of two dissenting board members that the board lacked adequate information and justification for its actions. The trips will take selected Fairfield County middle- and high-schoolers to the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, New York City, Orlando, Myrtle Beach and other venues. Of specific concern was the cost of the trips, estimated at more than $175,000.

The trips were listed on eight spreadsheets, one for each school, showing the planned trips, date and destination, number of students and adults traveling, curriculum standards the trips would address and cost for each trip. The discussion focused on the information – and lack of it – presented in the spreadsheets.

Hartman questioned the cost of the Orlando trip – $33,810 for 45 students and three chaperones – and about a planned Bahamas trip two months later for 40 students and six chaperones, at a cost of $27,140, both for Chorus, Theater and District Honors students. Green stated that it would be some of the same students going on both trips.

“The information I have asked (you) in the past to be clear on,” Hartman persisted, “is what exactly are the students getting from this trip, education-wise?”

Green replied, “It gives them the opportunity to perform.”

The curriculum standard to be addressed by both trips, as listed on the spreadsheet, is: “Perform learned accompaniment patterns for selected songs, using appropriate dynamics and timbre and a steady tempo.”

Green stated that the students have “fundraised and contributed their personal resources each year. I think the district supported that last year to the tune of, off the top of my head, about 10 or 12 thousand dollars …it wasn’t as if the district funded the entire trip.”

Hartman also pointed out that a planned trip to Puerto Rico for 10-12 history students listed the entire trip as costing $2,000, when last year that same trip cost about $22,000. Green said the $2000 figure was an error and should have been shown as a per person cost. That clarification added approximately $28,000 to the cost of the trip.

“What I am hearing now is that these requests are not the totality of what the district is being asked to fund,” McDaniels said. “So exactly how much is the district being asked to fund?”

Green replied, “There is no total and at this point in time, most of these groups are hoping they can raise enough funds so that the board would not have to approve any additional funding.”

McDaniel stated that, “Now I am not going to address ‘hope’ with you, Dr. Green…but if you want the Board to approve, it’s kind of deceptive, that we have amounts before us, but you are now saying that these are not the amounts the board is being asked to approve.”

Green stated that at this time he wasn’t asking the board to approve the money, just the field trips.

Hartman asked Green the purpose of the Puerto Rico trip for history students.

“A cultural experience, the opportunity to witness the Puerto Rican culture first hand, the cuisine, the climate, the dress, the weather…” Green stated.

Hartman was not satisfied, saying he was not making it clear what the students are getting out of this trip.

Green replied that, for example, the Puerto Rico trip would address curriculum standard 7-6 which says the “student will demonstrate an understanding of the significant political, economic, geographic, scientific, technological and cultural changes as well as the advancements that have taken place throughout the world.”

Hartman continued to point out that it was not clear how much the trips will actually cost nor what amount will be fund-raised.

Board member William Frick (District 6) said he recalled similar discussions about field trips in the past in that there was a lack of uniformity in filling out the forms. “Could we have the total amount put in there in the future?” he asked.

Hartman asked if those forms could also show how much of the costs the Board is expected to pay.

“In the future we’ll do that,” Green said.

When the issue finally came to a vote, it passed 4-1 with Hartman voting no and McDaniels abstaining. Board member Andrea Harrison (District 1) was not present.

Following the meeting, Hartman told The Voice that she voted no because there seemed to be no clear explanation as to how much money the students are expecting to raise or how much money the school will be paying.

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