FCSD makes $35K down payment on Italy trip

WINNSBORO – Fairfield School District Honors Chorus is $35,000 closer to traveling to Italy.

At a special called meeting last week, the Fairfield Board of Trustees voted 5-1 to appropriate the funds as a down payment for a trip to Italy for the Fairfield District Honors Chorus.  Board member Paula Hartman voted against the appropriation.

The trip has an approximately $125,000 price tag, though it was also said the trip would cost about $5,000 per student. Superintendent Dr. J. R. Green said approximately 30 students or students and adults would go on the trip. Students, he said, have raised about $5,000 total so far.

Green said the students who would travel will fundraise to pay for the trip.

But under questioning from Hartman, he wouldn’t specifically state that students must raise their own money. He also couldn’t state exactly how many students and chaperones would attend.

“If they didn’t take part in fundraising, are they going to be excluded?” Hartman asked.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there, Ms. Hartman,” Green said. “The expectation is that students will participate in fundraising.”

Green went on to say “students will contribute the vast amount of the cost,” but didn’t provide a specific breakdown of the final costs.

District sponsored trips have become commonplace in recent years, and some have come at taxpayer expense.

In 2016, Fairfield Middle chorus students traveled to the Bahamas. Also in 2016, the district tapped surplus legal funds to subsidize the chorus performing at Walt Disney World.

Chorus students traveled to Carnegie Hall last year as well. Several Early College Academy students traveled to the United Kingdom in 2017. Also that year, the board voted to approve two senior trip options – one a cruise to the Bahamas and the other to Orlando, Florida.

As for the Italy trip, the district voted to transfer $35,000 from the district’s unused salary account for the down payment. The special called meeting to approve the funding was necessary now because of a fast-approaching deadline, district officials said.

Hartman objected. She didn’t think the district could legally transfer money reserved for teacher salaries to fund student trips.

“That is false, the board establishes the budget. It is the board’s prerogative if it wants to make transfers,” Green replied.

A majority of board members supported the expenditure, scoffing at any notions that it is a junket. But none could specifically say how the trip aligns with curriculum standards.

“When I was a student, education was national. Now it’s global and we are competing with everybody, everywhere,” said board member Rev. Carl Jackson. “Our children should be given an education commensurate with that.”

Board member Sylvia Harrison said students are gaining exposure.

“Exposing them to something like that is a win-win for everybody, not just our school [but] for the community too,” Harrison said.

Green pushed back on any notion the trips constitute wasteful spending.

“I think there are some people who feel these kinds of opportunities should exist for some kids but not for ours,” Green said. “Because we are a high poverty community there are some people who say, well, they don’t deserve those kinds of opportunities.”

“When I read some of the comments that are made,” Green said, “there are some who don’t care about the children of this district.”

He did not reference where these comments were made.

The Italy trip is scheduled for July.


  1. Jeff Schaffer says

    I like JR, personally…and I’ve said this before his head and his heart are not necessarily in-sink with some decisions and comments he makes. “The expectation is that students will participate in fundraising.”
    Well, If they provide the majority of the money then by all means go. If not then, why not think of taking those students to Washington. DC to get a look at how things operate in their own country, and that money will stay here in the USA.
    Oh, and just for the record $5K times 30 students is more like $150,000.00 than it is $125,000.00

  2. K. Reynolds says

    Agree with Mr Schaffer’s idea on a trip to Washington, DC! And if they can’t raise 100% of the costs for that through fund raising perhaps a week spent with Habitat for Humanity would provide these kids with some life skills they will need all their lives while helping the less fortunate. The priorities of this school board seem total out of whack. First they want to build a village to entice teachers given the low salaries then they take “unused” money from the teachers salary account to go to Italy. WHY are they not using this money to enhance teacher salaries?

  3. Rene Brown says

    This trip was presented as a high honor, won by this choir thanks to their hard work and dedication. Why is this not mentioned?

  4. Michael F. says

    As a former student of the FCSD, I can really say that I’m proud for the things our school district have done and are continuing to do for the students, teacher and district employees. Not only are they helping the students gain great experience but it also shows the students that they have a great support system. Some may disagree with me, but when students realize the amount of support they have it encourages them to keep striving to greater heights.

  5. G. Davis says

    I agree with K. Reynolds. I have very little confidence in our school board to make rational decisions. They seem to operate in a vacuum and grasp at any idea that floats through their collective mind. What basis do they have to support the “housing idea”? Has it been done somewhere else… and more importantly… did it produce the desired outcome? As far as sending Fairfield Chorus Students and Chaperones to Italy… claiming that our students need to go because counties with less poverty send students to far away places is a load of BS. Our kids will not be damaged nor deprived if they don’t get a free trip to Italy. And if Mr. Green’s logic makes sense… then every student in Fairfield County should go! Why just this “chosen 30”? Wouldn’t all the other students enjoy the same privilege / benefit. I’m not pleased with the idea that we need to give them money that come from tax revenue because “time is short”! If the trip is that poorly planned… that’s just another reason they should not go. And finally, school boards and government agencies need to remember that all this money comes from taxpayers.

  6. Randy Bright says

    The concerns are NOT about which kids travel. The concerns are over the amount of money spent on this kind of adventure which could have been spent on more productive educational activities. That kind of expense could cover less exotic but more beneficial trips for a great many more students.

  7. Randy Bright says

    I disagree with the assumption “there are some who don’t care about the children of this district.” The reality is the voices raised against the district paying for this trip are advocating for all the students rather than just a handful of students. In other words, the aforementioned advocates for children believe the district should invest that kind of money in beneficial activities for all students rather than a only a few. Furthermore, those who are for all students would be naturally appalled if school funds went to pay for the majority of non-students’ travel expenses.

  8. Angel Reid says

    What a glorious opportunity for the children of Fairfield to be exposed to a trip to Italy! I truly hope they make their goals and fund this experience of a lifetime! The educational opportunities are boundless!

  9. Linda LaRose says

    If the children raise enough money, then by all means go. They can pay back the deposit and let that money go towards raising teacher salaries, or at least make sure classrooms have adequate supplies. It is my hope that we the taxpayers are not paying for school board members and superintendent plus spouses to attend. Any adults should pay their own way. It is my fear, however, that as the time for the next payment draws near, we will once again be asked to pay for the elite students, leaving out the poorest, many of whom never get out of this county.

  10. Betsy Burton says

    I saw nothing in the article about who will be paying for the accompanying “chaperones” on this trip. Will they also be engaging in the fundraising efforts? And how are the chaperones selected?

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