Hartman’s questions unanswered by Frick, Green

WINNSBORO – After praising the Fairfield School District Honors Chorus’ recent trip to Italy, school officials couldn’t answer questions about how much the trip cost, how many people actually went or questions about funding.

At Tuesday night’s board meeting, when pressed by board trustee Paula Hartman for participation and cost figures, Superintendent Dr. J.R. Green couldn’t specifically say.

“It was less than 20 [students], Ms. Hartman. Apparently some were not able to make the trip,” Green said. “I won’t say definitively. I can’t remember what it wound up being, but it was less than 20. I would have to check to say for sure.”

“And how many adults?” Hartman asked.

“I couldn’t say for sure either,“ Green answered.

Hartman then questioned the cost.

“What was the total that the district paid for the trip?“

“I couldn’t recall that off the top of my head, Ms. Hartman,“ Green replied.

In January, the Fairfield County Board of Trustees called a special meeting where they voted to pledge $30,000 in taxpayer money toward a $35,000 down payment for the trip.

In January, school officials said the $30,000 expenditure was necessary to meet a time-sensitive booking deadline. A school district memo estimated the trip would cost $129,000, with about 30 people attending at a cost of $4,300 per person.

Green said in January that students would “contribute the vast amount of the cost” by fundraising. An exact breakdown of public versus private funding for the Italy trip was not available late Tuesday.

Things turned heated when Hartman asked if some district students had been involved in cheating on an exam. Green and several board members pushed back on Hartman’s question, without offering an outright denial.

“I’m not even going to address that,” Green said. “The fact that you cast that kind of aspersion, whether it’s a student in the STEM program, honors program or a student in a general program, I think is totally inappropriate.”

Board Chairman William Frick chided Hartman for raising the issue in public because he thought it should have been discussed privately with the superintendent. He also suggested Hartman was opening herself to litigation.

“Ms. Hartman, I would caution you to not bring up rumors that you heard on the street at a board meeting,” Frick said. “You are libeling a group of people and I would caution you to be careful about that.”

Hartman defended raising the issue, saying she thought the board should be informed if student cheating was taking place.

The discussion continued for a few more minutes, ending with Frick slamming his gavel on the dais and ruling Hartman out of order.