R2 board overspends thousands on travel

COLUMBIA – After Richland Two School District Superintendent Baron Davis refused, during a recent meeting, to share information about school board members’ travel spending, members of the public did what is their right under South Carolina’s freedom of information law: They asked for the information.

According to records released by the school district in compliance with the law, four of the seven board members had overspent on travel as of April 30.

In the current fiscal year budget, each board member is allotted $7,000 per fiscal year for board-related travel expenses, adding up to a total budget of $49,000 for all seven board members. The fiscal year ends June 30.

Two members of the board – Chair Teresa Holmes and Trustee Monica Scott – had each spent close to $3,000 more than their budgeted amount. Vice Chair James Manning was showing a negative balance and three yet-to-be-reported expenses, putting him on track to be about $2,000 over budget. Trustee Amelia McKie was over budget by $445.

Three board members – trustees Cheryl Caution-Parker, Lindsay Agostini, and Lashonda McFadden – were still under budget as of April 30. Caution-Parker still had $4,882 remaining unspent. Agostini, after subtracting for a large line item not yet reflected on the report totals, had $1,925 remaining. McFadden had $393 remaining.

While the total board spending that was listed seemed to indicate $3,477 remained, after accounting for listed expenses with amounts not yet reported, the board as a whole was several hundred dollars over its budget.

And with at least one board member – Scott, the top spender – planning to attend another conference next month in Myrtle Beach, that total is likely to rise. She says the conference has already been paid for.

The cost of meals and travel to the event, however, are not yet on the list of expenses. And it’s unclear whether other board members may also have more expenses to add.

Scott said, however, that this is the first time she has ever exceeded her fund limit within the school year.

“I’ve never, in my entire 10 years serving as a school board member, exceeded my funds within the school year [until now],” Scott says, noting that in the past, school district administration kept board members informed about the status of this money.

Also, at one point, she says, Davis (the superintendent) abruptly canceled board members’ registration to a conference in a knee- jerk reaction to a comment made by someone associated with the event – and later re-registered them, but at twice the cost because early booking discounts no longer applied.

This, she says, drove up the board’s travel spending considerably. Still, she acknowledged her own lack of attention to keeping track.

“I apologize for my part in not being responsible,” she says. “Going forward, I will be keeping track of how much money I’ve spent for the school year.”

Davis, in a recent school board meeting, said he assumed board members were tracking their own expenditures – and that’s why the administration continued to approve travel that exceeded the budgeted amounts.

Holmes did not respond to an email Monday seeking comment. Her statement at the April 26 meeting, however, sought to blame her overspending on the pandemic.

“Obviously we have just come out of Covid, and every travel that we have taken, those people that have traveled, has been extra expensive for Covid,” Holmes said, “so there are a lot of people who did not keep up with the budget.”

Vice Chair James Manning sought an excuse not to respond, referring to questions about his overspending and an unrelated board incident as “accusatory allegations that are unfounded.” He would not comment on the public records documenting his travel spending.

According to the released records, Caution-Parker appeared to be the most frugal board member with regard to travel; she skipped a pricey conference in California that was attended by other board members and attended only events in South Carolina.

Agostini attended the conference in California but skipped other events attended by some of her peers, keeping her total spending under budget. McFadden skipped the California conference and attended other events instead.

Agostini says that, in accordance with board custom, she will contribute the remaining portion of her budgeted money to help cover costs for board members who overspent. But after the board’s travel budget is gone, she says, those who are still over budget should be required to pay back the extra.

“I do think it’s important that we comply with the budget,” Agostini says. “For those that have exceeded their $7,000 limit, they need to request to use unused funds from other board members and to reimburse the district when they’ve exceeded their allotted amount.”


  1. Great reporting. The public should be outraged by the carelessness with which board members over-spent their allowance. Every excess dollar should be re-paid!

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