The good news is that a majority of the current members of the City of Richmond School Board have the innate good sense to know that now is not the time for them to be jetting around the country, staying at fancy hotels, wining and dining on the taxpayers' dime.
The bad news is that two of their colleagues appear to lack any semblance of this same good sense. A recent investigation by WTVR's Lorenzo Hall revealed that so far this year, Richmond School Board members Tichi Pinkney-Eppes (9th-District) and Mamie Taylor (5th-District) each attended conferences in Miami, New Orleans and Portland.
Once you add up food, airfare, registration fees and hotel stays — including a stop at the Four Seasons in Miami —these two school board members spent more than $16,000. Pinkney-Eppes' tab for her travels and accommodations was $8,556. Taylor, who joined Pinkney-Eppes on those same trips to New Orleans, Portland and Miami, spent $8,107. Taylor’s travel expenses are not limited to out-of-town trips. Richmond taxpayers also pay for Taylor’s gas when she drives from her house to every school board function. Receipts from December 2013 to March 2014 show she was reimbursed a total of $199.
Rather than simply apologize for spending this kind of money on out-of-town junkets and acknowledge that the these trips do not demonstrate the wisest use of tax dollars, these two school board members instead doubled-down and launched into all-out diva-drama-defenses that blamed the media, their own colleagues and even RPS staff members for "leaking" information and deliberately disseminating false information. (These accusations are all without any foundation).
And rather than attempt to share what they might have learned on these trips, they instead lobbed accusations at their detractors and accused one and all of being in some sort of a grand “conspiracy,” a “cabal,” designed to discredit them as African-American women.
Given the dire academic straits that so many of our Richmond Public Schools are in, there is absolutely no reason for city taxpayers to be paying for school board members to attend various "professional development" conferences in trendy locales.
If this School Board seriously wants to engage our community in being a part of improving our schools, the members should consider organizing a professional development conference here and invite experts from other parts of the country to travel to our city, stay in our hotels, eat at our restaurants, enjoy our entertainment venues and yes, invite our community members, our teachers and our families to attend this conference and learn what we can do to help fix our schools.
And if that is too big of a project for them to undertake, then how about restricting out-of-state-travel and designating the monies that will be saved go into a fund so that our students can learn computer coding skills on decent computers, have field trips, music, art and sports program improvements and equipment, scholarships, dance festivals, student newspapers?
Call it “A Conspiracy of Common Sense.”