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Will school districts follow state’s lead in canceling nonessential travel?

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, April 29th, 2011 at 4:21 pm in California, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington.

Although Mt. Diablo school board President Gary Eberhart has suggested that the district eliminate overnight travel to cut costs, the superintendent has not recommended such a budget reduction. Instead, the idea has been added to a list of potential reductions to be considered in the future.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson are taking decisive actions to eliminate such costs, due to the budget crisis.

Following the governor’s lead, Torlakson issued a letter to district and county superintendents and charter school administrators today (Friday) canceling the May 2011 School Recognition Awards Ceremony at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim.

The program would have recognized Distinguished Schools, Blue Ribbon schools and Title 1 Academic Achievement Award schools.

“This difficult but necessary step will result not only in significant savings, but will also relieve districts of making an equally difficult decision whether to spend scarce funds to allow school staff to attend,” Torlakson wrote. “Some have called to express concerns about their ability to participate in the event.”

He pledged to continue working to remedy the state’s “fiscal emergency.”

“I look forward to the day when the state’s financial situation allows me to reinstate this wonderful event to recognize deserving teachers, classified employees, and administrators for their exemplary accomplishments,” he wrote.

Do you think all school districts should eliminate nonessential travel during the state budget crisis?

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33 Responses to “Will school districts follow state’s lead in canceling nonessential travel?”

  1. Doctor J Says:

    Even as we speak, there are district administrators at out of state at conferences. Obviously MDUSD has no respect for taxpayers money, justifying the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on out of town travel since it is “categorical” [grant or bond] money. They have refused to produce the records to show how much that is. Shame on them.

  2. Doctor J Says:

    Come on Gary, put the Travel Ban on the agenda — make all out of town travel be approved on the consent agenda so the public can see how their tax dollars, general fund or categorical, are being spent. Its all tax money.

  3. Flippin' Tired Says:

    Dr. J, you say that there were admins at conferences on 4/29. Names, places and details, please.

  4. Doctor J Says:

    @Flippin’ — ask King Lawrence — he approved their trip !

  5. Doctor J Says:

    @Flippin — when you talk to King Lawrence, be sure to ask him how many administrators Asst. Supt. Mildred Browne invited attend with her a Mon/Tues conference in Sacramento and why they went up on Sunday afternoon to stay at the Marriott — last time I checked it was about 70 miles — easy commute, especially if they car pooled.

  6. Wait a Minute Says:

    Names are good Dr. J because we can know put next to their name their total compensation from taxpayers from 2010.

    So Assistant Superintendnent Mildred Brown made $183,000 in 2010 and is now staying at the Sacramento Marriot at the expense of the taxpayers.

    Nice move!!!
    This info will certainly not make it any likelier for the taxpayers to support any bonds or tax extensions so high-falutin administrators can continue to ride the conference circuit at our expense.

  7. Wait a Minute Says:

    Theresa, any luck on getting the earnings figures of retired MDUSD employeees brought back on special “consulting” contracts?

    The reason their hiding this is because it will prove embarrassing to the so called MDUSD “leaders”.

    How about a Freedom of Information request Theresa?

  8. Doctor J Says:

    @Wait — almost every week someone is going someplace on the taxpayer dollar. Just think about Dr. Browne and the Sacramento boondogle — four people driving to and from with mileage, four Marriott hotel rooms for at least two nights each, at least two dinners each times four, at least two breakfasts times four, at least two lunches times four, plus four conference registration fees. What is wrong with carpooling each day for an hour drive each way — typical communte for many ? The week before, it was a couple of SASS Directors down in Phoenix for a few days. As the song says . . . and so the story goes. Since King Lawrence won’t impose his own travel ban, Gary has to put the travel ban on the agenda, pass it, and hold the Superintendent accountable. And while they are at it, cut out the cell phone stipends.

  9. Doctor J Says:

    @Wait — Do not be deceived by the 2010 compensation figures to estitmate the true costs of the SASS Dept. For Jan-June, almost everyone of them were on a 9 1/2 month contract as site administrators. Then on July 1, they went to a 12 month contract at a much higher compensation package. So to estimate their true 2011 compensation package, multiply their 2010 package by 1.2. Hefty raises for almost all of the SASS administrators — not the “$50,000 cost savings” promised by King Lawrence. Then we have the new Grand Jury critque of the Gang of Five reorganization and raises giving the lawyer a $27,000 raise and criticizing his poor performance as an administrator. Not King Lawrence’s idea, but definitely his failure to supervise those “added responsibilities”.

  10. Flippin' Tired Says:

    Doctor J, you are making the allegation. I am asking you for the details. Names, places and details, please.

  11. Doctor J Says:

    @Flippin — I gave you the specifics that I know about for the last two weeks: Phoenix and Sacramento. Can’t these administrators car pool back and forth 70 miles for two days ? Think how they could talk while they are driving about what they just learned.

  12. Billy Bob Says:

    Dr. J.,

    I don’t have evidence one way or the other, but word on the street is that the CDE took care of the entire bill for the Sacramento junket.

    I haven’t heard anything on the Phoenix trip.

    -Billy Bob

  13. Doctor J Says:

    @BillyBob, my friends at CDE say it ain’t so since there was a travel ban in place, but even if it were correct, that still means EIGHT lost work days for MDUSD staff [4×2]. CDE paying for mileage, the Marriott, and meals ?? Who is kidding who ? Check Dr. Browne’s expense reimbursement request.

  14. Doctor J Says:

    Better yet, Theresa can request from CDE a copy of the alleged payments for the MDUSD staff for mileage, the Marriott and meals. Then we can see if there was a cover up or not.

  15. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Regarding the CDE travel ban, what do you think of the fact that Torlakson is continuing to fly around the state holding press conferences about the “fiscal emergency?” Is this essential travel?
    Also, Craig Cheslog told the MDUSD CAC that he was planning to fly back east to a conference about integrating arts into the classroom. Does this sound like an essential trip?

  16. g Says:

    Torlakson’s travel is being seen as completely necessary because he has been assigned to play the role of ‘Chicken Little’ in the long running hit titled “Fear and Success”, or (How to get your tax passed).

  17. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I wonder how much the CDE is spending on his travel compared to how much would have been spent to put on the recognition dinner for schools.
    Cheslog said some districts have complained that they had already purchased non-refundable airline tickets, so now he is spending his time lobbying airlines to refund the money due to the fiscal emergency.

  18. Billy Bob Says:

    Dr. J.,

    I have a buddy who knows a person who asks lots of email questions to the board. He or she has shown me the emails (in one of which it was clear this person should not have been copied on; it shows a string of emails from the various parties involved) which state emphatically by the principal players here that the CDE (Cal. Dept. of Education) paid for the Sacramento trip.

    Again, this is just based on the email exchanges and erroneously copied email strings. I have no factual proof one way or the other.

    -Billy Bob

  19. Flippin' Tired Says:

    Doctor J, name the names. You seem to know so much, spill it all. The coy ploy is sickening.

    Put up or shut up. We’re all flippin’ tired of your allegations.

  20. Doctor J Says:

    @BillyBob, when the truth comes out, I hope the person who claimed the CDE paid for “everything” is held accountable. @Flippin — ask Mildred who she took and why she took so many. Our public officials should not keep secrets.

  21. Billy Bob Says:

    Dr. J.,

    Here is one of the portions of a relatively long email string:

    “The California State Department paid for Administrators to present our work on Disproportionality. Sue Peterson, James Wogan and Felicia Stuckey Smith and I attended this meeting. Dr. Mary Bacon also attended. The meeting and presentations provided training to districts to assist districts in developing strategies so the districts will not be cited as being ” significantly disproportionate”. If we are found to be ” significantly disproportionate” then we will be subject to the loss of 15 percent of our special education funding. CDE paid for hotel, mileage and food while we attended the training. The funding came from a Federal Grant. Our presentation was well received. We all left the training better prepared to continue our work in this area.
    Thanks Mildred
    Mildred Browne, Ed.D.
    Assistant Superintendent
    Pupil Services and Special Education
    Mt. Diablo Unified School District”

    It sounds legit, but I don’t know or understand how this complies with the recent CDE ruling to cancel ALL non-essential travel. Maybe you know?

  22. g Says:

    Maybe CDE should have told them to Google it and study everything that’s been presented in the past. This is nothing more than another example of wasting tax dollars before they ever have a chance of reaching the classroom. Not one person listed above is “new to the game”, and not one of them should need annual retraining on something so simple!

  23. Flippin' Tired Says:

    Doctor J, you’re tiresome. Either you know, and you can tell, or you’re making it up. You seem to have an insider’s knowledge. Either tell us who went on the Sac trip, or shut up about it. I know I’m sick to death of your whining about the same garbage ad infinitum.

  24. Doctor J Says:

    @BillyBob: I agree with “G” — the annual salaries of these four exceed a half million dollars. Frankly, its hard to believe since MDUSD was tagged again as one of the districts who are guilty of disproportionality so would the state pay their expenses ? I think that Dr. Bacon is the consultant from Las Vegas hired by MDUSD on this issue — did MDUSD pay her hourly rate to attend ? Show us the email from the State of California that says it was an all expenses paid trip. I am not buying it. Besides, the state only pays hotel and food “per diem” not actual expenses. @Flippin — Post #21 identifies who went. Read before you post.

  25. Flippin' Tired Says:

    Doctor J,

    in Post #1 you say: “Even as we speak, there are district administrators at out of state at conferences.”

    In post #8 you say: “The week before, it was a couple of SASS Directors down in Phoenix for a few days.”

    So, you gonna name names and dates and where they stayed, are are you going to continue to tapdance and cast aspersions on my reading skills?

    Maybe you want to re-read what you said before you post.

  26. Wait a Minute Says:

    Flippin and Poseiden are obviously more then just busy apologists for the many scandals besieging the MDUSD district level leadership.
    They are almost certainly directly connected to a board member or perhaps lawrence as they are desperatly trying to protect them here from the many serious charges being raised.
    A day late and a dollar short for them in any case!

    Conversly, the whistleblowers and insiders posting here obviously have knowledge of the items they are exposing but they must be very careful so as not to be compromised since retaliation would be sure to follow if they work for the MDUSD.

  27. Flippin' Tired Says:

    I’m just asking for the details of Doctor J’s statements. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Adults, when they make allegations, back them up, or are dismissed as whiners with axes to grind.

  28. Anon Says:

    When I emailed asking for details about which entity paid for the two day and night trip by administrators to Sacarmento, I was told by a board member to file a public records request.

    Surprising how fast they have clammed up about this issue. Anyone know what would be entailed with a public records request?

  29. Doctor J Says:

    @#28 “you have the right to remain silent . . . .”

  30. Theresa Harrington Says:

    A public records request can be made by e-mail to general counsel Greg Rolen at The district has 10 calendar days to respond to a request for public information.

  31. Doctor J Says:

    @Anon #28 Did you make a records request on Mildred Browne’s entourage “Travelgate” trip to Sacramento ? Any response ?

  32. Anon Says:

    Dr. J.,

    I have not yet made the request. I have kids in the district and I’m hesitant to have board members make life hard for them. I suspect that is unlikely, but with the current and recent board it is probably a distinct possibility.

    I’m trying to convince some friends/neighbors without kids in the district to do it for me.

    I mainly thought it was an odd and suspicious response from a board that encourages transparency and always says, “Call or email us”, the answer to this question was “File a public records request”. Things that make you go hmmmmm…….

  33. Doctor J Says:

    anon #32 Yes, have your friend do it. I would suggest you ask for ALL emails about the conference to and from Mildred Browne before and after the conference, all “cal card” charges from Sunday to Tuesday of the conference by ALL those attending [you should name them], and all copies of requests for payement for attending the conference. You will probably hit an uranium mine, and set off an atom bomb at the same time ! Let us know.

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