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The BOE travel flap

August 23, 1998

How much is too much? That's the question some of Andrew Humphreys' Washington County school board colleagues have about his travel expenses. Humphreys says (in a statement we'll print in tomorrow's Herald-Mail) that his attendance at various conferences was his way to fulfill his pledge to become well-rounded and well-informed school board member.

To do that, Humphreys apparently spent a little more than $5,000 of the $8,000 originally budgeted to cover annual expenses for the five-member board. Robert Kline, the board's president, said Humphreys was warned about his expenses several weeks ago, during a meeting Humphreys says he does not recall. Now Kline says the procedure for approving board member travel will be tightened up.

That's good, but as that happens, the board should consider two other things. The first is that while there is probably some sort of education-related seminar, conference or convention going on every week, not all of them will yield something useful for the local school system. Because there's not an unlimited supply of money, the board should take a hard look at the program descriptions to make sure the benefit is worth the cost.

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For example, if the prime purpose of a conference is to explore the best methods of teaching Chinese dialects, the board might want to save its cash for something more useful, like a seminar on how to seek grant funding. The board should also demand that members who do attend provide written reports on what they learned, and how it will benefit the local system.

And the board might also want to look at whether it would be more useful to have a staff member attend some of these meetings, since board members won't (theoretically speaking) remain in office forever.

That brings us to our second point. Humphreys is running for a seat on the board of county commissioners, and while there's much to be said for county board members being knowledgeable about education, until the election is over, school board cash ought to be reserved for those we know are going to stay in education's front lines.

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