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Two charter organizations spent about $250,000 on out-of-state professional training

Algiers Charter School Association employees have taken professional-development trips to Las Vegas; Point Clear, Ala.; and Orlando, Fla., in recent years, costing a total of $113,000.

And KIPP New Orleans Schools spent $133,000 on its last professional-development trip to Las Vegas, more than the $119,000 that the organization originally disclosed.

Including a Friends of King Schools trip to the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, which cost about $70,000, these organizations have spent $316,000 on out-of-town training — mostly in the last year.

From the documentation provided, it doesn’t appear that quorums of the KIPP or Algiers Charter Schools boards were present at those functions — meaning that these were not official meetings that, by law, must be open to the public.

In contrast, the public was not notified about a Friends of King Schools retreat in Biloxi last August, though a quorum — seven of nine members, plus the board attorney — was present.

KIPP expects most of its Las Vegas trip costs to be reimbursed through Title II funding, which are federal dollars intended to improve teacher quality. The schools could use their general funds to pay the rest, but KIPP Director of Advocacy Jonathan Bertsch said private donations probably will cover it.

Nineteen trips by various Algiers charter school employees were funded by Title II and other federal grants, as well as the schools’ general funds. Five of those were out-of-state.

It’s legal to use federal education funds for professional development. Title II funds can be used for a variety of purposes, staff training among them. Title I funds, which are meant to improve outcomes for disadvantaged children, also may be used for this sort of teacher training.

It’s also legal for school employees to attend retreats out of town. But Caroline Roemer Shirley, executive director of the nonprofit Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, has questioned the wisdom of spending money to travel out of town while state education funding is tight.

Adrian Morgan, chief executive officer of the Algiers charter group, said his staff haven’t taken any out-of-state professional development trips since August 2012, when he took charge. However, he said, it is “absolutely necessary to travel from time to time.”

For example, “visiting high-quality schools is always a great thing,” he said. “Obviously you have to go to the school to see it in action.” Travel also may be required to hear from experts on certain topics, he added.

In past years, the KIPP School Summit, the national professional development retreat attended last summer by 185 KIPP New Orleans employees, has been held in Orlando, Fla., and Nashville, Tenn. This summer, it will be in Houston.

Algiers Charter School Association staff went to Vegas and Orlando

Records requested by The Lens show that out-of-state travel indeed has been curtailed under Morgan’s leadership, but plenty happened before he took charge. And travel within Louisiana has been extensive.

The staff of Martin Behrman Charter School Academy for Creative Arts and Sciences went to the Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa in Point Clear, Ala., May 26-28, 2011. The Grand has a 20,000-square-foot European spa, 10 tennis courts, two golf courses and a marina.

At a cost of roughly $26,000, faculty discussed “reflective practice” in education and attended sessions titled “Body,” “Mind,” and “Spirit.” They came up with a plan of action for the upcoming school year and listened to sessions from Behrman counselors and school administrators.

Behrman chartered a bus from Blue Diamond Tours for the three-hour drive the Grand Hotel, at a cost of $2,750. The school booked 31 rooms, paying $291 a night after taxes and fees.

Unlike one of Friends of King’s schools, Behrman was not running a deficit at the time staff took their trip.

A breakdown of the costs for the Point Clear trip:

  • Bus transportation: $2,750

  • Lodging and room charges: $18,063.92

  • Catering: $2,958.42

  • Miscellaneous: $2,527.27

In May 2011, 21 employees of Algiers Technology Academy and Alice M. Harte Charter School went to Las Vegas for the annual conference of the National Council on Educating Black Children. The total cost for airfare, registration, and lodging at the Rio, a casino resort off the Las Vegas Strip, came to about $26,000:

  • Airfare: $11,646.66

  • Lodging: $6,437.76

  • Conference registration: $7,875

In 2011, five employees from Dwight D. Eisenhower Academy of Global Studies attended the Scholastic READ 180 National Summer Institute, a training session aimed at teachers who use the institute’s reading-intervention software.The event was held July 24-29, 2011, at the Peabody Hotel and Resort in Orlando, Fla.

The total cost for registration, lodging, and airfare was $10,587:

  • Lodging: $4,453

  • Registration: $3,870

  • Airfare: $2,264

Another professional development conference cost about $13,000. That time, eight Eisenhower employees went to a conference in Los Angeles and stayed at a J.W. Marriott Hotel. The conference, put on by the Success For All Foundation, trained educators who use its school-improvement model.

The breakdown of costs for the Los Angeles trip:

  • Lodging: $4,690.40

  • Registration: $5,040

  • Airfare: $3,136.80

And Edna Karr High School teachers went on a trip to Montgomery and Birmingham, Ala.; Little Rock, Ark.; and Memphis, Tenn., from June 14-18, 2012. The trip, which cost $29,500, was funded by a federal program for history teachers, now discontinued.

Documents provided to The Lens do not show a detailed breakdown of costs:

  • Total trip costs: $29,500

  • History materials for teachers: $8,118.75

KIPP’s Vegas expenses detailed

Documents provided by KIPP NEW Orleans Schools show the organization spent more than previously disclosed on a trip to Las Vegas last summer.

In November, Bertsch told The Lens that the charter organization had spent $119,175 to send employees to KIPP’s national professional development conference from July 29 to Aug. 1.*

The actual figure was $133,316. Bertsch said he calculated the new number after going through the expenses again.

About 185 of KIPP New Orleans’ 440 employees roomed at the Aria Resort and Casino at a cost of $76,775. Of these, 150 employees were reimbursed about $300 apiece for airfare, which totaled $44,110. Another $12,430 in credit card charges — for meals, business center expenses and taxi cabs, among other things — brought the cost to $133,316.

The breakdown for that trip:

  • Credit card charges: $12,430.91

  • Airfare reimbursements: $44,110

  • Lodging charges: $76,775.78

*Correction: This story originally had the incorrect dates for the KIPP national conference. The error has been corrected. (Jan. 27, 2014)

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  • Lee Barrios

    When you have taxpayer money to spend, why waste it on classroom improvement? I would like to know which high performing schools they visited. They could travel across the lake to St. Tammany and visit several of the state’s highest performing schools.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Isn’t it amazing how teachers have travel to out-of-state for training.

    Hence, why can’t poor kids (almost always from ghetto) in the NOLA Charter Schools be also sent off with one-way tickets? The self-destructive poor communities of New Orleans need to be divided and conquered just like they did with public housing to mixed housing.

    IF MIXED HOUSING? WHY NOT ONE-WAY TICKETS?
    Why have mixed-housing over the past public housing to reduce the cycle of poverty and crime when New Orleans Charter and Public Schools are like 95% poor and black? If you got a school that is like 95% poor and black, that would be just like “public housing”. From lack of morals, ethics, and family to like “ebonics” has led to students being taught ghetto slang and poor day-to-day decisions and time management. This really hurts their jobs skills.

    The fact that the Lens NOLA is even talking about corruption in the NOLA Charter System shows the charter schools for poor blacks kids, even with all these “educators” with 20-30 years of experience and awards, tells me there is a serious ethics and morals problems from the top down.

    This is just like the Atlanta Public School Cheating Scandal (http://fxn.ws/1fkuTFv) that was given an achievement award and now, just recently, the Philadelphia Public schools. with like 140 teachers (http://on.wsj.com/1iwvARd)

  • nickelndime

    “Everybody knows the dice are loaded…” (as the saying goes, and Leonard Cohen’s song rings true). Evidently the federal government has lots of taxpayer money to waste. As George W. Bush has been quoted, “It’s your money. You paid for it.” Well, that taxpayer money just keeps “going down-down-down” (like a Bruce Springsteen’s song) from the State into the gutters of New Orleans. Pastorek told the St. Tammany School Board that it should study (emulate) what was happening in the charter school movement in New Orleans. St. Tammany is still there, but Pastorek is all gone. Where are the indictments? It takes the feds @ 5 years, minimum, to build a case – that’s if they want to build a case! This city depends on its high at-risk, poverty-level population, to run. Where there are bees, there is honey. The honey is money. How long does anyone think this country can continue with the levels of graft, waste, and corruption at this rate? I smell a sell-out (and my nose is stopped up). Ha!

  • Alan Maclachlan

    “Hence, why can’t poor kids (almost always from ghetto) in the NOLA Charter Schools be also sent off with one-way tickets?”

    AhContraire, you win The Great Humanitarian Of The Moment Award (not….)

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Alan M.:
    So what do you proposed to do?

    Go back to “public housing” and the projects?

    Why not go back to Orleans Parish Schools and the UNION?
    And while you are at, go back to welfare?

    Charter and Public Schools, no matter how many Teach for America or 20-30 year master teachers are brought in, have never worked and the problems are only getting worse.
    The fact there are all these “education start-up” in NOLA shows that all of the current attempts not only, “are not working” (even with all their “awards”), but the situation keeps getting worse.

    Do these kids have 2, 5, 10 or 20 plus years for all these education start-ups to experiment? No, they do not, they need help now, today.

    So why ONE-WAY TICKETS?

    It worked with great success after Hurricane Katrina and it’s called TOTAL IMMERSION in a culture and community that has 2 parent families. Right now, it’s single mothers with kids from multiple fathers who either are never around, can’t get work and have to leave, or are trying to get back at their many ex’s via their kids.

    ……Typical social activist short-sightedness and denial.

  • Alan Maclachlan
  • http://peterccook.com/ Peter Cook

    First of all, I’m pretty sure KIPP Summit didn’t last from July 29th to August 31st, as stated in the article (that would mean 185 KIPP N.O. employees missed the first few weeks of school). Second, KIPP Summit offers intensive PD for KIPP teachers from all over the country and at around $720/pp. seems much more reasonable than the $1238/pp. spent by ATA/Harte, $2117/pp. spent by Eisenhower, or even the $838/pp. spent by Behrman.

  • Jessica Williams

    Hey Peter —

    Thanks for pointing out that typo. We have corrected the story to reflect the change. In our other stories, the date is correctly printed as July 29 to Aug. 1.

    Best,

    Jessica

  • Tia Love

    Peter Cook, obtain your facts before responding.

  • http://peterccook.com/ Peter Cook

    I have no idea what you’re talking about.