Education Funding

Detroit Chief Takes Aim at Staff Spending

By Lesli A. Maxwell — June 06, 2006 1 min read

Detroit Superintendent William F. Coleman III has cracked down on lavish spending on staff retreats after a recent professional-development workshop for 30 high school employees racked up a $20,000 tab.

Mr. Coleman last month enacted a new policy that will set limits on professional-development expenditures, especially on food and out-of-town travel.

Under the 129,000-student district’s new rules, spending for meals during staff retreats will be capped per day for each employee, said spokesman Lekan Oguntoyinbo. A precise amount for a cap is still being debated, he said.

The new rules also require principals and administrators to hold retreats on school district property when possible. Barring that, they must seek a location that is within the Detroit city limits.

Mr. Oguntoyinbo said the superintendent was responding chiefly to the $5,000 in food costs that were tallied at a weekend staff retreat at an upscale Detroit-area hotel for Chadsey High School employees.

“We are always searching for ways to make sure that taxpayer money is spent in a way that is responsible and doesn’t embarrass us,” Mr. Oguntoyinbo said.

Teachers and staff members are not required to attend retreats, so principals try enticing them with good food and nice locations, Mr. Oguntoyinbo said.

In a statement, Mr. Coleman said that professional development is a crucial component of the district’s strategy to boost student achievement, and that staff retreats would continue.

Michelle Price, a spokeswoman for the Detroit Federation of Teachers, said in an e-mail that the district should ensure that professional development is “reasonably funded.”

Revelations about the pricey Chadsey High retreat, first reported in a local television news broadcast, came after the board of education voted to approve Mr. Coleman’s plan to close or relocate eight Detroit schools in the fall.

The district has been grappling with ways to save money as enrollment in the Detroit public schools continues to drop.

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A version of this article appeared in the June 07, 2006 edition of Education Week

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