Shawnee Mission contest travel to increase
Total out-of-district travel costs topped $150,000 in 2011
One year after changing how out-of-district travel is approved, the Shawnee Mission school district anticipates a 3 percent hike in transportation costs, citing an expected increase in state contest travel.
The district increased funds budgeted for state contest travel, registration and meals by 55 percent for the 2012 fiscal year. It will budget $61,000 for state contest travel in 2012, up from $39,274 in 2011.
During the school board’s May 23 meeting, Superintendent Gene Johnson said the increase was a byproduct of success in state competitions.
“It just takes more,” he said. “It’s a good thing and a bad thing.”
State contest travel accounted for a quarter of all out-of-district travel in the Shawnee Mission school district in the 2011 fiscal year.
Travel outside the district will total more than $153,000 for the year, according to documents obtained from the district through an open records request.
Tim Rooney, the district’s budget and finance manager, said some of the trips included professional development required by federal grants. Some grants, he said, can be jeopardized if some or all of them are not used for travel.
The travel report provided by the Shawnee Mission district included trips beyond 75 miles. The report spans from June 9, 2010, to July 22, 2011, and accounts for 264 employees traveling beyond 75 miles of the district.
Prior to the 2010-11 school year, the district announced a round of budget cuts that included a reduction of out-of-district travel at all levels for an estimated savings of $50,493.
Rooney said that, beginning last year, departments were required to obtain approval for travel from an associate superintendent.
For 2011, more than $57,000 — or about 37 percent — of out-of-district travel was financed by the district’s Title II-A teacher quality fund.
“Out-of-state travel is only used for professional development needed for a teacher to continue in their capacity,” said Betsy Regan, director of curriculum and instruction. Regan coordinates the fund.
The fund paid for a November trip to Cupertino, Calif., by Shawnee Mission West fine arts teacher Kelly Gill that cost $3,137.67. Regan said Gill’s attendance at an event called “Train the Trainer” was designed for her to be trained on a software package on which she would later instruct district journalism teachers.
Regan said sending one educator to out-of-state conferences or workshops and having them return home to share that information had been cost effective.
“If we can’t send a group of people out, then we can send one to come back and share their skills throughout the district,” Regan said.
Susan Massy, language arts teacher and newspaper adviser at Shawnee Mission Northwest, said Gill would train district journalism teachers on Final Cut Pro, a video editing software program, in August. And while Massy spoke highly of Gill’s ability to train students and teachers, Massy conceded that secondhand training inevitably would be different than attending the original event.
“It’s never going to be the same as being there,” Massy said. “Someone else is doing the interpreting, but isn’t the expert.”
Travel for International Baccalaureate training and workshops amounted to more than $25,000, or 6 percent of all travel expenses. Funding for those trips came from the district’s general fund.
The I.B. is an international diploma program with academically challenging courses normally taught over two years.
Leigh Anne Neal, associate superintendent of communications, said the program, which is at Shawnee Mission East and Shawnee Mission Northwest high schools, may require teachers to attend training for the first and second year leading up to I.B. implementation.
Northwest’s I.B. program began in 2008 and Shawnee Mission North High School is on pace to begin its program in 2012-13. North is expected to spend more than $67,000 between 2010-11 and 2011-12 on travel for training and workshops. After implementation, that number is expected to drop to between $12,000 and $14,000 per year.
The district sent educators to I.B. training and workshop locations including St. Pete Beach, Fla., Atlanta, New York, Montezuma, N.M., Tahoe City, Calif., Houston, New Orleans and Roseville, Minn.
Advanced Placement-related travel totaled more than $5,500 and included trips to Plano, Texas, San Diego, Phoenix and Tulsa, Okla.
Also included in the report is a trip by Shawnee Mission North Principal Richard Kramer to attend the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. Kramer attended the game in support of the school’s marching band, which performed during halftime of the game. The trip spanned from Dec. 28 to Dec. 31 and cost $1,508.30, paid from the district’s general fund.
Kramer said no other district employee attended. He said that, while he and North administration regularly attend performances, the Holiday Bowl was his first trip outside the district or state to attend a Marching Indians performance.