Board member Carl Paladino and Larry Quinn introduced a resolution that would slash the board’s travel and meal reimbursement policy. The two men see travel to conferences as frivolous at a time when the troubled district is struggling to architect a turnaround.
The minority bloc sees the conferences as valuable opportunities to learn more and network with others in public education. The bloc was offended that the two wealthy men would attempt to prevent others from engaging in professional development.
“There was a time when we, as black people, weren’t allowed to read,” Dr. Theresa Harris-Tigg said, drawing a parallel between Paladino and Quinn’s behavior with historic racism. “For you to think that you can tell others that you can’t learn is outrageous.”
“There was a Conference of Great City Schools last year. Did anyone go to it? No, because it was in Milwaukee,” Quinn retorted, noting that the conference held earlier this month was held in southern California. The audience gasped in disbelief that Quinn would make the suggestion.
Dr. Barbara Nevergold asked why Paladino wasn’t following protocol. This is a budget issue, she said, and should be brought up in the finance committee during annual budget meetings. She noted that Paladino’s refusal to channel his resolutions though appropriate committees was causing serious disruptions in board governance.
Sharon Belton-Cottman noted that the travel budget is less than $30,000, while Paladino-institgated lawsuits against the district have caused it to incur several hundred thousand dollars in legal fees.
Ultimately, the resolution was forwarded to the Executive Affairs committee, as first required of any policy change.
But before that happened, board member Jay McCarthy offered a compromise solution: instead of cutting the travel budget, that the board could eliminate the $20,000 expense item that the district spends to feed board members and district staff prior to board meetings.
The suggestion was not well received, but well intentioned by McCarthy. Board member Sharon Belton-Cottman, a McCarthy nemesis, did not miss the opportunity to smack down the suggestion.