Batavia Schools Lead League for Lavish Dining at Chicago Leadership Conference

Daily Herald Report: Superintendent Jack Barshinger ponies up district funds for hotels and a $2,000 dinner for 16 at Morton's Steakhouse. A Geneva board member characterizes the spending as "just ridiculous."

Batavia School District 101 was the poster child for a front-page Daily Herald report Wednesday that reveals some excessive hotel and travel spending at the November statewide school leadership conference in November.

Daily Herald suburban tax watchdog Jake Griffin did the legwork, filling out Freedom of Information Act requests to districts throughout the suburbs and hitting the jackpot when he saw the $1,929.75 tab Batavia School Board members rung up at Morton's Steakhouse.

The article reports that the Morton's bill usually is picked up by "one of our vendors," according to Batavia Superintendent Jack Barshinger—a practice that is a little eyebrow-raising in and of itself.

Sixteen guests enjoyed entrees including New York strip steak and appetizers such as the $15 lobster bisque, the Daily Herald points out.

But that wasn't all the spending by the group led by Barshinger, who is retiring after this school year. Batavia spent $13,366 in total on the weekend conference—more than $2,600 for food, $5,600 for hotel stays and $4,100 for the conference registration and class fees.

The spending by 89 suburban school districts added up to more than $570,000, with more than $277,000 going to hotel, food, travel and other incidentals.

The 2012 conference—which is jointly sponsored by the Illinois Association of School Boards, Illinois Association of School Administrators and Illinois Association of Business Officials—was held Nov. 16-18 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, Sheraton Chicago and Swissotel hotels, according to the IASB website.

Geneva School Board member Matt Henry said Wednesday morning that School District 304 usually sends at least two School Board members and Superintendent Kent Mutchler.

“Our expenses are for the Metra train there and back and the actual cost to attend the conference. That’s it, nothing else,” Henry said.

Henry noted that Batavia District 101 passed a $75 million referendum about five years ago to pay for a new fieldhouse, the Batavia Fine Arts Centre and other improvements at Batavia High School.

“Batavia’s already taxed at a higher rate (than Geneva School District 304), and when their bonds come due in another five years, I can’t imagine what’s going to happen in Batavia.

"It’s ridiculous, just ridiculous,” Henry said. 

Terry Flanagan February 13, 2013 at 10:09 PM
Sounds like Barsinger and the Batavia School Board had their "let them eat steak" moment with their completely clueless behavior. Kudos to the Geneva School Board for showing some fiscal responsibility.
Craig Burgess February 14, 2013 at 11:04 PM
As a Batavia taxpayer, I am appalled!! With what the Superintendent is paid, he should have picked up the room and board costs. Partying on the backs of the taxpayers....seriously shameful! Shame on all of the board members who participated. All who participated, owe it to the taxpayers to reimburse the district for their reckless financial behavior. What happened to fiduciary responsibility??!!
Keith Murray February 15, 2013 at 01:55 AM
How does this happen in Batavia??? These people obviously have no integrity to do what is right and should not be working with our children! Is anyone watching over the Superintendent's spending? How often has this happened in the past? Chicago is only about a 45 minute train ride. Thousands of people commute there every day for about $12 a day and their salary is much less than what these people are making. I hope a full investigation into Barsinger's spending habits is done and he is forced to reimburse what the taxpayers of Batavia may have wrongfully paid for over the years! All in attendance should apologize. reimburse the City of Batava taxpayers AND be fired. Jail time probably wouldn't hurt either.
Karen Ducoff February 15, 2013 at 02:45 PM
I am so glad this was brought to light. This is just the tip of the iceberg and if something does not change many of us will be priced out of our homes with the unchecked spending and increases our district has condoned. information is power!
Eric Rud February 16, 2013 at 12:26 AM
Would these clueless board members spend $100 of their own money each for dinner and pay for their own hotels rooms? Not a chance. Chicago is a 45 minute $12 train ride from Batavia - show some respect to the tax payers of Batavia and take your lazy ass back and forth like Geneva School District did. We dropped things like Spainish and Building Trades but we have money for the board to live it up. I think a full investigation of Jack Barshinger and the board is needed. Make them pay the money back and if needed fire them. For the first time since moving to Batavia I am embassed of the town I call my home.
Mitch Dinges February 16, 2013 at 05:34 AM
Sounds like Batavia needs to take a look at some private company corporate standard operating procedures that would hold them accountable to how they spend money. This is obviously greed at its worst and shameful in light of these economic times. Raise hell Batavians.
javier February 16, 2013 at 07:02 AM
Rebecca DeSilva February 16, 2013 at 06:03 PM
So when can we expect the reimbursement, the apology and the promise to adopt conference attendance standards that are more in line with Geneva's? Kudos to Geneva for their common sense approach.
Ruth Ann Pineda February 17, 2013 at 05:40 PM
OUTRAGED !!!! I can't afford luxury dinners without a Groupon!!! No...I have to save every penny to try and pay my property taxes each year! Way to go BATAVIA! It is bad enough that the north east side of Batavia gets less services @ patched road repair vs new ones etc, but everyone pays for the schools! We need to band together and demand an audit! If the school district has enough to wine and dine on, we need to lower what we are paying through taxes! I would like to have a night out!!!! Let's get a rebate!
Girl54 February 17, 2013 at 08:57 PM
Wow I am appalled...while we have people struggling to feed their children and pay thier mortgage these School Board representatives in Batavia are spending the taxpayers money without a second thought...shame in all of you. I know as my house value goes down but but taxes keep on going up this is not what I want the schools to spend my hard earned monies on. I work for a global company and I travel often, my companies states this- if you wouldn't spend your own money for certain items don't spend the companies money on those items. We are told to treat he companies funds as if they were our own. Obviously the School Board Members or their leadership is thinking is...well it's not our money so let's spend it anyway we want...shame on you. Good for Geneva Board on doing the RIGHT thing...and just taking the Metra back and forth...as the Batavia School Board should have. I want a refund on my next taxes and an apology letter from all board members who spent so carelessly.
Holly Sparks February 18, 2013 at 01:00 PM
I am appalled. I am paying taxes for all these expenses that are ridiculous and I dont even have any chidren in school anymore. What a slap in my face. I thought our taxes were for schooling our children to be smarter notto let the board have a luxurious "conference". The obscene dollars that were wasted on the Illinois Association of School Board conference was total abuse of the Batavia taxpayer 's dollars. You should all be replaced and made to pay back that money!!!!!
Oh, Great one! February 18, 2013 at 02:25 PM
I own a business in Batavia. I am finishing my last of four years on the school board where I live and at the last conference my total expenses were $18.00....I spent $6 on train ticket downtown Chicago..$6 for lunch(sandwich and bottle of soda) and $6 on a cab from train to convention(split the fare with other member). I ate dinner at home!
Unbelievable February 19, 2013 at 07:11 AM
My God, my child desperately needs tutoring to overcome a neglected IEP and we can't afford it. But Batavia School District won't pay for it, even though they acknowledged it shouldn't have happened and it was their fault. Then I read this and am sick over what they are doing to my kid and how long they are taking to provide badly needed intervention that we still don't have. Our child is struggling and they are partying. The arrogance and lack of conscience while attending that conference infuriates me. They refuse to help us help our child, yet they have no problem using the money to buy a fancy dinner instead. $2000 would pay for a LOT of tutoring for a neglected student. They chose to spend our dollars on perishable fluff, gone by the next day with nothing to show for it, rather than investing it in their own citizens where it would make a lasting impression and grow; and be something to show for years to come. $13,000 on a conference? Over $5,000 on hotels? Which of you has a child struggling to learn in this district and you pay 10-12 thousand a year in taxes? Which of you couldn't benefit from that $5,000, or the entire $13,000, being used to help your struggling child catch up? What indeed are we going to do about this? We have a new superintendent about to take the helm, specially chosen by those who spent that money or benefited from it. It is indeed time for action and she has a very tough choice to make: Us or Them.
Alan Zagoren February 19, 2013 at 08:15 PM
The members of the Batavia School Board should reimburse the district for the money spent to at least "clear the air" along with a guarantee this will not happen again. And they should not be accepting any types of costly gifts from district vendors. They apparently need an ethics policy.


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