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.