Tax dollars fund Metro Schools trip to Amelia Island Ritz-Carlto - WSMV News 4

Tax dollars fund Metro Schools trip to Amelia Island Ritz-Carlton

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Last week, 10 Metro Schools leaders stayed at The Ritz-Carlton at Amelia Island. (WSMV) Last week, 10 Metro Schools leaders stayed at The Ritz-Carlton at Amelia Island. (WSMV)
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

It’s a trip most people can only dream of: an all-expenses paid stay at a luxury beach resort.

The Channel 4 I-Team has learned a group of education leaders took such a trip, and taxpayers picked up the bill.

The trip comes as Metro Nashville Public Schools continues to examine its own travel expenses.

Last week, 10 Metro Schools leaders stayed at The Ritz-Carlton at Amelia Island, which is considered one of the South’s premiere resorts.

The district leaders attended the Comprehensive Literacy Summit, a four-day conference hosted by Scholastic, according to spokeswoman Ameerah Palacios.

Metro Schools sent officials ranging from Chief Academic Officer Monique Felder to the district’s director of literacy.

“Improving student literacy in Metro Schools is a major focus, and the employees who attended the Literacy Summit in early February all work directly with this topic at the school and district levels through their role and scope of responsibilities,” Palacios said.

In total, the trip to Florida cost $13,480, which included travel, meals and lodging.

Palacios said the funding came from federal dollars specifically intended for professional development opportunities.

A room at the Ritz can easily cost upwards of $500 during the week. But Palacios said Metro was able to negotiate a special rate of $220 a night with the hotel.

According to the president of the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association, the trip does raise some questions.

“It does kind of look bad because they issued a travel memo,” said Erick Huth, president of the MNEA.

Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph released a memo last September, imposing a temporary travel freeze. The measure requires that to be approved, travel must align with the district’s priorities.

Dr. Joseph released a statement Wednesday saying the trip aligned “with the district’s efforts to improve student outcomes.” That means the trip was found allowable.

But Dr. Joseph also noted that in the future, the district will “scrutinize” the locations of conferences and trainings.

“We plan on communicating with the event organizers that they should be more mindful of the optics when selecting conference sites in the future,” Joseph wrote.

Scholastic actually offered to subsidize the trip for Metro, but the district declined. Metro Schools uses Scholastic as a vendor.

Palacios said the exchange might have been perceived as a conflict of interest.

This is not the first time Metro Schools leaders have taken an out-of-state trip. The school board took a trip to Salt Lake City just five days before Dr. Joseph released the travel freeze memo.

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