March 11, 2013 10:04:49 AM
Sarah Fowler - email@example.com
At a time when the Columbus Municipal School District was cutting non-essential expenses, Tommy Prude spent close to $1,000 on a conference that was held just two days before his term on the school board ended.
Prude, who served as the board president, left the school board when his term expired March 2. Just a few days earlier, Prude joined other board members at the state's Municipal School Board Association Conference in Jackson Feb. 25-27. Board members Currie Fisher and Aubra Turner attended the three-day conference as well. Schools superintendent Dr. Martha Liddell attended the conference for one day before she left for the National School Board Conference in California.
The annual conference was intended to teach school board members ways to productively and effectively serve their district.
While Turner and Fisher stayed at the same hotel as the conference at a cost of $228, Prude stayed at another Jackson hotel at a cost of $338. Liddell's one night hotel stay cost the district $114.
Prude, Fisher and Liddell drove to the conference separately. Their rental car and gas expenses were $102 each. Turner drove her own car to the conference and did not ask the district for reimbursement.
Each had a conference fee of $330 and $41 per diem for food.
Prude's bid to retain his seat on the board failed when the Columbus City Council voted to appoint Angela Verdell to the position. Verdell will officially take over March 18.
Liddell had little to say about Prude's presence at the conference just days before he left the board.
"When we went, he was still on the board," Liddell said.
When asked if she thought Prude attending the conference would benefit the district, Liddell had no comment.
Prude could not be reached for comment.
In a memo sent to board members Jan. 25, Liddell outlined several cost-cutting maneuvers, with district management, principals and department heads being asked to trim a base minimum of 10 percent from their budgets for the 2013-2014 school year due to expected cuts in state funding.
"As of today, I have placed a spending freeze on all non-essential expenditures to ensure our costs stay under the bar for the remainder of the school year with funds left to plan from our next school year," Liddell wrote. "The spending freeze will be more evident on the February docket because we have reached the end of the January docket."
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.