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School Officials Rack Up $15K in Travel Costs

Reimbursements include thousands of dollars in hotel stays, in-town fuel charges.

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Richmond's School Board members and administrators racked up more than $15,631 in travel expenses between January and November 2009, according to documents obtained by Style Weekly, accounting for in-town gas reimbursements and payment for jaunts to far-flung conference locations.

Mayor Dwight Jones and City Council recently were called out for spending $23,000 to refurbish some offices at City Hall.

Taxpayers spent $4,605 to send Richmond Superintendent of Schools Yvonne Brandon beyond city limits during the 11 months for which travel and expense records were obtained.

Brandon appears to have favored time spent with the Council of Great City Schools, attending two of its conferences last year for a total of seven days. During her first trip, two days in March to Washington, D.C., she stayed in a $237.02-per-night hotel. On her second, a five-day trip to Portland. Ore., in October and November, she slept for a comparatively cheaper $196.88 a night.

But not all expensive trips required leaving the 804 area code — or even the 23219 ZIP code. Last year's Virginia School Boards Association Legislative Conference, held Feb. 12 and 13 at the Richmond Marriott, cost $1,000. That included $210 each for Kim Gray, Norma Murdoch-Kitt, Adria Graham Scott and Dawn Page to register. Betsy Carr's tab, for reasons unexplained in the documents, cost only $160.

Among other notable spenders, Richmond's director of exceptional education, Harley Tomey, was reimbursed for more than $1,300 in mileage costs for traveling within the city.

Also of note: Ronald Carey, assistant superintendent for instruction and accountability, charged the city for a $1,043.33 trip to the Sheraton Hotel in New York City, where he attended two days of the three-day “Learning from Harlem's Children Zone Model” conference.

The hotel nights totaled more than $600. But despite the posh environs and accommodations, Carey evidently wasn't satisfied with the grub.

“Their dinners were included” in the conference fee, says Mary Jane Saunders, an event planner for the organization that sponsored the conference. Carey billed the Richmond Public Schools for meals totaling $150.

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