Federal Way superintendent defends $60,000 trip overseas

by: David Ham Updated:

Taxpayers footed the bill for five people from Federal Way Public Schools to go on a 19-day trip to Europe in September at a cost of $60,700.

 

"I think it's the most exciting initiative and the most important initiative we have going on in federal way public schools and essentially it's going to equip our students with the skills to be successful in a global economy," said Superintendent Rob Neu.

 

He said the trip was no vacation, but a lot of hard work.

 

"It's all about establishing partnerships through relationships and you can't do that initially by phone or internet.  You've got to go there, you've got to meet them, you've got to take the time to learn about their systems in their schools in their countries then you can come back and establish those Skype and telephone relationships," said Neu.

 

But critics don't agree.

 

"I think it's a waste of our taxpayer money," said Monica Regules, who has a ninth-grade son who attends Public Academy in Federal Way.

 

She added, "It looks like they're spending money out of pocket that they should have spent out of their pocket instead of school funds pocket."

 

Federal Way Public Schools said the money for the trip will be coming out of the 2013-2014 school budget.

 

Carol Gregory is running for the District 4 Federal Way School Board seat.

 

"I think if you're going to study there are a lot of ways to study and maybe you have to send one person or possibly two," said Gregory.

 

She thinks the school system should focus more on other priorities before putting more energy into the initiative.

 

"Our test scores are not that good.  Our graduation rates haven’t improved.  We've got a lot of work to do to prepare our students for the future and the Global Initiative is only a small part of that," said Gregory.

 

Neu brushed off critics that called this trip a junket.

 

"Oh this was work. This is really hard work going overseas and traveling to other countries," said Neu.

 

Neu also traveled with school board president Tony Moore back in May to China and Australia at a cost of $33,351 for 21 days. This was paid out of the 2012-2013 budget.

 

Moore was scheduled to attend this trip to Europe but was arrested on Sept. 17th at Sea-Tac Airport on aggravated theft charges.

 

Prosecutors said he stole $150,000 worth of tires from a business in Oregon. He's out on bond right now, and refused to step down from the school board.

 

"I agree traveling is hard work but that has nothing to do with the fact that one person could have done that hard work or two," said Gregory.

 

Neu said no more overseas trips are planned for board members.  He hopes the district will be able to send students and teachers overseas in the future, and have their expenses paid for with new revenue streams and corporate partnerships.

 

The school board is planning a presentation on this Global Initiative Study Tour on Oct. 15th.