Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pa. Auditor Says Pps 'Vulnerable to Waste' for Travel Officials: Trips Were for Staff Development

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pa. Auditor Says Pps 'Vulnerable to Waste' for Travel Officials: Trips Were for Staff Development

Article excerpt

An initial review of travel costs for Pittsburgh Public Schools officials shows that the school district is "vulnerable to waste," Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said this week.

According to his "initial observations," the district's travel budget increased from $162,258 in 2016 to $453,231 in 2018, and Superintendent Anthony Hamlet and former assistant superintendent Anthony Anderson made 21 out-of-state trips in the past calendar year, including to Washington, D.C., Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

"I understand the need for some travel related to professional development, but there must be greater accountability and justification for travel," Mr. DePasquale said in a news release. "District policies - such as requiring most staff to submit a post-trip justification report - are not being uniformly enforced."

In a statement, district officials said the trips were related to professional development. They said the costs add up to a fraction of a percent of the district's total expenditures, which are small when compared with other urban school districts.

"Staff development is necessary if we are to avoid the pitfalls that have hindered past reforms from achieving our goals for students," the district said. "These engagement efforts, selected based on their alignment to our work, allow teachers, principals, central office staff, and all role groups to learn from the mistakes and successes of others who have implemented new strategies to spur student achievement. By expanding the number and type of attendees we send to these programs, we magnify the impact our efforts have on our children."

Mr. DePasquale in May launched a review of PPS administrator travel, vendor-sponsored trips or gifts and contracts that were awarded without seeking bids, after questions arose about a trip to Cuba taken by Mr. …

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