News Three's Sydney Cameron has confirmed taxpayers spent $13,380.60 on an out-of-town staff retreat for employees at the new Aaron Cohn Middle School in Columbus. Thirty-six staffers attended what the district calls a “professional development” staff retreat this summer.
Minimum information was confirmed by school district officials Wednesday. District Spokesperson Valerie Fuller said the retreat took place at Peachtree City Conference Center near Atlanta. She could not provide the exact date of the retreat or how long it lasted.
In an e-mailed response from Christy Nolan, Muscogee County District's Director of Professional Learning, she said the funds came from Title IIA federal money. The funds are distributed by the state and deals with improving teacher and leader quality and increasing student achievement.
She went on to say it's customary for a learning retreat to take place whenever a new school opens in Muscogee County to develop policies, procedures, to work on team-building skills and vision-casting. Nolan said it is not required for the retreat to be held locally. She claimed the option is given to allow for “focused, intentional planning to kick off the opening of the new school.” In a follow-up e-mail Nolan said the retreat was held outside Columbus to “ensure focus and lessen distractions while such important decisions were being made.”
Several phone calls were made to speak with Aaron Cohn's principal, Richard Green on Monday and Wednesday, but News 3 has not been successful in reaching him. Attempts to speak with new Muscogee County Superintendent David Lewis Wednesday were also not successful. His secretary told News 3 he was in back-to-back meetings and would not be available to answer questions on the matter. No one at the school district was willing to do an on-camera interview Wednesday.
The Georgia Department of Education is slated to vote on Fiscal Year 2014 Title IIA district allocations next week. If approved, Muscogee County will get $1,629,862.
News 3 will continue to follow this story and will update this story as soon as possible.