Parents unload on Spring ISD

November 11, 2009 1:15:24 PM PST
The Spring Independent School District School Board was silent Tuesday night about allegations of questionable spending and sky-rocketing travel expenses. But parents and taxpayers have been giving Spring an earful in the days since a 13 Undercover investigation.A Caribbean cruise to Cozumel, Mexico; a mountain paradise; a trip to one of Florida's fanciest beach resorts.

13 Undercover exposed weeks ago that Spring ISD spent $400,000 just on out-of-state travel in just three summer months. That's more than double the amount per student spent by the area's largest school district, Houston Independent School District.

"I'll tell you what I'm not going to do, I'm not going to conduct an inquiry through the news," said Spring ISD Superintendent Dr. Ralph Draper.

Our investigation documented evidence that Spring school taxpayers had helped pay for resort stays by the superintendent and his wife on days he didn't have to be travelling.

"What I can explain is that I wouldn't conduct an inquiry through the news," Draper said. "I don't think it's a fair process."

But the superintendent's decision to ignore our questions on camera had been planned in advance. Instead, Spring planned to use its taxpayer-funded website to respond to our investigation. They asked for comments from its parents and taxpayers, and they got an earful:

They include:

"It's hard to believe he holds a degree."

"If a person is not ashamed of what he has been doing, he would not fear the questions being asked."

"Giving a lame excuse not to interview only shows guilt."

"This is a major scandal and it is an awful blemish on our community and school district."

'"Look at the number of principals and other administrators who have left -- amazing."

Even Spring's $135,000-a-year media spokeswoman wouldn't answer our questions on camera.

One teacher emailed Spring after our stories: "I am told there are no funds. I don't ask for supplies, because there are none -- all this while the district leaders are out on cruises and wine tours?"

There were comments on Spence Rogers, too, the consultant who is paid $4,000 a day plus expenses to teach teachers how to reach students -- $4,000 just for him.

Quoting the emails:

"Four thousand dollars a day to teach a teacher how to teach? Absolutely absurd."

"We are going to be nationally known sooner than 2015 -- student rapes, gang killings, teacher molestations -- sprinkle the news every single month, and now this?"

"We want the superintendent fired!"

Some questioned the need for a cruise to learn how to teach kids chess. Quoting the emails:

"You don't need to go on a cruise to learn chess. That's a load of crap."

But some emails defended Spring ISD, calling our investigation "sensationalism." One wrote: "Making a lot of noise and talking in a funny, nasal voice is not the same as journalism."

Spring has defended its travel as necessary, claiming its consulting payments have paid off in student achievement.

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