Laney group meeting at resort hotel

Group of 85 heads to Ritz Carlton on Lake Oconee for overnight training

Thursday, July 29, 2010 3:00 PM
Last updated 3:05 PM
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A two-day, one-night "team building" retreat at the Ritz-Carlton at Lake Oconee has been approved for the staff of Lucy C. Laney Comprehensive High School as part of a federal school improvement grant the school received last month.
The retreat – which will involve 85 faculty and staff members, occurring today and Friday – will cost $12,458. The site is where country music star Carrie Underwood recently got married, and according to the hotel's Web site the location was named among the World’s 500 Best Hotels in Travel + Leisure Magazine in 2008.
School officials are quick to note that the retreat was part of the federal grant and that its cost falls well below a budgeted amount of $35,000 that the grant had allowed.
“The grant proposal budgeted up to $35,000.00 for this retreat, which was approved by the state,” states an e-mail sent by Richmond County schools spokesman Louis Svehla. “In negotiation with several sites, the Ritz-Carlton at Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia, offered the best hotel rates, acceptable food service costs and room meeting rates.”
Svehla said that the normal room rate for this time of year at the Ritz-Carlton is $244 per person. “However, for this training session the discounted room rate will be $70 per person or $140 for a room for two people (double occupancy),” Svehla stated in the e-mail. “The hotel is waiving all meeting room rentals.”
The retreat comes as part of a turnaround reform model Laney is having to undertake in accepting more than $1 million in federal school improvement funds for the coming school year - an initiative of the Obama administration.
The turnaround model requires the school to replace half its staff and have them reassigned to other schools. Several of those positions have been accounted for through attrition and some teachers being reassigned from an eighth-grade academy that Laney won’t have this school year.
“Now that the selection of staff is nearing completion, the staff will be required to attend the retreat,” Svehla stated. “At this retreat, there will be an agenda and various activities designed to enable the newly selected and returning faculty and staff members to become fully oriented with the vision and mission of the school relative to the implementation of the Turnaround Model of the School Improvement Grant at Lucy C. Laney High School.”
The $12,458 cost of the retreat, Svehla stated, includes lodging, several meals and meeting rooms for the 85 faculty and staff, which equals $147 a person for the two days and one night stay.
“Accordingly, while the name of the hotel carries a perception that there may be some added expense, in reality, the rates are very reasonable and discounted after thorough negotiations,” he stated.
Two other Richmond County schools that also received more than $1 million each from the school improvement grant, though, aren't traveling for their retreat. Svehla confirmed that Glenn Hills and Josey Highs will be holding their gatherings at their respective schools.
Svehla said the decision about where the retreats were to be held was left up to each schools' principal.
Glenn Hills Principal Wayne Frazier said he chose to keep his school's retreat local because he'd rather use all grant money in the classroom and in professional development of teachers. He said doing a retreat at his school is also better because it puts the teachers in the environment they'll be working in.
"My leadership style does not lend itself to that type of retreat, with the present economy crisis," Frazier said of his opting not to travel or stay over night somewhere for a retreat.
Svehla said Laney's situation is different from Josey and Glenn HIlls, though, noting that only Laney is having half of its staff reassigned, and only Laney is having to train for the first time in some new processes involving college board training and a plan called America's Choice.
"It’s a way to get away with each other and really form a team,” he said.
Columbia County school officials say they can't recall ever sending a group to a Ritz-Carlton for training or a retreat and lately have been trying to keep retreats and other training local unless the training is only offered at an out-of-county location.

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Sweet son
11057
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Sweet son 07/29/10 - 02:06 pm
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Commenters and blogers will

Commenters and blogers will have a field day with this. I can't think of anything to say!!!!!!!

Chillen
17
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Chillen 07/29/10 - 02:09 pm
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This is totally outrageous.

This is totally outrageous. Somebody had to work very hard to earn $75,000 so that the federal taxes they paid (about $12,500) could cover the cost of this five-star resort "retreat".

Speaking from experience in the private world, those retreats are a waste of money. Just an excuse to get out of town, down a few drinks and feel important.

Sickening.

NoCatchyName
51
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NoCatchyName 07/29/10 - 02:15 pm
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Exactly. Another fine way to

Exactly. Another fine way to spend the taxpayer's money. I wonder how many children will actually be benefited from this waste.

countyman
21224
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countyman 07/29/10 - 02:18 pm
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The chronicle is clearly

The chronicle is clearly baised alot of times? The headline reads ''Laney group meeting at resort hotel''... The paper is trying to stir the pot and get certain people pumped up... The federal grant gave Laney a budget of 35k and paid for the retreat.......

Anytime something is too black or democratic...... The chronicle will definitely be on the other side of the table....

The classic article last year ' Fight near Josey''.... Do you know how many fights happen in a 5 mile radius of the diffrent schools in the CSRA... Yet the chronicle only posted a entire article on Josey...

lylagirl
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lylagirl 07/29/10 - 02:17 pm
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I concur with Dr. Frazier

I concur with Dr. Frazier concept....why isn't he the super....that's Tonethia Beasley champayne taste with beer money mentality...not good at all!!!!!

walrus4ever
354
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walrus4ever 07/29/10 - 02:19 pm
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Two per room? Are

Two per room? Are "companions" part of the entourage? Sounds like a grown up version of Band Camp. Dont produce , get a free trip . Another Obamanism.

baronvonreich
0
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baronvonreich 07/29/10 - 02:20 pm
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Some people must believe

Some people must believe "federal grant money" grows on trees and isn't paid by taxpayers.

walrus4ever
354
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walrus4ever 07/29/10 - 02:21 pm
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No countryman, us taxpayers

No countryman, us taxpayers paid for it. Fed or not, its the same.

Taylor B
5
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Taylor B 07/29/10 - 02:24 pm
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As a candidate for District 6

As a candidate for District 6 Board of Education I call SHENANIGANS. Dr. Fraizer is right, and I commend him on his fiscally responsible decision.

At least steal the little soaps and put them in the bathrooms when you get back for the kids to wash their hands with....

Contrarian Coach
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Contrarian Coach 07/29/10 - 02:25 pm
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You're a consistently failing

You're a consistently failing school, you replaced a popular principal with one who has some baggage, you've cut half of your staff and this is the first retreat/professional learning that you decide to come up with?

Not a good move. Not a good look. Not a good start to the school year.

Laney will be in the eye of public scrutiny for the entire year, mark my words. Ever since Beasley became principal, there has been controversy. It will continue constantly, year in and year out, until one of two things happen:

1). Laney makes AYP

2). Beasley is replaced

If Laney doesn't make AYP this year, expect complaints from Laney alumni and parents to get louder. They have to make AYP in the next two years; the community is already too disgruntled to give her three.

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 07/29/10 - 02:26 pm
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Correction... We don't pay

Correction... We don't pay for federal grants. China pays for them, and our children pay China.
Can we have a bit of accountability at Laney? Are we at all surprised?

Chillen
17
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Chillen 07/29/10 - 02:27 pm
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So, we are furloughing

So, we are furloughing teachers & staff. Laying off teachers & staff. But the federal government gives $35,000 to be used for a retreat. Not for paying teachers or other basic operational items.

The entire government system has gone totally haywire. This just doesn't even make sense.

Riverman1
89986
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Riverman1 07/29/10 - 02:28 pm
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Didn't the Columbia County

Didn't the Columbia County Commission meet there a few years ago?

countyman
21224
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countyman 07/29/10 - 02:33 pm
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Dr. Frazier recently got a

Dr. Frazier recently got a DUI, and won't be a superintendent anytime soon.. He should continue improving the education at Glenn Hills. He raised the graduation rates and needs to focus on the public image of the school..... The Laney transformation is much diffrent from Glenn Hills or Josey....

''Only Laney is having half of its staff reassigned, and only Laney is having to train for the first time in some new processes involving college board training and a plan called America's Choice.''

There is a AP Academy coming to Laney in 2010-2011... Anybody living in RC can attend the high school... Laney is the only magnet program that can award you the Advanced Placement Academy (APA) Seal or an Advanced Placement Academy (APA) Seal of Distinction on your high school diploma...

Chillen
17
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Chillen 07/29/10 - 02:29 pm
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riverman, I wouldn't be

riverman, I wouldn't be surprised in the least.

follower
59
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follower 07/29/10 - 02:29 pm
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When I need to "team build",

When I need to "team build", the sales team meets at 7am and the company furnishes the buiscuts, coffee, and donuts.

You're correct on this one Baron.
If we could get a grant [hahahahahaha], we wouldn't throw the money away like this. Heck, when I go out of town on business, the Hampton Inn is about as fancy as it gets.

Are we surprised?

countyman
21224
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countyman 07/29/10 - 02:37 pm
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I personally wouldn't judge a

I personally wouldn't judge a school by their AYP results??? I think SAT scores, graduation rates, AP classes, and IB programs are more important criteria........

The federal goverment gave Laney a budget of 35k, but the school only spent 12k....

Sweet son
11057
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Sweet son 07/29/10 - 02:33 pm
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I told you. I am so glad

I told you. I am so glad that I got the first shot at this and I did not have to "say anything".

Riverman1
89986
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Riverman1 07/29/10 - 02:39 pm
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Chillen, it happened more

Chillen, it happened more than once I believe. The Columbia County Commission planning meeting was at Reynolds Plantation at Lake Oconnee. Here is a link with an interview with Ron Cross. http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2006/12/16/met_108675.shtml

Chillen
17
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Chillen 07/29/10 - 02:43 pm
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countyman and that $12K is

countyman and that $12K is $12K too much.

The federal govt does not have the money to be giving out. Especially for non-essential items.

And it was in very poor taste. American's are scraping, saving, struggling and Laney is partying at the Ritz. Are they kidding me?

No wonder my taxes are going up next year.

GAterp
2
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GAterp 07/29/10 - 02:43 pm
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Maybe they should have gone

Maybe they should have gone to the Day's Inn downtown?

dani
12
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dani 07/29/10 - 02:58 pm
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Gotta spend that "free"

Gotta spend that "free" money.

dani
12
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dani 07/29/10 - 03:01 pm
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...Is there no room at the

...Is there no room at the school to hold a meeting?

RoadKing09
16
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RoadKing09 07/29/10 - 03:02 pm
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If it doesn't improve the

If it doesn't improve the school $12K worth, the people attending should pony up the money.

frednasc
9
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frednasc 07/29/10 - 03:04 pm
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Truth is it doesn't matter

Truth is it doesn't matter whose money it is it's ultimately the taxpayers money and when one man has the sense to say we can't justify spending the money in the current eco crunch how do you spend it with a clear conscience....very poor choice

dichotomy
36007
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dichotomy 07/29/10 - 03:14 pm
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There are just certain groups

There are just certain groups that, when they get their hands on some taxpayer's money, it's "whoohoo.....it's travel time". I'm talking the same mentality of the leadership that causes Laney to be in the category that it is in to begin with. I commend the leadership at Glenn Hills and Josey for saving the money and keeping their meetings local. Even our self-centered little heathen teens can see through the hypocrisy of using grant money for an out of town meeting at a luxury hotel when a local school gym or cafeteria with some pizza and danish would have accomplished the same thing. Woohoo, taxpayer money! ROAD TRIP.

powercenter64
15
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powercenter64 07/29/10 - 03:14 pm
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Well it is about time that

Well it is about time that this came to light. I hope that the Augusta Chronicle will use the Freedom of Information Act in order to see what the expenses for this trip are to the penny. I also understand that chartered buses were taken. I would also be interested to know if the principal of this school took her family and if she has her own room or suite. Finally, when we have a team building exercise at my job I buy a bunch of Krispy Kreme donuts. If they are good for Phil they are good enough for me!

seenitB4
93264
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seenitB4 07/29/10 - 03:22 pm
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The Ritz at $70 a

The Ritz at $70 a night...that is a great rate. I guess we should be thankful they didn't want to go to Sea Island.

Georgiais1
0
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Georgiais1 07/29/10 - 03:34 pm
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Dr Frazier wants to keep it

Dr Frazier wants to keep it close ..er to the VFW. Sip Sip

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