Left out in the cold

Disastrous school trip to inauguration cries out for acountability

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We don’t know if it was a sham, a scam or a failure to plan. But Butler High students sure got taken for a ride recently – thanks to a decided lack of oversight by the adults around them.

The 30 students, two teachers and two parents boarded an overnight bus to what they thought would be choice seats and other special perks at the Jan. 21 inauguration of President Obama. But when they arrived, the organizer – a woman identified as Erica Jones with the shadowy DRBJ Legacy Foundation – announced there were only three tickets. The rest of the group had to stand in a nonticketed public area so far away from the event that they could enjoy neither the video screen nor the audio.

The trip cost $135 a person.

No one seems to know what the organization is. It’s not registered with the state. We couldn’t find a website or Facebook presence – neither could the students – nor any news articles about it apart from this incident.

The woman involved apparently gave no one a working phone number, and the cell phone she called others from was a “blocked number,” meaning no one got to see what number she was calling from.

It gets better.

The woman claimed at a pre-trip student assembly to be actually talking to President Obama live on the phone – even seeming to make him wait at times while she interacted with the students.

The students were told their names would be put into a lottery to meet the president; that a photo of them would hang in the president’s library; and that first lady Michelle Obama had read one student’s letter out loud at a dinner and had cried.

Not even Burger King serves up that many whoppers at once! The only thing they weren’t told was that Mr. Obama was stranded in an airport without his wallet and needed cash wired to him quickly.

We can understand the excitement of the students. But how could school officials have been so world-class gullible and negligent?

Moreover, Richmond County School Board member Alex Howard tells us that The Chronicle story Sunday was the first he’d heard of all this.

“It bothers (me) very much that this person was allowed in the schools,” he wrote to us Monday. In addition, he said the trip and the organizer should have been reviewed ahead of time by the district’s lawyer and ultimately approved or disapproved by the school board. That didn’t happen.

What if the students had met with peril? The district, which had no oversight, nonetheless would likely still have been liable. More so, it would seem, since school officials appear to have performed no due diligence to learn anything about this person or her organization.

As it was, students were left out in the cold, as was the school board.

At least one online commenter suggested the White House should make the students’ dreams come true and invite the kids to Washington. We think that would be fabulous.

Meanwhile, Butler High officials must be called to account for this outrage. It may rise to the level of a fireable offense. On the thinnest of information, they allowed someone access to those kids in a school environment, and therefore helped perpetrate the trip from hell. And they seem to have done it without any curiosity about the grand promises being made, the woman’s ability to deliver on them, or the obligation to let the district office in on any of it.

Butler Principal Greg Thompson refused to discuss the situation withThe Chronicle, claiming the trip technically wasn’t a school function. Tell that to the jury; it was sold on campus, and students say the school bookkeeper handled the funds.

You can understand the students wanting with all their hearts for all those promises to have been true. It was up to the adults to figure out they weren’t.

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carcraft
27035
Points
carcraft 02/19/13 - 06:42 am
13
5
I think I now understand

I think I now understand those that vote for Obama better! To good to be true has been Obama's whole thing since he started running for office!

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 02/19/13 - 08:54 am
12
0
Great job, ACES. Now, like a
Unpublished

Great job, ACES. Now, like a mad dog, go get those school officials and not let go until they are held accountable. The principal has demonstrated that he is unfit for the job...allowing the culprit to address an assembly and then claiming the school had nothing to do with it.

chascushman
6653
Points
chascushman 02/19/13 - 09:08 am
9
5
Techfan, you say, “The kids
Unpublished

Techfan, you say, “The kids were ripped off by a local shyster.” Where were the parents of these kids I sure they were ones putting up the $$? I’ll bet that 100% of the parents voted for the community organizer. I’m not surprised public schools have been dumbing down the kids for the last 30 yrs. which gives us a lot Obama voters.

Gary Ross
3346
Points
Gary Ross 02/19/13 - 09:19 am
10
2
Life is full of trickery

This was a good real life learning experience for the students! I'm sorry it happened, but this kind of thing happens all the time! It's the course this nation is on now, and we see it every day even from Washington itself. Where I would strongly object is if the students are "rewarded" with another trip at taxpayer expence. That would teach the wrong thing. They need to live and learn, and be more careful next time. Like the rest of us.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 02/19/13 - 10:06 am
9
2
It is the obligation of
Unpublished

It is the obligation of school officials (adult professionals) to protect students (and their parents) from being duped. "Buyer beware" should not apply to school sanctioned activities.

soapy_725
43757
Points
soapy_725 02/19/13 - 10:07 am
0
0
But it was a trip to the New Mecca.
Unpublished

To see the Messiah, the Twelfth Imam and the culmination of all that is Black Liberation Theology.

The biggest trick being played on these George P. Butler HS students is that they are getting an education. That the available career paths are, pro athlete, rock star, burger flipper, criminal and/or ARC employee. The available openings for the first two are very very limited.

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 02/19/13 - 11:05 am
6
11
Probably my last post on

Probably my last post on here. Goodbye to the haters, racists, and bigots. You won't be missed. Keep it up so anyone who's not from around here who reads the paper can see what kind of kooks this area is populated by.

avidreader
3377
Points
avidreader 02/19/13 - 11:11 am
8
0
Beware! Yes, Palmetto!

There are several reasons why MANY teachers will not organize field trips anymore. #1 -- can we trust our students (even with ample numbers of chaperones). #2 -- The paperwork! All field trips have to be approved by administrators from the BOE down to the Principal's office. #3 -- logistics, in general, which are time-consuming, yet manageable if the students and their parents comply with simple paperwork requests.

The Principal at Butler should get an award for "Boner of the Year". When I first read this story several days ago, I was astounded by the lack of administrative control. There is no excuse, no matter how one tries to explain it. The Principal is the BOTTOM LINE -- the person who is obligated for accountability between the BOE and the sponsor.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, both at the BOE and in the press. Let's hope that the BOE chiefs, Tracey McManus, and the elected Board members all bring the hammer down.

avidreader
3377
Points
avidreader 02/19/13 - 11:21 am
10
1
To Techfan

I hope you are simply frustrated and just venting. I have always read your posts closely -- and many of the URLs that you attach. I may not agree with you many times, but your commentaries are mostly coming from an educated person who thinks before speaking (or should I say, typing). You do not treat this board as a "Rants and Raves" forum.

It takes all types of opinions to keep this forum interesting, and your voice should always be included.

Hope to hear you soon!

Jane18
12332
Points
Jane18 02/19/13 - 11:33 am
5
2
Too Good To Be True?

"Erica Jones" knew she could deceive these students and whoever else. It was a "too good to be true" adventure..............go to Washinton for "The" inauguration, sit right up front, picture in the White House, etc.. It's really sad that our young people were done like they were, but, remember, there is always someone that wants" to take you for a ride". No pun intended. It is so hard to believe that not even one(1) adult(school personnel or parent) checked this fraudster out(I guess "Erica" figured, if Obama could fool millions, she could fool a small group). Did anyone ever find out about that second bus, and who those people are?

karradur
2871
Points
karradur 02/19/13 - 12:12 pm
10
1
This will likely fall on deaf

This will likely fall on deaf ears and I'm probably wasting my time by even making this comment, but I'll give it a shot. I know there are a lot of people in the CSRA with very strong feelings about President Obama, both positive and negative. What we need to realize is that most of us, despite our differing opinions, want the same thing for ourselves and our families: good schools, good jobs, and a good community.

Let me give you an example of one of my favorite con artists, "psychic" Sylvia Browne. Her swindle hinges upon the emotional and mental fragility of people experiencing the loss or disappearance of loved ones, which we can all agree is an incredibly difficult experience for anyone to endure. In this state of mind, which nobody blames them for having, Browne has manipulated people into giving her millions of dollars for basically no reason. And she hides behind a defense of "well you're just not a believer, you don't know that it's not real psychic power" as her staff notably did on Anderson Cooper's program a few years ago. So she gets it both ways.

Erica Jones is similar. Whether or not you agree with President Obama's politics, you have to realize that she found her own lever to move people: the excitement amongst youth, especially black youth, about his second term in office. What she did was find a situation where people would be agreeable to giving her money for little to no reward, then hid behind a defense of "well, you don't like the President, obviously you don't think this trip is worth it". She gets it both ways. She is literally feeding on the strong emotions about the President, both positive AND negative, to perpetuate her scheme.

If your response to this story is "well, that's what you get for voting for Obama" or some other meaningless one-sentence sound-bite, instead of stopping and demanding answers to the important questions, you're almost as bad as she is because your complacency and flippancy only lets her keep doing this to people.

I'm not asking you to like the President. I'm asking you to realize that these knee-jerk reactions to the story are playing right into her hand so that she can come back with the foolish defense that we don't like her because we don't like the President. No, we don't like her because she's literally a criminal.

Lee Benedict
1625
Points
Lee Benedict 02/19/13 - 12:12 pm
6
5
Don't go Tech. I rarely

Don't go Tech. I rarely agree with you, however, you just about always type from the liberal side which provides a certain amount of balance. All of that said, from these posts, I fail to see how we are racists and haters and bigots, unless, as is so typical of the left,it is because Obama is challenged and questioned?

I'm with avidreader on the field trips thing. I put something together a few years ago to travel IN STATE, and it was a cavalcade of paperwork and signatures. So, how this trip's operation could have been headquartered out of BHS and not be an official school function requiring Board approval is _______________________.

Given my position and whatnot, I shall refrain from speculating and editorializing on matters outside of the two stories relating to this incident. Therefore, since Obama was never vetted or questioned or was required to show valid authentic credentials, I am not at all surprised that this person was able to pull off such a con without being questioned or without having a phone number or even a legitimate business.

And oh by the way, if this person had Obama on the phone and knew of Michelle's crying over a letter, common sense dictates that she has allllll kinds of clout and pull and all of the connections necessary for a first-rate trip. But, if you dare question anything, you are deemed a racist a hater and a bigot. Wake up people.

Humble Angela
41338
Points
Humble Angela 02/19/13 - 01:18 pm
7
3
Well of course, Mr Benedict.
Unpublished

Well of course, Mr Benedict. ANYONE who questions Obama MUST be a racist and a bigot. Even if they specifically list valid reasons to disagree with him, it's just code for being a racist. Didn't you know that?

Humble Angela
41338
Points
Humble Angela 02/19/13 - 01:25 pm
7
3
"Goodbye to the haters,
Unpublished

"Goodbye to the haters, racists, and bigots. You won't be missed. Keep it up so anyone who's not from around here who reads the paper can see what kind of kooks this area is populated by."

"Hopefully, for Kevin, Obama Derangement Syndrome is covered under the AFA."

Hard to believe that these two posts are by the same person. Gotta hate those haters! LOL

whatmistake
100
Points
whatmistake 02/19/13 - 02:19 pm
6
0
If I were

Principal Thompson I believe I'd be sprucing up my resume.

carcraft
27035
Points
carcraft 02/19/13 - 02:21 pm
7
3
I put up have put up with 13

I put up have put up with 13 years of the liberals blaming Bush for deficits that are still occuring today. Bush gets blamed for the economic melt down when he tried to stop Fannie and Freddie from 1991 on. Bush still gets blamed for lying about WMD when EVERY intelligence service in the world felt they were in Iraq. A little thin skinned huh? I will miss Tech Fan but the choice is up to Tech Fan!

Willow Bailey
20603
Points
Willow Bailey 02/19/13 - 02:42 pm
7
0
Tech, you catch a lot of

Tech, you catch a lot of flack and often I don't agree with you, but there is that rare instance when I do connect to your opinion...

Just trying to say, it isn't personal. I would greatly miss your comments. Whatever, your decision, I wish you the best. A guy who loves tomato sandwiches; has good taste. (didn't think I would remember, did you?)

allhans
24009
Points
allhans 02/19/13 - 02:58 pm
6
1
Barrow's office called Jones

Barrow's office called Jones and told her she could have 3 tickets instead of only the 2 she had been promised according to earlier reports.

Has anyone contacted Barrow...
WHY would he give an unknown 3 hard to get tickets?

CobaltGeorge
164652
Points
CobaltGeorge 02/19/13 - 03:58 pm
3
2
I Have To Admit

This Erica Jones is one smart chick. She sure knew what county and school to hit!

CobaltGeorge
164652
Points
CobaltGeorge 02/19/13 - 04:41 pm
4
3
How Many Would Like To Bet

that she could not have pulled that off in Columbia county?

punkin14
17
Points
punkin14 02/19/13 - 05:42 pm
0
0
No one in Columbia County
Unpublished

No one in Columbia County would have wanted to go. Most of us can't take a few days off for a trip like that, there's too many people depending on us to work to support the endless social programs.

harley_52
23959
Points
harley_52 02/19/13 - 05:55 pm
6
3
" Goodbye to the haters, racists, and bigots."

Going out with a flurry of name calling.

How fitting.

karradur
2871
Points
karradur 02/19/13 - 05:58 pm
5
2
"How many would like to bet

"How many would like to bet that she could not have pulled that off in Columbia County?"

You probably think you're very clever in your phrasing, but we all know what you're implying and it's exactly the kind of foolishness that allows people to perpetuate scams like these.

harley_52
23959
Points
harley_52 02/19/13 - 05:58 pm
4
3
Darby
26938
Points
Darby 02/21/13 - 06:08 pm
5
0
"WHY would he give an unknown 3 hard to get tickets?........"

Maybe HE didn't. Perhaps the perp in this story has a contact in his office..

Jane18
12332
Points
Jane18 02/19/13 - 06:18 pm
5
3
Techfan

"Goodbye to the haters......................................................" I would say that 99.9% of us on this venue are none of these names you have called us. I truly am sorry that's how you feel.

CobaltGeorge
164652
Points
CobaltGeorge 02/19/13 - 06:22 pm
3
2
karradur

A famous word of a long parted AC poster.....

"NOTED"

CobaltGeorge
164652
Points
CobaltGeorge 02/19/13 - 06:25 pm
2
3
Techfan

Just when I was beginning to enjoy you....you always saved me from watching MSNBC.

CobaltGeorge
164652
Points
CobaltGeorge 02/19/13 - 06:33 pm
3
1
And

If you leave us, I would lose some points (yours & Mine) and I can't afford that.

harley_52
23959
Points
harley_52 02/19/13 - 07:33 pm
5
0
"If you leave us....

....I would lose some points (yours & Mine) and I can't afford that."

You can have my points, CG.

Being from Richmond County, I'm not smart enough to see their value anyway.

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