Fresno Unified School District officials have released information regarding the cost of its annual convocation more than a week after a trustee publicly inquired about funding for the event.
The event – a school year kickoff rally that is mandatory for teachers and other staff – was held at the Save Mart Center on Aug. 12 and cost the district about $27,000.
The cost, though, was entirely covered by outside sponsors, according to Fresno Unified spokeswoman Amy Idsvoog. Five businesses sponsored the event, contributing a total of $30,500.
In addition to the primary convocation costs, the district hired two former employees to help plan the event, totaling about $13,700. The district raised eyebrows when New York-based public relations experts Jamilah Fraser and Shana Kemp were hired as consultants to oversee the event, despite the district’s 10-plus person communications staff.
Some trustees and members of the public spoke out against an additional $95,000 contract approved for Fraser and Kemp last week to provide public relations services for the district, which is in the midst of a controversial court case concerning its use of a no-bid contract to build Rutherford B. Gaston Middle School.
According to board documents on convocation contributions, the Educational Employees Credit Union donated $10,000; Kaiser Permanente donated $7,500; Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo law firm donated $5,000; Lang, Richert & Patch law firm donated $5,000; and the Association of California School Administrators donated $3,000.
$26,828Cost of Fresno Unified convocation
Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo is representing Fresno Unified in the Gaston Middle School case. Lang, Richert & Patch has also represented Fresno Unified in court.
Idsvoog confirmed that the five businesses are the only outside agencies that contributed funding to the event.
The district spent nearly $13,000 to rent the Save Mart Center and about $14,000 on things such as sound equipment, confetti cannons, flowers and VIP meals for sponsors and superintendents from across the state who were invited to attend.
Keynote speaker David Coleman, CEO of the College Board – the organization that oversees the SAT college entrance exam – spoke at no charge and handled all of his own expenses, Idsvoog said.
The district also paid all 10,000 employees to attend, including about 1,500 school employees who wouldn’t otherwise be required to report to work.
Fresno Unified heard pushback from the Fresno Teachers Association, which says funding provided for the event should be used elsewhere and teachers should not be forced to attend.
$108,700Amount Fresno Unified has dedicated to extra PR help
Fresno Unified Trustee Carol Mills asked about the cost of convocation at a board meeting last week and said later that “now some on the board are unhappy I asked about the cost and the sources of payment.”
The Bee first asked about convocation costs on Aug. 4.
Clovis Unified School District, which held its mandatory teacher convocation earlier this week, also at the Save Mart Center, spent less than $25,000 on their event. Clovis Unified does not use outside sponsors and does not hire outside speakers to attend.