Your tax dollars paying for Disneyland hotel stay?
Lee County Schools spends nearly $1000 on Disneyland hotel for mosquito conferencePhoto: Video by fox4now.com
LEE COUNTY - Nearly a thousand of your tax dollars were spent on a hotel at Disneyland, not for a school trip but for a six day mosquito convention, according to public records.
A Lee County resource teacher was the only one on the trip, which Mosquito Control defends saying it's all about your kids' education.
At $216 and $308 a night, the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Calif., calls itself a "vacation destination in and of itself."
And it's here where nearly a thousand of your tax dollars paid for a Lee County School District resource teacher to attend a six-day American Mosquito Control Association conference back in March.
The $958 only covered the cost of the hotel and does not factor in airfare, meals or the cost of the conference.
"Can you justify this to taxpayers?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.
"Sure," said Mosquito Control director Wayne Gale. "It's a professional meeting for professional development for learning the latest innovations in mosquito control."
The person who went is a district employee who bounces from school to school teaching kids from kindergarten to high school about mosquito control.
Mosquito Control pays his salary as long as the district foots the bill for optional professional development conferences like the one at Disneyland.
Mosquito Control pays two people to teach kids about their work in Lee County.
"Do you have to go to these conferences or can you say no?," asked Grant.
"We don't have to [go]," said Gale.
"It might not look good," he later admitted, "but I believe that the information gathered at those meetings is important."
What's being learned?
Fox 4 looked at the agenda for the Disneyland conference and found topics like:
- The Global Perspective on the Culex Pipiens Complex in the 21st Century
- Bio-rational Pesticides: Then, Now and the Future
- Little-Known Mosquito Control Lore
- Insecticide Resistance and Resistance Management
- Latin American Symposium
Gale says this is cutting edge research.
"You can't get it online," said Gale. "And no you can't get it in books."
But it's not just lectures. We also found networking time that included an ice cream social, a three-hour banquet and socials and career panels for young professionals.
"Hopefully through that interchange of information," said Gale, "it improves what we do in Lee County."
"So these socials and networking time are helping kids in Lee County?," asked Grant.
"Absolutely," said Gale.
But Lee County school board member Don Armstrong isn't so sure.
"That looks like party time more than anything," said Armstrong. "We're in education not socializing. So disagree with it completely."
Armstrong says at a time when the district's trimming millions, conferences like this don't add up.
"I don't see where this is useful to our students in the long run. I find it a waste of money," said Armstrong.
"I'm more concerned with bringing up our FCAT scores our SAT scores, preparing our kids for college," said Armstrong. "I don't find this preparing them for college."
Mosquito Control says that the teacher who attended the Disney conference will be attending a five-day conference next February at the Hilton in Austin, Tex., which will again be paid for with your tax dollars.
The conferences, they say, helps keep them current.
Mosquito Control response
"The convention was the annual meeting of the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA). While the School District of Lee County is responsible for the professional development of [the teacher's] teaching skills; LCMCD is responsible for the professional education of all aspects of mosquito biology and control.
LCMCD had him attend this mosquito control meeting to learn the latest information on mosquito biology, control methods, current research, current public health issues related to mosquitoes and current regulatory requirements. LCMCD believes this is appropriate as he is teaching the students of Lee County about mosquitoes so that they will be able to make sound decisions on the risks and benefits of mosquito control.
[The teacher] must keep current and also have an understanding of mosquito control work outside our program so that it is comprehensive and not just what we do and how we do our job. The information is not something that is in a book. By sending [the teacher] to this meeting it sets aside the time to learn directly from presenters and peers.
There is a section devoted to education and public information. Public Health is a specialty field in education and this allows [the teacher] to share and learn with his peers. This year was particular critical as mosquito borne diseases are making a comeback. The location is chosen by the AMCA. The ice cream social was provided by a vendor. It was optional and no registration money went toward this event."
You can see the invoices and full meeting agenda by clicking the link above.
Matt Grant, Reporter