OPEN MEETINGS -- Marsha Sutton, a freelance writer covering education issues in San Diego County, says on SDNN.com that she's "struggling with this pseudo-controversy" about how much public funds school officials spent on a Washington, DC dinner recently.

Sutton notes that San Diego Unified School District superintendent Terry Grier spent
$350 on a dinner for himself, two others from his
staff, and three school board members.

The
six were in D.C. on school district business, and this $350 dinner,
along with other travel expenses, may have been charged to the wrong
accounts. Specifically, Grier may have dipped into a pot of federal
money meant exclusively for low-income students, to pay for his travel
expenses and lobbying efforts. The amount in dispute is reportedly
about $2,000.

No question that the $2,000 needs to be charged to the correct
account. But some perspective is needed. Two thousand dollars is less
than .001 percent of the district’s total budget.

Yes, I understand - $2,000 here, $2,000 there, and pretty soon it
adds up to real money. And there is the principle of the thing, to be
sure.

But the bigger problem that shouts out at me is that we have three
trustees sitting around a dinner table with their superintendent, all
discussing … what? What are they discussing?

What
could they possibly be talking about but school district business?
Unless they are incredibly gifted at self-surveillance and friendly
restraint, they’ve got to be gabbing—at least in part—about their
schools, budgets and education policy.

*****

So I’m less troubled by the measly cost of this dinner tab than I am
by the fact that three trustees and a superintendent were all sitting
at the same table at the same time—presumably without public
notification. And unless they were discussing gardening or the weather,
they just shouldn’t do that—no matter who is paying the bill.