WASHINGTON - FOX 5 has uncovered thousands of dollars in travel costs racked up by two Fairfax County Public Schools employees and paid for by taxpayers.
West Potomac High School principal Alex Case and assistant principal Michelle Lyttle were put on administrative leave in February and Case later resigned. The school district has refused to elaborate on why they were put on leave, saying only that it has to do with a personnel matter.
FOX 5 did an opens records request to get more information.
Travel records show that Case and Lyttle got approval for three out-of-state trips since July – with total costs for those trips adding up to more than $11,500 for the district.
There was a trip to Orlando in July for an education conference that Case and Lyttle attended with several other district employees.
Then in September, the pair went to Las Vegas for a school theater conference with one other district employee. Hotels costs for three nights at the Tropicana were almost $900 per person.
Case and Lyttle were set to make another trip in February to Phoenix for a conference. The assistant superintendent approved more than $2,500 in travel expenses for each of them. Case and Lyttle were put on leave before they could go.
No one from Fairfax County Public Schools would speak on camera to FOX 5. The district provided a statement emphasizing that Case and Lyttle followed proper procedures for their trips.
“As a learning organization, FCPS recognizes that professional growth is necessary for raising student achievement and strengthening educators’ performance levels,” the statement said. “All FCPS employees are required to follow FCPS Regulation 5310 which establishes procedures for approving and paying expenses for FCPS employees while they are on official travel. Official travel must be approved by an employee’s supervisor and nonlocal travel requires approval prior to travel. All travel procedures were properly followed – including preapproval – in these particular instances.”
With nearly 200 schools in the district, if every principal and assistant principal had been similarly traveling, it would have cost taxpayers $2.26 million with months left in the school year. A spokesperson for Fairfax County Public Schools said the travel and “professional development” budget for this school year is $1.4 million, and on average, each school receives less than $7,000 a year from the budget.
The interim superintendent is now recommending cutting that budget by $500,000 for the 2017-2018 school year. It is unclear if Case and Lyttle’s travels had anything to do with that.
In November, Fairfax County asked voters to approve a Meals Tax to boost funding for schools in anticipation of a major budget shortfall next year. Voters rejected the measure.
Lyttle remains on paid leave from the school district. Case, who was very well-liked among students, said in his resignation letter that he planned to spend more time with his family.
FOX 5 reached out to both for the story, but neither replied. Their travel records for the 2015-2016 school year show that Case went on one out-of-state trip and Lyttle went on none.