The Trips to the Trashy Talkshow

 

When it comes to the saga of the Belleville school district and its administration, each week I tell myself that I’ve already seen or heard the worst of it. Without fail, each week that follows, I’m proven wrong.

Here’s another adorable story for all of you to digest.

The “Trisha Goddard Show” is an hour-long, weekday tabloid television show. The Trisha Show seriously makes the Jerry Springer Show look like a highbrow production of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” by comparison.

This is by no means a condemnation of the show itself, as there is certainly a market for this type of thing in the daytime TV lineup. However, for the sake of what I’m about to tell you, it’s important to understand just how unapologetic the show is in the subject matter it delivers each day.

For example, let’s take a stroll through a few random show topics I selected (click each one for the episode’s teaser intro):

 

“Are You My Brother, or My Father?”

“I Was in an Accident….I Don’t Remember Cheating on You!”

“Our Mom Had 19 Kids….Will DNA Prove You Are Our Dad?”

“My Extreme Butt Implants Almost Killed Me!”

 

I think you see what I mean.

Now, don’t me wrong, I like tabloid talkshows just as much as anyone else, but here’s the problem:

What if I told you that an administrator from Belleville High School was sending bus-loads of students on class trips, on school days, to go see live tapings of the show? Not only that, what if I told you these were very profitable trips for the individual(s) responsible?

WELL….girlfriend, sit your butt down and listen to THIS crazy s***!

 

At the beginning of the year, teachers were told that there was absolutely no budget for school trips. No Broadway plays, no museums, no cultural or educational venues…nothing. Not a dime, so don’t even ask.

Starting in September 2012 at the high school, groups of students began bringing permission slips to their teachers, to excuse them for participation in a class trip. No one seemed to know why they were going, the full nature of the trips, or how any faculty member managed to get authorization to conduct field trips in the first place, given the budget situation. Even more odd was the fact that these trips were becoming more frequent. Once they were in full swing, these trips were occurring at least every other Friday.

Eventually, the students told the teachers exactly where they were going – to watch live tapings of the Trisha Goddard Show up in Stamford, Connecticut.

 

trisha-show1

 

 

At first, recruiting for the trips was kept somewhat under the radar, and was limited to students in the Mass Communications class. Later as the trips grew in popularity, apparently they were opened up to virtually anyone in the school who wanted to go. Permission slips started getting passed out right in the hallways, openly recruiting students for these day trips up to CT.

To the best of our knowledge, the trips were being lead by the Mass Comms department.

Much to the frustration of the teachers, who of course wouldn’t want their students missing classes without good reason, they were told that these trips were being conducted with Superintendent Feldman’s blessing. When teachers inquired about the trips, they were often given an answer along the lines of, “If you have a problem with it, speak to her about it”. Fearing the now-typical acts of retaliation, of course no one would dare question the Superintendent.

The Trisha Show trips continued unchallenged.

As these trips grew in popularity, they reportedly began sending 2-3 buses full of students on each trip. Somewhere between 100-150 kids per trip, best estimate. I believe 150 was the limit only because it seems to coincide with the capacity of the show’s studio audience. Had there been a larger seating capacity, certainly more students could have been sent up there for each excursion.

These trips continued from September 2012, straight through June 2013. Our estimates stand at 8-10 trips taken last year.

This school year (2013-14), the trips occurred multiple times each month. So far for this year alone, we have positively confirmed at least 11 trips to the show.

Where is the actual problem? We’ll get to that in a moment.

 

First, here are a few questions to ask, perhaps at the next Board of Education meeting:

  • Who specifically was responsible for these trips to go see the Trisha Show in Stamford?
  • Were these trips in fact conducted with Superintendent Feldman’s authorization? (We already know the answer, but we want the official admission, or the expected silence). As a matter of district policy, out of state trips would have required her approval.
  • Do you really think it’s appropriate for kids in an already distressed school system to skip their classes, and spend a school day in Connecticut watching a trashy tabloid talkshow?
  • Were parents fully notified of these trips, and was their documented consent required beforehand?
  • Why were the teachers told at the beginning of the year that there was absolutely no budget for any school trips, yet these trips to the Trisha Show, which are of no educational value whatsoever, were allowed to happen minimally twice a month, for the entire school year?

 

I think I can answer that last question. This is where the story actually gets interesting.

Here’s a little known fact – last year while the Trisha Show was struggling to gain traction in the hotly contested daytime TV market, the show was paying audience members $50 each to attend a live taping of the show. Attending a Friday taping would pay $70 per head. As an added bonus, if you had a group of 20 or more who planned to attend, the show would arrange free transportation for you and your entire group.

Ah, now the plot thickens!

But wait, it gets better. The Trisha Show was paying cold, hard cash for audience attendance. Yep, you read that right. CASH.

Here is their policy from the official website (click to enlarge it).

 

trisha-show2

 

So now let’s look at the whole scenario from this slightly new angle, shall we?

You tell a bunch of high school students in an academically struggling school district that they can skip class for the day, go hop on a bus with their friends, and spend the day watching a trashy talkshow. Then you ship 2-3 bus-loads of these kids up to CT, and pocket conceivably anywhere from $5000-$10,500 in cash, each and every time you do it.

Two words spring to mind here….”cha-CHING!”.

There are 20 school days in a month, with at least 2 trips operated each month on average. That means a substantial number of Belleville High School students spent 10% of the entire school year as part of a live studio audience watching a garbage talkshow, instead of learning something in a classroom. And, someone made a heck of a lot of cash for getting them to that studio.

By our calculations, the intake from this racket alone could have been anywhere from $40,000 on the low end, to conceivably over $200,000 for the school year. Whether we can arrive at an exact figure or not, we’re talking an enormous profit, all in cash. Not a bad little racket, if you ask me.

The IRS may have an objection or two, but hey, what interest could they possibly have in a 6-figure, all-cash endeavor? <cough>

Here’s the bottom line though – this is yet another outrageous example of what looks to be a highly profitable scheme being perpetrated in a school, with the execution of the scheme being put before the education and welfare of these children. Our kids were being enticed into skipping school, and being used as cash cows.

$200,000 buys a heck of a lot of textbooks, so we know the money wasn’t used for that. Not that we suspected it ever would go to the students in the first place.

One teacher was told this money was going toward Project Graduation. Unless the entire graduating class was being flown by private jet to a ski chalet in the Swiss Alps for the week, I don’t think so.

Add this to the growing pile of evidence proving that personal profit is the dominant, unyielding priority of the current administration, the so-called “educational leadership” of the Belleville school district. And it’s all at the expense of your childrens’ education, and therefore, their futures.

Here is what we intend to find out, ladies and gentlemen….who was behind these money-making excursions, and exactly where did all of that cash go?

While I have little doubt that there would be declarations made about the amount of money taken in by each trip, what would be of interest to us is if the money declared in any way accurately represented the actual number of students and chaperones sent on each trip, and even the frequency of the trips. We have reports that they don’t even come close.

As we’ve been doing, we will get answers — one way or another.

It’s time to put the Board of Education and Superintendent Feldman directly in the crosshairs for this outrage, at the next meeting on June 23rd. There won’t be any way for them to deny authorizing these class trips.

 

~ Griff

 

If anyone has any specific information to add, or a copy of the permission slips that were being passed out in the BHS hallways, please use the Contact page to send us a message.

Thank you.

 

Update: Some additional clarification came in through our email contacts. Thank you to everyone who has contributed further supporting details.

 

Time allowing, in a future update we will take a look at the regulations and sign-off requirements for these field trips, the frequency of the trips as approved by the Board, and a couple of other relevant points of interest, so that you can clearly see who should be questioned in this matter.

 

 

 

About Griff 316 Articles
Lee "Griff" Dorry - Founder, watchdog, and public advocate. They've got strings, But you can see, There are no strings on me.

6 Comments

  1. You’re right Griff. We need answers and we need them fast. The end of the school year is here and many, if not all, of our students were robbed of any number of the educational tools that they should have been given. Who is responsible? Who is involved? How much money did they get? Where did the money go? More questions than answers at this point.

    Something else that’s important. The end of the calendar year is only weeks away and many contracts will be at an end. The superintendent’s is one of them. My advice is obvious. Also, look into any and all of those involved in this mess. That’s an easy one, too. As to those with contracts beyond this year, it will be more of a mess, but fire the lot; and if any board of education member or other district-associated personnel are identified, then identify them and ‘condemn’ them to the nth degree and more.

    We have learned much through ‘The Watch’ over the past two months or so- mostly that some in whom we have put our trust have failed us, our children and our town. Now, we must do all that we can to expose each and every one, root them out and prosecute, where appropriate.

    Thank you, Griff, and to all, please make your voices heard now more than ever.

  2. Griff, the two words which first come to mind with this story?

    Fetid carbuncle.

    I’m referring to the subject of the article, of course. I’ll leave it to the architects of this scheme to level a charge at your handling of it. In the meantime, I’m going to take your sources as reliable, and swallow my disbelief with regard to the described dimensions of the program, as well as the cynicism which must have informed it.

    In proving your suspicions correct, one would expect to find that the students saw little or none of the booty, and were kept in the blind and gratified with the day off from class and the cheap thrills offered up by the audience builders at the Trisha Show. With so many participants–the kids, the drivers, the chaperones, the promoters–this story cannot possibly find enough shade to hide. Which means the program was conducted in plain sight, with the common knowledge of a large segment of the schools community. The hubris is staggering. And the idiocy?

    There is always a “stand up” character willing to get behind a suspect act because it seemed brilliant at the time, so I will not be surprised when the defenders throw up another powerpoint session to help deflect criticism and wash the whole thing down. There is no shortage of self described stand up guys pacing around Belleville, right between the public and the public’s right to know.

    Once, in my public school days, I was astonished to learn, on the spot, that our school field trip to Radio City Music Hall for Christmas fare would include a standard performance by the high-kicking Rockettes–you’re pulling my leg–during normal school hours, no less. Other times we went to the Museum of Natural History, or the Met. But this destination defies any sense of propriety or reason–apart from the novelty of bread and circuses. It’s even a stretch to call the travel time relevant for a hypothetical school group with an abiding interest in, say, the professional end of studio productions. Given that our A/V department is also strangely unaccounted for in this era of school board abuse, even this minimally plausible angle turns to vapor upon inspection. Cue damage control.

    The motive you offer by way of explaining the scheme–pimping busloads of unwitting school kids, during class hours, to serve the needs of professional seat fillers in order to pocket the “untraceable” fees–stretches the bounds of credulity. Until you begin to recognize a pervasive pattern, which many more have begun to do, with an equal and greater determination than that of the joyriders who led us into this swamp.

    That “pattern,” of course, is the signature modus operandi of specialized public school wreckers. Whether or not our infestation is of the sort that is networked and heavily funded by some of the more noteworthy master planners so favored by the public school “reform” movement–or is instead a story of freewheeling wannabees, in the wild and doing their best to emulate the profitable tricks of the big boys and girls–is something I am looking forward to hearing much more about.

    I know from experience that a certain brand of operator does not have it in their repertoire to back down–even in the face of significant and justified opposition–of their own accord. Their claim to positions of status and responsibility need to be swiftly lanced, drained, and treated with the best available antiseptic procedures.

    If they are networked, then they will likely be unceremoniously amputated, by their own, when news of their activities begins to threaten the comfort of their backers. If no one in the loop is willing to account for an agenda, the culpable will then present as petty operators with dreams of the big time, needing to be led away in cuffs before they will ever give up. Unless and until they are denied any chance at all to continue their parasitic plans, we will be at risk of their resurgence.

    It will, one day soon, be time to take off the masks and see who actually stands for the future of Belleville Public Schools, as vital and viable public schools, and who is instead committed toward redirecting school resources into the service of an iron clad and far flung hierarchy of well heeled professional raiders. You can find such personalities on either side of the “two sides” aisle in the “only mortal” version of political heaven.

    Or will it be suggested that our problem is just a little old homegrown affliction–a random occurrence–the course of which rendered us temporary prey to the fever dreams of local idiots? With proper credit due, of course, to their well compensated ringers–the one’s who are supposed to be in charge–at the place where the buck stops.

    Has someone been preparing our schools, and our township, for a friendly little buyout? Their are plenty of finger holes in the pie by now. This kind of entrepreneurial spirit I can do without.

  3. What next? What parent wouldn’t have sincere concerns about their children and their education? The quality of my children’s education is a priority. When will these criminals be brought to justice. Honestly, if I wrote a rubber check I would have to answer to the police and the bank. The board of education answers to no one until now and it seems that ultimately it will be the taxpayers that will have to pay the price along with our children. These criminals need to be brought to justice!

    • I have no doubt that will happen. I can’t provide details, but the state monitor isn’t the only government presence in Belleville.

      While we can’t do anything to give back these kids what this school administration has already taken from them, we can work hard at making next year a fresh start for them. There’s not much time left to do that.

      Unfortunately, the financial fallout from this recklessness may linger for years.

      We stop the hemorrhaging now, we clean house, then we work on repairing Belleville.

  4. Not to defend the fact that the kids are being used to gain money, but as a former Mass Communications student it was actually a rewarding experience seeing the behind the scenes work at the show. For students interested in persuing a career in television after high school, it is quite the learning experience.

    • Maybe that could marginally justify one trip to the show. But when the same kids are going to the show 5-10 times each (or more), that justification suddenly starts to sound like an excuse to get out of school for the day.

      You’re also the first student out of many to say that you saw anything whatsoever backstage.

      The rest said they were told to say that if anyone asked about the trips.

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