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):
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.