A summer 2009 trip to Russia at the request of the Maryland Secretary of State was among Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan's expenses in the last fiscal year, according to Morgan and an expense report analysis provided by Washington County Public Schools.
Morgan's travels during the past few years included a February 2010 trip to Phoenix, where she was named 2010 National Superintendent of the Year, and a July 2010 trip to Cuba as a member of an official U.S. education delegation, Morgan said.
Morgan's current contract includes an annual base salary of $182,905 this fiscal year and allows for up to $6,000 a year for expenses related to attending professional growth activities, meetings, and professional and community activities to enhance the school system's relationship with the community.
Her expenses for the previous fiscal year, 2009-10, amounted to $3,708, well below the $10,000 her 2006-10 contract permitted, according to the expense report prepared by school system Chief Financial Officer Chris South.
Local superintendents are required to attend meetings of the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland and the State Superintendent of Schools, according to the expense report.
Many of Morgan's expenses were tied to meetings her 2009-10 contract states she was expected to attend "as part of her professional growth and duties." Those include national conventions, meetings, seminars, institutes and other professional activities. Such expenses were to be approved by the board president or designee up to $10,000 a year, the contract states.
Under the contract, Morgan "is expected to represent the school system at a wide variety of professional and community activities to enhance school system/community relationships."
Morgan said she interpreted the 2006-10 contract to mean all of these expenses could total $10,000 and not just the ones she was expected to attend as part of her professional growth and duties.
Among the local events the school system paid for Morgan to attend were Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce events, Maryland Symphony Orchestra board of directors' dinner meetings and Maryland Municipal League meetings.
"I believe in order to do the job well as superintendent, it's important to attend a number of events. It's not only a show of support for community activities, but gives the school system a place at the table, which I think is extremely important," Morgan said.
The school system is a large entity that depends on a lot of partners, Morgan said.
"We need to do our work with and through a lot of people," said Morgan, who is retiring from the school system Feb. 28.
Morgan said she's never come close to spending the annual $10,000 expense limit stipulated until the current fiscal year in her contract. That limit was reduced to $6,000 for the current fiscal year because of difficult financial times.
Expenses for the second half of fiscal year 2008-09 totaled $1,514, according to the expense report.
From July 1 to early October 2010 her expenses were $3,554. That included $1,400 for the Cuba trip and a $1,507 reimbursement that covered hotel costs for both an American Association of School Administrators Summer Leadership Conference and the Maryland Association of Counties Conference in Ocean City, Md., as well as registration for a national board meeting of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS).
Morgan said she never traveled as much as she had this past year, due in large part to being named 2010 National Superintendent of the Year.
Morgan was reimbursed for some trip expenses for both international trips.
She was invited on the trip to Cuba in part because she was 2010 National Superintendent of the Year, but also because she's a member of the ALAS, according to the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators (CALSA).