Villar “incredibly disappointed” with trip management
📸 Photo of students at Walt Disney World from Twitter post by Southbridge High School Class of 2019 advisor Jim Hatch.
SOUTHBRIDGE — Days after roughly 30 high school seniors returned from what is advertised as “The Happiest Place on Earth,” district leadership publicly expressed its displeasure with the class trip’s management.
Southbridge Public Schools Superintendent/Receiver Jeffrey Villar released an open letter to parents and guardians of Southbridge High School’s Class of 2019, chastising the organization of the trip. Students boarded a charter bus on Wednesday, May 29, bound for Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
Villar reported that while students who went on the class trip “returned safe and had a great time,” there were a handful of concerns raised by actions and decisions made by those managing the trip.
“I am disappointed to share that there were several aspects of the trip planning and executing that did not adhere to district policy and these deficiencies came to light after the trip had departed from the district,” Villar wrote.
Those “deficiencies” included missing permission slips, missing medical paperwork, the number of non-students on the trip, alleged mismanagement of fundraising, and the amount of money each participant paid to go on the trip.
“I was particularly alarmed to learn that five students attended the trip without signed permission slips and thirteen students attended the trip without the proper medical paperwork,” Villar said. “There were also students who attended the trip who were not seniors, some faculty members brought their children and spouses, and the number of nonstudent participants nearly outnumbered our students. I was also disappointed to learn that only about a third of the senior class was able to attend the trip.”
While Villar did not elaborate as to how soon administration learned of the missing forms and releases upon the charter bus departure for Orlando, he noted that officials began to contact parents and guardians to clear matters.
“Once we learned that there was missing paperwork, school administration reached out to parents and guardians to verify their permission and addressed all concerns,” Villar said. “In the end, we are very fortunate that the field trip went smoothly and these mistakes did not result in harm to our students.”
Villar said the students who went on the trip were “blameless” in the errors while he pledged he would be “holding the appropriate staff accountable, reviewing all procedures for field trips and fundraising, and will make appropriate changes to ensure that these oversights will not happen again.”
The superintendent/receiver was careful to note “there is no suggestion that money has been stolen,” but provided a generalized statement of concern about the financial aspect of the senior class trip.
“I have reason to believe that trip fundraising and the collection of trip payments was poorly managed,” Villar said. “Additionally, the total amount paid by different participants varied widely. There are also concerns that many of the trip participants did not pay the actual cost for the trip, potentially creating an account deficit.”
Villar said the district has “identified the actual cost of the trip per participant and will confirm that all of our employee participants have paid their appropriate share.”
He continued: “I also intend to ensure that no adult expense was improperly subsidized by student fundraising and/or student payments. Reimbursements will be made if it is determined that any student has overpaid for the trip.”