Written by Phil Cerroni
By Amanda Casanova
A split school board has decided to continue paying $50,000 to the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce for “promotional and developmental” purposes.
The Irving Independent School Board voted 4-3 for the partnership. Trustees Jerry Christian, Gwen Craig, Ronda Huffstetler and Valerie Jones voted in favor of the partnership. Steven Jones, Larry Stipes and Gail Conder Wells voted against the resolution.
Under the agreement with the school district, the Chamber provides marketing services for the district. Superintendent Dana Bedden estimated the district has gained about $400,000 in products and services through the partnership.
But trustees disagreed over how effective the partnership is for the school district and whether earmarking the money for the Chamber is best.
“I cannot support this $50,000 payment to the Chamber,” trustee Steven Jones said. “I do realize we’re saving money, but I don’t think we should be using taxpayer money to buy tables at State of the City (address) and Chamber functions. I just don’t think it’s the best use of taxpayer funds.”
Stipes agreed, arguing that Bedden didn’t need help “getting an audience” with company executives and other officials to promote the district.
Other trustees, however, said the agreement helped to positively promote the school district and increase the visibility of the school system.
“I do sense a great responsibility to spend money responsibly,” Valerie Jones said. “We get more than our money’s worth from this. Before the partnership, we were probably spending this much or more in piecemeal amounts.
“All this does is package it and make it more transparent,” she added.
Bedden called the return on investment “huge.”
Joy Goodrum, the director of education and workforce development for the Chamber, said the Chamber has gone “above and beyond to ensure the attributes of it are being shared.”
Goodrum manages the Leadership Irving-Las Colinas and Future Leaders of Irving programs and Chamber University, which promotes development and training programs to boost local economic growth.