A trip to Cuba by Board of Education member Frank Shaffer-Corona has caused board president Conrad P. Smith to seek stronger restrictions on the kinds of trips school employes takes at public expenses.
"I think that the trip was an abuse of the travel regulations," said Smith, "and I wouldn't want to see that type of conduct continuing."
New travel guidelines, which would affect all school system employes as well as school board members, were drafted Friday by the board's general counsel, David A. Splitt, and was sent to its members for their consideration.
The new guidelines, which would have to be approved by a majority of the board before they could go into affect, limit travel at public expense to activities that have as their "primary purpose" the exchange of information related to education in the United States.
"Without curtailing the 99 percent of the travel that is legitimate," said Splitt, "they would curtail the little that is questionable."
Board president Smith has made it clear during recent weeks that he, for one, finds Shaffer-Corona's trip to the 11th World Festival of Youth and Students in Havana highly questionable.
Shaffer-Corona, who was travelling and could not be reached for comment yesterday, had made enquiries about the educational value of the festival before he sought the authorization to attend at the public expense.
A letter from a representative of the event to Shaffer-Corona said that while discussions in Havana would range from the question of disarmament to the struggle for a new economic order," some activities would focus on the need to educate young people to respect other peoples and different cultures; to view the world more as a community which is interdependent and interconnected in obvious and subtle ways."
Smith said yesterday, however, that he has seen no indications in press accounts that the festivals - which last was held in East Berlin five years ago and reportedly includes about 20,000 young leftists from 145 countries - has any significant relation to the problems of education in the District's schools.
Meanwhile, Charles E. Davis, head of the financial operations division at the city's budget office, has returned the travel authorization to the school board for further justification. He said he would not approve the $756 voucher for the trip until Shaffer-Corona can supply him with a statement that it was taken in line with his job.
"We never had a case quite like this before," said Davis.
Shaffer-Corona and Smith have been at odds for several months over other questions relating to their differing interpretations of a board member's duties. Most conspicuous among them is Shaffer-Corona's repeated use of school board stationery for letters to Vice President Mondale, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Attorney General Griffin Bell dealing with national and international political issues.