They didn't know about the heated towel racks, or the adjustable shower heads or the telephones or the color televisions in the bathrooms. But they did know the hotel rooms at San Francisco's Stanford Court started at $124 a night--and that was more than enough for the Alexandria School Board.
"I know not what others may do," said chairman Lou Cook, "but when I saw those prices, I said, 'No way, Jose!' "
Alexandria may have objected to the cost, but several dozen other Virginia educational budget cutters, including two delegates each from Fairfax and Arlington, are scheduled to spend the April 21-26 National School Boards Associations convention in the marble bathroom of luxury.
Two members of the Fairfax County School Board, which just approved a budget limiting teacher raises to 3 percent, and Arlington Board Chairman Evelyn Reid Syphax and Superintendent Charles E. Nunley, who are offering 4 percent, are among those booked into San Francisco's most expensive five-star hotel.
"At $250 a night for two single rooms , they're eating up 1 percent of the average raise every night," said Marilyn Rogers, president of the Fairfax Education Association, who called for the delegation to move to a more modest hotel. "That's two teachers' raises in hotel rooms alone."
"I make no excuse," cheerfully said George W. Holmes III who, on behalf of the Virginia School Boards Association, made 51 reservations at the Nob Hill hotel and suggested that school officials list it as their first choice, which Fairfax and Arlington did.
"It's a trifle expensive--more than that--but you either pay through the nose, or you go farther out and get something less desirable."
Single rooms at the Stanford Court range from $124 to $172 per night, doubles from $149 to $187, according to a release Holmes sent to local school officials. In Washington, the only hotel to keep company with those charges is the Ritz Carlton, which doesn't have the TV by the tub, but leaves cognac and Godiva chocolates at bedside.
The Alexandria delegation--three board members and Superintendent Robert W. Peebles--listed preferences for a half-dozen other hotels, including the posh St. Francis and the five-star Four Seasons, which had double rooms beginning at $90 and $100.
Many school officials said they had not paid attention to the hotel rates. "But it's the old story," said Fairfax board member Carmin Caputo, who is not attending the conference. "If you had to spend the bucks yourself, you would look at it."
"It's important to have Fairfax County represented at the convention, but the question is, do you go in a Cadillac or in a K car?"