Sunday, June 13th 2010, 4:00 AM
Progress High School Principal William Jusino took his troops to the Mohonk Mountain House last weekend, where their rooms cost up to $770 a night, the Daily News found.
The two-night trip was sponsored by a city Education Department vendor called Leadership Group Inc., which relies mostly on city, state and federal grants.
Jusino and his staff ate top-shelf meals in an award-winning restaurant and downed booze at a private bar and in Jusino's room as part of a two-day workshop.
Last week Jusino, who makes $154,000 a year, refused to answer The News' questions about the cost of the conference.
"Why would you want to know that?" he asked. "We go on a thousand different retreats."
He called the conference "aboveboard and legitimate," as he ushered a reporter out of the Williamsburg school. He wouldn't discuss the substance of the conference.
Education Department spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld said the Leadership Group paid $40,000 for the Mohonk weekend and an overnight getaway for another school. He said the DOE paid $2,000 for the Progress High School seminars and that Leadership "donated" the food, lodging, bus and booze. He refused to break down the cost of the two trips.
The DOE has paid Leadership $42,000 in the past two fiscal years for its work with Progress. He said the company provides professional development at "a whole bunch of schools" and has organized nine retreats. Only Progress and one other school did overnights, he said.
A company spokeswoman insisted "private money" was used.
The company has snared nearly $60 million in DOE contracts since 1996, including $9.8 million in fiscal 2009 and 2010, plus millions of dollars in work with the state and federal education departments.
Rooms at Mohonk range from $320 a night to the $2,500 Mountain View Tower Suite. Jusino stayed in a Victorian Tower Room, which goes for $770 a night.
Meals are included, but drinks are not. The entire group of 25 to 30 made the 90-mile trip upstate from the city via private bus.
The same day the Progress crew headed to Mohonk, Chancellor Joel Klein sent parents a letter warning that a "huge" budget deficit could lead to painful cuts at schools around the city.
"We still expect to lose at least 2,000 teaching positions next year because we simply won't be able to afford to replace teachers who retire," he wrote June 4.