Following President Obama's inauguration Tuesday, the nation's focus will return to his promise of closing the achievement gap among public-school students.

It's an important task. And so it's no wonder school districts across Oregon are sharpening their resolve to do their part. The Portland Leadership Collaborative—a grant-funded project bringing together Nike, Portland Public Schools and other area school districts to improve educators' leadership skills—isn't this week's Roguefor ignoring that call.

The group is this week's Rogue for ignoring the appearance of wasteful spending by responding to Obama's call to close the achievement gap, in part, with a lavish three-day retreat for dozens of Portland principals and teachers at Skamania Lodge, a Stevenson, Wash., resort.

The cost? $65,000. The excuse? It's grant money.

"The money being used to fund this endeavor is not coming at the expense of classroom teachers, materials or maintenance," says PPS spokesman Matt Shelby.

The Portland Public Schools Board of Education approved this use of grant money at its Jan. 12 meeting. And this is the second such trip by Portland teachers and administrators to Skamania Lodge "to improve the instructional and leadership practices of both principals and teachers in preK-8 for the purpose of increasing student achievement."

That's a laudable goal. But just because something is free doesn't mean it's without cost.

When school funding is scarce and increasingly threatened, a more worthy endeavor would recognize the value of appearances or even figure out a way to save the $65,000 for something in the classroom.