NEW: After trips abroad, Riviera mayor draws Chinese educators here

Updated Jan 22, 2018
Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters said his trips to China will pay dividends for his city. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Mayor Thomas Masters hosted a delegation of Chinese educators to Riviera Beach schools Monday, their tour the outcome of two trips he took to China at the city’s expense.

In a press released headlined, “Mayor Thomas Masters makes good on recent trip to China,” the mayor said he would host the officials from Changchun in tours of Suncoast High School, Mary McCloud Bethune Elementary and JFK Middle School.

During the visit to Suncoast, accompanied by School Board member Debra Robinson, the schedule included discussion of possible cultural, student exchange and summer camp programs, four-year scholarships for Riviera Beach students to study in China and other ways students might benefit, Masters said. Principals at Mary McCloud Bethune and JFK prepared packets that highlighted each school’s special projects for the Chinese guests. The three schools plan to establish sister schools programs, the mayor said.

On Tuesday, the delegation planned to visit Inlet Grove Elementary School in Riviera Beach, Bear Lakes Middle School in West Palm Beach and Palm Beach Atlantic University, in downtown West Palm.

The group consists of educators from Jilin University in Changchun and middle and elementary schools affiliated with it. Jhonghua Meng, a middle school teacher and translator for the group, call the trip “wonderful,” and added: “We hope the teachers and principals of the schools we visited can come to China one day.”

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Masters said he was “looking forward to having great dialog with the Chinese educators and to furthering beneficial educational relationships with our schools and theirs.”

Masters said he continues to work to attract investors and entrepreneurs from China. Two groups of potential investors are expected to visit in the next two months, he said.

The Palm Beach Post reported in October that in recent years the mayor and council members have used city travel accounts and credit cards to attend conferences in places as far-flung as China, Spain, Hawaii and elsewhere. Taxpayers bought Masters trips to China in 2012 and 2017, three trips to the Bahamas in 2015 and 2016 and one to Haiti in 2016.

The Haiti trip was to deliver disaster supplies, the Bahamas trips were to bolster sister cities relationships and the China trips were to establish contacts that might lead to educational exchanges and business investment, he said. The 2012 trip cost the city $10,000 and the August 2017 trip cost $2,046, with the Chinese picking up his hotel tab, according to city records.