In February 2011, the district's school support network hosted a $320 professional development session that started in the morning with eggs Benedict, scrambled eggs, sausage gravy and biscuits, turkey and regular bacon, fried potatoes and mini-muffins. That same day, the office also ordered $370 of mini-sandwiches, crab cakes, chicken salad, macaroni and shrimp salads, and cookies for lunch.

School officials said that the sessions started at 8:30 a.m. and ended just after 4 p.m. and normally included teams of 10 to 20 people. They said that holding the professional development in-house was cheaper because the meetings could reach up to 60 people at certain times during the day.

"We really don't hold back in how much we have to invest in our staff to get the work done," De La Paz said.

The district's efforts to draw parents and community members also can be expensive endeavors.

The district spent $168,000 on community engagement events over the two years, much of which also was funded through grants, including Title I funds, De La Paz said.

In June 2011, the Parent Community Advisory Board hosted an outreach event for Latino families that featured city schools CEO Andrés Alonso. About 200 people attended the $6,000 event, which was conducted in Spanish and featured paella, Cuban salad, plantains, beans and rice, pupusa, cakes and drinks.

And in November 2011, the district's Partnerships Office paid $3,890 to hold a "community conversation" with the chief academic officer at Tapas Teatro for 145 families. While a similar event earlier in the year had a large turnout, only 60 people attended. The cost per person: $65.

Turnout is difficult to predict, De La Paz said, but the district always wants to be prepared.

"That's the work of turning around an urban school system," he said.