Board squabbles over request by ministers

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- Milton Griffin initiated the early debate during the Dougherty County Board of Education's board briefing Wednesday in the small conference room of Merry Acres Middle School's library.

"I have a question," he said to Board Chairman David Maschke. "I was in favor of Rev. Burr and Bankston ... speaking today." The Rev. Eddie Bankston and Bishop John Burr represent Peoples Clergy Community Involvement, a group the two founded.

"As I told you on the phone, we don't go through repetitious talk," Maschke said. "(They said) they wanted to talk about the (named Superintendent Joshua Murfree's) contract. It doesn't seem appropriate we have a talk about a superintendent contract that is not public."

Board member Velvet Riggins then joined into the conversation.

"We don't know if the talk is redundant," she said. She then clarified herself saying that you can't decide whether someone is saying something redundantly unless you hear them out.

"They just called me Monday on the contract," Maschke said. "They didn't put that in writing. We haven't had a public disclosure on anything."

Riggins then said that a lot of details of the proposed contract had been reported in The Herald. (The Herald has not received Murfree's initial proposed contract nor the board's revised proposed contract. The Herald has filed a complaint against the Dougherty County School System with Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker's office alleging the DCSS has violated the Open Records law by not disclosing the contract proposals for public review. Currently, the Attorney General's Office had notified the school system that it had 10 days from April 22 to respond.)

"I say we gotta have to let them speak," Griffin said. "At that (Feb. 3) public meeting, we had more than 100 people talk and they didn't put (their request to speak) in writing. And, we let them speak. ... Can we vote on that?"

"Yes, when we go into the meeting you can vote on that," Maschke answered. He explained to Griffin that would be how you overrule a chairman's decision.

Griffin then asked if the board had met with Murfree yet. Maschke explained to Griffin that Murfree received a revision of his proposed contract from School Board Attorney Tommy Coleman Monday, which included all the stipulations and revisions as directed by the board at its April 16 meeting.

"Did you all see that contract?" Griffin asked.

"Yes, we all did and approved it and then moved it on to him," Maschke said.

Vice Chair James Bush then cooled the somewhat heated debate.

"Coleman faxed me the contract that was made with all the things we had suggested (at the April 16 meeting)," he said. "I told him to give those to all the board members and to make sure everyone look at it, so they can see if there's (a need for) any changes. Did anyone call Mr. Coleman with changes?"

"No," Coleman answered. Board members were hand-delivered copies Friday of the updated proposed contract that was given to Murfree.

Once the regular board meeting started, Riggins said, "It was time as a board we come together and that we mend the fences."

Maschke then explained to the board that there are two policies in place for community members to speak before the board. Speakers must submit a request five days before the meeting to the superintendent's office if they want to talk about something not on the agenda, but can make a request the day of a meeting if it's about an agenda item.

Riggins then made a motion to vote on whether Burr and Bankston should speak and Griffin seconded it. The vote passed 5-2 with Maschke and Emily Jean McAfee voting against it.

Although they kept their speeches short to the board, Bankston and Burr essentially repeated what they had already told the board on at least two previous occasions. However, Bankston said that the new contract should be equal to or more than current Superintendent Sally Whatley's contract.

Meantime, the school board voted 7-0 to approve a recommendation for a new kindergarten testing and promotion policy. Dianne Daniels, the executive director of curriculum and instruction, made the request to reflect the new Georgia Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills assessment instrument mandated by the Georgia Department of Education.

The board also unanimously approved a request for proposals on general art and instructional supplies, general science supplies; student desks for Albany High; and a $110,625 bid price for computers for vocational drafting labs. They also voted 7-0 to approve playground equipment for Turner, Lake Park, Magnolia and Sylvester Road elementary schools. Southern Playground of Marietta was the low bidder at $28,062 for each site with a total amount of $112,248.