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DCSS to vote on contract

ALBANY -- After first appointing Albany State University executive Joshua Murfree as Dougherty County School System's next superintendent on Jan. 27, the Board of Education is expected to vote on approving his proposed contract during today's 12:30 p.m. meeting at the school system's Administration Building's first floor conference room.

Controversy immediately followed Murfree's appointment after it was revealed he didn't have K-12 experience, possess the mandatory L-6 (education specialist) certification and had a pre-existing business relationship with board member Anita Williams-Brown, who made the motion for his appointment. It was later revealed, also by The Herald, that Murfree wrote a letter of recommendation for Williams-Brown when she was applying for a DCSS principal position.

Murfree, 54, submitted his contract proposal March 30 and it was distributed to board members April 1. The board made suggestions and revisions to the proposed contract April 16. DCSS Attorney Tommy Coleman drafted a new proposed contract with revisions that the board proposed and submitted it to Murfree.

The board will meet for the third time about Murfree's proposed contract today at 11:30 a.m. in an executive session to discuss the contract, which is expected to be voted upon during the 12:30 p.m. meeting according to the agenda. In the executive session, Board Chairman David Maschke said board members plan to "discuss personnel matters, included in that will be a review of the proposed superintendent's contract in anticipation of the board taking action at the meeting (today)."

"I think it will," Board member Emily Jean McAfee said of whether Murfree's proposed contract will be voted upon today. "I think we've worked through it methodically and everyone has done some compromising. I think we've used a good system to work through it. I think we used the model of (Superintendent) Dr. (Sally) Whatley's contract and so we have a contract that worked well with her and so therefore we have a contract that should work well for him and he should be pleased."

McAfee, who's retiring from the board in December after serving on it since being elected in 1999, said it was "certainly time to move forward" with Murfree's contract.

"It's certainly been in limbo a long time," she said. "It's time to put it to rest so everyone can work on everything else. With a school system this size, there's a lot of business to attend to and it's time to get him acclimated. From my understanding, he'll start on June 22."

There has been much speculation as to how much Murfree would be paid to become Dougherty County's 14th superintendent since 1885. Whatley received a base salary of $149,000 for the current fiscal year as part of her three-year contract. Her contract includes other benefits which raised her compensation package to $173,143.32.

After being the school system's deputy superintendent for six years, McAfee remembered Whatley's base salary for her first year was $119,000.

A message left at the state Attorney General's Office for comment was not returned Tuesday regarding the status of The Herald's request for mediation following a complaint by the newspaper that the DCSS School Board violated the Georgia Open Records Act by failing to make public Murfree's proposed contract.

The request was first submitted about April 20 and the school system was given 10 days to respond to the allegations. The school system requested and received a May 21 extension to answer to The Herald's request by the Attorney General's Office, but The Herald never received notification by the Attorney General's Office if the school system responded.

In addition to the Murfree proposed contract, the board's Finance Committee will meet at 11 a.m. to go over a preliminary budget, which Maschke said will then be presented to the full board at the board meeting at 12:30 p.m.

"If the board approves it, it can then be advertised 14 days minimum prior to having public hearings," he said.

The school system is facing a $6.2 million budget shortfall for Fiscal Year 2011, which must be addressed by June 30.

The board will also receive an update on the federal School Improvement Grant at the meeting. Maschke said the state has added "various changes and stipulations" to the application process.

The $2 million federal grant was submitted by the school system April 15 for Albany and Dougherty high schools. School officials were to receive word on the grant sometime in May, but the state has since stated that the announcement won't come until June.