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BOE suspends Baker for 15 days

ALBANY — The Dougherty County School Board emerged from an hour-long executive session Wednesday and suspended Morningside Elementary Principal Gloria Baker for 15 days without pay for her role in obtaining free lunches for her child for the past three years.

Gathered at a special meeting called by Supt. Joshua Murfree, the Board accepted his suspension recommendation by a 4-3 vote.

Board members David Maschke, Anita Williams-Brown, Milton Griffin and Velvet Riggins voted for the suspension; Darrel Ealum, Carol Tharin and Chairman James Bush voted against.

“I was surprised by the decision,” Bush said. “Each member has his or her own opinion and that’s the way they voted. I couldn’t vote for that (the recommendation).”

Ealum was stunned by the turn of events.

“Yes, I was shocked by the decision,” said Ealum, who felt the punishment should have been more severe. “The hearing today was not about criminality of the school principal. The hearing was about her lack of professionalism and the level of accountability that we as a board should expect from someone in her position.”

School System attorney Tommy Coleman said Baker will be informed of her suspension, and she has the choice to accept it or to appeal for a hearing before the Board.

The Board can then uphold, reduce or dismiss the suspension.

When the allegations surfaced, Baker was originally suspended five days with pay.

“I went into the hearing with an open mind, the only information I had was what I gathered from the media,” Maschke said on his vote to approve the 15-day suspension. “Based on the evidence that was presented during the executive session, I felt his (Murfree) recommendation was reasonable with the information we have.”

Baker and her husband, Chester, were booked and released last Thursday from the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office downtown on charges of making false statements to obtain free school lunches for their child, despite her $90,500 annual salary.

The Bakers remain free on $3,000 bond each.

“The investigation is still ongoing,” Maschke said. “This is just the close of a chapter. The full book has yet to be written.”

Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards said Wednesday he was waiting on a final report from the DCSS Police investigation, adding once he receives the report he’ll evaluate the evidence and determine how to proceed.

Baker has been with the school system since 1980 and was promoted to assistant principal in 1993. She was promoted to principal at Albany Middle School in 2004 and was assigned to Morningside earlier this year.

Documents obtained by The Herald from the Dougherty County School System show roughly 81 percent of the 16,000 students who in the School System are in a free or reduced-fee lunch program.

According to the application for free or reduced lunches, anyone who receives benefits from other USDA programs like SNAP or TANF are eligible for the program, as are most foster children. Children can get free meals if “your household’s gross income is within the free limits on the federal income guidelines.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture income eligibility guidelines adopted for July 1, 2011, state that for a household of three, the income cap is $24,089 per year before taxes.

Comments

shredex3 2 years, 10 months ago

I am glad some of the board members came to their senses, but 4-3? Why do they continue to protect someone who is obviously guilty? I can't wait for the next school board meeting.

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whattheheck 2 years, 10 months ago

Not nearly enough information on this entire matter and no explanation on whether any one will bother to see if others are doing the same thing. Time for a "special investigator" to look into the matter. I don't trust either the BOE/DCSS or District Attorney to handle the matter. There is a serious credibility gap with our public officials.

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supersquawker 2 years, 10 months ago

Was the other alternative to be fired? Because that's the only reason I can think of to vote for her NOT to be suspended without pay.

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Terry.Lewis 2 years, 10 months ago

The board had four options: - Do nothing - Suspend - Demote - Fire

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sandrieka 2 years, 10 months ago

What is 15 day supension without pay? I think she should have been demoted because what kind of example is she setting for the kids. How can she teach kids about following rules or be a good role model if she s stealing lunch? As a parent of morningside, I know there s nothing she can tell me.

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coachjohnson42 2 years, 10 months ago

How do you know she is "obviously guilty?" Just because you think "she knew" about it doesnt make her guilty. She didnt sign those lunch forms, her husband did.

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Shinedownfan 2 years, 10 months ago

Are you serious!? I just wonder how many other teachers, principals and staff are doing the same thing.

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shredex3 2 years, 10 months ago

coach, you must be running to be on the school board next election, you would fit right in with the rest.

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sunshine4 2 years, 10 months ago

If she didn't know about the form that was signed, where did she "assume" her child got money from to pay for lunches since obviously she didn't provide the money!

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FlunkyMonkey 2 years, 10 months ago

Okay--an employee making 90,000 is suspended for 15 days without pay. That is approximately $3,600 (based on 90,000 a year). SHE STOLE FROM POOR CHILDREN WHO NEEDED THOSE FREE LUNCHES--and gets a 3600 dollar punishment--justice served?!

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VietVet1 2 years, 10 months ago

As a tax payer can I sue them for cost of three years of free lunch, then millions of dollars like the Sharods for pain and suffering? Or just chalk it up as another event in Albany?

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Outtahere 2 years, 10 months ago

I don't even know what to say right now! Wow! I don't even have the words to express how corrup Albany's school board is!!!! I just cannot belive this!!! Hopefully, it's not over yet!

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auntb21 2 years, 10 months ago

*SUSPENDED!!!* I do not understand why she wasn't fired!!! The majority of the city government, school board and other city officials have their values 'bass-ackwards'. I am a single mother and am barely making it on $38,000 a year...can barely afford the reduced lunches. This person is making well over $100,000 on her combined income and gets free lunches for her child (and I don't believe one iota that she didn't know what was going on when her husband signed the form).

Wake up!!!! Investigate ALL employees of the DCSS and FIRE any one of them who has ever cheated or stole from the system! It'll save our tax dollars in the long run!

SUSPENDED, indeed!!!

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rerobinson 2 years, 10 months ago

She needs to be demoted... she is not a role model stealing from the school system...

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bubbavet 2 years, 10 months ago

BUT SHE IS THE "TYPICAL" ROLE MODEL FOR ALBANY, GA.

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Azalea 2 years, 10 months ago

Emphasis The incompetence in the DCSS is systemic. There are consequences to all choices. Integrity and good judgement can only be seen by those who think those two things are important. Principal Baker and her husband crossed the line. The embarassments for the DCSS continue because the board and administration think it is fine to cross the line. Yet, I believe that one day DCSS will emerge as one of the best school systems in Georgia - 10 years from now when corruption can be flushed.

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billybob 2 years, 10 months ago

Coach, she is either guilty or wildly incompetent. Even if she did not sign the forms, she was aware of what was going on. Didn't she notice that not once in three years did her daughter say "Mom, I need a couple bucks for lunch." She didn't notice in three years that a check to her child's school for lunch never cleared her checking account? She was oblivious and clueless? If that's true, then she is too dense to be a principal. So, I say again, either she knew what was going on and is corrupt or she didn't know and is not intellectually qualified. Either way she should be gone.

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HBK4Life 2 years, 10 months ago

All I have 2 say is EEO EEO. Don't you know BIG runs things in Albany!

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shredex3 2 years, 10 months ago

I think it is time to go to the school board and city commission meetings and voice our concern. I think it would be worth our time and we need to take back control of our city. However, they do work for us. We MUST stand up and stop this corruption and let them know they must make the right decisions.

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Terihdfxr 2 years, 10 months ago

I agree. Why dont more people complain to the State BOE instead of on this computor squak box.

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gapeachone 2 years, 10 months ago

she should have been fired on the spot and had federal charges filed against her and her husband for falsifying records.

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DrMax 2 years, 10 months ago

The investigation is still "going on," and when it is complete and the facts are presented, presumably to a grand jury, then charges should be filed against both her and her beloved co-thief (if he was complicit) for felony theft-by-taking. From a CYA standpoint, the school board has taken this medium-weight disciplinary step in order to best defend against future legal "actions" and political repercussions. Not to cold, not to hot, but just right - that should any of them come to face the axeman, he might be as lenient and merciful to them.

We would do well as a community to make the very most poignant, yet succinct examples of these two - and figuratively hoist their heads on pikes and display them at the city gates, to be picked apart by the carrion birds - for the profit of "general deterrence" upon calculating others who might aspire to do the same misdeeds and "specific deterrence" upon those two losers personally.

"The Rational Choice Perspective" from criminology/sociology adds weight to my observations that there exist, in large numbers, succeeding generations of Americans hereabouts who exercise not a shred of personal, social, parental, or organizational responsibility. Further, there is a secret hidden within certain cultural subsets of this nation who have have been so acculturated and acclimated, and in many cases actually so instructed, on how best to shamelessly "take the system for all its worth," in order to bring it down, to destroy it for its historical "sins."

Criminologist James Q. Wilson observed, "Crime is the price society pays for abandoning character," that "In the long run, the public interest depends on private virtue," and “The most important change in how one defines the public interest that I have witnessed . . . over the last twenty years has been a deepening concern for the development of character in the citizenry.”

Albany can still be saved: and I only say this because the old money has not as yet fled, the large commercial interests have not as yet fled. But when they do, this place will truly become the south Georgia branch of the pit of hell.

Just sayin'

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TrixibelleBento 2 years, 10 months ago

I understand not wanting to be sued, but let's be frank here. The State of Georgia is an at-will state and anyone can be filed for any reason as long as it's not discriminatory. Everyone around here is so afraid to fire. This isn't a union city (yet) so get rid of the folks who do not share our community ethics and values and get some folks in there who know right from wrong!

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Outtahere 2 years, 10 months ago

Well said, again! So happy to hear from you!

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Cartman 2 years, 10 months ago

DCSS just sent all of their employees a message. Its OK to steal. If you do get caught, you only risk a slap on the wrist.

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Jacob 2 years, 10 months ago

Another nail in the coffin for the children of Albany. Let us not hear the parents complain when their children finish school as illiterate, ingnorant, unemployable dolts. The school board showed it's true colors by selecting the worst possible candidate for superintendent,even after he was exposed as an illiterate fraud. This is just another example the train falling off the rails, while he and the board stands by, oblivious to it all. The voters of Albany had a chance recently to rectify this situation and chose to sacrifice their children's future for racial advantage. If you care for your children at all, get them out of the DCSS. Today. If not, don't complain when they get left behind.

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Terihdfxr 2 years, 10 months ago

Dr. John D. Barge State School Superintendent 2066 Twin Towers East 205 Jesse Hill Jr. Drive SE Atlanta, GA 30334 (404) 656-2800 (404) 651-8737 state.superintendent@ doe.k12.ga.us

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daisymae 2 years, 10 months ago

How do we know whether she knew or not ?? Really ? She didn't have to give the child lunch money that is how we know she knew. She is a thief and should be FIRED for not being the example she should be to her kids and teachers. In the private sector, she would be fired, no questions asked.

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dirkdiggler 2 years, 10 months ago

We should all remember the names of the three jack wagons that voted against suspension. On election day, boot them.

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