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DCSS denies records request

ALBANY -- The Dougherty County School System this week denied an Open Records request from The Albany Herald seeking to review free and reduced lunch applications of system employees and school board members.

In rejecting the request, school system attorney Tommy Coleman wrote in an email that Georgia regulations state that "public disclosure shall not be required for records that are (1) specifically required by federal statute or regulation to be kept confidential."

The request was issued after Morningside Elementary School Principal Gloria Baker and her husband, John, were each charged with three counts of fraud in obtaining free lunches for the past three years for their middle school-aged daughter.

Baker, who earns $90,500 a year, was then suspended for 15 days without pay by the DCSS School Board. Baker, however, still faces fraud charges, and the BOE could still take further action if she is convicted.

The Herald was asking for the employees' lunch applications to compare the stated incomes on the form to system pay records.

Documents obtained by The Herald from the Dougherty County School System show roughly 81 percent of the 16,000 students 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.

"Access to the application eligibility and certification of children for free and reduced-priced meals and milk is governed by 7 CFR 245.6," Coleman wrote. "Paragraph (f) provides those instances when information can be released without parental notification. It provides, in part, 'the state agency or local education agency, as appropriate, may disclose aggregate about children eligible for free and reduced-price meals or free milk to any party without parental notification and consent when children cannot be identified through the release of aggregate data or by means of deduction.'

"It further provides that the only person directly connected with the administration or enforcement of the program may have access to the child's eligibility information without parental consent, which may include the persons carrying out the program or anyone monitoring, reviewing auditing or investigating the program.

"Absent these strict circumstances, the System must obtain parental consent for disclosure of free and reduced-priced meal eligibility information."

Coleman added that the above-mentioned rules are in place to protect children's identities.

"Federal regulations prevent the disclosure of information that would lead to the identity of a child who is receiving free or reduced-priced meals through means of deduction," Coleman said. "Clearly, the disclosure of the child's parents would lead to the easy deduction of a child's identity and violate this federal regulation."

Comments

whattheheck 2 years, 4 months ago

Coleman knows there are more problems than Baker--when one does it word get around and it becomes systemic. Well, Tommy, I have written the USDA/IG requesting an audit of exactly what is shown above. So perhaps, and just perhaps even when fraud is known to be happening, the IG will make the review you are trying to stifle. You don't care about protecting the identities of any children--its the chiseling principals and teachers the system wants to protect. We all know it is there just as with the CRCT cheaters the DCSS "investigation" did not find.

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ObjectiveEyes 2 years, 4 months ago

81% of students are on free or reduced-price meals. According to published data, about 18% should actually qualify. This obviously doesn't pass the smell test. As much as I hate that DCSS wouldn't comply with the FOIA request, but, the troubling part is where Mr. Coleman stated, "...which may include the persons carrying out the program or anyone monitoring, reviewing, auditing or investigating the program." Surely, this doesn't mean that even law enforcement agencies can't get this info, does it? If the parents are prosecuted (not likely) this "...would lead to the easy deduction of a child's identity and violate this federal regulation." Interesting...

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supersquawker 2 years, 4 months ago

24% of all households in the County are at the income threshold for free or reduced cost lunches. I guess breakfast is free to anybody. But I don't believe that 24% of the households comprise 81% of the school kids. The Baker fraud incident proves that.

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supersquawker 2 years, 4 months ago

Obama promised a Transparent Administration. All should follow suit to His holy example.

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supersquawker 2 years, 4 months ago

There's always some legitimate-sounding reason for each and every "entity" to refuse to comply. Whether it be Church or State. Makes no difference, they're all corrupt.

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supersquawker 2 years, 4 months ago

"Occupy The Entities" is my new rallying cry.

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mortimer 2 years, 4 months ago

This 81% figure in itself warrants more criminal investigations of this entire program in Dougherty County.At the very least the Dept of Agriculture which is federal, and not local yokels, should launch an investigation into this crap. Our bow tie wearing,Farrakhan, school adminsitrator should have lauched this immediantly on seeing that 81 number. Can you say incompetant and stoopid????

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coachjohnson42 2 years, 4 months ago

In your efforts to seek blood, children's identity may be exposed.....So, its not worth it.....

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supersquawker 2 years, 4 months ago

coach, in your efforts to excuse rampant fraud....everybody gets hurt...uhh well actually, only those who put up the money get hurt. Why continue to support fraud, rape, theft, etc? Only one reason.........

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whattheheck 2 years, 4 months ago

Exposed to what? My goodness, are we going to print a list of the children of all deadbeats? Haven't seen one of those lately--or ever for that matter.

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VSU 2 years, 4 months ago

You have to remember that Coach supports deadbeats, entitlements, the free handouts, getting something without earning it. Just like he supported the Rams for making the playoffs which they did not earn a spot. It was part of that Gimme Gimme Gimme act.

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supersquawker 2 years, 4 months ago

There's a short list every week in the paper. It's called the Birth Announcements.

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coachjohnson42 2 years, 4 months ago

Fraud is against the law as well as exposing the names of children from those federal forms. Didnt you read what the lawyer said? You dont break the law to see who broke the law Mr. Radical Man.....

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bubbavet 2 years, 4 months ago

MUST NOT HURT YO SELF ESTEEM REV.

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TheMember 2 years, 4 months ago

coachjohnson42 is right, we should not let these kids know that stealing is wrong, it may ruin their whole upbringing. WTH coach? every comment I read from you makes you sound like Mr. Murfree himself and I know Murfree does not have time to comment when he does not have time to explain his hairbrain decisions to the press. Instead of protecting "each other" why don't you stand up and condemn these cheaters and maybe if you are a leader, they will follow your lead and do the right things.

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waltspecht 2 years, 4 months ago

Basically "right is right, and wrong is wrong". All fraud should be exposed and those perpetrating it dealt with in the harshest extreme. For it is currently apparent that there is no fear of breaking the law, nor getting caught doing what isn't right. If the children's parents are dishonest, then the title of having dishonest parents should attach to the children. As it is I think most of them are smart enough to have already figured out what is going on. The acceptance of fraud is what leads to more fraud. Thats how the situations have gotten to where they are. By the way Coach, you appear to be one of those don't snitch advocates trying to protect illegal activity you yourself might be conducting. If you all remember back, they said they weren't going to investigate the program because the small gains wouldn't be worth the cost. I hold that correcting the behavior is one step to returning honesty to our Citizenry and well worth the cost. Prosecute them all so they have a record and can be watched for future activity and exclusion from any other programs they might actually become eligable for.

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TheMember 2 years, 4 months ago

Too bad they will not post all comments.

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mortimer 2 years, 4 months ago

The Awlbinny herald is playing big brother with comments from their readers. I bet they will not print this either.

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rerobinson 2 years, 4 months ago

There are some good teachers/administrators in DCSS. I feel for them

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Local 2 years, 4 months ago

Why haven't all of you squawkers changed the world already? You have all the answers and do everything right. So why is it in YOUR town there are ever any problems. Oh wait - you are destroyers!! Not builders.

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TheMember 2 years, 4 months ago

If they would listen, the city would change. Until everyone stops protecting everyone, we will get nowhere. It is obvious you do not live here and missed the fact the Mr. Murfree was appointed by his friends on the school board behind closed doors, then couldn't explain why he was qualified. The reason for that is simple, he is not qualified. Coach is trying to imply that race has something to do with this, but I guarantee you there would be just as many comments if it were white people involved. Until we see the people for who they are and not the color of their skin, we will get nowhere around here. It is time to realize both white and black people make mistakes, so own up and correct the mistakes that are being made. I have a dream, that we are all treated equal, both good and bad, and Mr. Murfree is bad.

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coachjohnson42 2 years, 4 months ago

If you listen to bloggers LIKE SUPERSQUAWKER, AND WALTSPECHT...you would believe the whole system is full of cheaters, and crooks....dont let their STRONG-DISLIKE (NOT HATE) blind you. There are some great teachers in the DCSS. The bad is overshadowing the good by way of the Albany Herald and local media. DCSS problems are just being over-exploited these days because of the DISLIKE of Murfree and the BOE. Its just a blatant, and obvious attempt to sensationalize the problems of the DCSS to push their own agenda. READ BETWEEN THE LINES......ITS EASY TO SEE WHATS REALLY GOING ON.

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VSU 2 years, 4 months ago

I think coach Johnson passed through school via cheating, and that is why is is supporting losers like McMurfree and Gloria Davis and other teachers in their wrongdoings.

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coachjohnson42 2 years, 4 months ago

No, I didnt go to Vomit State like you did.....I got a good education instead.

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bubbavet 2 years, 4 months ago

YEAH ASU NO DOUBT. YOU PROBABLY TEACH THERE TOO. MORON

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Abytaxpayer 2 years, 4 months ago

PEOPLE PEOPLE MOVE along there is nothing to see HERE!!!! The bowtie man behind the curtain has it ALL under control……….. What more can you expect this is Albany with it’s blind followers who don’t want the truth exposed…...... SS that should be spelled with a capital M

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waltspecht 2 years, 4 months ago

What exactly is wrong with weeding the chaff out of the wheat? I never said the whole system is dishonest, but there is evidance that a certain percentage is. Would you excuse the murderer of a Family member because they went to Church with good folks, and you didn't want to offend them?

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mortimer 2 years, 4 months ago

Couch Johnson. Were the names of the principals children, that were stealing from the needy, released to the public??? Only the parents names and their annual salaries. Bottom line.....they were stealing. Stealing from the true needy among us. 90k is not in need. That should bear more punishment than a little bitty suspension. I hope the D.A. picks up on this and sends this thief to trial.

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coachjohnson42 2 years, 4 months ago

What she did is no different than older rich guys cheating on their taxes every year. Both are crimes.....You guys are just upset because she made 90k a year. You could care less about the crme.

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chinaberry25 2 years, 4 months ago

In one of Dr. Murfree's visits to a school 2 kids started a fight in front of him. He was trying to get them to mind and settle down. They ignored him and kept at it. They could have cared less who he was.

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Cartman 2 years, 4 months ago

It is true that there are some good teachers in the school system. But for thieves to hide behind them is wrong. To point fingers at those who voice discontent at public corruption is equally misguided. If those who complain here are exaggerating; could someone reference a school board in another county which is more dysfunctional and corrupt than the DCSS? All we get for our taxpayer money are expensive buildings and overpaid, over-bearing, arrogant administrators. When criticisized about their lack of leadership, credibility or accountability, they quickly point to the innocent teachers. Much like Phoebe administrators, when critisized about their financial shenanigans, always deflect the criticism as being an unfair attack on the great nursing staff. Face it. The problem is not the critics. DCSS results speak for themselves. It's a disgrace and an embarrassment. If any operation deserved to be investigated and exposed; it is the DCSS.

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coachjohnson42 2 years, 4 months ago

I agree that those who have done wrong should be punished. Please dont twist my words. I just want you to understand that because the BOE is almost hated around here along with the Superintendent and the media is over-sensationalizing some of these crimes to make a case for their removal. (Its obvious) The school system next door has many many problems but dont make the front page weekly.....They commit many crimes over there.......but have you ever wondered why they stay off the front page???? Hmmmmm??? Because its swept under the rug, and those crimes are never reported......So, dont be so ignorant to think its only the DCSS with problems......

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Abytaxpayer 2 years, 4 months ago

Coach let me see if I get this right. You surmise that “older rich guys are cheating on their taxes” because paying accountants to find and use tax breaks they are entitled to is cheating in your eyes…Hmmm entitlements for free loaders is good and using entitlements for money makers is cheating….Next: as for me and I am guessing for most of the working people in Albany, we do not “HATE” but we do however have no Respect for #34 and his band of clowns on the BOE. We do hate how they do not respond to and hide their shady actions from the taxpayers on top of wasting our tax dollars. You claim the media is over-sensationalizing #34 and Clowns while sweeping stories from next door under the rug, Where is your proof? Please stop making excuses if you truly believe as you say “those who have done wrong should be punished” then stand up and shout to the top of your lungs we need real leadership at the BOE. Or as I expect you will, keep making excuses blaming the media, claiming anyone who ask for better leadership is just another “Hater” and justifying it is ok to steal and be a bad example for our children because you think some rich guy has to lie and cheat to make money….One more thing : Ignorant means lacking knowledge or comprehension of the subject specified or is a state of being uninformed…..Blaming others to justify one’s poor actions and making statements void of facts does not cover-up ignorance except for narrow minded people. Shoe fit???

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coachjohnson42 2 years, 4 months ago

@ ABYTAXPAYER; The only point you make that deserves a response is the one concerning leadership here in the DCSS. The DCSS does deserve better leadership all the way around. I dont think that is a question anymore. However, I do believe he is unfairly targeted on some of these issues you guys whine about. For example, he was not the "SUPER" in 2Strong009 when the so called "cheating on the CRCT" took place. But yet, he gets "tried" in the media for it. He had nothing to do with that one!!!! Bob Marley once sang, "I shot the sheriff, but I didnt shoot the deputy"....If you want to judge him, judge him while he is in charge.

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Abytaxpayer 2 years, 4 months ago

Coach maybe someone has tried to blame #34 for the cheating but it was not I and nor have I seen any media saying it was on #34’s watch. However he is the one that has tried to hide and block the truth since he was crowned. If he had stepped up and lead the way to rid Albany of Liars, Cheaters and Thieves then I would be supporting him. He proved he has no self-respect in the way he took the job as number 34 and if he does not respect himself then neither will I and nor most of Albany.

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coachjohnson42 2 years, 4 months ago

@ABYTAXPAYER; I forgot to mention the Dougherty County BOE has shown some deficiency.....But, I strongly suggest you research the problems of some other local school systems and you will find similar problems such as 1) poor leadership 2) cheating in schools 3) mis-use of funds from candy sales,free lunches,game tickets, and even payroll. 3) Poor academic achievement 4) High teen-age pregnancy rate 5) high drop-out rate 6) poor attendance by students and staff 7) fighting 8) skipping classes 9) low test scores and 10) lack of highly qualified staff.......So, while you are pointing your finger at DCSS.....look around......or just ask an educator from "next door".....these problems are all over the State of Georgia!!! Not just Albany.

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Abytaxpayer 2 years, 4 months ago

We are discussing the problems in Albany! But your point is well taken, all be it is the way magicians do magic. If you don’t want something focused on then distract the people with something else while you slip the trick past them....My tax dollars are being P**sed away here and I live here is the reason I care about DCSS. PS If you will stand for seriously improving DCSS, I will support anyone you can get to run against the Clown crew we now have.

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rorschach 2 years, 4 months ago

Anyone with common sense should know that No lawyer is going to allow himself to be quoted making a false statement concerning a legal matter. Anyone who doubts Tommy Colman's rationale for not disclosing the requested information should prove him wrong. Otherwise take him at his word since he is the one with the expertise in matters of the law.

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Justice4Moma 2 years, 4 months ago

Without the media alot of us would not know what is going on.And i think they should print all that is said.Not just some of the ones who call in and ask them to remove things said.If it was not true it would not hurt.I have always been tought that the Truth hurts sometimes.But the Truth is always the best way to go,that way you dont have to keep making up lies to cover other lies.

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mortimer 2 years, 4 months ago

rorcach If you have Coleman for a lawyer you had better find another one.

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