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Murfree: Special session to discuss school closing

Dougherty County School Board Superintendent Joshua Murfree has announced a special called 
meeting Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at the school administration boardroom to discuss the possible closure of Magnolia Elementary School. The Dougherty County School System, facing falling enrollment, a shrinking tax base and dwindling state dollars, is looking for ways to save money.

Dougherty County School Board Superintendent Joshua Murfree has announced a special called meeting Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at the school administration boardroom to discuss the possible closure of Magnolia Elementary School. The Dougherty County School System, facing falling enrollment, a shrinking tax base and dwindling state dollars, is looking for ways to save money.

ALBANY — Dougherty County School System Superintendent Joshua Murfree late Monday announced a special called meeting of the Board of Education, prompting an angry reaction from one board member and effectively overriding a community organization’s planned rally.

Thursday’s meeting, scheduled for the school administration board room at 1:30 p.m., will center around the possible closure of Magnolia Elementary School.

The system is looking at an anticipated $9.6 million shortfall in its upcoming budget. Faced with falling enrollment, an eroding tax base and budget cuts by the state, the system asked urban design consultant Eric Bosman of Kimly-Horn Associates to research possible school closures and consolidations to save money.

Murfree’s called session was a surprise to many and sparked a sharp exchange between board member Darrel Ealum, who is out of the country and will not be able to attend Thursday’s meeting, and the superintendent.

“I told you I was going to be out of the country until April 23,” Ealum wrote in an email Tuesday to Murfree. “Choosing to hold a significant meeting with prior knowledge of my absence and when you know I will return four days after the called meeting is impertinent, ungracious and inconsiderate.

“I am not looking for a ‘Single Bullet’ to solve our financial woes. We need a comprehensive plan that is far-reaching, and closing a single school will not solve our recurring financial shortfalls. Closing a single school in a vacuum without an all-encompassing budget plan is not taking advantage of all options.”

Murfree responded with an email hours later, writing, “If the Board thinks we need to change the date, we can, based on your absence and travel. We do not tend to stop meetings when we have other obligations, personal or professional. On one end I cannot hold up the district as we are trying to have reappointment data available for the upcoming board meeting.

“We have other meetings when all board members are not present. I hate you feel the way you feel and I cannot change your views.”

Ealum was not alone in his ire. A community group called “SaveOurSchool” had sent out an email earlier to announce a rally at 2 p.m. at Magnolia to present a proposal to save the school, but canceled the meeting shortly after Murfree announced the called meeting.

“I find it odd that Magnolia had a rally planned at 2 p.m and that our meeting was announced last week, and Dr. Murfree was aware of the rally last Thursday,” said a member of the group, who wished to remain anonymous. “Then Murfree scheduled a called meeting on the same date at nearly the same time. I guess they were afraid of what we had to say.”

The dustup began at a BOE meeting on April 9 when Bosman informed the Board that “the No. 1 option is to consolidate Magnolia and repurpose the building. Send half the children to Live Oak and the other half to Alice Coachman,” Bosman said. “Or you could rezone some to Lake Park, which itself would then have to be rezoned because it would be over capacity.”

School Board Attorney Tommy Coleman said any possible closure would have to be preceded by two advertised public hearings. Then the Board could vote on the closure.

Comments

Sister_Ruby 2 years, 5 months ago

Thanks for the advance notice..............

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TheBoss 2 years, 5 months ago

Magnolia is having a SOS (Save our School) rally at 2:00 pm on Thursday, it was planned last week. Murfee and the DCSS Board were invited as well as local media. I guess the Superintendent and Board and are chickens to attend the rally, and face the employees and kids and parents who are planning to attend. The Board and # 34 do not want any public input into their decisions.

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Terry.Lewis 2 years, 5 months ago

That rally has been cancelled.

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TheBoss 2 years, 5 months ago

Terry, cancelled by the Superintendent? Would like to know.

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Terry.Lewis 2 years, 5 months ago

I am trying to contact a member of the group now to ask. The rally was scheduled at Magnolia, so it is possible it was shot down from on high. You must also understand that some of these people also work for the school system.

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PatrickY2K 2 years, 5 months ago

Save Our School? The school system is finally being fiscally responsible by closing a school. Unless the public knows more than the consulting firm that recommended closing a school, what input do they need to hear?

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TheBoss 2 years, 5 months ago

The day you belive the DCSS is being fiscally responsible you are a sucker. The Consulting Firm was hired by DCSS with the results known prior to the report. There are NO Facts in the report. No one has seen the report, media has not asked for a copy. DCSS will not save 800K. Say informed

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PatrickY2K 2 years, 5 months ago

I would not describe the DCSS as "fiscally responsible", but this one act would be. How would closing a school not save money?!?! No overhead, including custodians, kitchen staff, or adminstrators, and probably eliminate some bus routes. Move the teachers and students into empty classroom at another school. Why did the even need a consulting firm to recommend this?

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Shinedownfan 2 years, 5 months ago

Shinedownfan 3 hours, 2 minutes ago

Magnolia won't be sold or not used, tho, Patrick, they will end up doing something else with the school, a career center or some crap, and will still shell out money for it.

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ustaknow 2 years, 5 months ago

ask the Tv station to look at the traffic on Magnolia- it is high volume all day so dont worry this location will be sucked up soon. Magnolia is an undiscovered gem for business due to its extremely high traffic count.

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chinaberry25 2 years, 5 months ago

85% of the parents and children at that school do not pay taxes. So they do not care who else foots the bill. I come up with the 85% on free or reduced lunches according to DCSS web site. When your pocketbook is not involved, what right do you have to protest. That school is old and obsolete and will cost big bucks to keep up, Where the new schools are nice and clean and more energy efficient. So what is the beef. It is a money saver and I can promise you there will be a lot of changes that most will not like in the next school year. The Cops in the school system do not work all summer and they still get paid. If they want to keep a job, rent them out to the Albany Police for the summer.

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Shinedownfan 2 years, 5 months ago

Magnolia won't be sold or not used, tho, chinaberry25. They will end up doing something else with the school, a career center or some crap, and will still shell out money for it.

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waltspecht 2 years, 5 months ago

How did you come up with that 85% figure? Even the School doesn't know who pays taxes and who doesn't.

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tocar 2 years, 5 months ago

I do not feel that non-taxpayers should have a say in any of this. Let the taxpayers vote for proposed school closings. My household pays taxes and we have not had any children in the Dougherty School System in over 20 years. I do not feel that we need to support those that do not pay taxes. Money only goes so far and senior citizens live on limited incomes and barely get by. Non-taxpayers should not have a voice where saving money is concerned. It is not our responsibility to support your street children and your sorry self for just keep having a house full of children. Some children do not even know who their Daddy is. This issue is all about the children and not you.

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chinaberry25 2 years, 5 months ago

Tocar, that is my point. When I was young, you did not dictate to others. They told you what to do. If it is cost effective, then do it. Yes, the school may become another building need, but at least the other schools will be of full use.

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waltspecht 2 years, 5 months ago

Could they sell the building to Phoebe?

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dingleberry 2 years, 5 months ago

If personnel are going to be cut if the school is to be closed, let's do it. If we are moving everyone to another location, the savings aren't that great. But let's don't watch this play out and lose sight of the need to make a decision on not extending contracts on the CRCT cheaters--this should be top priority and we should not be distracted. But then perhaps that is the plan,

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ustaknow 2 years, 5 months ago

Magnolia Avenue from broad avenue to Gillionville has an extremely high traffic count.

I would imagine that Pheobe or some upper education campus would want to open that facility , and as to rest of magnolia street- the business community would do well to find a spot on magnolia and build or buy and relocate.

Just ride down Magnolia and see the insane amount of traffic.

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Support 2 years, 5 months ago

D. Ealum is a FOOL!!! The citizens of East Albany should regret the day you elected him. If things do not go his way he refuses to compromise. How did this email get leaked to the press Mr. Ealum??? SACS will have a field day with you.

Shouldn't Tommy Coleman have let the Board know the process for closing a school before now?

The school system has to make budget cuts and everyone is not going to be happy with it otherwise it's business as usual. Mr. Ealum all your ideas are not of sound mind.

And I agree with "dingleberry's comment." Budget cuts must be made.

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TheBoss 2 years, 5 months ago

Dear Support, you are FOOL, For once one bord member spoke the truth. live with it.

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agonized 2 years, 5 months ago

This is what happens when a history of fiscal irresponsibility, the current Board, #34 and some of his overpaid staff collide. The tax base isn't eroding just because homeowners and business owners are fleeing the county for whatever reasons. Look around--most buildings of any size now are either government buildings or owned by Phoebe and therefore exempt from paying ANY property taxes. If the school is a drain of resources, which could be determined without a highly paid consultant as PatrickY2K stated, then it should be closed and personnel shuffled accordingly. But why is there never any mention by the board of investigating the salaries and job descriptions of those who work in the newer downtown building with the cute little schoolhouse in the front? And as others posted, why has there been little mention of the CRCT scandal that involved quite a few teachers? Contracts have already been issued, I think.

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Jacob 2 years, 5 months ago

LOL. Say what you will about #34, but you can't say he is not entertaining. He is hella funny to me now that I moved away from Hellbenny and it is not my tax dollars that he is wasting on a daily basis.

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amoore7 2 years, 4 months ago

I took my break to attend the rally at 2pm, only to get there and see no rally in session. We as parents are concerned with this issue and our voices must be heard. Do not close our school, and do not choose to release teachers from making a difference in our children lives. Education should never be on the "chopped List" Our future generation need to know that we as a community are giving them the best education that than can recieve. Teachers need to know that their jobs matter! That their personal choice to educate will not be short leashed! My children attend Magnolia Elm. All they can ask me everynight before going to bed is "mama do we have to go to another school". Find another way to fix your issue, because closing a school does not fix the problem. You will only be adding to it. Making students who have no other educational option suffer by being placed in oversize classrooms, is not giving quality education! I wish board members could be teachers 1st and have an understanding of the importence of education! I wish that people would care about the students 1st and what's best for them 1st. The talk is that this is a simple fix, but at whose expense? rezoning a school will mean rezoning and rezoning and rezoning, because our community is steady growing! We need Magnolia to stay open. We need Magnolia teachers to stay employed! We need to stop thinking that we can target education everytime the budget is faulty! We did not make it faulty! My children deserve the best education possible! I deserve to know that my children will be able to compete for jobs with others across the world. Elementary Schools are our children foundation! everything is built upon the principles taught at this tender age! They already have enough on their plate to deal with; with a cirriculum that does not offer any room to make a mistake! My stand is to Save our school!

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