ATLANTA — Georgia Department of Education Title I Part A Director Margo DeLaune confirmed Tuesday that her office has received all requested documentation from the Dougherty County School System as the department looks into questionable Title I expenditures by the school district.
“We received the expense report on Friday,” DeLaune said. “I think we’ve gotten everything we had requested. We are currently reviewing the documentation, which is rather lengthy.”
In June, the state Education Department asked the Dougherty School System for supporting documentation for 34 itemized Title I FY 2012 expenditures that were brought into question during a visit by the department’s Complaint Investigation Team on May 24.
In an email dated June 26 from DeLaune to DCSS Superintendent Joshua Murfree, she wrote that “additional information and or supporting documentation is needed for the items listed below that were paid with Title I, Part A monies.”
The 34 items in question range from $22 for emergency and registration cards to $91,000 for consulting fees paid to Darrell Sabbs and Associates.
The probe was initiated after the DOE learned of the indictments of DCSS School Board member Velvet Riggins and Morningside principal Gloria Baker on charges of fraudulently filling out free and reduced-cost meal (FRM) applications.
The state uses FRM numbers to allocate Title I funding to school districts throughout the state.
“We had a complaint in regard to FRM (free and reduced-cost meal) applications from Dougherty County,” DeLaune said in July. “And based on that complaint and what we’ve been reading in the paper, we weren’t 100 percent positive that the count we received from the district for FY 2012 was entirely accurate.”
The department subsequently froze an estimated $11 million in DCSS Title I funds for FY 2013 until the FRM numbers are resolved to state officials’ satisfaction.
During FY 2012, more than 82 percent of the system’s 16,343 students qualified for free or reduced-cost meals, and 22 of 26 schools qualified as Title I schools.
During a School Board meeting Monday, Murfree said the system had agreed to comply with a DOE request to appoint Georgia School Nutrition Programs Grant Specialist Ruth Gordon as a monitor to assist the school district with verification of FRM numbers.
Murfree added he was hopeful that the system’s compliance with the DOE requests would prompt the state to free up the funds when the federal government’s Fiscal Year 2013 begins on Oct. 1.