Dougherty County School Board Chairman James Bush, left and board member Velvet Riggins chat prior to the BOE meeting Monday night. The board discussed problems brought brought to light by DCSS attorney Tommy Coleman's report on Darrell Sabbs' and Associates controversial consulting contract with the school system.
ALBANY -- Dougherty County School Superintendent Joshua Murfree spent much of Monday night's school board meeting on his heels fielding questions about the latest troubles dogging the school system.
Most of the discussion centered around how system consultant contracts are awarded and monitored.
The issue came to a head after DCSS attorney Tommy Coleman's report that was issued late last week citing a general "failure in oversight" in the awarding of a $91,000 contract to Darrell Sabbs and Associates which failed to get board approval, in direct violation of existing board policy.
Sabbs' contract for a weekend program to teach at-risk DCSS fourth-graders came to light last month when documents revealed that Federal Programs Director Betty Graper entered into the contract on behalf of the system in September of last year without the required board approval.
Sabbs and Murfree are friends, with both serving in the 100 Black Men of Albany organization.
"I am not giving Dr. Graper a pass on this one," Board Chairman James Bush, who requested the Coleman report, said. "But I have known Betty Graper for a long time and for her to do something of this magnitude without some guidance is something I find very hard to believe."
Board member Anita Williams-Brown added, "I thing we need to go back and look at all our consultant contracts."
This brought a sharp response from Murfree.
"Let's go back 10 years, all the public is hearing right now is two years," Murfree, who has been superintendent for the past two years, said. "I can tell you right now that we have already started the process of looking at past consultant contracts."
Board member David Maschke provided his own 151-page consultants report to the board.
"This has been going on for years," Maschke said. "It is part of a systematic effort to find jobs for family and friends within the school system. What we have here is a wholesale disregard of good business practices and is a culture of looking after your friends and relatives."
Board member Carol Tharin, obviously angry, said "we need to do something concrete. We need to show the public that we are taking this thing very seriously."
Tharin then attempted to make a motion requiring Murfree to take action in the face of evidence, but was cut short by Bush.
"I don't think we need a motion," Bush said. "The superintendent has already said he will take action in regard to this matter and we should give him that opportunity. If he takes no action, then the board certainly will."
Earlier in the evening, system Finance Director Kenneth Dyer told the board his office is in the process of putting together a database to meet a Georgia Department of Education request in regard to free and reduced lunch applications from DCSS employees who have dependents in the system.
The GADOE wants to cross reference the salaries of employees who have dependent children in the DCSS to state incomes to see if any questionable FRM free or reduced (FRM) meals.
More than 82 percent of the more than 16,300 students qualify for FRM, and those numbers are used by the state to allocate Federal Title I and IDEA money to Georgia's school districts. The state has expressed concern as to the accuracy of numbers provided by the system.
"We are going to have to cross-reference three separate databases (employees names and salaries, dependents and stated household incomes) with about 3,000 cross-matches to the dependents list then with the FRM applications," Dyer said. "We will provide the DOE with this database and they will then check questionable applications for verification for cause."