A policy that isn’t enforced isn’t much of a policy. And that one is ignored — and apparently has been for years — is worth even less.
It’s particularly troubling when those policies are in place to ensure that taxpayer money is being spent effectively for the benefit for students.
The state has given the Dougherty County School System until Friday to come up with adequate explanations for the expenditure of more than $140,000 in Title I money. The lion’s share of that was $91,000 spent over seven months on a Saturday reading academy for fourth graders that, according to best guesses, reached only a fraction of the 80 students it was intended to serve and $18,000 for a motivational speaker to make three appearances at Dougherty County schools, a function that Title I funds are not supposed to be spent on.
If the system fails to do so, it risks having to repay the state for those expenditures, though a more likely ramification would be that its Title I money for this fiscal year would be cut by that amount. Losing funds needlessly because of poor record keeping or poor management when the system is already strapped for cash is unacceptable.
This comes on the heels of state education officials seeking a cross-reference of the salaries of school system employees who have children getting free or reduced-cost lunches from the school system. Meanwhile, prosecutors are pursuing cases against School Board member Velvet Riggins and Principal Gloria Baker over that very issue, one that has seen a tribunal of two school board members from outside Dougherty County and an assistant state attorney general recommend that Gov. Nathan Deal remove Riggins from office until the charges against her are resolved. That’s not to mention the personnel carousel that’s been spinning because of the CRCT investigations and the School Board’s recent non-rehiring/rehiring and demotion of personnel.
For the Dougherty County school administration and the board, it’s certainly been a summer of discontent.
The spotlight of this latest episode shown harshly on Superintendent Joshua Murfree and Federal Programs Director Betty Graper, prompting Murfree to retort at this week’s School Board meeting that none of this is new, suggesting that contracts be examined for the past decade. Board member David Maschke said the practice has been going on “for years. 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 a “culture of looking after your friends and relatives.”
We encourage the board to go back. If they find this sort of lax to non-existent supervision was going on in Superintendent Sally Whatley’s tenure or even further back, uncover it all and let the chips fall where they may.
But even if that is found to be the case, it is no excuse for this sort of thing to have continued during Murfree’s administration. Dougherty County taxpayers should be able to count on a superintendent who, if he came in and saw policy violations being conducted, would bring them to the the board and public’s attention and summarily cut them out, not use them as a lame excuse and justification for continuing down the same path.