Dougherty County School Board Chairman James Bush, left, and Superintendent Joshua Murfree chat Monday at a special called meeting during which the board voted 4-2-1 to issue letters of contract nonrenewals to 24 teachers and two principals named in the Governor’s CRCT cheating report.
ALBANY, Ga. — The Dougherty County School Board at a special called meeting Monday night voted 4-2-1 to nonrenew the contracts of 24 teachers and two principals named in the governor's CRCT cheating report.
Morningside Principal Gloria Baker, recently indicted on school lunch fraud charges, was also nonrenewed.
In an unusual vote, Board Chairman James Bush, and board members Carol Tharin, Anita Williams-Brown and Darrel Ealum voted for the nonrenewals; David Maschke and Milton "June Bug" Griffin voted against, and Velvet Riggins abstained.
Maschke explained his "no" vote, saying it was not a vote against the recommended nonrenewals, but with the reappointment list as a whole.
"It is my understanding that the (nonrenewal) letters had already been issued," Maschke said. "So that was a moot point. I did not feel compelled to support carte blanche reappointments and still not know where we are going to cut the budget on this $9 million shortfall we are facing.
"The letters have been sent, so what's the rush on reappointments?"
System Attorney Tommy Coleman had already drawn up the letters of nonrenewal, which had to be in the accused's hands before May 15 or else their contracts would automatically renew.
The board also instructed Superintendent Joshua Murfree to later compose letters of reprimand to be placed in the personnel files of five other teachers and one principal charged with failure to monitor: David Adams, Linda Gail Griffin, Deborah Jones, Linda Solomon, Patricia Victor and Monroe Principal Valerie Thomas.
"Dr. Murfree called me Friday and instructed me to put together the letter for the employees who were not being renewed," Coleman said.
In two surprise staff moves, the board voted 4-3 to transfer former Executive Director of Finance and Operations Robert Lloyd to director of supply services. The vote was also 4-3 to move former Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Diane Daniels to social studies coordinator.
Merita Jones was named interim director of curriculum. No immediate replacement was named for Lloyd.
The board's decision to nonrenew the teachers' and principals' contracts now takes the system to the tribunal phase of the administrative investigation. Those educators who received the nonrenewal letters have 20 days to appeal their dismissals.
They will also continue to be paid until the end of the school year later this month.
Coleman informed the board that the information contained in the individual case files is voluminous.
"I promise you, when we get to the evidence phase, you are going to get tired of reading this stuff," Coleman said. "We have three lawyers in addition to me. We've got the information divided by schools, and we're just halfway through the documents. We haven't even begun to listen to the audio files (of investigators' interviews)."
The board then heard from Assistant Superintendent Kenneth Goseer, who gave more details on the recent revelation that the system had reimbursed $404 in bail money to the parents of a 17-year-old Dougherty High student who was arrested by school police on a charge of disrupting a classroom.
"We have situations that occur in our schools all the time," Goseer said. "In my opinion, the child was falsely incarcerated. A decision was made to pay out the $404 instead of possibly paying out thousands from a lawsuit. We were protecting the Dougherty County School System."
Goseer said Lloyd cut and signed two checks, for $384 and $20, but he was not clear on who ordered disbursement of the funds.
"Robert Lloyd didn't just dream up writing these checks," Tharin said. "There is some major spin being put on this."
Goseer responded, "We've reimbursed people for having horns stolen. But we are making these decisions for the good of the Dougherty County School System."
Tharin then made a motion to demand repayment of the reimbursement by the parents, but the motion died 3-3-1 with Tharin, Maschke and Ealum voting yes, Griffin, Bush and Riggins voting no and Williams-Brown abstaining.
"In hindsight, some mistakes were made," Murfree said. "We need to clean it up and move forward. And we will be very careful in the future."