Joshua Murfree Jr. is superintendent of the Dougherty County School System.
ALBANY, Ga. — Dougherty County School Superintendent Joshua Murfree has responded to a story first reported by The Herald on Wednesday regarding Georgia Department of Education corrective action letters of November 5 and 6.
This is Murfree’s response in its entirety:
“We have received the latest communication from the federal programs office at the Georgia Department of Education and there should be little surprise for the information it contains. Our board has been made aware of the state’s recommendation to install a federal programs liaison employed with federal money by our school district to help give additional direction and oversight to the use of federal funds obtained from grant and title programs. The letters of November 5 restate that recommendation and we have expressed our desire to the state to proceed with that course of action. These letters present an opportunity for our system to improve some procedures and practices of the past and move forward.
“Federal program money is allocated for the purpose of improving student achievement, closing the achievement gap and addressing the academic needs in high poverty areas. Our system has one of the state’s highest concentrations of children and families in poverty. Every dollar is needed to address the educational needs of children and I hope that is where they will ultimately be used. Prior to the letters of November 5, I received a letter dated November 1 that has not been reported that affirmed our compliance with corrective action for the School Improvement Grant (SIG). That letter stated, ‘With SIG findings resolved, the Office of School Turnaround will submit a recommendation for approval of your FY2013 SIG-1003(g) ARRA funds at the December 4, 2012 meeting of the State Board of Education.’ “
“We take the charges of unsatisfactory performance of federal regulation 34 CFR very seriously. These issues began for our system with ‘Complaint Investigation’ of inappropriate awards, last year, for free or reduced meals (FRM) and a complaint against Title I. The legal process for prosecution of these allegations was completed and no individuals have been found guilty of illegal activities as related to the free or reduced meals (FRM). We also took swift action to implement new measures of assurance for employees’ FRM applications. The state indicated in the letter of our High Risk status, that these complaints led to a ‘simultaneous FY 12 Cross-Functional Monitoring visit on May 24, 2012.
“The review generated requests for more information regarding Title I personnel and funding. We have worked to answer each of the issues in question and will continue to seek resolution to questionable expenses and district management. This “High Risk” status will mean closer scrutiny and an annual audit of our federal funded programs and we welcome that scrutiny. Until these issues are resolved, we will inform the board and public of our status with Race to the Top (RT3), School Improvement Grant (SIG), Title II-Part A, Title III, and Limited English Proficient funding status that is managed by the district’s Curriculum and Instruction Department.
“Also, we will inform the board and public of our status with the Title I program. The district understands the importance of ensuring clear and concise operational and procurement practices. Therefore, the DCSS school board and the school district will work closely to address and correct any and all inadequate policies, procedures and various fiscal processes.”
“My desire is to use all available resources to serve the needs of the children and youth of our school district. We hope to resolve these issues in a way that provides resources for student achievement in Dougherty County.”