Joshua Murfree Jr. is superintendent of the Dougherty County School System.
ALBANY, Ga. — The Dougherty County School Board and Superintendent Joshua Murfree signed a general release and mutual employment termination agreement Wednesday, effectively ending Murfree's tumultuous three-year tenure with the troubled school system.
The board voted 4-3 to offer Murfree a mutually understood termination agreement that stipulates he will step down as DCSS superintendent on Dec. 18.
Board Chair James Bush and members Carol Tharin, Darrel Ealum and David Maschke voted for the agreement while Milton "June Bug" Griffin, Anita Williams-Brown and Velvet Riggins voted no.
"I would refer any questions you want to ask me to your board members," Murfee said after signing the agreement. "That's all I have to say."
Board members discussed the terms of the agreement in a closed-door executive session before re-opening the meeting and taking a public vote.
The 13-page agreement reads in part: "The parties have agreed it is in the best interests of all involved to mutually terminate (the) employment relationship to provide for transition of employment responsibilities and to amicably conclude all matters arising out of or related to the employment of (the) Superintendent and/or termination of that employment."
Hired as former superintendent Sally Whatley's replacement in June of 2010, Murfree's 30-month tenure was marked by controversies in which some involved with the school system have been accused of school lunch fraud, tampering with the school system Police Department and repaying bond money of an arrested student.
Currently, there is Georgia Department of Education involvement in several different federal programs because of questionable Title I, Part A expenditures.
It became evident that Murfree had lost support for renewal after an Oct. 10 closed board meeting at which individual board members discussed continuation or termination of Murfree's contract.
Sources say that at the conclusion of the 30-minute meeting, it was apparent that Murfree did not have the four votes necessary to renew his contract.
Murfree was not present at that closed session, but minutes were taken and given to the superintendent. Sources close to the situation said then that Bush and system attorney Tommy Coleman then had a meeting with Murfree in which the superintendent was given the option to "control his own destiny."
"I think the Board and Dr. Murfree made every effort to go through the process with respect and dignity, and I think we did that," Tharin said. "Now we need to find an interim superintendent who can help us with a smooth transition and can take an objective look at the system."
Bush said the decision not to renew Murfree's contract came after weeks of negotiations between the board and Murfree.
"This was not a difficult decision to reach. He (Murfree) had his mind made up and so did the majority of the Board," Bush said.
Riggins, who wanted to retain Murfree, said he took the job under bad circumstances, which he was trying to improve.
"The board made its decision, but he (Murfree) came into a plagued system, and he's been trying to fix it since he took the job. At least he will be getting a check until June. I am unemployed and still looking for work because of the same plagued system," Riggins said, referring to her recent acquittal on school lunch fraud charges. "I wish him well in his job-hunting. With his credentials and qualifications, he should be able to find work immediately."
Maschke said the agreement was in the best interests of all involved.
"The majority of the board supported the agreement and believed that a change was necessary," Maschke said. "The board and Dr. Murfree reached this agreement for the benefit of the school system and the community."