ALBANY, Ga. — In the latest salvo from the Georgia Department of Education toward the Dougherty County School System, State School Superintendent John Barge has issued a letter to DCSS Superintendent Joshua Murfree requesting new information on the District's expenditures of federal grant money during FY12.
The GaDOE's latest request for new financial information expands the state's growing involvement in the troubled local school system.
"I have not spoken with (GaDOE Internal Audit Manager Gerald Schaefer) regarding the reason for the most recent request for information related to the other 13 programs; so, I can only speculate that the scope of his review will be similar to that of the other three programs for which we have already received the monitoring reports," said DCSS Executive Finance and Operations Director Kenneth Dyer.
In August, the GaDOE requested supporting documentation on more than $134,000 in questionable Title I Part A expenditures. The two most notable disallowed expenses were consultants fees of $91,000 to Darrell Sabbs and Associates and $18,000 to Joseph Washington. The system returned that money to the state last month.
In addition, the GaDOE is requiring the system to hire two people of its choosing to oversee federal program expenditures and the Free or Reduced Meal (FRM) program.
On Oct 2, State Deputy Superintendent for School Turnaround Sylvia Hooker sent a letter to Murfree setting an Oct. 29 deadline for the District to hire a permanent principal for Albany High School, which is a School Improvement Grant School (SIG.)
At stake is approximately $2.8 million in federal SIG grant funding.
Albany High has not had a permanent principal since Angela Schumate was suspended eight months ago in the wake of the CRCT scandal. Scott Horton has been serving as interim principal.
Hooker's letter stipulates GaDOE involvement in the screening, interviewing and recommendation process of that new hire.
Barge's letter, also dated Oct. 2, takes the state' involvement a step farther by requesting information on 13 additional federal program expenditures, including Title II, Title III and IDEA grants.
"As you may know, the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) has been requesting financial information from Dougherty County Schools (DCS) since early August. I appreciate the financial information that DCS has provided to GaDOE thus far. Unfortunately, several requests to obtain financial information on Federal grants given to your school system have not been fulfilled.
"The purpose of this letter is to identify the outstanding information requests, to request additional information and to notify you of the consequences if DCS should fail to provide this information within the time period indicated. This information is critical to the GaDOE's ability to perform its fiduciary responsibility with respect to federal funding."
The GaDOE is requesting three sets of financial records. First, a list of all the facility codes (schools and non-schools) used by DCCS. Second, a listing and description of any account codes used by the DCSS which are not included in the LUA chart of accounts. Third, GaDOE needs the three reports for FY12 for the following federal grants:
(1) Perkins IV - Reserve plus;
(2) Perkins IV - Program improvement;
(3) IDEA special project - GLRS;
(4) IDEA Special Project - GNETS;
(5) IDEA - High Cost Fund Pool;
(6) IDEA Preschool;
(7) IDEA Flowthrough;
(8) IDEA Program Improvement;
(9) Title I-A - School Improvement;
(10) Title I-C - Migrant Education;
(11) Title II-A - Improving Teacher Quality;
(12) Title II-B - Mathematics and Science Partnership; and
(13) Title III-A - Limited English Proficient.
"As with any request from the GaDOE, the school system takes this very seriously. My office received the letter the afternoon of Oct. 3, Dyer said. "As noted in the letter the deadline to submit the information was October 30th; but, we responded with all of the information requested in an email to Mr. Schaefer Friday, Oct. 5, 25 days prior to the due date. That's how serious we take it. Being entrusted to manage public funds is a tremendous responsibility, one we take very seriously. Some of our expenditures for the last two years have been under a lot of scrutiny.
"We will continue to respond to these issues with transparency, as we welcome opportunities to demonstrate our good stewardship of the public funds entrusted to us."