New Dougherty County School System Interim Title I Director David Coley announced the closure of the system’s 13 Saturday Schools, effective this weekend, saying he had concerns if the program was an allowable Title I expenditure.
ALBANY, Ga. -- New Dougherty County School System Interim Title I Director David Coley has notified system principals and administrators that the District will be closing all 13 of its Title I Saturday Schools effective this weekend.
In an email dated March 5, Coley wrote:
"A continuing effort is being made to keep the Dougherty County School System Title I Program within the guidelines of Federal and State directives. Therefore, all Title I Saturday Schools will be discontinued for the remainder of the 2012-2013 school year.
"To avoid any confusion, the date for discontinuing Saturday School will be effective Saturday, March 9, 2013. Please inform all staff that work with this program.
"The closing of our Title I Saturday School DOES NOT apply to the Flexible Learning Program.
The 13 schools affected are Jackson Heights, Albany Middle, West Town, International Studies Middle, Morningside, Monroe High, Merry Acres Middle, Radium Elementary, Dougherty Middle, Dougherty High, Alice Coachman, Southside Middle, and Northside.
The system had budgeted $106,000 of Title I funds on the Saturday Schools for FY2012-13.
"We had 13 Saturday schools going on," Coley said. "Now you have to realize that some of the expenses were not out of the Title I budget per se, but I was not happy that it appeared we weren't going to meet guidelines when we were ready to be monitored. I randomly put a finger on some student-teacher ratios and it was not giving Dougherty County the benefit for the money that was being spent. I don't want it (Saturday Schools) to be used as an attendance program just to advance students to the next grade."
Earlier this year the Georgia Department of Education placed the district at "High Risk" reimbursement status meaning all Title I expenses are subject to increased state scrutiny. If the DOE approves the expense, it will reimburse the system. If disallowed, the system will have to bear the expense.
"What I am looking at is current expenditures. If we find something that is not Title I, we're letting the district know that this expenditure is not Title I eligible," Coley, who has been on the job since last month, said. "We're trying to get back to square one where we are following the guidelines that the state has set for us and we have a DOE specialist (James Everson, Title I Education Program Specialist) here two days a week and he has been very helpful to me."
Coley, who has 12 years of experience as a Title I director, promises the system will be following the rules from now on.
"Basically we have guidelines that say how you can spend Title I money," Coley said. "For example, Title I is designed for at risk students who have difficulty in reading and math. It is designed for instruction, it's not designed for other activities such as come to school and get credit for attendance. That is a no-no. That is a violation.
"It is designed for instruction. I understand they may have been working hard but the student-to-teacher ratio was not going to look very good unless we did something. We need to get more students involved to justify the expense."
Coley hopes the Saturday Schools can make a comeback.
"Hopefully we can get the programs back next year, start from ground zero and get them set up the way they need to be set up," he said. "I'm gonna do my best to get Dougherty County back on track. When I leave here I want Dougherty County back in the black. I want all the Title I violations corrected."