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ASU, DCSS at loggerheads over Albany Early College

Dougherty County School Board members, from left, Velvet Riggins, Lane Price and Robert Youngblood, look over proposed school zone changes with consultants Monday night at a called meeting of the BOE.

Dougherty County School Board members, from left, Velvet Riggins, Lane Price and Robert Youngblood, look over proposed school zone changes with consultants Monday night at a called meeting of the BOE.

ALBANY, Ga. — Albany State University President Everette Freeman faced some pointed questions from Dougherty County School Board members during a called meeting Monday to discuss the future of Albany Early College on the ASU campus.

At the core of the dustup is a five-year contract signed in November by ASU and DCSS and the $350,000-plus in SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) money for renovations to two floors of Andrews Hall, which currently houses the early college.

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Terry Lewis

Everette Freeman

According to DCSS officials, the district is spending approximately $140,000 per year on the current lease, utility and maintenance costs.

“I want to make clear that we want to continue the cooperation between Albany State University and the Dougherty County School System,” Freeman said. “All the members of the ASU family want to work together to resolve this issue.”

The Albany Early College has been on the ASU campus for the nearly five years. It currently houses 360 students in grades 6 through 11.

Freeman, pointing to the University System of Georgia as the source of the impasse, has asked DCSS interim superintendent Butch Mosely to vacate the building.

“I was asked by the Board of Regents if the Albany Early College was ever approved by them to be on campus,” Freeman said. “I said we never sought to get written permission. At the same time we have a space utilization study coming up ... and we need the space.

“Yes, we have a contract, it was constructed like you’d be with us for the next three years. It is my hope that we could have worked this out quietly for the betterment of all the children of Dougherty County. Your interests and our interests are the same.”

Board member James Bush said he was conflicted, but had a duty to the taxpayers.

“I’m an ASU man,” Bush said. “I want to work this out to with the the college. Over the past year we have been forced to pay back money after money to the state, and I have a responsibility to the taxpayers of Dougherty County.”

BOE member Darrel Ealum then spoke up.

“Are you aware that we have just put more than $350,000 into that building?” Ealum asked Freeman. “How will the public feel about us just walking away from a nearly half-million investment?”

“I’m not sure about your numbers,” Freeman replied. “but I am aware you have put in a substantial amount of money into the building. However, if we went back and looked at our investments into the Early College program I’d say we have invested more than you. So I’d consider that a wash.

“The world has changed on us. That is the reality.”

Both sides seem to be firming up their positions.

Board member Robert Youngblood asked if the DCSS could recoup the SPLOST funds involved in a lease.

“I don’t know the answer to that question. Was it (the renovations using SPLOST funds) a gift? Is that legal?” Youngblood said. “ We need the answer to these questions.”

Freeman said “588 taxpayers at ASU also have skin in this game,” then he appeared to draw a line in the sand.

“The Board of Regents would not allow us to repay state funds without a written agreement,” he said. “I think the community would understand.”

In the second half of Monday night’s meeting the School Board also discussed final tweaks to the recommendation of closing Sylvester Road Elementary and Dougherty Middle School and the repurposing of Magnolia Elementary.

The final decision is expected to be made at the Board’s regular mid-monthly meeting scheduled for March 27 at 11:30 a.m. at Albany Middle School.

School consultant Eric Bosman said the proposal would reduce the county’s surplus of 1,200 empty elementary seats to 200 and 1,200 empty middle school seats to 500.

Sylvester Road and Dougherty Middle are in Ealum’s eastside district and he made one final plea to the board.

“I am begging you to delay closing Sylvester Road, don’t put it on the table right now,” Ealum said. “I’ve given up hope on saving Dougherty Middle and I know we have to close some schools. But if you close two schools less than a mile from the other you will also close down that entire community.”

Comments

Sister_Ruby 1 year ago

AWWWW we can steal, kill, and destroy if it's for "the betterMINT of the chilllrrennnsssss"

Right?

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Abytaxpayer 1 year ago

You mean it Wasn’t a Gift? Heard that before!

“Are you aware that we have just put more than $350,000 into that building?” Ealum asked Freeman. “How will the public feel about us just walking away from a nearly half-million investment?” Now now tell the truth it is more like $475,000.oo not just $350. Well what can we say another GREAT use of SPLOST money…..More free money down the drain…..

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MRKIA 1 year ago

BASED ON THE CIRCUMSTANCES DCSS IS BEING SCREWED AS THE RESULT OF A MANDATE BY THE BOR WHICH ASU MUST ADHERE TO. BUT THIS BECOMES AN ISSUE BARELY 4 MONTHS AFTER DROPPING 350K? I FIND IT HARD TO BELIEVE THAT FREEMAN DID NOT GET A HEADS UP LONG BEFORE NOW. THEN HE'S CALLUS ENOUGH TO SUGGEST CALLING IT A WASH CITING ASU'S PRIOR CONTRIBUTIONS. FREEMAN SHOULD FIND THE FUNDS TO OFFER THE DCSS A FULL REFUND AND TIME TO RELOCATE.

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RedEric 1 year ago

He didn't get the letter....oh wait, that excuses has already been used this month.

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rightasrain 1 year ago

Ealum shouldn't be concerned about taxpayer's money; he never has before!

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FryarTuk 1 year ago

DCSS BUSH: "Over the past year we have been forced to pay back money after money to the state." Yes, because it was misappropriated to Darrell Sabbs, Joe Washington, Velveeta's children, etc., et. al.

My hope is that DCSS will pack it's students up at the end of the term and get the heck off ASU campus and get away from ASU entirely.

I support Dr. Freeman and many aspects of ASU but DCSS doesn't need to be branded with them. ASU and DCSS each have multiple problems. Mixing problems only compounds problems. The blind don't lead the blind. So many of DCSS complications was because they failed to use common sense and reason. There were so many agendas in the administration they forgot they were there to serve the students and the taxpayers. Get the heck off ASU campus!

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bigbob 1 year ago

Even a college where you can buy a diploma don't want anything to do with DCSS, can it get any worse? Stand by.

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Bystander 1 year ago

Really, bigbob? You can buy a diploma at ASU? Do tell. Please provide links to some documentation of this news story. Because if you can't you're just, you know, kind of an asshat. Have a nice day.

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dingleberry 1 year ago

All should have learned by now that business cannot be done with ASU without risk. Their word and intentions mean nothing. Pursue this one with the BOR and get them to confirm intentions on their part and find out if Everette can do what he does unilaterally without approval.

I would like to know more about the Early College program, what it involves, what it costs and what it has produced in the past 5 years or so. This may be one of those programs that does little more than suck up dollars with no result.

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KaosinAlbany 1 year ago

Send an Open Records request and you will find this out.

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whodat 1 year ago

Really? The DCSS Board didn’t see this coming? What they didn’t do and should have:

  1. Assess your program. Early College High School is just another “dual enrollment” program. It is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. In other words, free money. DCSS loves to implement any “free money” program, whether or not it serves the students of the district. So, in actuality, the Early College is duplicating what the DCSS already does = dual enrollment.

  2. The DCSS is in the process of closing schools because of the lack of warm bodies to warrant their staying open. Duh. Just put the Early College in one of those schools and call it the “East Campus”.

  3. Paying rent is bad enough when there are DCSS buildings available, but to then use DCSS funds to make improvements to ASU property? This is insane.

“I was asked by the Board of Regents if the Albany Early College was ever approved by them to be on campus,” Freeman said. “I said we never sought to get written permission.”

Wouldn’t that have been the prudent thing to do? Did no one---Everett, The DCSS Board, their attorneys---ever look into what was and wasn’t permissible?

“I don’t know the answer to that question. Was it (the renovations using SPLOST funds) a gift? Is that legal?” Youngblood said. “We need the answer to these questions.”

All the questions should have been asked---and answered by the attorneys---before any contract was ever drawn up and signed.

“The Board of Regents would not allow us to repay state funds without a written agreement,” he (Freeman) said. “I think the community would understand.”

Here’s what I understand: ASU pulled a fast one on a naive and incompetent School Board who failed to perform due diligence on behalf of the Taxpayers of Dougherty County. Did Freeman know the Board of Regents would pull the rug at some point? Perhaps we’ll never know. But we do know how ASU has operated in the past, taking money and not delivering the goods (Ray Charles Foundation incident, for example). For that reason alone, the School Board should have exercised extreme caution when dealing with them.

It is also clear to me that the DCSS School Board continues to require adult supervision when it comes to spending large sums of money.

So, here we are: a program of dubious effectiveness being conducted on the premises of a separate entity not owned by the DCSS, leased under a fuzzy legal agreement, and now being told to hit the road, Jack.

This really makes me want to agree to the next SPLOST. Not.

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