School board puts hold on academy for dropouts

Dr. Murfree looks over documents at the meeting. / Sarah Bleau

The Dougherty County School System wants to help 16 to 21 year olds get their diploma through a program called Alternatives Unlimited â" also known as Drop Back In Academies.

"These people work extremely hard throughout the country, and what they offer a community or district like this is an opportunity for them to go and search out in the community students who have dropped out of school," says DCSS Superintendent Dr. Joshua Murfree.

The drop back in academy would receive the approximately $3800 per student that the state reimburses to education systems (also known as Full Time Equivalent, or FTE). The academy would give the school system ten percent for being in their system.

"This company comes in and the FTE dollars that we would normally get for a student is actually out there in the streets, and I want to be very clear about that. That $3,815.15 is out in the streets because these students have left," says Murfree.

The school board says they want to be transparent and open by giving other companies a chance to bid on this project.

"I don't think that we should arbitrarily go with one person. And there might be someone out there that would give us more than ten percent of the profit," says Chairman James Bush.

Murfree says, "If they come to us, we'll bring them before the board and let them present. There's some thinking we might get ten percent, we might be able to get 20 percent or 30 percent but usually that's not the case."

Outside of the executive session, people were saying the board needs to approve this contract, get the project moving and get kids their diploma and worry less about profit.

"We have to think of profit, true enough, but for me, first and foremost, it's helping these young people. These children are running amuck, some of them; I would like this entire state look at what other states are doing," says Murfree.

At the end of the meeting, the board decided to table he consideration of using Alternatives Unlimited for the drop back in academy so they can go back to the drawing board to look at other companies.

"Any time I bring something up to the board, I always bring the reputable people. It's a part of my research and being a researcher and understanding about education. I only bring to the board and this community as a school superintendent what I'm supposed to do and hired to do is bring reputable organizations just like this one," says Murfree.

The superintendent says he is proud of Alternatives Unlimited, Inc., for coming forward to the school board about this program, but does welcome other companies to come before them with their presentations so the board can make the comparisons.