The Dougherty County School Board opted to give the proverbial slap on the wrist to Morningside Elementary School principle Gloria Baker by assessing a 15 day suspension without pay. While it was nice to see a decision that, for once, didn’t go down racial lines, it was still a sad moment for the taxpayers of Albany.
Baker and her husband knowingly lied on paperwork in an effort to give their daughter free school lunch, despite Baker’s $90,000 per year salary. This is, plain and simple, fraud. While the courts will be addressing Baker’s case, employment in Georgia isn’t contingent on what the courts say.
Dougherty County Schools Superintendent Joshua Murfree’s initial reaction was that Baker is an excellent educator. Frankly, that’s neither here nor there. A fine educator must still follow society’s rules; just let the rest of us. If anyone else defrauded their employer – or a program that their employer administered for the federal government – then we would find ourselves as an unemployment statistic rather quickly.
Baker should not have been given a slap on the wrist like she was. Instead, she should have been terminated immediately. While it’s true that in our legal system, people are innocent until proven guilty, that applies only to our legal system. Employers are free to fire employees who engage in such shenanigans and then let the legal system have its way.
Of course, when one looks at some of this school board’s own shenanigans, we really shouldn’t expect better. For example, just look at Murfree’s hiring. Two other candidates – candidates who I happen to feel were infinitely more qualified – were pushed to the side so that Murfree could be hired. The board even declined to publish the names of all three finalists despite an earlier promise to do so.
The result of that action has been an ineffective school superintendent who’s brain children include taking all students of the Dougherty County School System to Atlanta and the aborted half day this past Friday, which was apparently decided on that Wednesday afternoon.
The poor decisions that the school board makes have lasting ramifications to the city, and this latest is no exception. A 15 days suspension, even without pay, is no real punishment. There is little incentive for others in the school system to not engage in similar activity. Terminating Baker would have made it clear that fraud from school system employees was not to be tolerated.
While it is possible that Baker will be terminated after an actual conviction, that still doesn’t convey the correct message. The message thing becomes, “don’t get caught” versus “don’t even think about it.” Personally, and I think I speak for a lot of other Albanians, I think we would rather the message fall into the “don’t even think about it” category. At least then there’s a chance we won’t see more of this type of thing.
However, when it comes to the Dougherty County School System, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one.