School food chief quits; consultants hired -, Albany News, Weather, Sports

School food chief quits; consultants hired

December 7, 2004

Albany -- The Dougherty County Child Nutrition Service Director has stepped down, and the School Board has hired outside help-- to the tune of $1,000 a day-- to get out of their $3.1 million school nutrition budget shortfall.

The consultants will be paid with money from the nutrition budget.

The nutrition program failed to get reimbursed by federal programs because of incorrect data that was sent to the Georgia Department of Education, and statewide budget cuts and the universal free lunches didn't help the shortfall.

Now the School Board will have to decide whether to keep free lunches going, because every student gets breakfast and lunch without paying a dime.

"This is very serious, and as superintendent, I'm ultimately responsible." Superintendent Dr. Sally Whatley calls it a mistake sparked by bad decisions and complicated software that didn't raise red flags until it was too late.

Now, the Director of the Nutrition Program Stan McWhorter has resigned. "We are not moving hastily to replace him, we feel it's in the best interest of the system right now and the child nutrition program that we work very cooperatively with the state," Whatley said.

Dr. Whatley says McWhorter unintentionally sent the Georgia Department of Education inaccurate figures on food costs and labor, which meant the program didn't get reimbursed what it needed.

Now the universal free lunches, which started a year ago, are being re-evaluated. "We will make a recommendation to the board Monday night as to wether or not we continue with universal free or not," said Whatley.

This would only effect those who can afford a lunch. If your child qualifies for free or reduced-price lunches, then he or she will still get a free or reduced-price lunch, going back to the old program. At the beginning of November, teacher lunches increased 50 cents.

The Nutrition program is a federally funded program, not paid for directly by Dougherty County taxpayers.

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