Attorney general investigating Georgia academic program

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ATLANTA -- Attorney General Thurbert Baker has launched a probe into the alleged mismanagement of funds in a teacher-coaching program once championed by Gov. Sonny Perdue.

“We have opened an investigation,” said Russ Willard, a spokesman for the office. He declined to elaborate on the scope of the inquiry.

The investigation comes in the wake of a report by state auditors, who found the program marred by fraud, waste and rampant nepotism. The audit blasted the former state officials who oversaw the program and the Tennille-based regional agency that ran it.

Two state employees were fired; another mentioned in the report left the agency to pursue another position, according to the Georgia Department of Education.

State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox had called for Mr. Baker to investigate the program.

Mike Walker, the director of the Oconee Regional Education Service Agency, has denied any wrongdoing in his organization’s handling of the contract.

“Our records show that all of the funds were disbursed according to the directions and approval of the GDOE,” he said in a written statement after the audit’s release. “Three state financial audits confirm we administered the funds according to state requirements without exception.”

Mr. Perdue introduced the academic-coach program in 2005 as a way of providing extra pay to talented teachers who agreed to mentor colleagues in struggling school districts. But none of the $1.2 million set aside by the General Assembly for the program’s first two years was used for salary supplements, the audit found.


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