A former Mississippi superintendent pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to overpaying the owner of a Conyers reading company and getting more than $47,000 back in bribes and kickbacks.
Greenville Schools Superintendent Harvey Franklin Sr. pleaded guilty to conspiracy, improperly accepting something valued at more than $5,000 and embezzling U.S. property worth more than $1,000. The three charges carry up to a total of $750,000 in fines and 25 years in prison.
The school system paid $1.4 million to Edna Goble's Teach Them To Read Inc., and Goble paid $36,000 on Franklin's truck loan, $9,400 on his home improvements and $1,900 on his American Express bill with cashier's checks bought through her company, according to a bill of information.
Franklin, who was appointed superintendent in 2009 and resigned in May, also agreed to forfeit his house and truck, according to federal court papers filed Thursday. U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock did not set a sentencing date for Franklin, said his attorney, Lisa Ross.
Goble, a former Rockdale County Public Schools teacher, was not charged. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment faxed to her home in the Lake Capri neighborhood.
In February, when the Mississippi state auditor's office said it had subpoenaed financial information from her, Goble said she had provided everything she was paid for. She also said she was "dumbfounded" and blamed the investigation on politics and people protecting the status quo.
Goble's reading program, called EDNA, for Early Detection Necessary Action, provided training and supplies for kindergarten through third grade.
Her program was brought into the Greenville, Miss. school district on Franklin's recommendation during the 2010-11 school year.According to the initial summary budget of the consulting agreement, Goble was paid $1,600 per day for 60 days, totaling $96,000, plus more than $350,000 for materials and supplies. Those included $2,400 to buy a copy of Goble's book, "Failure Is Not An Option," for each instructor and program trainer in the district.
Goble stands by the effectiveness of the program, according to Mississippi Public Broadcasting. She told MPB, “The seven schools went from schools of failure to low performing schools.”
But the district-wide elementary reading scores improved only by a few percentage points with most students still below proficiency, reported MPB.
Franklin is originally from New Orleans; he came to Greenville from Walton County Public Schools where he was Assistant Superintendent.
He brought Goble’s program to WCPS for eight years, from 2002 to 2010. During that time, WCPS spent $1.675 million on the program, according to Loganville-Grayson Patch.
Officials say Greenville was the only school district in Mississippi using EDNA.
The company's website does not say where else EDNA has been used. It claims that students can gain an average of three years' reading skills in a single year under the program.
Goble was employed with Rockdale County Public Schools from 1978-1990 as a PE teacher and from 1990-1994 as an Instructional Lead Teacher.
The Associated Press and Michelle Kim contributed to this report.