Atlanta school board to weigh proposal to nearly double members’ pay

Atlanta school board members surround Superintendent Lisa Herring (center) in July. (Hyosub Shin/ AJC FILE PHOTO)
Atlanta school board members surround Superintendent Lisa Herring (center) in July. (Hyosub Shin/ AJC FILE PHOTO)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The Atlanta school board is expected to consider a recommended salary hike that would nearly double the pay for board members who win seats in this year’s election.

A city compensation commission suggested last fall that school board members’ pay jump from $15,170 a year to $30,000, starting next year. The proposal also would increase the board chairman’s pay from $16,588 to $31,000 and the vice-chairman’s pay from $15,879 to $30,500.

The commission is tasked with making salary recommendations for the city’s elected officials. In its recent report, the commission wrote that the time school board members spend in the role, as well as the workload and responsibilities “exceeds the level of compensation they receive.”

”Membership on the Atlanta Board of Education is a part-time position, and our interviews indicate board members expend an amount of time and energy that strains the validity of the part-time label,” stated the commission’s report.

The school board oversees a district with 51,000 students and a general fund budget approaching $1 billion.

School board salaries have not increased since at least 2002, said Pierre Gaither. He serves as the board’s executive director, which is an administrative job and not elected position.

Board Chairman Jason Esteves, first elected in 2013, said board pay hasn’t been discussed in over a decade and the time has come to review it.

“We are going to carefully take a look at that and talk about it,” he said.

He anticipates board members will discuss the salary issue this spring or summer. They could choose to increase pay or do nothing. If members want to change the salary, board rules require they vote to do so at least six months before members’ terms end on Dec. 31.

In November, all nine seats on the Atlanta school board will be on the ballot.

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Atlanta school board members’ pay currently falls in the middle of the pack compared to their elected peers from metro Atlanta who serve on the boards of the state’s five biggest school systems. If the Atlanta board approves the proposed salary hike, their pay would significantly exceed colleagues from neighboring districts.

Cobb County school board members make $19,000 a year for overseeing a district with more than double the number of students as in Atlanta Public Schools.

School board members in Gwinnett County, the state’s largest district, earn the same pay as state legislators, said school system spokeswoman Sloan Roach. Last year, because of state budget cuts, the pay for Gwinnett school board members and state lawmakers dropped from $17,342 to $15,608, she said.

The compensation commission’s report also recommended raises of 10-20% for the Atlanta mayor, council president and council members, all of whom make more than APS board members.

The Atlanta City Council this week voted 11-4 to approve the raises, effective next year.

The compensation commission is made up of seven appointed Atlanta residents. The group must provide salary suggestions at least one year before the upcoming November regular municipal election.

Metro Atlanta school board salaries

Atlanta

Chairman: $16,588

Vice-chairman: $15,879

Members: $15,170

Clayton

Chairman: $14,400

Members: $12,000

Cobb

Chairman: $22,800

Members: $19,000

DeKalb

Members: $18,000

Fulton

Members: $18,500

Gwinnett

Members: $15,608

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