DeKalb board gives short notice on vote for school officials’ raises

Four administrators in the DeKalb County school system will get a pay raise because of a vote Monday afternoon that occurred with just over four hours public notice.

The money that flows to the central office is typically controversial in this cash-strapped school system, but in this case the critics were quiet, possibly because many didn’t know about the planned vote.

“If they’re not violating the letter of the law, they’re at least violating the spirit,” said parent Cheryl Miller, when told of the 2 p.m. vote, which was added to the agenda just after 9 a.m. The meeting was announced Friday but had nothing on the agenda except disclosure that the board was to meet privately for litigation and personnel matters.

Miller has tussled with DeKalb over transparency involving decisions to build cellphone towers on school grounds, and noted that DeKalb routinely calls meetings with a day’s notice. She suspects officials want to keep the public in the dark.

“They’re calling these meetings at the last minute for an administrative item when they have a regular meeting coming up,” Miller said. “They know there’s no way anyone with a job can just drop what they’re doing and rush down there.”

Four of the nine school board members failed to make the meeting. The five who did voted 3-2 to give four administrators pay commensurate with jobs they were moved into during the summer. The administrators’ raises ranged from $3,422 to $4,087, and the highest salary of the four is now $105,852. At the time of the promotions on July 30, the school board voted against pay raises pending stabilization of the budget.

“As far as I know, it’s balanced,” said Paul Womack, who voted for the raises Monday along with Jay Cunningham and Donna Edler.

Board Chairman Eugene Walker and member Sarah Copelin-Wood voted against the raises. Walker said the school system is in “austerity mode.” He said Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson put the pay item on Monday’s agenda.

The school system is under scrutiny by an accrediting agency over allegations of school board mismanagement. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) will send a team to DeKalb in October because of reports the board failed to oversee the system’s finances and meddled in administrative affairs.

The agenda published online Monday doesn’t say how much the administrators will be paid. Atkinson’s spokesman, Jeff Dickerson, said the board in July gave Atkinson through September to resolve the pay question. She realized “at the last minute” that the month is almost over.

“She wanted to comply with the board’s request,” Dickerson said.

In Other News