DeKalb hires ‘interim’ school leaders, then plans candidate search

Superintendent Steve Green is placing a high-stakes bet with several recent appointments to top DeKalb County Schools jobs.

Three of his five recent top hires — Leo Brown, Eileen Houston-Stewart and Manomay Malathip, who had ties to Kansas City Public Schools when Green was in charge there, have been hired as interim employees for top-paid positions.

Even though they have been hired, Green said a national search will now take place to fill fill their jobs permanently.

Green said he told the three how the process would take place, and all were on board. “I made it very clear on the front end I was going to advertise the position and they would have to compete for the position,” he said.

“I think it speaks to the confidence in their own ability,” Green said recently. “Even if things don’t work out, there was the intent that they would perhaps … the next chapter of their career would begin (in metro Atlanta), anyway.”

Brown was hired as the interim chief human capital management officer, formerly called director of human resources, with a salary of $168,158.18. Brown, recently the senior manager of operations at Emory University’s hospital, had been human capital officer for Kansas City Public Schools.

Houston-Stewart was hired as the interim chief communications and community relations officer, a newly created position, with a salary of $168,158.18. Houston-Stewart was chief communications and community engagement officer for Kansas City Public Schools.

Malathip was hired as the interim executive director of student achievement, division of student support and intervention, the result of several combined positions, with a salary of $110,000.00. Malathip most recently was the director of graduation and postsecondary research for Kansas City Public Schools.

One of the concerns when DeKalb’s accreditation was jeopardized and the state intervened in early 2013 was that it was top-heavy with administrators. Green said the hires don’t mean it is backsliding. While there will be a net gain at the top among administrators, he said the end result will streamline efforts to educate students.

Human resources professionals say bringing in interim hires, especially from hundreds of miles away, is unorthodox, especially if a national search will soon commence for each position.

“I don’t think he would bring them here if he were not confident in them,” DeKalb County school board Chairman Melvin Johnson said.

No information was made available about any ongoing searches for permanent hires for any of the three positions.

Georgia Department of Education spokesman Matt Cardoza said new superintendents bringing in people they know is common. In recent years, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, former Fulton County Superintendent Robert Avossa and former DeKalb County Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson hired people from their previous school districts.

Interim job holders typically come from within the organization, and are cost-efficient replacements during vacancies, said Gregory Scott Jr., a Dallas-based corporate hiring expert. “It would depend on what conversations were had with the candidate,” he said. “It’s not a common practice. The interim is always internal to the company.”

DeKalb school board member Joyce Morley said some of Green’s moves felt premature and costly. In the case of human resources, former director Tekshia Ward-Smith was reassigned in December to athletics. Another district employee was named interim director of the department at the same time it was announced Brown would take over in January. After all the changes, Green now is seeking an audit for the human resources department.

“He’s calling for an HR audit now,” Morley said. “He had concern with the previous director, but she could have stayed in place until the audit is done. They still haven’t told me, what merited her move?”

Johnson, the DeKalb school board chairman, said much is being made out of the “interim” status of the hires. He attributes it to Green and his management style. He said the board is mostly not concerned with the process of hiring, just how the employees go about the business of educating students.

“He can call them whatever he wants to call them,” Johnson said, adding that Green “came in, assessing where he felt the greatest need was for new positions … and he wants someone to come in and not be in the learning stage.

“We’re holding him liable for the end result.”

Other recent hires include:

•Oliver Lewis, the district’s executive director of professional learning, leadership development and STEM program and the division of curriculum and instruction, with a salary of $110,000.00. He previously was the director of professional learning.

•Jennifer Hackemeyer, the district’s new chief legal officer, with a salary of $168,158.18. Hackemeyer’s last job was as general counsel with the Georgia Department of Education