DeKalb Schools pick its own workers while spending $100,000 for search

DeKalb County Schools officials paid a search firm nearly $100,000 to fill six administrative positions, but the eventual job winners were mostly handpicked and put in position before the search was over, including three from Superintendent Steve Green's previous district.

The move has raised the question for one board member about the necessity of spending the money to find people the superintendent had already selected.

It was unknown Monday how many applicants applied for the positions — one is still unfilled — or what additional fees the district incurred through advertising, travel or other purposes.

Green was out of town Monday and unavailable for comment. Schools are closed for spring break. He said Friday in a release announcing the finalization of the hires that he was confident in the selections.

“I did my due diligence to determine how best to improve the functions of the Central Office,” Green said. “It included personal observations, conversations, evaluations and examining previous reviews. DeKalb is fortunate that we have recruited these highly-respected educators to join our team.”

Joyce Morley, a member of the DeKalb school board, said she’s felt from the beginning that a search firm would be paid for little or no work as she watched while selections were made.

”There should’ve never been one,” she said of the search firm. “I always had the concern that we’re spending this kind of money, and you brought your own people in anyway. Why did you do the search? We need to be looking at how we’re spending the money.”

The district hired Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates in September 2015 to find candidates for the executive director of professional learning, chief legal officer and special education positions. The school board charged the firm in December with finding candidates for chief human capital management officer, executive director for student advancement and chief communications and community relations officer. The new positions were part of Green's administrative reorganization plan.

Green selected Leo Brown, who was working for Emory University Hospital but had been Green's human capital officer when both were at Kansas City Public Schools, as DeKalb's interim chief human capital management officer in December. He introduced Brown, Manomay Malathip and Eileen Houston-Stewart at January's monthly Board of Education meeting. Malathip came to the DeKalb district as its interim executive director for student advancement, Houston-Stewart as the interim chief communications and community relations officer.

Malathip and Houston-Stewart both were still living in the Kansas City area until hired here.

The three applied for the full-time jobs through the search firm after they arrived and already were working for the district. Brown and Houston-Stewart will make $168,158.18 annually, while Malathip will make $110,000.

New superintendents typically bring with them trusted employees from previous jobs. 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.

On its website, the search firm only takes credit for finding Hackemeyer.

Green told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in February he was confident in his interim selections, noting he would allow the process to play out and the best candidates from the applicants would take over the jobs.

“I think it speaks to the confidence in their own ability,” Green said then. “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.”

In addition to Brown, Houston-Stewart and Malathip, other hires made were:

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

•Jennifer Hackemeyer, former general counsel for the Georgia Department of Education, became chief legal officer in the department of legal affairs in December, with a salary of $168,158.18.