DeKalb school ad for secretary draws fire over $72,000 salary

The salary range starts at about $53,000, compared with the $40,000 a year that the typical starting teacher receives.

"I don't believe it," said Derrick Hodge, who has a son at Pine Ridge Elementary School in Stone Mountain. "It's absolutely ridiculous. I'm a medical technician [in] neurology, and I don't even make that."

News of the job postings spread across blogs Friday morning, just as DeKalb school officials brought in a Washington-based consulting firm, Management Advisory Group Inc., to review every job and salary of the district's 15,000 employees with an eye toward cutting waste and directing more money into the classroom. The firm, which is getting paid about $175,000, began its work Tuesday.

"We understand why there are concerns, and people are raising a valid point," school system spokesman Walter Woods said. "The whole point of our [job] review was to focus on saving money."

After the Atlanta Journal-Constitution made inquiries, Woods said that Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson ordered that the two job openings be put on hold until after a review is complete.

Woods also said that while the two positions have the title secretary, they're more like executive assistants, one to work directly for the superintendent and the other for the district's chief technology and computer manager. The job listing, however, describes mostly clerical work.

While the average DeKalb school secretary makes about $35,000, according to records of the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts, the previous executive secretary to the superintendent made about $76,000.

"It's a very different job," Woods said, comparing an executive secretary with a secretary. "It requires a higher level of education and ability."

State records show the salary for a superintendent's secretary in DeKalb among the highest in the state in 2010, with only a handful of other districts coming close, such as Clayton County ($69,000) and the city of Marietta ($68,000).

Tina Jackson, a district bus driver for 16 years who makes $18,000 a year, says she's on the job before 5:30 a.m. and works some hours "off the clock" if she has to fetch kids who missed the bus.

"It doesn't seem fair to me," she said. "They could hire more drivers and teachers with all of that money."

David Schutten, the president of the Organization of DeKalb Educators, said he's in a wait-and-see mode.

"We have a new superintendent on board, they have a salary review that's just started, so we should give them a chance to see what they'll do," he said.

Woods also said that salaries were set by the previous school administration and the jobs were posted by the Personnel Department, in accordance with standard practices to fill openings.

It wasn't clear whether the jobs, although posted, would necessarily be filled before the consultants' review of salaries in the central office is done.

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