Incoming Atlanta superintendent to earn $1,400 a day as consultant

The next Atlanta Public Schools superintendent will be paid $1,400 a day to work as a consultant before she takes over as chief on July 1.

The Atlanta school board voted 8-1 on Monday to hire Lisa Herring, the current Birmingham, Alabama, school system superintendent. After the vote, at the request of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the board released copies of her employment and consultant agreements.

Herring will earn an annual base salary of $320,000, plus $2,000 monthly for expenses. In the next month and a half, she will work as a consultant and be paid $1,400 a day for each day she works.

The idea is to give her time to familiarize herself with the district and the budget for the fiscal year that begins on her official start date. Herring said she plans to take the time to confer with APS departments about how the district will handle summer and fall operations given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“I believe that it’s important for us to take inventory and also assess not just the overall academic wellness of our scholars but the overall psychological and mental health wellness of those who have been impacted,” she said, in a call with reporters after the board vote.

School board chairman Jason Esteves said current Superintendent Meria Carstarphen will remain in charge through June 30, when her contract expires.

Esteves described the benefits negotiated with Herring as “pretty standard.” Her contract is for three years.

The board will contribute $30,000 a year to a retirement plan, pay for six months of temporary housing, and cover all moving expenses, starting with a $10,000 upfront payment.

Her $320,000 annual salary puts her on the lower end of pay for leaders of big metro Atlanta districts, though it’s a bump up from her Birmingham job. There, she makes a gross income of $293,000, according to her Atlanta job application that the AJC obtained through an open records request.

Carstarphen makes $397,953, plus a $2,000 monthly travel and expense allowance.

By comparison, Mike Looney, who started as Fulton County Schools superintendent in June, has a base salary of $329,000, plus $2,050 a month allowance for automobile and other expenses.

Gwinnett County Public Schools superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, who has held the position since 1996, makes a base salary of $380,971, plus monthly transportation and expense allowances of $2,700.

Cobb County School District Superintendent Chris Ragsdale has a base annual salary of $350,000, the same as Ramona Tyson of DeKalb County School District.

Herring’s contract includes a clawback provision, should she leave APS without cause before her contract ends. If she leaves in the first year, she’d pay back $100,000. If she leaves in the second year, she’d return $75,000, and if she leaves in the third year she must pay back $25,000.

If the board ends her contract early without cause, APS would pay Herring the lesser of either one year’s salary or the prorated salary amount remaining on her contract.