Lead candidate for DeKalb school superintendent drops out

The lead candidate for DeKalb County School Superintendent withdrew from consideration Saturday.

Lillie Cox was negotiating with the DeKalb school system to become the next superintendent after the school board voted 6-3 to pursue a contract with her, the AJC reported Friday.

But on Saturday morning, Cox's attorneys notified the school system that she was withdrawing from the negotiations, School Board Chairman Tom Bowen told the AJC Saturday evening. He said the exposure of the negotiations played into Cox's decision.

The AJC reported Saturday morning that, according to a source, there was a sticking point in the talks: Cox, the superintendent of the 4,440-student Hickory Public Schools in North Carolina, wanted a 15-month severance package and a due process hearing before she could be terminated.

The article also disclosed details such as the $275,000 salary and three-year standing contract that Cox sought, meaning a year would be added to her contract annually. She also wanted 25 days vacation, $28,000 for moving expenses and $2,000 a month for six months for living expenses during her relocation.

"It was very early," Bowen said. "Having the premature negotiations exposed influenced her decision to withdraw."

Bowen did not say why the exposure of the negotiation details led Cox to withdraw.

School board member Jesse "Jay" Cunningham said the board agreed to meet Monday morning to discuss the next steps, but he would not comment about Cox's decision.

There's been speculation that Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson now wants the job permanently. But Bowen said the board hasn't approached her about applying, and that she has not asked the board to be reconsidered.

Bowen said, however, that there is a possibility Tyson could become a candidate now that Cox has withdrawn.

Tyson could not be reached for comment.

Cox was publicly named a finalist last month along with two other candidates, Gloria Davis, superintendent of Decatur (Ill.) Public Schools, who withdrew; and Arthur R. Culver, superintendent of Champaign (Ill.) Community Unit School District.

DeKalb is looking to replace Crawford Lewis, who was fired and later indicted on charges he ran a criminal enterprise in the school system.

AJC staffer Angela Tuck contributed to this article.