Pending a vote next month, DeKalb County’s interim school superintendent will earn an annual salary of $240,000 through June 30, 2012.
The school board voted 7-1 last week to give Ramona Tyson, who began serving as interim superintendent in February, an 18-month contract with a $76,000 increase in her present salary. Before the raise becomes official, the school board is required by law to hold public hearings on the matter and vote again.
If the vote passes again, Tyson will earn as much as former superintendent Crawford Lewis did before his salary was raised $15,000 shortly before he took a leave of absence last year.
The school board expects to have a new superintendent in place by July 1, 2011, the beginning of the next fiscal year, said school board chairman Tom Bowen. Tyson will continue to earn the increased salary as an assistant to the superintendent and her salary will drop back to its current rate of $164,000 after June 30, 2012, Bowen said.
“We wanted a superintendent from outside the system and that means someone with no ties to DeKalb County at all,” Bowen said. “With the Heery lawsuit ongoing, school consolidation and other things going on, the biggest concern of the board was to make sure we keep her here. Her job will be to make sure all of those major things stay on track while the new superintendent learns the system.”
Tyson made it clear when she was named interim superintendent that she did not want the job on a permanent basis. Both Tyson and the school board thought the temporary tenure would last only a few weeks when she took on the added responsibilities in February. Tyson had been one of two senior deputy superintendents and will return to that role after her proposed new contract expires.
Bowen credits Tyson with steering the system through potential accreditation issues with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), and effectively dealing with the district attorney’s office regarding questions pertaining to school system operations. Bowen also praised Tyson on the school consolidation issue and credited her for brining in an outside firm that had experience with large closures in metropolitan markets.
“What she has done goes beyond routine,” Bowen said. “She was instrumental in responding to SACS and saved the district from an investigation,” Bowen said. “It can be a thankless job and she wanted to do what’s right for the county. It’s really been a 24/7 job. When people go way beyond the call of duty, I’m all for them.”
The money for the raise is in the budget, Bowen said, because while Tyson serves as interim superintendent the system is only paying the salary of one senior deputy instead of two.
The new superintendent will be hired within the range of $275,000 to $325,000 Bowen said, which is comparable to leaders of school systems similar in size to DeKalb. The county is among the three largest school systems in the state, with 99,000 students, 15,000 employees and a budget of &746.6 million.
Bowen said during the next fiscal year, when the new superintendent is in place, the additional money needed to cover both salaries will come from money not being spent on new hires.
“We will have to budget for it, but we will have money available through normal attrition,” he said.