All three finalists for the DeKalb County Schools superintendent job have withdrawn their names from the race, leaving the school board pondering its next move.
According to School Board Chairman Tom Bowen, Arthur Culver, superintendent of Champaign Public Schools in Champaign, Ill., withdrew his name from consideration on Monday, April 25, ending an unlikely turn of events over a 48-hour span.
“Last night Arthur Culver sent out an e-mail [and] resigned his position in Champaign, Ill., and said that he’s going to start looking for [jobs] elsewhere. He did indicate that he was not going to pursue DeKalb,” Bowen said on April 26. The resignation was confirmed by a spokesperson from Champaign Public Schools.
“It’s kind of strange because he is literally saying, ‘I’m walking away and moving on to something else,’ but he didn’t have anything to move on to. I would have hung around until I got a job,” Bowen said.
Two days before Culver’s announcement, finalist Lillie Cox withdrew herself from consideration. Cox, superintendent of Hickory Public Schools in N.C., had been offered the job and was in negotiations with the DeKalb County School Board to become the next superintendent.
However, she withdrew Saturday, April 23, after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted an unnamed source who listed details regarding Cox’s contract negotiations.
Cox was asking for 15 months severance pay and a due process hearing before she could be terminated as well as a $275,000 salary and a standing three-year contract. She also asked for “25 days vacation, $28,000 for moving expenses and $2,000 a month for six months for living expenses during her relocation,” according to the AJC.
Bowen said that he could not comment or confirm the details in the article but did say that the school system’s lawyer received a letter from Cox’s attorney notifying the board that she was withdrawing from the negotiations.
“It was stated that the reasons were, in part, because of the releasing of the preliminary negotiations,” Bowen said. He would not comment on any of the other reasons Cox gave for her withdrawal but did say that the majority of the facts in the story came from a leak.
Gloria Davis, superintendent of Decatur Public Schools in Decatur, Ill., withdrew from the race last week and said several factors played into her decision. Most importantly, she said she wanted to finish the work that she started in Decatur Public Schools.
This leaves the school system with no candidates and a looming July 1 deadline to hire a new permanent superintendent.
“We’re still out by 60 days, which is pretty good notice but we are getting to the point where it’s pretty close if we’re going to meet that deadline,” Bowen said.
There has been speculation that interim superintendent Ramona Tyson may be considered for the position, but Bowen said that the board has not heard from Tyson.
“The board has not officially asked Tyson to reconsider nor has she approached the board and shown any interest in the job,” Bowen said.
The board is trying to decide whether it wants to open up the search again with search firm Ray and Associates Inc., or advance some of the other candidates to the final round.
“The existing contract with Ray and Associates gives us the option to broaden the basic candidates but we also have other candidates that we have looked at that we can advance to this stage,” Bowen said.
Finding a permanent superintendent is one of eight points the system is required to address by Oct. 31, to be placed back on full accreditation status by AdvancED, the parent corporation of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The school system was placed on advisement after an AdvancED visit earlier this year.
Bowen said that they are working closely with AdvancED and this is a minor setback that wouldn’t affect DeKalb’s accreditation status.
“The eight areas that we have in terms of improvement, of course, do include us getting a permanent superintendent in place but [AdvancED] is aware of the search and they know how searches go. We’re working hard and we’re still in good standing with the accreditation,” Bowen said.
The system is searching for a new superintendent after former superintendent Crawford Lewis was fired and indicted on charges that he ran a criminal enterprise within the school system.