One of DeKalb finalists already had agreement to leave current job

Arthur Culver had negotiated a departure settlement from the superintendency in Champaign, Ill., before he became one of three finalists for the DeKalb County school chief’s post, according to a story in the News-Gazette. The newspaper used the Freedom of Information Act to unearth the settlement agreement and report on it.

(I want to take a moment here to praise the tenacious and excellent reporting by the News-Gazette. Their staff is terrific.)

Both the Champaign school board and Culver agreed that he would resign from his job. The question was never whether he would leave the district, but when he would go.

A  reader from Champaign who has been following the DeKalb saga sent me this comment: “Though Board of Education still is mum on other issues that can’t be FOIA’d.  I think once you read the article your community should be informed that your transparency process did not turn Culver’s candidacy off, it helped him not find a hideout in your district.  Transparency is good.”

Here is  an excerpt from the news story:

Arthur Culver will receive $75,000 as part of a settlement with the Champaign school district, an agreement that has been in the works for months.

Under the terms of the eight-page settlement agreement, obtained by The News-Gazette through a Freedom of Information Act request, Culver agreed to step down as of June 30, and the district will continue to pay his monthly health insurance premium through Sept. 30 unless he gets another job.

The agreement says Culver and the Unit 4 school board “agree not to make derogatory or disparaging comments, or negative references, with respect to the other party.”

The agreement further states that any inquiries from prospective employers will be answered consistent with the terms of a mutually agreed-upon letter of reference; and that the community was to be notified about Culver’s resignation through a joint press release.

The Champaign school board approved the settlement agreement Monday and announced his resignation on Tuesday.

Culver has been open in the past few weeks about his desire to move on. He was a finalist for a superintendent job in the DeKalb County school system in metropolitan Atlanta, but he withdrew his name from consideration for that job Monday.

He is leaving Champaign without a job in hand, and with three years remaining on his employment contract with the district. There have been rumblings for several months about his potential departure from the district.

School board President Dave Tomlinson said the settlement agreement has been in the works “for a few months.”

“Both the board and the superintendent agreed that it was time for new leadership,” he said. “The board and the superintendent think many great things have happened, (successfully ending) the consent decree particularly, but it’s time to build on those foundations, re-energize and move forward.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

28 comments Add your comment

Earl of Ft. Liqourdale

April 29th, 2011
11:33 am

Hasn’t Dr. Trotter stated a zillion times that these search firms just re-hash candidates and swap others’ problems around? Hmm. Even we retirees down here in Ft. Liqourdale can see this. Just look behind the curtain.


April 29th, 2011
11:41 am

@earl i agree

James Conway

April 29th, 2011
11:48 am

I have not followed the process closely since I fortunately don’t live in Dekalb County but this all looks very bad. I am still surprised that school superintendents are paid quite as much as they receive. I would think $200,000 plus a few modest perks should get you an accomplished educator. Dekalb is offering significantly more and getting other people’s problems. Some new people need to run for the Board of Education in several metro Atlanta counties.

Maureen Downey

April 29th, 2011
11:50 am

@James, On your theme, my former editorial colleague Jim Wooten said today in his column:

A former candidate for DeKalb County school superintendent, Lillie Cox, superintendent in Hickory, N.C., asked for a $275,000 salary, a three-year contract that adds another year for every year she serves, five weeks of vacation, 15 months’ severance pay, a due process hearing before she could be fired and assorted other perks. Actually, nobody in k-12 public education should be given such a contract. Just hire competence and pay a salary competitive with the governor’s, or about $140,000, with a decent bonus for staying on the job five years. There are no saviors out there. Metro Atlanta’s had its share of “change agents” who come in, fire and hire, and then move on.


April 29th, 2011
11:59 am

Well said Mr. Wooten. Educational leadership cost have gotten totally out of hand. This needs to be addressed. No one should make more than the governor.
Also it was good that Dekalb was open. They need to hire a new search firm. I wonder if the GA School Board Association would do a better job. I do not care for Mrs. Tyson either.


April 29th, 2011
12:04 pm

Seems this wonderful search firm “overLQQKed” a few things…mmm hmm.

Dr. John Trotter

April 29th, 2011
12:13 pm

Jim Wooten does indeed have a simple, no-nonsense way of putting things. I don’t think that I could have said it more simply. He reminds me of the directness of my father whom I greatly respect. It’s a Jordan and Willingham things; you guys wouldn’t understand.

East Cobb Parent

April 29th, 2011
12:31 pm

I must admit I don’t know if Culver was the right person for the job. I’ve been busy following Cobb’s choice King, which I understand has withdrawn his name. I just read this article in the MDJ Sanderson’s response to SACS, brings to mind with friends like these who needs enemies. Talk about throwing your board under a bus,–?instance=home_news_1st_right

Dr. John Trotter

April 29th, 2011
12:37 pm

@ oldtimer: All of the so-called “search” firms are pretty much the same. I think that they are rackets. It is just a cute little industry that developed when so much money got involved with the appointed superintendents, accompanied with the high stakes of standardized testing. Every school system is looking for a “savior.” Hey, when it comes to public education, there are NO “saviors” out there. No. Just charlatans…like Michelle Rhee and Arne Duncan. But, these charlatans come along, claiming that they have the panacea for disengaged and unmotivated students — except, of course, they don’t word it like this. They have a convenient scapegoat, viz., the teachers. It’s a problem, according to them, with instructional competence and delivery. And, they, of course, have the answer for this…more stringent evaluations and snoopervision of the teachers. Document and terminate! This, according to them, will increase student performance. Of course it does not. This is a matter of public record. But, meantime, the politicians were able to offer up to the public a sacrificial lamb (the teachers) which they hope will alleviate the public’s angst about the lack of achievement in the public schools. Also, these charlatan superintendents (and the groupies whom they always bring along) have made off like bandits with gargantuan salaries, monies put into their retirements funds/401ks/Social Security Accounts, and contract buy-outs.

While all of the above is taking place, many students are still disengaged from the learning processes, unmotivated to learn, and causing disruptions and confusion for those students who truly are motivated to learn. The thugs are allowed to run and ruin the public schools. Can I let you in on a little secret? These weasel, booger-eatin’, teacher-beating-up administrators are actually scared of the thug-students and their thug-parents. I see it virtually every day. It is really weird. I never believed that I would see public education with this many chicken-sh_t administrators at the helm of the schools. It is sad. (c) MACE, April 29, 2011.


April 29th, 2011
12:54 pm

“The agreement further states that any inquiries from prospective employers will be answered consistent with the terms of a mutually agreed-upon letter of reference…”

Which begs the question, what exactly did this guy do to warrant a contractual agreement to a cover-up?

It seems that Dekalb dodged a bullet on this one.


April 29th, 2011
1:38 pm

A school board with a $billion budget that does not have three or more people on their staff that can assume the duties of the Superintendent should resign as a group in disgrace. What chance do the students have with a new person who must take several years to learn the local culture and the horrific politics of education. Or maybe, the school board should just commit hari-kari and let the county find a new one with brains.

Dr. John Trotter

April 29th, 2011
1:45 pm

@ mitch: I couldn’t have said it better.

another comment

April 29th, 2011
2:00 pm

Why does everyone keep on saying Dr. Cox demanded $275,000 for the Dekalb job. The job posting stated the salary was $275,000 plus benefits. Atlanta’s and Gwinett’s Super’s make alot more. Is a 39 year old white woman with a PHD who is a rising star not entiled to this. Superstars rise through the ranks faster.

I had a top management job by the time I was only 28 years old. It took a couple of job hops and asking for what I wanted. Men do it all the time, why can’t white women. That is why we have a 77% pay gap still. I hate to see this by people who are mostly teachers.

What's best for kids?

April 29th, 2011
2:04 pm

The state school superintendent makes 137k. Why should a county super make more than that?


April 29th, 2011
2:23 pm

The Deputy Superintendents in DeKalb make $166,000+ a year so I’m rather puzzled as to why Jim Wooten things the superintendent should make less than his/her direct reports. Wooten should have addressed ALL of the executive salaries in DCSS. They are one reason that the superintendent’s salary is driven up. ALL executive salaries need to come down before we can address the superintendent’s salary. BTW – Alvin Wilbanks, superintendent in Gwinnett, makes $390,556.


April 29th, 2011
3:20 pm

Dekalbite…No deputy Super should make that much. That is what I am saying. Salaries have gotten to high at the expensive of teachers. Clayton Couny’s Human Resource director makes around $150,000. That would pay for two teachers.
I am retired now, but when I read all this I kind of miss Mr. Cherry, Mr. Hallford, and Mr. Stroud. They hired administrators who mostly left you alone to teach and supported teachers when parents had problems.


April 29th, 2011
3:40 pm

Mr. Tomlinson also posted in one of the last blogs on the DeKalb superintendent search that most of what was being posted about Culver was false. He made a point to mention the allegations of lawsuites were false also.

Nine years is a long time as the head of a school district. I could imagine there were also challenges being in the same area as the University of Illinois. Face it, he probably encountered a lot of people from academia with children in the district that ’suggested’ they knew more than him, especially since he did not have his doctorate.

As I understand, he was brought in to help get the district with complying with the consent decree. He accomplished that objective. Can’t take that away from him on his resume. Both he and the district probably felt it was time for a change.

Did Culver share with Ray and Associates and/or our Board that he was a short timer in his current job? I don’t know. If he did not share this and the Board found out, that could raise suspicions of his openness. At the end of the day, it did not matter because he withdrew as the last finalist. What does that say?

Write Your Board Members

April 29th, 2011
4:35 pm

Word is that Cox actually demanded 18 months severance and that the DCSS board countered and then she countered again.

I think that many were so infatuated with her, that they failed to see what that meant to the CHILDREN of DeKalb. If, for any reason other than a criminal one, a board decided to part company with her, the system would owe her over 300 thousand dollars.

Another comment, I wonder why you see her as a superstar. She hasn’t stayed in one position long enough to really know if what she is doing works. In addition, and she said this at the forum, much of the improvement in Hickory was because she closed a regional alternative school and most of the students had to leave Hickory because they were from other systems.


April 29th, 2011
4:53 pm

Write Your Board Members, I wondered the same thing also. What I gather is that many like the idea that she has a Phd in Education and had great ideas with respect to instruction. She does have a great resume. Add to that, the core business of the school system is instruction.

Despite that, I still questioned whether she had enough experience in the superintendent’s chair. I do see her as a rising start, especially if she can stay in a location long enough to build a track record.


April 29th, 2011
10:37 pm

Culver agreed to leave Champaign because the board wants someone different, and he has no love lost for them. I think my source is reliable. If they had any cause, they would have fired him. They didn’t, but want someone more to their liking (ie. doormat). Strong superintendents eventually make boards mad. Culver improved achievement and finished the multimillion dollar consent decree. According to the Champaign paper, his agreement also says that he can’t talk about them. I guess that is what the money is for. I wonder what he would have to say? He obviously thought the DCSS board was more of the same. Bet he lands on his feet. Bet Cox does, too. Not so sure about DCSS.

David Sims

April 30th, 2011
12:36 am

I think that Lee is right. And I told you that DeKalb County probably would be making a mistake by hiring Culver.


April 30th, 2011
8:48 am

If we are the free market capitalist society that we claim to be then no one should argue the cost of a superintendent. The county will decide what it can afford to draw the best person for the job. Limiting salaries is not the solution. The solution is taking the time to vet individuals before we hire them. Dekalb has a long history of messes on its hands. Finding the right candidate to clean this up will cost money.


April 30th, 2011
9:24 am

Thank you for your comment about the excesses of the pay offer for the DeKalb school superintendent candidate. Agreed that the Governor’s salary is a reasonable comp.

Would love to see some more discussion of how these salaries got so gosh-darned inflated in the first place.

These people are PUBLIC SERVANTS. It is an honor and a privilege to have the responsibility of a high-profile leadership position that will influence the future of thousands of students.

If these candidates want private sector salaries, they can go to work in the private sector. Simple as that.


April 30th, 2011
1:08 pm

Salary caps are needed.


April 30th, 2011
3:10 pm

Saw a comment in a Texas paper that the normal term for one of these big school system superintendents is about 5 years. 9 years in Champaign is a fairly long time.

new teacha

May 2nd, 2011
3:08 pm

dekalb has a serious issue in reforming its schools, that being management sees no reason to change. The culture influences everything. where are the whistle blowers? The educational elite has turned its back on the massses and it shows.


May 2nd, 2011
9:43 pm

Cox got the head job at the Almance-Burlingame district where she was #2 before. That district has 23,000 students and they were glad to get her back. The Hickory people seemed sad to see her leave.


May 3rd, 2011
5:42 pm

I saw an interesting comment in another blog. I wonder if Cox ‘used’ DeKalb to get the job and compensation at this district? Strange she was looking for a new opportunity after only working 18 months in Hickory.