DeKalb just issued this statement: The DeKalb County Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Atkinson have mutually agreed to end their relationship effective Friday, February 8, 2013. The Board and Dr. Atkinson each determined and believe that it is in the best interest of all concerned that there be a mutual separation and they wish each other well in all their future endeavors.
Here is the separation agreement between Atkinson and the board that will be voted on later today.
For the third time in three years, school officials in DeKalb County are set to name a schools chief to oversee the third largest student population in Georgia.
While the school board was in another of a string of private sessions to discuss “legal and personnel matters” Thursday afternoon, officials advertised a public meeting for Friday afternoon. The purpose: to vote on a separation agreement with Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson and to approve the employment agreement of an interim superintendent.
The interim wasn’t named, but on Monday former Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond emerged from a similar closed-door meeting and said he’d been asked about his leadership philosophy and that the words “interim” and “superintendent” had come up. Thurmond could not be reached for comment Thursday.
This will be a crucial transition for a district in crisis. In December, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) placed DeKalb on probation, alleging financial mismanagement, nepotism and meddling by the school board. On Feb. 21, the Georgia Board of Education will hold a hearing to decide whether to suspend the DeKalb board. A state law from 2011 allows the governor to remove boards in school systems on probation, if the state board recommends it.
Atkinson could not be reached for comment. A district spokeswoman said Atkinson has been on leave since her father’s death on Jan. 23. Jeff Dickerson, a district spokesman through whom Atkinson has relayed messages to the media, had no immediate comment.
The unexecuted separation agreement gives her $114,583, plus payment for any unused vacation. Assuming the board approves it Friday, it will take effect at midnight Friday. The agreement calls on the board and Atkinson to work together to produce a “mutually approved joint public statement that is brief and non-disparaging.”
After Thursday’s closed-door meeting, school board Chairman Eugene Walker told reporters that Atkinson and the board had a “mutual understanding of separation” and that “she’s had some sadness in her family.”
Atkinson, 54, has been earning $275,000 a year since starting in September 2011. She’s also gotten insurance and retirement benefits, home Internet access and a $2,600 monthly allowance for expenses. She was hired by the school board under a mandate from SACS. The agency wanted the system to replace its interim superintendent with a permanent leader.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog