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Driving Ms. Pulliam

By Greg Gelpi

Coming Friday: A look at other area superintendents, their salaries and benefits.

A driver, 10 additional vacation days, $500,000 in health insurance, 45 days of leave that can be used immediately and a $185,000 salary are just a few of the things that superintendent-elect Barbara Pulliam is asking the Clayton County Board of Education to provide.

Pulliam is in contract negotiations with Clayton County Board of Education attorney Gary Sams who, on behalf of the Board, has offered her the $185,000 in salary but none of the other perks requested.

In her present job as superintendent in St. Louis Park, Minn., Pulliam makes $142,500 and does not have a driver.

Jean Hicks, head of human resources in St. Louis Park, said Pulliam also receives a number of benefits, but chuckled at the thought of a personal driver in that community.

"Our whole community is only about 8 miles in radius," Hicks said. "She wouldn't need a driver here."

Pulliam's St. Louis Park contract provides her with a computer to use at home, a cell phone, a Palm Pilot, expenses and $750 a month for a car allowance, Hicks said.

Laurie May, 33, of Hampton, was upset about the possibility of paying for a personal driver.

"I don't think it's fair," May, a mother of three Clayton County children, said. "The money should be spent on education, not on chauffeuring someone around. I have to get up and drive myself to work."

Dexter Sanford, 45, a warehouse worker in Jonesboro, said he has never had a driver and a new superintendent shouldn't either.

"I think she is well enough to drive around," Sanford said. "I think that's a waste of money."

The money could best be used elsewhere, Joanna Waits, 30, said.

"Our children are sitting in trailers, and they're going to give her a chauffeur?" the mother of three asked.

The school system has 598 temporary classroom trailers.

Allen Moore, 48, who works overnight cleaning restaurants, doesn't like the idea as well.

"I think that's kind of odd," Moore said. "That's money that shouldn't be spent."

He has two children in Clayton County schools.

Pulliam tendered her resignation to the St. Louis Park system immediately after being named to the Clayton County post however, Hicks said that Pulliam would remain employed there until a contract is finalized here.

Sams has said that Pulliam's contract should be finalized by Feb. 1. Some of the requests were discussed during a closed meeting Monday night between Sams and board members.

While none of the board members will comment on the specifics of the negotiations on the record, at least one is concerned about how the requests look.

"I didn't even have a car to drive around," said board member and former superintendent Bob Livingston. "I don't think the taxpayers would approve of that. I don't think if the driver is in the contract the board will go for it."

Livingston, who was superintendent from 1991 to 1995, said he "only got $100 a month for expenses."

Former superintendent Dan Colwell, who was ousted during a board coup last January, made $157,000 with an additional $63,696 in benefits that included a $500 car allowance.