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Driver not usual benefit

By Greg Gelpi

For the full text of Barbara Pulliam's response to the driver controversy, see Page 4A.

A personal driver isn't part of a school superintendent's pay, but it should be, according to Clayton County's choice for a superintendent.

School systems in Henry, Fulton, DeKalb and Fayette counties do not pay for a personal driver for their superintendents. Clayton County's interim superintendent is not provided with a driver either.

Barbara Pulliam, the Clayton County Board of Education's choice for superintendent, requested a driver during contract negotiations with school board attorney Gary Sams. She also requested 10 additional vacation days, $500,000 in health insurance, 45 days of leave that can be used immediately and a $185,000 salary.

Her pay would be $67,000 more than Clayton's interim superintendent is paid.

Pulliam, who could not be reached for comment, issued a statement regarding her contract negotiations, calling it "unfortunate" that the closed-door talks became public information.

"Having a driver, on a temporary basis, would not only help me learn my way around, but would also ensure that I make it to various appointments in the county in a timely manner," she said in her statement. "Further, it will assist in maximizing the use of my time in ways that I will be able to do more external partnership work, visit more schools more frequently, and learn the community faster."

Pulliam apologized for any controversy and upsetting the public, but did not apologize for making the request.

She declined to comment on anything further regarding the negotiations between her attorney and the school board's attorney.

Clayton County's interim Superintendent William Chavis is paid $118,000, according to his contract with the school system. He is paid a dollar more than the school system's highest paid administrator, Ed Scott, assistant superintendent of personnel. With benefits, Chavis receives about $144,000.

Bill Horton, the deputy superintendent of Clayton County, is still paid the same salary he was paid when he was the principal of Riverdale Middle School, about $113,000. According to the system's pay scale, that position should pay $120,000.

The Henry County school system hired Jack Parish as its superintendent Jun 30, 2001. Under the contract, Parish was paid $119,000. He is now paid $129,000 annually.

Along with the salary, Henry County schools also pay his benefits up to $15,000.

Henry County does not provide Parish with a vehicle, a vehicle allowance or a personal driver.

Fulton County's interim Superintendent Michael T. Vanairsdale is paid $145,000 annually, said Susan Hale, Fulton County schools communication project manager. He also receives an $1,800 expense allowance each year.

Fulton's last superintendent John T. Haro had an annual base salary of $185,000, according to Hale. With degree credits, expense allowance and benefits allowances, Haro made $202,492. He was paid another $38,632 in additional benefits, which included retirement, Medicare, tax deferred annuity and life insurance contributions.

DeKalb County schools Superintendent Johnny E. Brown has a base pay of $225,000. He also gets a $5,800 allowance for a tax-shelter annuity, $800 a month for expenses, a late model vehicle and term life insurance of $300,000.

Fayette County schools pays its superintendent, John Decotis, an annual salary of $129,572. Decotis also receives $600 each month as a vehicle allowance, according to his contract. He has the same insurance and retirement as all other fulltime employees of Fayette County Schools.

Pulliam works as the superintendent of the school system in St. Louis Park, Minn., until she finalizes a contract with Clayton County. She does not receive a personal driver as part of her contract there.

In St. Louis Park, she is paid $142,500. She also gets a personal computer for her home, cell phone, Palm Pilot, expenses and $750 a month for a car allowance, Jean Hicks, the head of Human Resources in St. Louis Park, said.

Numerous Clayton County residents called the school board offices Thursday when they learned of Pulliam's request to express their displeasure.

The school board chose Pulliam from a group of three finalists and from a list of 41 applicants following a national search to replace fired Superintendent Dan Colwell.