Pulliam deal expected to be finalized

By Greg Gelpi

Clayton County could have a new school superintendent under contract tonight.

The Clayton County Board of Education will hold a special meeting at 6 tonight to discuss and possibly vote on a personnel contract.

No one with the school system would give details as to the contract or who the contract is even concerning.

Board attorney Gary Sams, though, has been in contract negotiations with Barbara Pulliam's attorney.

Sams was in Minnesota negotiating the contract Monday. Pulliam works as the superintendent of the St. Louis Park school system in St. Louis Park, Minn.

He is expected to bring back the signed contract in time for tonight's meeting unless something delays the deal.

Among Pulliam's requests, she asked for a personal driver, according to the closed-door meetings. She also asked for $500,000 in insurance, 45 days leave available immediately and $185,000 in salary.

The driver request set off a round of controversy among parents and some board members who said they could not support it. A check of metro Atlanta school districts found that this is not a common benefit.

At a public forum to introduce the three finalists for superintendent, Pulliam, the board's final choice for the position, said she had done research on the county and the school system. Despite this, she sent a questionnaire to all of the board members and senior administrators inquiring into the school system.

"What is the most important issue that the school system must face in the next few months?" Pulliam asked in her questionnaire. "Which groups or networks of people in the school or community seek to influence school issues?"

She hasn't been named the superintendent, but board Chairwoman Nedra Ware frequently called Pulliam superintendent and even explained her actions, saying that she was following Pulliam's recommendations, at last week's meeting.

Pulliam's questionnaire also asked school officials to explain their roles and responsibilities in the system.

A similar questionnaire was distributed to school board members, but several on Monday said they threw it away or lost it and didn't respond.

Not even Deputy Superintendent Bill Horton knew what the agenda item for tonight's meeting entailed.

"What it actually means is anybody's guess," Horton said. "I would assume it would be for the superintendent."

He didn't know whom the contract is for, but he did know whom the contract is not for. Contracts for teachers are issued in February, and administrators receive their contracts in March.

If Pulliam and the board reach an agreement on a contract, she would become the first female superintendent of Clayton County and the second black superintendent of the primarily black school system.

Also on the agenda, the transportation department is requesting the approval of a bid for buses. The bid was approved in committee, but must be brought before the full board to be voted on.

If the board approves the bid this month, the buses will be delivered and ready for the first day of school in the fall.

The committee recommended a bid from Atlanta Freightliner of the three bids for school buses. Atlanta Freightliner bid lower on each of the three bus specifications the school system requested bids on.

The bid is for the purchase of 15 72-passenger buses, five 48-passenger buses and five 48-passenger buses with lifts. The cost would be $1,498,045.

Funding for the buses would come from about $500,000 from the state and the rest from local revenue collected from the special purpose local option sales tax.