By Greg Gelpi
With mid-year raises of $106,799.04 for the seven assistant superintendents, Clayton County now pays close to $1 million for the administration of its school system. This does not include all the other support staff like her chief of staff, public relations officials, chief operating officer and chief financial officer. The total administration costs were not available Thursday.
School Superintendent Barbara Pulliam earns $180,000 in addition to perks, and added to the seven assistants amounts to $989,646.60.
Pulliam awarded pay raises, ranging from $6,640.80 to $27,019.68, to seven assistant superintendents bringing their salaries up to $115,663.80 each. The seven assistant superintendents have as few as nine years' experience in the school system and as much as 29 years in the system.
The superintendent-assistants figure compares to Fulton County's 75,000-student district with $980,007; DeKalb County's 100,000-student district with $1,313,028.19 and Gwinnett's 136,840-student district with $567,962.
Neighboring Henry County has 32,549 students and top administration costs of $470,358. Western neighbor Fayette County has 22,600 students and top administration costs of $476,039. Rockdale County with 14,745 students pays $463,127.
The seven Clayton assistant superintendents, the former salaries and mid-year raises were: Deborah Bass, $94,035.96 and a raise of $21,627.84; Janice B. Davis, $102,763.20 and a raise of $12,900.60; Jackie Hubbert, salary of $105,839.88 and a raise of $9,823.92; Luvenia Jackson, $99,778.20 and a raise of $15,885.60; Sam King, a salary of $102,763.20 and a raise of $12,900.60; Val Lee had a base salary of $88,644.12 and a raise of $27,019.68; and Linda Tanner, a salary of $109,023 and raise of $6,640.80.
A memo sent out by Pulliam said one reason for giving pay "increases" to senior staff was to make the pay competitive with other metro Atlanta school systems.
Although the average school administrator in the state was paid $75,471.75 last school year, Pulliam said it was unfair to compare the state's average to that of Clayton County, which had an average of $83,736.66, since salaries in metro Atlanta tend to be higher.
Based on records obtained by the News Daily, size doesn't matter when it comes to the size of Clayton County's school system and the size of senior officials' paychecks in relation to other metro Atlanta salaries.
The recent Pulliam pay raises put the Clayton County school system senior staff near that of Fulton County school system senior staff.
Fulton County school assistant superintendents are paid between $111,094 and $138,494.
Atlanta City Schools, a school system of equal size to Clayton County, has an average administrator pay of $76,299.15, but Clayton County's average administrator is paid $83,736.66 based on last year's salaries.
Raises handed out in the last three months to senior staff total $197,477.28 , and Pulliam said to expect more raises.
Pulliam defended the pay raises, explaining that of the seven assistant superintendents' raises three were promotions, one resulted from Sam King earning his doctorate and three were attempts at providing "equity" to central office pay since some administrators were paid less than some of those they supervised.
Some central office staff were being paid less than those who previously performed the same job, Pulliam said, pointing to secretarial pay as one instance. Out of a sense of "equity," those officials received raises.
While the bulk of the 276 raises went to teachers for earning advanced degrees, raises also went to school administrators, including raises for some secretaries.
Pulliam's secretary Brenda Benefield, who is classified as an administrative assistant, received a raise totaling almost $17,000, and central office secretaries Terry Porter, Cynthia Denham and Terry Crisp received raises of about $11,000 each. Crisp has one year of experience and one year in the school system.
Despite the Pulliam memo sent out to every teacher, principal, administrator and staff member in the school system, teachers contacting the News Daily dismissed the memo as an attempt to "save herself" and take care of her "chosen few." The state awarded teachers 2 percent in pay raises last year.
The real issue is the inequity of the school system's salary schedule, Pulliam said, adding that she plans to bring the salary schedule to the school board for review.
Clayton County Board of Education Vice Chairman Eddie White, who served in the school system for 30 years before his election, said that a review of the salary schedule "may be necessary."
"What Dr. Pulliam is doing is not new; it's just now that we're under the microscope that it's coming to light," White said. "I'm just a believer that people should be paid well for their services."
White said teachers and administrators shouldn't work multiple jobs in order to make ends meet.
"As part of metro Atlanta, our salaries must be competitive in order to keep and attract the very best," he said.
Regardless of the size of the Clayton County school system in relation to other metro school systems, White said that Clayton County remains a part of the area and has the same issues and concerns of others systems in the area and should pay accordingly.
The following is a list of metro Atlanta school systems and the total pay for their superintendents and cabinet members including assistant superintendents and other cabinet staff: Gwinnett County, $2,597,662, DeKalb County, $2,611,431.93, Fulton County, $2,056,566; Henry County, $933,607, Fayette County, $792,179 and Rockdale County, $463,127.