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DeKalb County School District to pay $650,000 for two superintendent salaries

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DeKalb County School District to pay $650,000 for two superintendent salaries

DeKalb School Board Chair Vickie Turner (second from left), along with Vice Chair Diijon DaCosta, and board member Anna Hill, introduced interim Superintendent Vasanne Tinsley (far left) during a press conference on April 27. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

By Sara Amis, contributor 

DeKalb County, GA — The DeKalb County Board of Education released a copy of their contract with new interim Superintendent Dr. Vasanne Tinsley after approving it at a contentious meeting on April 29.

The contract awards Tinsley, a retired deputy superintendent for the district, a base salary of about $325,000. In addition, Tinsley will  receive a $2,600 monthly expense allotment plus another $500 in travel expenses each month. The DeKalb County School District will also provide Dr. Tinsley an automobile.

The board also agreed to reimburse Tinsley for up to $5,000 in legal fees related to her employment by May 31, 2022.

The board released a termination letter for Dr. Cheryl Watson-Harris, who was fired precipitously as superintendent on April 26. That letter states that the board fired her “for convenience,” which requires them to pay twelve months of her base salary of $325,000 per year as severance.

If the board fired Watson-Harris with cause, her contract stipulated that she would be given 30 days notice and a formal hearing.

Some members of the board have publicly criticized Watson-Harris both before and after the school board voted to terminate her contract.

In the context of discussing a motion to reinstate Watson-Harris, DeKalb County School Board Chair Vickie Turner blamed Watson-Harris for problems with the district’s online academy and school choice, as well as what she claimed was rising violence in the district’s schools, at the board’s April 29 meeting. Board member Allyson Gevertz stated in response that the board had been informed by the district’s public safety department that violence was not on the rise.

In her response to an April 25 letter from State Superintendent Robert Woods which criticized the board and advised them to “empower” then-Superintendent Watson-Harris, Turner pointed fingers at Watson-Harris instead.

“Pursuant to our purchasing policy, the Superintendent is empowered to promptly address any situation that threatens to jeopardize the health, welfare, or safety of students, staff, the District, or the public by foregoing competitive selection rules for purchasing goods and services,” Turner wrote to Woods. Turner went on to say that the board expected the superintendent to comply with the Georgia Department of Education’s recommendations to address “unacceptable conditions at Druid Hills High School as well as other District facilities.”

In a recent interview, Watson-Harris told Decaturish flatly that the needs at Druid Hills exceeded what she was allowed under her spending authority. In October of last year, the board reduced the superintendent’s authority to enter into contracts without board approval from $100,000 to $50,000.

Board member Dr. Joyce Morley has also publicly criticized Watson-Harris, disparaging her knowledge, decisions, and qualifications at the April 29 board meeting. Among a confusing array of other statements, Morley’s assertion that Watson-Harris had never served as an administrator is not grounded in fact.

Morley was named individually along with the DeKalb County School District by former superintendent candidate Rudy Crew. Crew alleged in a 2020 lawsuit that he was discriminated against due to his age and race. Court documents assert that Morley had complained to “multiple people” that Crew did not respect Black women because his late wife was white.

DCSD settled that suit for $750,000.

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