Atkinson being paid $15,000 as consultant amid staff cuts
LORAIN — Cheryl Atkinson, who becomes superintendent of Lorain schools on Aug. 1, has kept a low-profile in the community but has been working behind the scenes and is being paid $15,000 as a 10-week consultant to the district.
Her role as a consultant, however, is vague.
Atkinson said Monday night she has attended many meetings, “trying to listen, look and learn” and familiarize herself with the district and its numerous challenges since the end of May.
Atkinson was with school board members and other administrative staff who met in a two-hour executive session Monday night.
The board did not specify a reason for the executive session. Instead, its agenda listed all of the reasons the law allows for a public body to meet behind closed doors.
When asked if she has provided input into the school board’s decision to cut 246 teachers, Atkinson said she was not the superintendent yet; that she wanted to respect current Superintendent Dee Morgan’s position.
Morgan, who has led the district the last six years, will retire July 31.
“She’s still the superintendent until the end of the month,” Atkinson said. “I want to enter the district correctly; I don’t want to do an interview as such until later in the month.”
Atkinson did say, however, that she is aware of the decisions being made by the board and Morgan. She did not say how much influence, if any, she’s had in those decisions.
“It’s fair to say I’m certainly aware of the decisions being made but I’m trying to look in the future when I take the superintendency and what direction we will go based on the decisions being made.
“I’m aware of the challenges now and will work really hard to make sure our students are provided the best education we can give them.”
Atkinson said she is working on some things now, but declined to say what they are.
“I don’t want to be ahead of Dr. Morgan. I will schedule a press conference at a later date,” she said.
Atkinson will be paid $175,000 a year as superintendent. Morgan is paid $140,000 annually.
The school board approved her superintendent’s contract at a meeting on May 14. At the same time, the board approved a contract with Atkinson to pay her $15,000 as a consultant from May 24 until July 31. The money was to be paid in two installments — $7,500 when the contract became effective on May 24 and $7,500 by July 31.
The supplemental contract states that she is to advise and consult with the superintendent and “perform all duties incidental to her position as superintendent-designee/consultant.”
Atkinson will be responsible for paying the local, state and federal taxes on the income that does not include any benefits, such as health insurance.
Less than three weeks after the board hired Atkinson, new Treasurer Ryan Ghizzoni reported the district was facing a $4.75 million deficit that could grow to more than $15 million by 2008.
On June 7, the board eliminated 246 teaching positions. Last week, about 100 other non-teaching positions were cut.
“When you go into a superintendency, you can’t always know everything, and you don’t expect to,” Atkinson said Monday. “But, I certainly knew, as in most urban districts, there were challenges here.”
Contact Bette Pearce at 329-7148 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 14 Hired by Lorain Schools
May 24 Begins 10-week job as consultant with Lorain schools
June 7 246 teachers fired
July 31 Consultant contract will end
Aug. 1 To take over as superintendent