Stanford Has Week To Mull Job Offer -- Seattle School Prospect May Be Ready To Move
It could be a full week before Seattle knows if retired U.S. Army major general and Fulton County, Ga., manager John Stanford will accept the job as Seattle schools superintendent.
According to an agreement reached between Stanford and members of the Seattle School Board who met with Stanford in Atlanta last night and this morning, Stanford will have until next Friday to make up his mind, said Patricia Corley, Stanford's wife.
Among the issues that may be on Stanford's mind as he weighs his decision is the state of politics on the Fulton County Commission - there is considerable political infighting among the county commissioners, who are his bosses.
Stanford, 56, was picked by the School Board yesterday. Immediately afterward, Board President Linda Harris and member Scott Barnhart flew to Georgia to negotiate with Stanford.
Before leaving Atlanta this morning, they tried to persuade Stanford to come to Seattle despite pressure from Atlanta-area civic leaders to stay there, said board member Don Nielsen.
But it's the Fulton County commissioners themselves who may have played into Seattle's hands.
"I get the feeling John is pretty sick of this," said one Fulton courthouse observer in describing the battles. "He said that these guys are more concerned with infighting than they are governing."
"I don't blame him. I would get out, too," said Sallie Newbill, a Republican state senator from Fulton County. "We've got one commissioner who is taking another commissioner to court for slander and libel," she said.
Every meeting of the County commission includes "personal, barbed exchanges," said the observer.
Publicly, the county commissioners paise Stanford, as do others. "I honestly believe that the only progress that's been made is because of what he has done," said Newbill, referring to Stanford's success at cutting costs, developing new programs and restoring voters' confidence in Fulton County following earlier contracting scandals.
Stanford, "wanted to reorganize departments and slim them down," Newbill said. "That has just become impossible because all the commissioners are protecting their friends."
Nevertheless, Stanford is under pressure from Atlanta leaders - including the organizing committee for next year's Olympic Games, which the city is hosting - to stay, Nielsen said.
Pay may be an issue. According to Seattle School Board member Michael Preston, the Seattle district has offered a package equaling Stanford's present pay of about $170,000 per year, which includes $25,000 paid into a retirement account.
With other benefits such as a car and paid life insurance, the total could be close to $200,000. Still, it's unknown whether Stanford, reported to be in demand in the private sector as well, would accept - or whether the board would go higher.
Two other finalists, Curman Gaines, superintendent of schools in St. Paul, Minn., and Vancouver, Wash., school superintendent James Parsley, withdrew earlier in the week after learning they were not going to be the board's first choice.
The Seattle job opened up following current Superintendent William Kendrick's announcement more than a year ago that he would not ask for renewal of his contract.
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