Decatur School Board considers becoming landlord for superintendent
This story has been updated.
The Decatur School Board is considering leasing one of two homes owned by City Schools of Decatur to Superintendent David Dude.
Board Chair Annie Caiola said that Dude had mentioned his lease on a home he’s renting in Decatur expires in the fall and may not be eligible for renewal. Dude lives in Decatur with his wife and three children.
“Although they’ve been looking [in Decatur], they’ve not been able to find anything that is workable for them,” Caiola said. “As a result they’ve been really forced to look outside Decatur for options.”
CSD owns two homes. The school system acquired the homes when the board purchased land to expand Decatur’s schools to accommodate the school system’s growing enrollment. One home is near College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center and the other one is near Westchester Elementary. Both are currently unoccupied.
“What the School Board discussed at the recent board meeting was not necessarily giving the superintendent a housing supplement. It was about allowing him to lease one of the properties we own and pay market rent for it,” Caiola said.
A recent Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that the board is considering a housing “stipend” for Dude. Caiola said she mentioned that as a possibility, but said it’s not currently being considered.
“I did raise the question about whether or not long term the board should consider a housing stipend or subsidy to make it more feasible for our superintendent to live in the city of Decatur if that’s something the superintendent chooses to do,” she said.
In fact, Dude’s contract already includes a housing stipend. He receives $1,500 each month, in addition to his $179,000 annual salary, that can be used for expenses or for housing.
Caiola said she sees advantages in the school superintendent living in the city where he works. The previous superintendent, Phyllis Edwards, lived in Stone Mountain.
“I think people have really appreciated the fact Dr. Dude currently lives in the city of Decatur,” Caiola said. “He’s out and about. He says, ‘I meet somebody new every time I walk the dog.'”
Caiola said housing affordability is a concern for many CSD employees, not just the superintendent. Like the city of Decatur, which is pursuing affordable housing with its Cottage Court project, Caiola said she’s also interested in exploring options to make living in Decatur attainable for CSD employees. The School Board does currently offer teachers courtesy tuition so their children can attend school in Decatur.
“The School Board is very aware of how expensive it has gotten for people to live in Decatur,” Caiola said. “We are also aware we are a public education institution. What we can afford to pay our staff is never going to be as much as we would like to pay them and in places like Decatur it’s not nearly enough.”