After some lengthy debate, the Atlanta Public Schools' Board of Education voted Monday to extend Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr.'s contract for up to 18 months.
Davis' current one-year contract expires June 30, 2013 and the new contract would start July 1, 2013.
The vote — 7 to 2 Brenda J. Muhammad and Nancy M. Meister were the lone dissenters — comes with two key provisions: if the board finds a permanent superintendent and hires him or her, Davis' contract expires after 90 days.
(Muhammad, whose district includes the Jackson High School cluster, later said she changed her mind and was in favor of the plan and wanted the final record to reflect that.)
The second provision is a clause that allows the board to nix his contract, with 90 days' notice at any time for any reason with just a 5-4 vote of the board.
That second 90-day clause with the 5-4 vote is odd, given the board's decision last week that in order to extend Davis' contract at all would require a supermajority of its 9 members: 7 votes.
But the board wanted that second clause because it would allow them to terminate the contract without having to pay Davis the remainder of whatever time is left.
In typical fashion that has come to characterize the current group that comprises the Atlanta Board of Education, arriving at a consensus wasn't easy.
Board members quibbled over whether or not to extend the contract by one year or two years and whether or not the triggers needed to be 60 days or 90 days.
They took a five-minute break and then came back to quibble some more.
They took another five-minute break, came back, voted and then quibbled some more after the vote.
In all, they discussed the issue for more than two hours.
Indeed, there were four separate votes taken on some iteration of Davis' contract, all to fail before reaching the required seven votes.
At-large board member Courtney D. English noted that with board elections coming next year, the current board should not hamstring new board members who could be voted in November 2013.
Still, Byron D. Amos, another board member noted that the board in its current configuration had tried to find a new superintendent for month to no avail.
"It has never been an issue — I don't think — as to whether or not this board wanted to extend Mr. Davis' contract," Muhammad said.
"We know that he took on some major challenges when he got here. He's done a great job of managing those."
She said the question was never if the board would support an extension, "it was just the terms of what would be in this contract."
For his part, Davis said he doesn't have long-term desires on the job. He said there are some things he wants to see through in terms of some of the initiatives he has instituted, but he said his goal wasn't to make a career at APS.
The vote follows several weeks of debate on the superintendent's future, thrusting the board into the spotlight once again and leaving parents to wonder if it was backsliding into its old dysfunctional ways or if it would move forward.
Some neighborhoods — Inman Park, Candler Park, Grant Park and Ormewood Park, among others — supported Davis, whom the board took on to clean up the mess and scandal left by the former superintendent, the now-disgraced Beverly Hall.
Andrea Knight, a Grant Park parent, even started a petition to get the board to extend Davis' contract.
But some parents, namely a contingent of folks from the Buckhead area, opposed his extension, citing his handing of the removal of several administrators — including the principal — at North Atlanta High School following allegations of grade changing.
On Monday, however, the majority of parents who spoke, asked the board to support him. They noted he restored order to a district embattled by one of the worst cheating scandals in the nation's history, the near-loss of accreditation because of board infighting and redistriciting.
To start a search now, when some board members have already said they won't seek reelection, didn't make sense, some parents said. Rather, a new search shouldn't take place until after next year's elections.
Richard Quartarone, a Summerhill parent and co-president of the Southeast Atlanta Communities for Schools, told board members that under Davis' leadership, parents have a renewed faith in APS.
The SEACS board voted last week to fully support his contract extension as well as the strategic plan outlined to improve APS' academic standing.
Davis, he said, has created an atmosphere that has "renewed interest, optimism and passion" from parents across the district, particularly in the southeastern quadrant of the city.
But Cynthia Brown, another parent, countered the board could not ignore North Atlanta High School and Davis' handling of that situation.
She urged board members not to let politics to influence their vote.
Still, some parents argued that the district should not be held hostage to the whims of Buckhead, one of the city's wealthier enclaves.
Meanwhile, district officials say they already have four companies that have responded to request for a proposal designed to select an executive search firm for a superintendent.