ATLANTA -- After years of controversy, the Atlanta Public School system is searching for a permanent leader to get the district back on track.
Now, Mayor Kasim Reed is offering to kick in private funds to sweeten the pot. But some in the community have already started to question the motives.
Reed says he wants the district to find the best candidate, not just the best of those that applied. He says more of the same, just won't do.
"You know what the same has gotten us? Affluent people putting their kids in private schools, which is terrible for public schools. You want a mix of incomes in the building," said Reed.
He believes the only way to get that mix, is to get a superintendent everyone in the community can trust to make the district better.
He believes after the cheating scandal and current criminal indictments, to get that, the community is going to have to pay dearly.
He's already raised commitments from several unidentified private donors to generate an extra $300,000 a year for five years, boosting the potential salary for the next superintendent to $600,000.
Reed compares it to university sports. Mark Richt makes $2.9 million to coach football at UGA. The university only pays a small part of that salary, businesses and donors pick up the rest.
Board Chair Reuben McDaniel says the district hasn't decided whether to use the money, or if it's even needed. But says the district is committed to attracting top notch candidates.
"This is the most important job, important time in our school's history, the superintendent search," said McDaniel.
Senator Vincent Fort says $600,000 is just too much. He points out, the salary is more than the Mayor, Governor or even President makes.
"If someone doesn't want to come to Atlanta for a reasonable salary then we need to ask them whether they're really committed to improving our schools. So I just find 600,000 objectionable," said Fort.
Fort worries the business community is trying to buy influence on the board.
"We know that who pays the cost is the boss," said Fort outside of APS headquarters.
APS only has 50,000 students. So some argue $300,000 is already a good chunk of change. New York City, the largest school district in the country with 1.1 million students, paid its leader $212,000 last year. The number two district - LA - paid its superintendent $330,000 with bonuses.
"And none of those school systems have been featured in the NY Times as being as a national embarrassment. And someone is going to have risk their professional reputation to leave a system of the kind of caliber you're talking about to come and bring that to ours," said Reed.