Dekalb County school leaders are back to square one in their search for a new superintendent, since the top finalist pulled her name out of the running this weekend.

Channel 2’s Richard Belcher broke the story Friday that six members of the nine-member DeKalb School Board backed Dr. Lillie Cox for the job, but negotiations over her contract were bogged down because of what some board members considered overly generous salary and benefits demands.

One critic said Dr. Cox, who is currently superintendent of schools in Hickory, N.C., called her demands “platinum-plated.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Saturday that Dr. Cox wanted a 3-year contract that would pay her $275,000 per year and would have a roll-over provision that would extend her contract by one year at the end of each school year, in effect, creating a perpetual 3-year contract.

She also wanted 15-month severance pay — about $343,750 — if she was terminated and a guarantee of a due process hearing before she could be fired.

Severance pay has been a controversial issue for the DeKalb School System.

The board had to pay out nearly $400,000 when it fired Johnny Brown as superintendent in 2004.

Crawford Lewis received about $95,000 when he was fired a year ago. Lewis is now awaiting trial on state racketeering charges related to construction contracts.