June 30, 2016

Mostly sunny

E-mail response from Medina school board on Randy Stepp’s contract

The following is an e-mail response being circulated by the Medina school board regarding the controversy over Superintendent Randy Stepp’s new contract:

Thank you for the email. I decided a long time ago that whatever I did on the BOE it would be based on what would be best for the students in this community. I was involved in negotiating Dr Stepp’s last contract, as well as this one, and did so based on my experience as a leader in a large corporation. In Dr. Stepp’s current contract his base salary went from $134k to $139k, a 3.6% raise, however the previous 4 years he, along with the rest of our administrators, received no base salary raises at all. Most of the remaining clauses, such as his annuity, car allowances, vacation, etc, are absolutely typical in a superintendent’s contract and were increased due to his increased experience and/or inflation. The completion bonus is a longevity incentive to ensure we retain his leadership and is about 12% of his base pay. If Dr. Stepp leaves before his contract is complete all of this must be repaid to MCS. This offsets the cost of MCS having to hire an interim superintendent while we search for a permanent replacement as well as any recruitment and relocation costs.
In addition, the biggest challenge facing the education industry is the culture of mediocrity, there is no incentive to perform better nor is there a reward for doing so. Dr. Stepp’s contract is our attempt to battle that culture. He also has specific merit goals related strictly to student achievement and fiscal responsibility that will serve this community well. If Dr. Stepp reaches those goals the return on his merit pool will be ten-fold in reduced costs.
Having just spent two years looking for a highly-qualified Treasurer to replace Mr Gordon, I can tell you the population of highly-qualified individuals willing to work for school districts is pretty thin. Many of the candidates we interviewed from Hudson, Massillon, etc were already making more than our superintendent. We were lucky to find Mr. Hudson at the salary he received. The same goes for Dr. Stepp, there are 688 school districts in Ohio and I assure you there are not 688+ highly-qualified superintendents. With the changes in STRS this year there are many superintendent retirements occurring and competition is stiff for the available remaining personnel. Dr. Stepp, with his 7 years of experience, PhD and MBA was on the radar of many school districts. Many of these school districts are able and willing to compensate him much better than Medina ever could. So to retain his leadership at this critical time, we provided Dr. Stepp what we believed was a fair and equitable offer, which he accepted because of his commitment to this district.
What are the financial ramifications of his new contract to MCS? The cost of the MCS superintendent is 0.2% of our total budget, about $20 per student, the second lowest in Medina County only to Brunswick. Overall, MCS administrative costs are 30% below the state average and at the bottom end of Medina County’s, as shown below.

District-Administration Cost per Student

Black River-891

The comparative superintendent cost per student is:

District-Superintendent Cost per Student

Black River-67.09
Medina County Avg-27.97

If Dr. Stepp were to work for free, the impact would be about another 1/3 of a textbook per student per year, or 20% of a substitute teacher for one school day. If Dr. Stepp’s leadership was gone the impact would be much greater.
Of the 5 areas, the Ohio Department of Education measures, the only area which Medina City Schools is above the average cost is Instructional, which is the element associated with teachers. The comparative cost per student for instructional in Medina County is below:

District-Instructional Cost per Student

Black River-5,067

With respect to the BOE asking for concessions from the teachers, our tentative agreement covers two years with a zero increase on the base, allows longevity and degree steps, increases the requirement to teach 6 periods from 5 periods at the high school and moves the employee contribution for healthcare from 17.5% to 20% at the end of the second year of the contract.
These are changes in work conditions Dr. Stepp has also already voluntarily accepted; he is in the 4th year of a wage freeze, has paid 20% of his healthcare beginning 4 years ago and operates without an assistant superintendent, increasing his workload.
I defend both of these contracts and both parties. It takes highly-qualified employees to run and manage a successful school system and BOE policy reflects that reality. Our teachers, staff and administrators are valued and paid according to their education experience and contribution to the organizational goals.
So in summary, the Medina City Schools BOE spends $20 per student per year on the Superintendent who leads the entire District and $5,984 per student per year on the classroom teacher. As a parent, taxpayer, businessman and BOE member, I believe that is an equitable and appropriate distribution of resources.

Best to you and yours,
Bill Grenfell

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