April 18, 2014

Medina
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New contract of Medina Schools superintendent Randy Stepp stirs levy backlash

MEDINA — The furor over Medina Schools Superintendent Randy Stepp’s new contract is fueling opposition to the school district’s 5.9-mill levy on the May ballot.

A Facebook page called “Medina City Schools Outrage Page” appeared Tuesday — the same day as a Gazette report detailing Stepp’s contract, which provides annual compensation of at least $186,000 in wages, bonus, allowance and other fringe benefits.

Randy Stepp

The contract also calls for a signing bonus of $83,000.

The Facebook page is billed as “A community forum for taxpayers who have had enough of school board incompetency, school administration abuse of our tax dollars, and the deterioration of Medina City Schools.”

The creator of the page, Mark Kuhar, of Medina, declined to comment further.

But the page is drawing attention, garnering more than 160 fans by Tuesday evening.

One of those who “liked” the page is Michele Stadnik, 67, a longtime Medina resident who said she and her family always have supported school levies, but will not vote for this one because of Stepp’s new contract, which she called “appalling.”

“We have never voted against a levy, but we will not vote” for the levy, she said. “And it is entirely because of this decision that the school board made.”
She said the board and Stepp acted hypocritically.

“If you as the board and you as the superintendent are demanding sacrifices from teachers, from staff, from students and parents, then you should be willing to sacrifice as well,” she said.

Stadnik said she and her husband, as well as two sons, graduated from Medina High School.

The school board approved the new five-year contract Jan. 7. But the union representing the district’s teachers didn’t learned of it until about two weeks ago — after reaching a tentative agreement with the board on a new contract.

Medina City Teachers’ Association President John Leatherman criticized the way the board handled the contract, which was passed at a work session rather than a regular meeting and listed on the agenda as an “amendment” to Stepp’s contract and not a new pact.

School board President Charles Freeman denied the board intentionally tried to keep the contract a secret.

“Do I wish I would have pushed the contract out to show it to the community? Sure,” he said. “It didn’t happen that way.”

The tentative agreement with the board will be presented to teachers Thursday, followed by a vote within three days.

The union released a statement Wednesday, in response to the contract, which described the contract coming before the levy vote as “incredibly ill-timed.”

“Included in that agreement is an $83,000 signing bonus, equivalent to two elementary reading teachers,” the statement said.

In 2009, Stepp received a $50,000 bonus. The union described the two bonuses as “the equivalent of the pay-to-play fees of 400 athletes.”

The new contract states that the signing bonus was designed to ensure Stepp doesn’t take another job but lacks the same penalty found in the old contract.

Under his old contract, Stepp would have been required to return the $50,000 signing bonus if he goes to another school district during the five-year term of the pact. Under the new contract, he would not have to repay the $83,000 out of pocket. Instead, he would forfeit an equivalent amount in banked sick days.

A Gazette review of Stepp’s federal W-2 forms dating back to 2009, found that he was paid $222,971.70 in calendar year 2009 after receiving the $50,000 bonus as a lump sum.

He was paid $174,373.53 in 2010; $166,916.73 in 2011; and $198,465.52 in calendar year 2012.

District Treasurer Jim Hudson said the variations could depend on when Stepp decided to cash out vacation days, which are paid at a per diem rate of more than $700 a day.

Freeman said Stepp had offers from other school districts, and there are many openings for superintendents around the state.

“We think we have found and identified a good leadership team for the Medina City Schools,” he said. “We think it is important to keep them in place for a reasonable period of time.”

A special board executive session, closed to the public, is planned for 6 p.m. today at the board’s office, 140 W. Washington St.

The agenda gives the purpose of the meeting as “contract discussions.”

Stepp declined to be interviewed Tuesday. But in an email response to questions, he defended his contract.

He said the board evaluated his performance, history, leadership ability, willingness to change the system, bring business practices into the district to reduce costs as well as his community involvement as United Way president, when they considered his contract.

“I chose this career because I want to make a difference,” Stepp wrote. “I truly care about children, community and seeing others achieve their dreams. I share a vision with our team of administrators, teachers and support staff of what could be and working together to achieve that goal.”

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.

  • lookingallaroundme

    All school districts in Medina county do similar contracts with their superintendents. The Gazette should do some research into total compensation for All of the county’s supers; you will be shocked.

  • OhioGuy10

    No – That is not true. Not all school districts give a signing bonus, or have buy back on vacation days. I have not heard of another one in the county. All the compensation is public record. Stepps is above and beyond what everyone else gets and he is not even the best one in the county. I do not think he is in the top three or four if you look at what the others have done. I am sure most contracts have phone allowances and perhaps certain travel budgets but Stepp’s are way above the line. A good Super is worth the money but when times are tough you expect leadership to make the correct decisions. This is not a correct decision. If an employee tells you he is in demand and can get a better job you should let them go. If money is the only thing keeping them loyal they are not working for the right reasons. When you have the correct job you work it because you are paid a fair wage (not always the highest) and you are driven to succeed because you care. The bonus is insane. If Randy could pass a levy, renew the teachers to a fair contract and run a balanced budget I would say bonus him, but a 10-15% would be fair.

  • Are you kidding me?

    I was not planning on voting for this levy before this came out. i say “Vote no for Randy”

  • Richard Leiby

    School board and Stepp are no good. Take take all they can from the students and public. High time for them all to go. If he is so great why does the district He came from not want him back? They think he is a joke and are laughing at Medina. Wake up votes. VOTE NO on levy and VOTE OUT THE TOTAL BOARD. Time for recall now!!!!!

  • Resident

    “If an employee tells you he is in demand and can get a better job you should let them go.”nnnReally? If that person’s boss values what that person contributes to the particular company and feels they are worth more and then offers that person more in order to keep them, that’s how things work in the real world. It’s negotiating! My opinion from what I’ve read is that another district specifically offered Randy a position – Randy came back to the Medina school board and said ‘hey – here is what I’ve been offered – can you do better’. Evidently then, the school board valued what Randy brings to the community and district, and paid out a premium to keep him. How this situation was handled by Randy and the school board, and how it was tried to be brushed under the rug so to speak, at a time of trying to pass a levy and negotiate teacher’s contracts, is very shockingly and surprisingly poor and out of character. (I’ve been a huge fan of theirs up until now – and now a “union person” — but this was truly handled poorly by the administration.nnn”fair wage”? What is a fair wage? … someone please describe to me what a ‘fair wage’ is?nnnIf the teachers want to come out looking like heroes in the community, and really want to help further paint Randy and the school board as the villians and as selfish people, they will ratify their new contract tomorrow at their ratification meeting.nnnI’ve voted for every Medina school levy that has come up in the past 15 years I’ve lived here. … I have kids in the district and I see 1st hand what the cutting of teachers and programs has done to the quality of education at Medina. I will still even vote for this May’s levy. However with how this situation was handled by Randy and the school board, there is no way a levy can be passed IMHO until they all resign. That is the part that sucks for the students and the community as a whole.

  • Shaking my head

    Leaders lead, and do so by example. Taking this raise and bonus when he repeatedly tells the community how bad off the district is fiscally, is irresponsible. He missed a golden opportunity to garner support for the upcoming levy and most likely get it passed. Imagine public opinion if he had come out and said: “I was just offered this contract and signing bonus. Given our school’s current fiscal situation I cannot in good conscience accept it. I will maintain my current salary and not take an increase or bonus until I successfully pass a school levy for this district.” That would have demonstrated his worth to the community, and likely won over many voters for the upcoming school levy. As well as EARN him a 10-15% bonus.nnThe board is perhaps more to blame here than Mr. Stepp. They apparently believe his leadership, despite repeated cuts, and inability to pass a levy warrants a raise and a bonus. I imagine they will all be voted out of office soon as many see their actions as reckless.nnI am a federal employee and my wife is a teacher in another district. I went with a cost of living increase for 4 years and until a recent levy was passed, my wife went for 7 years without one. Neither of us complained or thought it was wrong. Financial times dictated such a sacrifice. Her community saw the sacrifices the teachers AND the leadership were making and were willing to support higher taxes to fund a levy. This will not happen anytime in the near future here, now that this debacle has taken place.nnBottom line is many people believe teachers and their administrators are overpaid and underworked. And this contract at this time will only galvanize that opinion by many.

  • Richard Leiby

    Stepp and board at it again. Holding close door meeting to see how they can back door the public and voters. You can not trust the board or Stepp. Time for them to go now. Recall is being started to remove the total board now. They nor Stepp have any interest in this district or the students.all they are interested in is how much they can take and make for them selves. More they can take more they can line their pockets as we see with what they Are doing with Stepp. VOTE NO on levy and RECALL THE BOARD NOW!!!!!!

  • OhioGuy10

    Fair wage is – Moderately large, ample. Another words do not be greedy. There are numerous web sites that give averages for positions in all areas of the country (Salary.com, monster, etc). There is nothing wrong with being above average, that should be a goal but you should understand there will be backlash if it gets out of line. When a employee comes to you and states what they have been offered is beyond fair and could actually do their busines or school harm, yes they should be let go. Wish them well. One person’s needs do not dictate the overall health of the business. Most raises given now, if any at all, are smaller cost of living increases. The employer must measure the cost/benefit. If a employee is outstanding but wants 150% of the going rate because that is what they were offered it is usually in the best intetrest to let that person go. With supply and demand for Supers now I think Medina will get more than a few qualified candidates. I think the BOE just did a great deal of harm to their chances of passing a levy. It is their job also to be the elected link between the community and schools. I think by not letting Randy go they did show they are out of touch with the realities of the community. They are actually hurting their company by having an over paid CEO. You need to take this into account before you make this decision. It does suck for the students and community.

  • Richard Leiby

    Sure Stepp can claim all he wants that he has better offer all he wants. Did board see anything in writing hell no. That is oldest trick in the books. Best thing they could and should of done was said good bye have a great life. But oh no lets give him anything he wants. And at a time when they are taking and taking from the students, teachers and other staff. Time for Stepp and total board to go now. Make sure to sign recall on board and vote no on levy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1540908930 Cliff Donoughe

    Dr. Stepp has shown no leadership whatsoever nor has the BOE. When funding is tight they only have one solution, cut services. Apparently it has never occured to these people to look for opportunities to cut the costs of services and keep the services where they are. We spend too much on teachers and administrators and this signing bonus is another example of the BOE’s political deafness. The good Dr. is overseeing the dismantling of our schools and has done nothing to think outside of the box!

  • Frustrated

    Dear Voters and Property Owners of Medina,nnNow Iu2019ve really had it with the School Board of Medina and Randy Stepp. nnWhat a slap in the face to the Home Owners who are paying for the salaries of the school employees. nnThree years ago the support staff took a pay cut, the following year they took another pay cut and this year some cafeteria workers had hours cut to put them in a part time status so benefits would not have to be paid. nnThere is talk of a levy going on the ballet so we can give Randy Stepp a signing bonus of $83k and a pay raise, while the people who make a meager salary loose income and buying potential in our community. nnLets get real. If Randy Stepp was concerned about Medina City Schools and the community, he would not have asked for this outrageous signing bonus knowing it would put the Levy at risk of not passing. nnThe community should find out what Board members voted for this bonus and vote them out next election. And, if those board members who voted yes have a business in town, donu2019t give them your business. nnThe people need to organize and take back the power by their votes. nnu201cIu2019m mad a hell and not going to take it any longeru201d

  • Frustrated

    OhioGuy, think how out of touch Randy is as well as his partners in crime, BOE. This is all being done while some school employees salary’s are being cut.

  • Frustrated

    Yea, look around you, what you see is the moral decline of people in power. Great leaders would make sacrifices for the good of the organization so that when the organization was flourishing, everybody wins. “The Rising Tide Raises all Boat”. Randy—not so much. It’s all about him and screw everybody else.

  • http://www.facebook.com/traci.rydbommonroe Traci Rydbom Monroe

    All of the BOE members voted in favor of his new contract.

  • Seriously

    Medinan has 7,500 students. Average income of a super in charge of that number nis $146,402 country wide. In the great lakes region the average income nis $116,532. What is Randy Stepp doing to warrant $135k -$165k in nADDITIONAL salary? The pay he is demanding is not even CLOSE to being inn line with the average. http://www.aasa.org/content.aspx?id=3030

  • lookingallaroundme

    You are quoting salary averages, but total compensation is way different for all of the supers and treasurers in the great lakes region. Cloverleaf’s Kubilus makes $105,000, but his total compensations is more like$154,000. Wadsworth’s Fortner makes $126,000 but his total compensation is right up there with Stepp’s . It is all public, but it is well hidden in the summertime amendment packages, and your record requests for the information have to be iron clad or you don’t get the total money.

  • Head Scratcher

    Randy Stepp is no different than the greedy fat cats on Wall St.. Let Randy go to Wall St. as he is clearly about greed!! You have to wonder what was the school board thinking? Reward a guy who can’t pass a levy? School Board and Randy need to go! They have shown their true colors and that our children’s best interest is not top priority!

  • Cloverine

    I am not from Medina and know nothing about its schools. What moves me to comment is the notion that the superintendent is so irreplaceable that an outlandish bonus had to be paid. I can assure you that he can be easily replaced as can we all.

  • Unhappy Parent

    You are saying exactly what I said earlier today. This could have been a huge POSITIVE for the levy initiative, had it been done the right way. All Dr. Stepp needed to do was turn down that darn bonus. The Board wasn really not thinking clearly when they offered it. The BOE is the biggest problem. We, the voters, keep re-electing the same people. If we don’t trust their opinion enough to pass the levy, that is fine, but don’t vote to re-elect the nwhole entire board! Have some common sense, read what these people nbring to the table. This couldn’t have come at a worse time!

  • A_Concerned_Citizen

    I find it unbelievable that Randy has made the news almost as much as President Obama. We need to learn something from this. Furthermore, I think we need to make some radical decisions. First of all, lets really evaluate the board. This is long overdue in light of this finding. We need someone to independently review the decisions they have made over the last five years. It is very obvious that these folks are not only ineffective but more importantly they do not have a conscience and come close borderline criminals. The residents of Medina have put up with enough at the expense of our students. I got close to voting in favor of the levy the last time around but this news has ended any type of consideration I had. I think if we did further investigation into the board’s activities we would all be ashamed of what we would find….nnnHow can the board make decisions as they have in light of this extremely shaky economy. Medina’s tax base does not warrant the types of compensation packages as we have seen. I would like to see a review from top to bottom and lets get these salaries and other expenses under control. We need spending controls which reign in this extravagant behavior. nnnnOne last observation and comment; what audacity to say that “I can make a better income elsewhere”. This is such crazy behavior to make a statement like this. Medina has invested a lot of money in this person and I believe he knows he has us over a barrel. We have very tough decisions ahead. Again , the BOARD is the real problem here. They permitted and authorized this behavior….Lets start here….

  • OLDNAVYVET

    “Reprehensible”

  • akronsdilemma

    It becomes increasingly difficult to support educators today.nEven more difficult to vote for any school levy when these salary issues and facts are revealed.nThe days of feeling sympathetic to the salary and benefit needs for teachers is over!

  • Heavy

    Mr. Stepp should re-read the book Good To Great.

  • Angry Medina Parent

    Thanks Medina School Board for killing the levy. Hope you all enjoy your jobs on the board while you can because I think there will be quite a few of you that will have races when you come up for election next time. There are many of us that vote for the levies for our children, but you just keep sticking it to the residents and students with your poor choices. I like Randy Stepp but if other districts would like to have him let him pursue those avenues. As a school board you say you would hate to lose him, but I have yet to see him or the school board get a levy passed. You should all be ashamed of your actions, especially when you come to the residents when the next levy fails and tell us we are going to see cuts in the schools or increase pay to play. As I previously stated I hope you enjoy the remainder of your school board terms because it will be the last time you trick the residents of Medina into voting for you.

  • MednaBeeProud

    Very disappointing to see so many teachers from our city of Medina on a “witchhunt” at the open forum tonight. Sure there is alot of bitterness like the bitterness that is happening just north of us in our neighboring city of Strongsville. Is Randy Stepp worth the large increases? I’m not 100% certain but I do respect him for the way he has led this school system wwhen faced with difficult financial times. I still feel that Medina offers a solid and sound education for our children. I have not seen a better “super” out there when it comes to looking out for the safety of our children and taking proactive steps to best protect them. No wonder why other school districts would be shopping Mr. Stepp. Now the question remains who dragged the media in to give a black eye to our community and DRAG it and Mr. Stepp through the mud??? What is the purpose of this attention? Hmmmmm?

  • mrs morris

    Randy Stepp would be eaten alive in the real business world.