October 25, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
46°F

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.