June 27, 2016

Partly sunny

Superintendent Randy Stepp gives up $83,000 signing bonus, merit raises

MEDINA — Medina Schools Superintendent Randy Stepp has agreed to give up his $83,000 signing bonus, as well as the merit raises in his new contract, according to the school board.

A Thursday statement from the board announcing Stepp’s decision comes on the heels of public outcry over his contract. At least 150 people turned up to voice opposition to Stepp’s new contract at a special board meeting Wednesday night. Instead of the board answering any questions, residents were given index cards and asked to submit questions in writing that would be addressed on the district’s website and at a public forum tonight.

Randy Stepp

Stepp’s contract includes annual compensation of at least $186,000 in wages, allowance and other fringe benefits, without the signing bonus.

A Gazette analysis of the contracts of superintendents of Medina County’s seven public schools showed that only one other superintendent receives a similar bonus as part of his contract.

Brunswick Superintendent Mike Mayell receives $7,000 annually as a longevity bonus in his 2012-16 contract.

The controversy over Stepp’s contract also has sparked opposition to the school district’s 5.9-mill levy on the May ballot — including a Facebook page called “Medina City Schools Outrage.”

Board member Susan Vlcek said it has not yet been decided how the money will be returned, whether as a check or in the form of giving up banked sick days.

The contract states that Stepp must relinquish payment for accumulated sick days in an equivalent amount of the bonus should he choose to accept employment with another district before the end of his five-year contract.

“It’s his promise to reimburse the district, and we’re more than grateful for that decision. I think it respects our staff, and it respects our community, and it shows what we expect of our leadership,” Vlcek said.

According to the statement from the board, the merit raises could add up to as much as $36,000 a year over the term of the contract.

Stepp still will receive the guaranteed 2 percent raise each year, starting in the 2013-14 school year, as specified in his contract.

“We believe strongly in Dr. Stepp’s leadership and his vision for our children’s education,” the statement said.

Tonight’s community forum is 6 to 7:30 at the Medina Performing Arts Center, 851 Weymouth Road. It will include a question-and-answer session with the board.

The district has posted answers to some question from the community on its website at www.medinacityschooldistrict.org.

Bonuses tied to longevity are becoming more popular, said Tom Ash, director of governmental relations for the Buckeye Association of School Administrators. He said 15 to 20 years ago it would have been hard to find bonuses in contracts.

“Sometimes it’s called a signing bonus, but it’s intended to offset housing costs,” Ash said. “Sometimes we also see bonuses tied to the length of tenure, paid over the course of the contract.”

Ash said vacancies in the superintendent’s office are on the rise in Ohio, most likely because of pension reforms enacted by state lawmakers in the fall. The reforms include an increase in contributions to retirement funds and a raise in the age employees can get full retirement benefits, causing a spike throughout the state in retiring administrators, he said.

He said this increased demand for leadership has made it more likely for boards to use bonuses to entice superintendents to take or stay in their positions.
“We’re seeing higher than normal vacancies among superintendents in Ohio,” Ash said. “More and more we’re seeing boards interested in the concept of some kind of performance reward.”

Reporter Loren Genson contributed to this report.

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

Community Forum

WHEN: 6 to 7:30 tonight.
WHERE: Medina Performing Arts Center, 851 Weymouth Road.
• Meeting will include a question-and-answer session with the board.