April 23, 2014

Medina
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Medina Superintendent Randy Stepp apologizes to school district residents

MEDINA — A contrite Superintendent Randy Stepp apologized at a public forum Friday night in the face of a torrent of questions about an $83,000 bonus included in his contract with the Medina Board of Education.

Stepp announced Thursday that he would forgo the bonus, which was aimed at keeping him from accepting a job with another district.

Residents wait in line to ask questions of the Medina Board of Education at a public forum Friday night at the Performing Arts Center. From left: Jim Hudson, Charles Freeman, Superintendent Randy Stepp, Karla Robinson and Bill Grenfell. (STEVE MANHEIM / GAZETTE)

He said he made the decision a day earlier — at a board meeting attended by 150 parents and students.

“I truly was hurt the other day, on Wednesday, when I saw our students in the room. At that point I realized that I screwed up,” Stepp said.

Stepp’s statement was greeted by enthusiastic applause from the 400 people packed in the Medina Performing Arts Center.

“The board did not ask me to give back that $83,000,” he said. “That was my choice. I offered it. I volunteered.”

Stepp said he will work out a plan with the district’s payroll office to begin deducting money from his biweekly pay until the $83,000 bonus is deducted.

He backed off an earlier defense of his contract in which he compared himself to the CEO of a company with more than 700 employees.

“What I think happened over the course of the last few years, I became so focused on finance and return on investment that I started to apply that same thing to my contract,” Stepp said. “What I’ve learned is that — while I do get a ton of pressure from all angles of this community to run this place like a business and I’m trying my best — what I’ve learned is there are certain places you can run like a business and there are certain places where you cannot.”

Some parents said they accepted the apology as genuine.

“He seemed very heartfelt when he said he lost his focus,” said Robert Grubbs, a Medina parent. “I’m not quite as mad at the superintendent as I am at the school board.”

Another parent echoed that theme during the forum.

“I’m not angry you want more money, we all want more money,” she told Stepp. “What I’m angry about is that somewhere, somebody thought that was OK.”

School board President Charles Freeman said he had second thoughts about the bonus as he read it on the front page of Tuesday’s Gazette.

“I took The Gazette … I looked at my wife and I said, “This $83,000 piece needs to be re-thought,” he told the audience. “When I campaigned (for my board seat), I met a lot of people — they don’t have that kind of money.”

Freeman indicated the contract was the subject of Wednesday’s board meeting, which was closed to the public.

“We called for an executive session to discuss personnel matters,” Freeman said. “You can guess what was discussed for three-plus hours.”

Not everyone backed away from their support of the bonus.

Board member Susan Vlcek said the bonus was approved in an effort to keep Stepp in the district.

“I believe we made an investment in a leader — a great leader,” Vlcek said.

Board member Bill Grenfell said they wanted to keep Stepp, not only for the job he was doing but because the district already had invested $244,037 in Stepp’s education.

“I did it to protect our investment in Dr. Stepp,” Grenfell said. “I was concerned about going into a next cycle of levies and failures … I thought it needed his leadership and his direction.”

At the meeting, students also stepped up to the microphone. Some criticized Stepp and the board. But others implored parents to support the district’s 5.9-mill levy on the May ballot.

Medina junior Dinah Sammon, 16, asked the board to justify Stepp’s $244,037 in education expenses.

Stepp told her he was told by the board to obtain a doctorate and a master’s of business administration.

“Why couldn’t you fund it yourself?” Sammon asked.

“I guess I could have,” he answered.

Cole Stafford, an eighth-grader, said he was disappointed with the board and Stepp, but urged a yes vote on the levy in May.

“Please don’t let your opinion get in the way of our education,” he said.

Following the meeting, Sara Lee, a parent with two children in the school district, said she would support the levy, but remained distrustful of the school board.

“I didn’t really hear them apologize,” she said. “I don’t feel like I have a choice but to support the levy, but I can understand some people can’t.”

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.

  • Passthelevy

    I was at the meeting and I can attest that Dr. Stepp’s apology was heartfelt and genuine. He made a mistake and it takes a big person to admit it. Dr. Stepp was doing what the board asked him to do and they are the ones who dangled the carrot (that most of us would have jumped at) in front of him. He is a human being and is not above making mistakes. Dr. Stepp is a great leader and is the right person to get this district back on track.nI am disappointed at how a few parents behaved during this meeting. Shouting, insulting and genuinely being disrespectful to the board and their fellow citizens. Not the example I would expect from mature adults. I get the anger but not the actions. I was surprised there were no pitch forks and torches brought by some.nIn closing, pass the levy for the students. Like one student so appropriately said…”Voting no on the levy punishes 7000 students when you really want to punish 5 adults…the math doesn’t add up.”

  • retired voter

    I don’t think a Harvard PhD would have cost $244,037! Can we get an itemized list? Also, the district can be run like a business. Lean thinking and principles can be applied anywhere, it doesn’t imply a greater cost.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gmlevine Gary Levine

    Hi “Pass the Levy.”. Posting under a fake name, you are probably Randy Stepp or a member of the school board. His apology was not heartfelt and genuine. He blamed his business training for his greed. The board admitted at the meeting that Stepp had asked for the money. While a few parents were so furious they struggled to be civil, I can empathize with them. The district paid a quarter million for his education, only for him to turn around and demand more money because he was now so valuable. I think this shows his true character….it’s not some little mistake. Perhaps he can redeem himself, but the teachers voted “no confidence” and I do too. I am posting under my real name. And yes, I will still support the levy, even though I know in advance it will fail because of Stepp’s actions.

  • Kazoo

    How come he gets to pay the 83k back biweekly deducted from his check? Sounds like a interest free loan to me. Why can’t he just give the money back paid in full.

  • rv

    u201cThe board did not ask me to give back that $83,000,u201d he said. u201cThat was my choice. I offered it. I volunteered.u201dnStepp said he will work out a plan with the districtu2019s payroll office to begin deducting money from his biweekly pay until the $83,000 bonus is deducted. WHY WON’T HE PAY IT BACK IN A LUMP SUM AS IT WAS PAID TO HIM?nnHe backed off an earlier defense of his contract in which he compared himself to the CEO of a company with more than 700 employees. UM, YEAH, SURE.nnu201cWhat I think happened over the course of the last few years, I became so focused on finance and return on investment that I started to apply that same thing to my contract,u201d Stepp said. u201cWhat Iu2019ve learned is that u2014while I do get a ton of pressure from all angles of this community to run this place like a business and Iu2019m trying my best u2014 what Iu2019ve learned is there are certain places you can run like a business and there are certain places where you cannot.u201d IS HE SAYING THAT HE CAN’T RUN THE DISTRICT LIKE A BUSINESS? WHY NOT? MAKES NO SENSE. LEAN PRINCIPLES CAN BE APPLIED ANYWHERE. YOU FOOLS BELIEVE THIS ANSWER.

  • SteppDownNow

    Last night’s meeting was a show. I do wonder what would have happened had Dr. Robinson not said, “we will stay until all questions are answered.” it seems like she is the only normal one. If they walked off at 7:30, there would have been a mess in that auditorium. I’m surprised Susan Velcek didn’t cut her off and talk for her. That would have been a great time for Bill Grenfell to say, “I am in the business world and we stick to agendas because it’s efficient.” What a sham. Fake apology and all. nnPAYMENT PLAN WITH THE PAYROLL OFFICE??? He gets paid bi-weekly. He gave no time frame. Will it be 12 months at $3192. per pay? Will it be 24 months at $1596 per pay?? How does Stepp think he’s going to be in this district beyond the next two weeks?? nnThe “moderator” was the very best part of the show. I like how she completely ignored the question posed at the end of the night. “Would the board consider polling the community by asking them if they would vote for a levy is Stepp resigned”? What does the moderator do? What is her job? Who is she?nnnnTime for a resignation or a termination.

  • Richard Leiby

    All Stepp can do is lie one right after another. Time his corrupt ass goes. Board member stated the other day Stepp would repay 83,000 buy giving back some sick days he has banked up. Get with it, he took money all at once so he needs to repay it all at once. And pay interest as well.VOTE NO ON LEVY and Vote yes on recalling of the board.

  • Tired of Stepp

    I once offered some advice to Randy Stepp, in ways to use the capitol money from the sales tax in Medina, he basically told me that he was already looking into everything I suggested, more or less to show that he was way ahead of everyone. Then the they bought light up signs with digital read outs for the front of the schools, instead of using the money in a more responsible manner that could save money instead of just wasting it. I have no respect for someone who wastes money and then askes for more. That is what Randy Stepp does and has done since he has held his job. Also using lean or six sigma methodology is great for finding waste, but lets not forget that as a school there is no final product, so quit using business terms as if they really apply to education.