October 25, 2014

Medina
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Pacts vary for Medina County school superintendents

MEDINA — Not every superintendent in Medina County gets a raise each year.

Black River Superintendent Janice Wyckoff is the exception.

Janice Wyckoff

Wyckoff, whose district includes parts of Medina, Ashland and Lorain counties, was paid $92,781 last year, according to school records.

Not only does she earn less than the $100,000-plus salaries of the superintendents in the county’s other six school districts, it’s less than the $97,375 for which her contract calls.

Shortly after the five-year pact was signed in 2009, Wyckoff volunteered to continue at her old salary of $95,000 until the cash-strapped district’s financial situation improved. (Last year, she earned even less because there were only 25 two-week pay periods in 2012.)

Wyckoff said she couldn’t accept a higher salary while the school’s budget is tight and other employees make less.

“In Black River, you know everyone,” she said. “You know the bus driver, you know the janitor — you see their families outside of school.

“It’s hard for me to take extra money when they struggle.”

Wyckoff also has refused to exercise the clause in her contract that allows her to trade as many as 40 vacation days for cash.

“The district can’t afford it,” she said. “I know I have 44 or 45 days accrued, but the difference between me cashing in my days is the difference between a student aide or a set of books.”

Black River, the county’s smallest district with about 1,400 students, was placed on fiscal caution in 2011 by the state and five levies have failed since 2010.
The school board is asking voters to approve an $8.7 mill levy on the ballot in May.

If the levy passes, the district hopes to reduce fees for pay-to-play sports and eliminate kindergarten fees. If the levy doesn’t pass, more cuts — including reducing staff and busing — are expected.

Wyckoff was hesitant to talk about her pay. She said she doesn’t mean to imply that other superintendents don’t work hard or deserve their pay.

“The other superintendents are about the kids and doing what they need,” she said. “I’m just doing what’s right for me.”

Not only is Wyckoff the lowest-paid superintendent in the county. Her contract also provides the fewest benefits.

Around the county

The Gazette looked at the contracts of all seven superintendents following last week’s public outcry over Medina Schools Superintendent Randy Stepp’s new contract.

The five-year pact provided an $83,000 bonus, designed to keep him from taking another job, on top of annual compensation totaling $186,000 in salary, allowances and other fringe benefits.

In response to intense criticism from the teachers’ union and residents, Stepp agreed to give back the bonus and forgo merit raises worth up to $36,000.
Even without the bonus, Stepp’s contract is arguably the most lucrative in the county.

But his base salary of $134,700 isn’t the highest.

Both Brunswick Superintendent Mike Mayell, at $135,000, and Wadsworth Superintendent Dale Fortner, at $134,868, make more.

Stepp will get a raise to $139,000 in August 2014. But by then, Mayell will have received two $4,000 pay hikes, bringing him to $143,000.

Fortner, who will retire this summer, had a clause in his contract that required the school board to re-visit his contract annually to ensure his salary was among the top 4 in a comparative group, but the contract didn’t stipulate who his salary would be compared with.

With 4,745 students, Wadsworth is county’s third-largest district. Brunswick has the highest enrollment, 7,562 students, followed by Medina with 7,066.
Mayell, Fortner and Buckeye Superintendent Brian Williams also receive bonuses on top of their base pay.

Mayell’s “longevity bonus” is $7,000 annually — a total of $28,000 over the four years of his contract. Williams receives a $5,000 annual bonus over the term of his three-year contract for a total of $15,000.

Last year, Fortner received $12,500 in two merit bonuses.

There’s one benefit that every superintendent gets: their 10 percent contribution to the Ohio Teachers Retirement Systems is “picked up” by their districts.
Four of the seven — Mayell, Stepp, Fortner and Cloverleaf’s Daryl Kubilus — also get an additional retirement annuity payment.

Only Mayell and Wyckoff don’t get their Medicare taxes paid for by the district.

Stepp has a fringe benefit that far exceeds those afforded other superintendents: The district pays the full cost of his college degrees, including tuition, fees and books.

So far, the district has paid $244,037 in education bills for Stepp, who earned a doctorate from Ashland University and a master’s in business administration from Case Western Reserve University.

Only one other district — Highland — pays any education cost for a superintendent.

But the contract for Superintendent Catherine Aukerman caps the annual reimbursement at $2,500.

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