August 20, 2014

Medina
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Medina board flinches on levy

MEDINA — The Medina school board agreed Friday to keep a 5.9-mill levy on the May 7 primary ballot despite heated criticism from teachers and community members of Superintendent Randy Stepp’s new contract, which included an $83,000 signing bonus.

Stepp last week agreed to give back the bonus, which he received in January, but has not yet arranged to do so.

At a special meeting Friday, school board Chairman Charles Freeman asked, “Should we delay it (the levy) until November and get our house in order?”

Several board members said they favored continuing the levy campaign, saying the district needs the money immediately and the school’s financial picture isn’t going to get better.

School officials said the district faces up to $4 million in cuts if a levy doesn’t pass by November.

“We put this thing on there because there was a need and that need isn’t going away,” Stepp said.

Freeman asked John Leatherman, president of the Medina City Teachers Association, whether the district could count on the support of teachers for the levy.

Last week the teachers overwhelmingly ratified a tentative agreement on the new contract that froze wages, except for time-in-service and additional college coursework “step increases.”

But earlier, the teachers voted “no confidence” in the board and Stepp.

Leatherman said he couldn’t answer for all of the district’s approximately 400 teachers. But he said that it was unlikely they would support the campaign as strongly as they had in the past.

“Right now, I couldn’t even think about how to send an email out about that question,” he said.

Also Friday, the board postponed a vote on the new teacher’s contract until next week, when the board will meet to interview candidates for the seat vacated by retiring physician, Dr. Robert Wilder.

Following the public session Friday, the board met in executive session to discuss personnel issues for more than two hours, and excluded Stepp from part of those discussions.

About 8 p.m., four hours after the meeting started, Vlcek came out of the meeting to announce no action would be taken that night.

The board called a recess until next Friday when it will meet to interview 17 candidates for the vacant seat.

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