April 18, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
47°F

Editor: School board members should be accountable, too

I trust my reporters. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have to turn in detailed accounts of job-related expenses before they are reimbursed.

And while I don’t want advance notice about $5 they spent to copy some public records, I certainly expect to be told about a substantial bill — say anything more than $100.

Of course, bigger businesses raise that bar. But I would think that the boards of even the biggest corporations would want to know about a $172,011 check written to pay off the college loans of an employee.

That’s how much taxpayers spent last year to wipe out Medina Schools Superintendent Randy Stepp’s federal education loans.

Yet so far, members of the Medina Board of Education haven’t provided answers to three basic questions about that unusual benefit:

1. Did the board members know how big the bill was before agreeing to the Nov. 7, 2011, revision of Stepp’s 2009 contact that obligated the board “to pay the costs associated with the Superintendent’s acquisition of past academic degrees.

2. When did the board learn the $172,011.40 check, issued on Jan. 9, 2012, was cut by the Medina County Educational Service Center and not the school district’s treasurer.

3. Was Stepp, who became superintendent in 2006 but earned his bachelor’s degree in 1992 and his master’s of education in 1998, ever asked to explain exactly what those college loans paid for?

Gazette reporters have been asking versions of those questions since March 7, when the union representing the district’s approximately 400 teachers cited the loan payoff as one of the reasons for their vote of “no confidence” in the board and Stepp.

Neither Stepp nor board members have provided any answers.

• Board member Bill Grenfell referred questions about the loans to Charles Freeman, who now serves as board president.

• Freeman told Gazette reporter Loren Genson that he “honestly can’t remember” details of the 2011 contract revision.

• Susan Vlcek, who was board president when the contract was amended, also did a sidestep when asked whether the board had known how much Stepp still owed on his college loans. “We did invest in the education of our superintendent of our staff,” she said.

Four days ago, The Gazette gave the board members another opportunity.

On Sunday, reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer asked the three questions in emails sent to Freeman, Grenfell, Vlcek and the fourth board member, Karla Robinson.

As of Wednesday, none of the four had responded.

Manion-Fischer also telephoned Mark Dolan, who also was on the board when it approved the 2011 contract changes.

Dolan declined to comment.

“I’m staying as far away from this as possible,” he said.

The Gazette will keep seeking answers to these three questions.

Stories need endings. This story doesn’t have one yet.

David Knox is the managing editor of The Gazette. He can be reached at (330) 721-4065 or dknox@medina-gazette.com.

  • WorkingMom

    Thank you Gazette! It has been a long time coming and I am glad that you are keeping up with this story.

  • Factchecker

    David, according to Stepp’s LinkedIn page he earned his Master’s in 1988 or at least did the coursework then. So the expense are from a decade earlier.

  • BereaBrave

    I think the treasurer needs to sign the check himself except in the case of a payroll check… if I understand Ohio revised code correctly. I would love to know what William Batchelder thinks. I would think he would be OK with Dr. Stepp’s generous perks.

  • Willie

    We taxpayers so appreciate the interest the Gazette has taken in this story. You seem to be the only entity in town that even cares to delve into this situation and find answers. Thank you!

  • clroger

    They are- elected officials-duhhhh

  • Sandra Dombrowski

    The Medina City School District Board of Education communicated that it will implement processes to “be more transparent during board meetings”. I would propose that, as the Board develops these processes, it must implement controls to ensure large school expenditures are reasonable, transparent and approved prior to disbursement. Furthermore, the Board must establish clear guidelines surrounding acceptable forms ofncompensation for key personnel such as the Superintendent. A covenant agreeing to abide by these rulesnshould be signed by each current Board member and any new members at the beginning of their elected term and annually thereafter. Once this understanding is in place, a clear tone will be set to hold Board membersnaccountable for the financial integrity and transparency of taxpayer dollars. nnMy name is Sandra Dombrowski. I am a current applicant for the vacant seat on the Board of Education. I am a full-time Mom of two wonderful children that are ages three and seven. As a parent, I am committed to forging a great future for Medina City Schools. nnMy background includes working as a senior manager in the bank audit, compliance and risk managementnprofession as well as experience at a public relations firm that represented the Cleveland Teachers Union. nnIf selected for the current Board of Education, I hope to work with the Board to rebuild the bridge between thencommunity, Medina City School District teachers and support staff unions, students, the Board of Education and MCSD Administration.

  • Marjorie Cureton

    This is what big government is all about. Spend no matter what others need as long as you are satisfied and your friends get what they want. Dont bother spending the money for the election to get that levy passed. Spend the money you save on the kids and THEIR education. Its not going to pass with what you have just done with the superintendent. Why are we paying for HIS education????? Can you imagine how many bus trips 172 thousand dollars would have paid for? And finally, why should the school board feel they are responsible for answering questions when the president and his cronies have not answered any of the fact based questions they have been asked about Benghazi????

  • Stepp and board must go

    Gee, didn’t they all say that they ALWAYS return emails and calls. Just another lie that this Board and Stepp have told to this community. They all MUST resign NOW! Please vote NO on any levy purposed by this lying Board. Every time Vlcek and Grenfell open their mouths, they lie. Great message to send to our children which you say you care so much about. Way to go.

  • NinetoFive

    The truth always comes out eventually. You can only play games for so long before you are caught.

  • Janice Krusoczky

    Thank you, David Knox! Go, get ‘em! This just might be the biggest story of your career. If you uncover everything, change for the better will occur and benefit the entire Medina community. Please help us!!!

  • OLDNAVYVET

    Every one of them is culpable, they should resign en masse. Despicable, one and all.