April 23, 2014

Medina
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Medina superintendent rejects criticism

Randy Stepp

MEDINA — Facing a crowd of about 200 people Wednesday night, Superintendent Randy Stepp said many people have singled him out for scorn over the controversy surrounding his new contract.

 

“While I respect the right for them to have their opinion, I don’t agree with the tone or much of what they are saying,” he said at Wednesday’s school board meeting.

“Several weeks ago, my new contract — negotiated with and approved unanimously by the board of Medina City Schools — became a hot-button issue,” he said. “I know that everything I did with my contract was above board, there is no doubt in my mind, and I have documents to support that.

The contract provided Stepp with an $83,000 signing bonus, which the school board said was aimed at keeping him from taking another job.

Stepp reiterated his previous apology about the bonus, which he has agreed to pay back in installments.

“I have apologized for something that was not wrong legally but may have been wrong in principal,” he said.

But Stepp defended the payment of more than a quarter-million dollars for his educational expenses, which was provided by his earlier contract.

“I know that everything I did with regard to the board paying for my education was also above board.”

The money for Stepp’s education came out of the “carryover” fund maintained by the Medina County Schools’ Educational Service Center. The fund contains money left after school districts pay for a variety of services, including school nurses, interpreters for the deaf, bus driver training and computer specialists.

Stepp cited his achievements as superintendent, saying he had made $11 million in savings while maintaining an excellent rating on the state Department of Education’s report card.

“The Medina schools — no matter what some have said over the last few weeks — remains among the best in Ohio and we are doing it with fewer resources and under greater duress.”

In response to the controversy surrounding payments for Stepp’s education, district Treasurer Jim Hudson outlined a proposal for tighter oversight of school “carryover” funds paid through the center.

“We will give the board a monthly update on those funds that we do use,” he said.

He said the center no longer will make payments on behalf of the district, and Medina Schools will set a cap on the carryover balance of between $50,000 and $100,000.

Under Hudson’s proposal, the school board president must sign off on checks greater than $10,000 that come from the Educational Service Center fund.

Hudson told the crowd that the board would be looking at policies and procedures for out-of-state travel and purchasing.

Although the money to pay Stepp belonged to Medina Schools, board members never saw the spending records because the checks were issued by the center.

More transparency

Hudson also said the board will change how it handles agendas and minutes. He said the board intends to eliminate action items at work sessions at the discretion of the board president.

Meeting notices of work sessions more clearly would outline the intent of the meetings, Hudson said.

“Our goal with that is to increase our transparency of how we develop our agenda items,” he said.

Hudson said board-approved minutes would be sent to union members and administrators, and would be available for inspection at the board office and upon request.

He also said the board more clearly would identify the reasons for going into executive session.

The teachers union, which represents the district’s approximately 400 teachers, on Monday criticized Stepp’s handling of money in the fund.

The Medina City Teachers Association also filed two grievances Wednesday against the school administration, charging board members with violating the teachers’ contract.

One grievance charges the school board failed to provide correct minutes, as required by the union contract, from the Jan. 7 work session where the board approved Stepp’s new five-year contract. The second grievance alleges board member William Grenfell violated the contract on March 6 by releasing details of a tentative agreement on a new teachers’ contract reached with union negotiators before the union’s members were informed.

Union representatives met with Stepp earlier Wednesday to discuss the grievances.

“These last few weeks have highlighted areas in which we’ve missed the mark,” board member Susan Vlcek said. “We’ve made a lot of headway in the past few weeks. I think we’re much closer to where we want to be than we were two weeks ago.”

Board changes

In light of former board President Charles Freeman’s resignation Tuesday, Karla Robinson was named the board’s new president Wednesday.Vlcek was sworn in as vice president.

Tom Cahalan was sworn in as the board’s newest member. Cahalan was appointed by the board last week to replace Dr. Robert Wilder, who resigned his seat in February.

Robinson announced that board is accepting applications to fill Freeman’s seat, which will be up for election in November, along with Cahalan and Grenfell’s seats.

Applications are due to the board office, 140 W. Washington St., by 3 p.m. April 5. The candidates who applied for Wilder’s seat may be considered if they wish.

Also Wednesday, the board approved the new contract with the teachers union, which calls for no increase in pay, except for “step increases” for time in service and additional college coursework. It also calls for an increase in the class load at the high school and higher costs to employees for health insurance.

Teachers had overwhelmingly approved the contract by a 303-24 vote.

Cahalan abstained from the vote because he had not been part of the contract discussions.

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

  • OLDNAVYVET

    Arrogance “Personified”.

  • Buffalo

    u201cI have apologized for something that was not wrong legally but may have been wrong in principal.u201d Wow, Randy – with statements like that, and the fact that you’re being overpaid to essentially do nothing, you should make a run for Congress! Stepp Down!

  • SteppDownNow

    HE JUST DOESN’T GET IT!!!! Even though I hope that due to the arrogance and lack of ethics will keep him from getting an “executive” job elsewhere, his bills are paid and he could probably retire. Sad sad sad for Medina’s kids.

  • marla

    Pathological arrogant criminal. I never like him and always thought he was emotionless. Turns out he was methodically writing checks for himself with a slushfund. “iPad for Stepp” when our kids don’t even have busing!

  • Common Sense

    And remember kids….It is only wrong if you get caught….This is just the guy I want leading our kids. Randy, take the hint….you have overstayed your welcome…..Give us our money back and we will part friends….Good luck to you.

  • Fed Up

    MemonTo: Randy SteppnFrom: The citizens of this community (YOUR BOSS)nIt has come to our attention that maybe you have not had the best interest of either our community or the school system in mind over the past several months. There have been reports of interest free loans, private slush funds and excessive billing for continuing education, just to name a few. We have given you the opportunity to answer these allegations on several occasions, but have been met with the same response over and over again….It is in my contract. nn I think it would be in the best interest of everyone concerned if you resigned your position effective the end of the school year. We will verify your employment with the school system if asked. nnThank you for your attention on this matter.nSincerelynYOUR BOSS

  • http://www.facebook.com/epowers497 Ed Powers

    Dean Holman please request a BCI investigation.

  • Rob McClain

    I confess to ignorance regarding the outrage felt by Medina parents. A public employee, who arguably saved the district $11MM, gets paid according to the terms of the contract approved by the school board for services rendered. I understand envy as a motivation, and I understand parents getting upset when an executive is enriched while a favorite teacher or program was eliminated. nnnI do not understand asking a man to return money that was earned legally and within the constraints of his board approved contract.

  • http://www.facebook.com/traci.rydbommonroe Traci Rydbom Monroe

    You got to love the “he saved the district $11m” how did he do that? He fired teachers, he cut bussing, he enacted pay to play, he got rid of reading interventionist, all the while pocketing 2.8m for himself over the last 5 years, read the paper.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ebuhite Eva Smith Buhite

    I hope that the prosecutor or someone looks into this mess. Sure the school board helped him take money from the kids education, but they ALL knew this was wrong. They want a school levy to pass, well, good luck with that.nMaybe this county ought to switch to ONE SUPERINTENDENT FOR THE WHOLE COUNTY. ONE TREASURER ETC. AND THE SCHOOL BOARD MADE UP WITH 2 MEMBERS FROM EACH SCHOOL DISTRICT. That would save a heck of a lot of money for all the schools. Other counties do it, why not this one.