July 1, 2016

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Union officials, board president to discuss oversight of ESC funds

Kiera Manion-Fischer and Loren Genson

Officials of the union representing Medina teachers will meet with school board President Karla Robinson and Treasurer Jim Hudson to discuss new procedures aimed at providing better oversight of how district funds are spent through the Medina County Schools Educational Service Center.

Medina Schools Superintendent Randy Stepp’s spending of district money held in an ESC “carryover” fund is at the center of the continuing controversy about his unusual fringe benefits provided in his contract.

Since 2009, Stepp has directed the ESC treasurer to write checks totaling more than a quarter-million dollars to pay for his executive MBA from Case Western Reserve University and to pay off his federal student loans.

Board members have acknowledged they did not know the total cost of Stepp’s education payments because they don’t see the ESC’s financial statements.
Stepp also used the ESC carryover fund to reimburse himself for travel expenses on several occasions.

The Gazette reported Wednesday that Stepp was reimbursed $4,782.89 for a 2008 trip to a National School Boards Association conference in Orlando, Fla.

Stepp said he combined the conference with a vacation with his wife and three adolescent daughters. But records filed with the reimbursement paperwork show the district was billed for two nights the family stayed at a luxury hotel after the conference ended.

John Leatherman, president of the Medina City Teachers Association, said The Gazette’s report on Stepp’s Florida trip “gives the MCTA grave concern over the ESC account.”

He said teachers have been calling, emailing him and texting him throughout the day.

“They’re feeling hurt, they’re feeling upset,” he said.

Leatherman said he told members, “It’s not the job of the MCTA to demand a resignation or termination. That responsibility falls on the board of education.”
He urged teachers to voice their concerns with the board as taxpayers and citizens.

“Tell them how you feel. Tell them what course of action you would like them to take,” he wrote in an email to union members.

Gary Kovach, a union representative with the Ohio Education Association, joined Leatherman in calling on the board to resolve questions about Stepp’s contract quickly, though he wouldn’t say how a resolution might be achieved.

“The whole situation is bad for the staff of Medina, and especially the students in the community,” he said. “The board has to resolve this immediately. They have the power to do so.”

Under the proposed changes in procedures for the ESC fund, expenditures from the carryover fund that are less than $10,000 would require approval of the superintendent, district human resources director and the treasurer. Expenses more than $10,000 also would require the signature of the school board president.

In a related development, Leatherman said the board has responded to the union’s two grievances filed March 27.

The first grievance stated the school board failed to provide correct minutes from a Jan. 7 work session where Stepp’s new five-year contract was approved.

The second grievance alleged school board member William Grenfell violated the contract by releasing details of a tentative agreement on a new teacher’s contract before the district’s 400 teachers were informed.

Leatherman said the union was provided March 28 with revised minutes from the Jan. 7 work session that reflect Superintendent Randy Stepp’s new contract.
On the second grievance, he said, “We got an apology from Mr. Grenfell and the contract is in place.”

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com. Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.

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The Gazette is Medina County's daily local news source, serving the community since 1832. Contact The Gazette's news department at (330) 721-4065 or areanews@medina-gazette.com.