April 20, 2014

Mostly sunny

Stepp defends position in email to parents, staff

Full text of Medina Schools Superintendent Randy Stepp’s letter

MEDINA — Medina Schools Superintendent Randy Stepp sent an email to Medina parents and staff Wednesday night defending his $4,782 trip to Florida for a conference and his new contract in which he was awarded an $83,000 signing bonus he has since agreed to pay back.

In the email using the school district’s notification system, Stepp said he wanted to address “the growing misinformation and speculation circulating around my contract.”

Stepp said it was former board president Charles Freeman who helped negotiate his new contract that included the $83,000 bonus.

He said Freeman approached him to renegotiate the contract because Stepp was entertaining offers from other districts.

“With the exception of my first contract, the practice of board presidents serving as a representative of the board in contract negotiations with me has been standard during my tenure as superintendent,” he said.

Freeman resigned from the board March 26. In a statement, he said he hoped the board could move forward under new leadership. Karla Robinson is the new board president.

“It is my sincere hope that with new leadership, the Board, union, teachers, administrators and community can again come together and place our collective focus where it belongs: on the kids,” Freeman said in his resignation letter.

To handle the public outcry over Stepp’s contract, which included the $83,000 bonus, the school board last month hired a Cleveland public relations firm specializing in “crisis management” for $20,370.

A day after the firm was hired, the board announced Stepp would give back his $83,000 bonus.

In his email, Stepp also addressed a Gazette story published Wednesday detailing his 2008 trip to a National School Board Association Conference in Orlando, Fla.

“This article, as well as others about me and my contract with Medina City Schools, is regrettably not the complete story,” Stepp wrote.

Nowhere in the email, however, does Stepp contest any of the facts outlined in a series of Gazette stories.

After his Florida trip to a four-day conference, Stepp received a reimbursement for seven nights in a hotel, including five nights at a luxury hotel where the room for Stepp, his wife and three daughters cost $550 a night. He also was paid $1,023 for mileage for the round-trip.

All of Stepp’s reimbursements were through the district’s “carryover fund” at the Medina County Schools’ Educational Service Center.

Former board member Thomas Ebner, who also attended the conference, submitted his reimbursement through the district and was reimbursed with a check from the district treasurer’s office for $642.

Stepp wrote that if he was reimbursed inappropriately, he would be willing to pay back the money.

“It is important that you know that the District did not cover the cost of my family,” Stepp wrote. “If by chance, and I don’t think there are any, there is a situation where something was paid by the District in error, I am more than willing to cover that cost,” he wrote in the email.

Stepp also told parents and faculty that he had no cheaper hotel options available to him.

“Because I had decided late to attend, there were no available discounted conference accommodations,” he said. “We were forced to stay at a higher-priced hotel for part of the week.”

But according to district documents provided to The Gazette through a public records request, Stepp reserved two rooms at the conference through the National School Board Association’s website at least six months before the convention, and the district paid the $196.88 deposit to reserve a room for Stepp at the Caribe Royale two weeks before the conference.

Stepp was asked Tuesday why he didn’t use the reserved hotel rooms but has yet to respond.

In his Wednesday night email, Stepp said he didn’t ask to be reimbursed for the nights he spent vacationing with his family.

“I covered those costs,” he wrote.

While Stepp didn’t bill the district for two of the nine nights he stayed in Florida, he did bill the district for the nights of April 1 and 2. The conference ended on April 1.

His email doesn’t explain why he asked to be reimbursed for his nights at the hotel after the conference ended.

He also acknowledged that he stayed in Florida to vacation with his family for a few more days, but vacation requests provided by the district show the only day Stepp requested for vacation April was on the 25th.

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

  • MedinaParent

    “he didnu2019t ask to be reimbursed for the nights he spent vacationing with his family”nWow,I feel better. He actually believes he made a sacifice by having to pay for his own vacation. This guy is so out of touch with the issue its not funny.

  • SteppDown

    Would like to understand his justification for turning the bonus into an interest free loan!! Get sick of hearing he’s paying it back – he’s taking 6+ years to pay it back and I bet if he gets fired he’s not required to pay the ‘loan’ off.nnIf Stepp was a man of character this would not of happened – he has gotten trapped in his own deceit and privilegednactions and continues to deal with it as if the people paying his salary are nothing but his subjects.nnHe had his chance to be transparent, step up and take accountability for his actions, heu2019s decided to do neither.

  • Richard Leiby

    Stepp is such a scam artist and a crook. Trying to cover up some more. If district didn’t pay for his family. Then where did his family stay while district paid for his 550.00 room? Wow what an ass Stepp is. He needs to read written on the wall and resign now. Blame his contract on someone else right. He should have taken those other job offers he keeps taking about that never were there only in his head. That was his ploy to get all this shit in his new contract that he “did not ask for” someone else pushed him into it wow. Resign along with your bed buddies school board and save this district. VOTE NO ON LEVY until they all resign. Call for full investigation by state and for charges on all of them!!!!!

  • Tonya marie

    I read stepps letter and all it was what that the public relations firm that was hired told stepp to write and email it out. If stepp and the board actually cared for the district and students they would walk away NOW! But instead they want to make this district a laughing joke, a sad joke at that. This community does not trust those running the district and that is crucial so close to levy. Has anyone contacted election board to see what steps and how many signatures is needed to get the clowns removed? I can help out by being first signature on all those needed to be recalled. We moved here 12 yrs ago for the excellence of the schools and we are looking to move out of the district because the district is losing what it once had. If the school district doesnt have the community behind them then the district is a fail. If the community doesnt stand up for the right of students and show the students what morals mean in this day and age. We are a lost cause.

  • NinetoFive

    Once again the spin doctor is at work here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/roger.hessman Roger Hessman

    Hey Randy, get the hell out of Medina.

  • http://www.facebook.com/roger.hessman Roger Hessman

    But he didn’t pay for his own vacation, as the rebuttals by the Gazette show. This man and the whole Medina school system is out of control. That’s why I moved away. The property taxes in Medina are higher than any other state’s average. I did the research. They are out of control.

  • Gary Hooker

    I agree that Stepp must go but don’t forget the members of the BOE who approved contract language that allowed Stepp to get reimbursement of >$250k and approved UNANIMOUSLY the new contract and $83k bonus paid 18 months b/4 the new contract even becomes effective! They must follow Freeman’s example and resign.

  • SteppDownNow

    What a snake, he was “entertaining offers from other districts” after Medina paid over a quarter of a million for his college loans! If you buy the board’s argument that they were investing in him for Medina’s future, this part sickens me the most. It’s one thing to invest in him for the future of Medina, but in reality, he had no loyalty to us whatsoever. Making his huge college loans go away wasn’t enough, he still wanted more. Think about that part and you see his true character, which I predict no company or district will have anything to do with in the future.