June 30, 2016

Partly cloudy

Board: We’re meeting for our work, not public opinion

About 30 people showed up at Tuesday’s work session of the Medina school board. Many were disappointed there was no time allotted for public comment.

Several voiced their displeasure during the meeting.

One man interrupted by asking in a loud voice, “Doesn’t the public have the right to speak on the very agenda items that you are voting on?”

Jay Summers, of Medina, who expressed his feelings by dressing as an alien, joins other protesters, shown below, outside Tuesday’s Medina Board of Education meeting. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY LOREN GENSON)

Board President Karla Robinson said the board traditionally only allows public comment at regular meetings — not work sessions.

“Tonight and in most work sessions our practice is to not allow for public comment simply because this is a work session and we have a lot of business to attend to in a short period of time,” she said.

Robinson said she appreciated the need to hear from the public and asked residents to submit questions via email or through the “Contact Us” section of the school district’s website.

She said people also could speak during the next regular meeting, which will be scheduled next week.

The board did take action at Tuesday’s work session, voting unanimously to ratify Robinson’s decision Monday to place Superintendent Randy Stepp on paid administrative leave “pending an investigation of matters related to his employment.”

“It is the appropriate move at this time to ensure that we can have a full and thorough investigation of the matters before us,” Robinson said.

Last week, the board asked state Auditor Dave Yost to conduct a special examination of Stepp’s use of a “carryover” fund held by the Medina County Schools’ Educational Services Center.

The fund, which Stepp managed, was used to pay $265,000 for his college education costs: nearly $172,000 to pay off his federal college loans and almost $94,000 for a master’s of business administration from Case Western Reserve University.

Stepp has said his superintendent’s contracts, which the board unanimously approved, authorized the payments. But school board members have said they did not know the total cost.

School district Treasurer Jim Hudson updated the board on the progress of the investigation. He said he met Tuesday with representatives from the state auditor’s office to outline the scope of the audit of the carryover fund. The audit will go back to 2006, he said.

Hudson said procedures have been changed to provide better oversight over the carryover fund. He added that the state auditors would review the reforms to ensure they were adequate.

The district also is updating travel and meal reimbursement forms, as well as updating and expanding credit card policies, Hudson said.

Other changes included ensuring that “all contracts will be on the board agenda prior to implementation,” he said.

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