July 23, 2016

Mostly clear

Medina interim super: ‘Happy to be here,’ takes pay cut

MEDINA — At his first board meeting as interim superintendent of Medina Schools, David Knight asked for a pay cut.

The school board had drafted a contract with an hourly rate of $37.50. At a special board meeting Tuesday, however, Knight said that was too much and asked that the rate be $30 an hour — a 20 percent reduction.

David Knight

“When I think about the value that anybody brings to the district, I’m not sure I’m personally so valuable,” he said. “And $30 seems like a good rate for me.”

Knight said he wasn’t trying to devalue the role of superintendent.

“For me personally, it’s very appropriate,” he said. “I’m happy to be here. Medina City Schools has been good to me through my career as a principal, and I welcome the opportunity to give back.”

The board unanimously approved the contract.

Board President Karla Robinson said the board and Knight previously agreed on a rate of about $300 a day. They came up with $37.50 an hour based on an eight-hour day, she said.

Robinson said she estimated Knight would work between 30 and 40 hours a week through the term of the contract, which runs through June 30.

Knight is still under contract with Mapleton Schools in Ashland County, where he works part time as director of special education.

Knight, 61, is well known in Medina Schools. He retired last year after 22 years as principal of Sidney Fenn Elementary School. Earlier this month, the Fenn playground was dedicated in his name.

The three-page contract also includes an ethics clause, something board members said would become standard practice for future administrative contracts.

The clause states: “Superintendent shall comply with all applicable provisions of the Ohio ethics laws and the Licensure Code of Professional Conduct for Educators as developed by the Educator Standards Board and approved by the State Board of Education.”

Board member Bill Grenfell said the board decided to put in the clause after the flood of public criticism of Superintendent Randy Stepp’s contract.

“Lessons learned from our public meetings and people giving input,” he said.

The board hired Knight last week — two weeks after placing Stepp on paid leave pending a special state audit of his spending of district money from a “carryover” fund held by the Medina County Schools’ Educational Service Center. The audit is expected to be done later this month.

The board requested state Auditor Dave Yost examine the carryover fund after public records requests showed Stepp used it to pay off $172,000 in old college loans and more than $94,000 for a master’s degree in business administration from Case Western Reserve University, in addition to travel expenses.

The payment of Stepp’s educational expenses was authorized by his amended 2009 contract, but board members said they did not know how big the bill would be.

The school board has been criticized for approving a new contract for Stepp that provided him with an $83,000 signing bonus. Stepp agreed to give back the bonus in biweekly installments over the term of the contract, which ran through July 2019.

However, board members voted April 16 to rescind Stepp’s contract, saying they violated Ohio’s “Sunshine Laws” when they approved it Jan. 7 during a work session. Stepp has promised to fight the move in court.

The same day, board members voted to pull a planned 5.9-mill levy from Tuesday’s ballot, saying they knew the issue would fail in light of the controversy.

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