June 26, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Teachers union supports levy, but not confident about board

MEDINA — The union representing Medina public school teachers will support the school district’s 5.9-mill levy on the Nov. 5 ballot, but declined to rescind a vote of no confidence in the Board of Education.

The decision was made Tuesday during an executive committee meeting attended by 22 union members. The union represents the district’s approximately 400 teachers.

John Leatherman, president of the Medina City Teachers Association, said there was heated discussion at the meeting over whether to support the levy.

The levy would bring in $6.6 million a year for the district and cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $206 a year.

Leatherman said some union members fear voters will not support the levy because board President Karla Robinson and member Susan Vlcek, who both voted to approve Superintendent Randy Stepp’s contract in January, remain on the board.

Stepp’s new contract, which included an $83,000 signing bonus, prompted the teachers on March 7 to approve a vote of no confidence in the school board and Stepp.

“If those board members staying on increases the chances of us losing neighborhood schools, that’s where the teachers are concerned,” Leatherman said.

A plan presented to the board in June by interim Superintendent David Knight included a switch to a “banded elementary school” concept, and closure of Heritage Elementary School, if the levy fails.

Since the union’s vote of no confidence, the controversy grew, fueled by the disclosure that Stepp’s earlier contracts paid for more than a quarter-million dollars of his educational expenses. The payments were made with district money in a “carryover” fund held by the Medina County Schools’ Educational Service Center.

Stepp was placed on paid leave April 8, pending the outcome of a special audit by Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost into Stepp’s use of the carryover fund. Two weeks later, the board voted to rescind Stepp’s contract.

Stepp responded in May by suing the school board in federal court. The board has countersued, demanding the $83,000 bonus be returned.

Since the new contract was approved, the seven-member school board has lost two members. Dr. Robert Wilder retired in February before the controversy began. Board President Charles Freeman resigned March 26, citing the public outcry as the reason.

Thomas Cahalan and Doug Adamczyk were appointed to take their places but will have to stand for election in November to keep their seats.

Board member Bill Grenfell, who also voted for the contract, has said he will not run again in November.

Robinson and Vlcek are not up for election until November 2015.

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