April 16, 2014

Mostly sunny

BREAKING: Vlcek, Robinson to resign from Medina school board

Click here to read statements from Robinson and Vlcek

Medina school board President Karla Robinson and board member Susan Vlcek have announced plans to resign from the board next year. They both were elected to four-year terms in 2011.

Vlcek said she will step down in January and Robinson said she will resign, effective May 31.

Karla Robinson

Susan Vlcek

In a statement posted on the school district’s website, Robinson said Vlcek wanted to wait until after the November election so the three new board members could select a replacement.

“Susan and I do not claim to have done all of this perfectly,” Robinson said in the posted statement. “We have stumbled along the way. I am very sorry for every mistake I’ve made as a board member. But the task was and remains immense: please recall that this district has not passed an operating levy since 2005. Our issues as a district and a community predate this controversy, and will take time and energy to get past.”

Vlcek has served on the board since 1999 and Robinson was elected in November 2011. Their terms would have ended in 2015.

Both board members have faced repeated calls from community members to resign after a community backlash to their approval in January of a new contract for Superintendent Randy Stepp that included an $83,000 signing bonus.

The public outcry over the contract grew following a series of Gazette stories detailing how the district spent more than $250,000 on Stepp’s college loans for his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in education, and a master of business administration degree from Case Western Reserve University.

Vlcek and Robinson are the second and third board members to cite the controversy as their reason for quitting. In March, then-board President Charles Freeman resigned, blaming “the events of the past few weeks.”

In April, the board placed Stepp on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of a special state audit requested by the school district into Stepp’s spending from a “carryover” fund held by the Medina County Schools’ Educational Service Center.

That same month, the school board rescinded Stepp’s contract. Stepp responded with a lawsuit filed in federal court.

The latest resignations mean all five board members who approved Stepp’s contact will be out of office by the end of this school year.

Board member Bill Grenfell has said he would not seek re-election in November. The other two seats up for election Nov. 5 are held by Tom Cahalan, who was appointed to fill out the unexpired term of Dr. Robert Wilder, who retired, and Doug Adamczyk, who was appointed to replace Freeman.

When reached for comment, Robinson said, “The conversation in the community needs to start being about: ‘What do we want for the future of public education for our students?” she said. “It needs to stop being about the board.”

Vlcek said she was quitting in hopes the public would focus on the long-term “big picture.”

“It’s really just based on moving the community forward, and focused on the long-term vision and not short term issues,” she said. “The big picture is that the school district has always been progressive and has always been held in high regard across the state of Ohio. We have always been cutting edge in our curriculum and our collaboration.”

The board is in the middle of a campaign for a five-year, 5.9-mill operating levy, which will be on the Nov. 5 ballot.

If the levy is approved, the district would add reading, gifted intervention and guidance counselors at the elementary level, as well as more art, music and gym classes. There would be more opportunities for high school electives, and the levy would bring back busing for all students who live a mile or more from their school.

The levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $206 a year.

The board appointed interim Superintendent Dave Knight, a former elementary school principal, to replace Stepp pending the outcome of the special audit.

Knight said the impact of the resignations on the levy vote is difficult to predict.

“I would really hope that people would vote for the levy because they see the value of programming that will be added to the immediate direct benefit of children, and the long-term benefit of the community,” he said.

If the levy fails, Knight said plans call for closing Heritage Elementary School in 2014 and creating “banded” elementary schools with two grades at each building; eliminating middle school sports and extracurricular activities; and reducing electives at Medina High School.

Medina resident Mark Kuhar, who started the Medina City Schools Outrage Page in March to protest Stepp’s contract, described the resignation plans as “a positive development for the Medina City School District.”

“For the past six months, many people who have actively participated in discussions on the Medina City Schools Outrage Page on Facebook have pressured them to step down,” he said. “I want to thank Karla Robinson and Susan Vlcek for doing what is best for our students, parents, taxpayers, schools and the entire community.”

Brigid Turrittin, co-chair of Kids First Medina, the levy campaign organization, said she also wanted to thank both Robinson and Vlcek for their service and dedication to the schools.

Turrittin said, though, that the “No. 1 objection” she heard from those who didn’t support the levy was that Robinson and Vlcek remained on the board.

“I really look at it as there are no more excuses,” she said. “This was the big excuse. There is going to be an entire new board. The fiscal responsibility has changed.”

John Leatherman, president of the Medina City Teachers Association, said many teachers and community members had called on Robinson and Vlcek to resign.

“When the members of MCTA voted to ratify a non-lucrative contract in the midst of this scandal, we did it for the kids and community,” he said. “I hope that these resignations continue to rebuild the trust with the citizens in our school district. Perhaps enough trust to consider a vote in favor of keeping neighborhood schools in the great community of Medina in November.”

Lori Berger, a special education teacher at Heritage Elementary, who called for Robinson and Vlcek to resign during a June 17 board meeting, expressed gratitude.

“I’m glad that they are doing it,” she said. “They seem to understand what the community wants.” Berger, who has a 9-year-old son at Heritage, said she hoped that even though the resignations are not immediate, voters would look past that and vote for the levy.

“The desired resignations are going to take place,” she said. “I think we ought to look at it that way now.”

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

  • Medina retiree

    This worthless “dynamic-duo” has an impressive list of “accomplishments” in less than 2 years:nApproved Stepp’s $250K “tuition reimbursement”nApproved Stepp’s $83K signing bonusnExposed Medina’s budget to court expenses by “rescinding” Stepp’s contract (regardless of outcome it will cost taxpayers pretty penny)nSigned Apples’s contract for $220K to LEASE mac-books for $1203 each, while equivalently-equipped “wintel” laptops can be bought for $399 each off the shelf.nSigned $180K floor resurfacing contract, which had cost-overrun for $50K in the first month.nOf course, none of it is their fault, they only wanted what’s best for the children.

  • OhioGuy10

    Greatnnews! All public officials have to be held accountable. It seems to me, being anschool board member is at best, a thankless task. They do put in a lot of timenand get very little credit when something goes correct and most of the blamenwhen there are issues. That being said, if you agree to do a job you should donit to the best of your abilities. These two either did not or are extremely ineptnwhen it comes to business. Their lazynmanagement style has cost Medina a lot and will probably continue to cost. I amnthrilled they are stepping down and hopefully they will be replaced with peoplenwho work a lot harder in finding the facts before they agree to do something.nNext step is finding a Superintendent who can move Medina in the rightndirection as well.

  • Concerned

    Two down, but Stepp continues to collect a check. I would really like the Gazette research staff to dig into why the State audit, which was supposed to be done in May, in still not completed! Is it that they just can’t find the bottom of the money pit or what. We, the public would certainly welcome some coverage on this matter from the Gazette staff. It’s almost starting to seem like its become a non-issue which usually means nothing has been found and everyone is afraid to admit it.

  • Medina retiree

    It became quite obvious from the very first reports, that Stepp’s spending was excessive, wasteful, perhaps unethical, but not exactly illegal. Like in those infamous “December” reports with $5K+ spent on hotel stays for the conference participants. True, he booked overpriced rooms, but it wasn’t even him by himself staying in those rooms, but his crew and district’s employees.nStepp is quite a polarizing character, but he hasn’t done anything so bad, that isn’t being done everywhere by executives on his level. Typical corrupt upper management figure, not even a bad guy, just a common exploiter of the peons (i.e. “us” – Medina taxpayers).nThere were and still are enough enablers around him, including BoE and city council. And unless he did something so outrageously dumb as writing a check to a casino or escort service – he won’t be found at fault in his spending. That audit is a total waste of time and money, just an excuse for Robinson to stay on BoE for a few more months.

  • Longtime Reader

    “The public outcry over the contract grew following a series of Gazette stories …” – Hey Gazette, don’t pat yourself on the back too hard. You should have been paying closer attention in January when they approved the contract.

  • Medina Working Stiff

    While the resignation of these two incompetents would appear to be welcomed news, it should set off warnings to the Medina community. Both Vlcek and Robinson announced their resignations much too late for candidates to file and run for the position in the November election. Instead, the Medina community will be at the mercy of three board members making that selection……………an important selection that should remain with the electorate. With interim board members Tom Cahalan and Doug Adamczyk having the inside track to the positions due to name recognition and being, in essence, the incumbent, they also do carry the stigma of being hand picked by the proven failures of the soon-to-be-former board members. nnnI, for one, cannot trust Vlcek and Robinson with any new taxpayer dollars. They will remain in their positions, with one until at least May of 2014. nnnMedina should be very careful in deciding on this levy. With proven abject failures remaining in place while new monies are collected, alarm bells should be ringing throughout the Medina community.

  • Concerned reader

    Medina isn’t a poor community, it’s not the school board’s fault that the school system’s hasn’t or refusesnto find an alternate way to fund schools when they were directed to do so by the Supreme Court a long time ago! If the State law not allowing any portion of retail tax be used to help fund schools was amended to help homeowners reduce their home taxes, home owners would be more willing to fund a reduced levy. nSome States have been able to use a portion of local retail taxes to help fund their schools contribute They are doing just fine. Anyone buying goods or services in Medina County would contribute, including renters. All schools and Ohio politicians should unite to go to Columbus and lobby to change the retail law!nSome of the comment’s and posts are so uninformed. Cover-up of the audit that hasn’t been received as yet! Pathetic! The board members aren’t getting rich on $1500.00 per year and no benefits. Please look at the accomplishment’s of the current board listed in Karla’s comment’s. nHow many of you people are planning to run for the School Board seats that will be available? Hmm!