April 24, 2014

Intermittent clouds

UPDATED: School board moves to fire Superintendent Randy Stepp

Members of the Medina school board returned Thursday night from a two-hour executive session and voted unanimously to begin the process to fire Superintendent Randy Stepp. From left, board members Tom Cahalan and Susan Vlcek; district Treasurer Jim Hudson; board President Karla Robinson; interim Superintendent Dave Knight; and members Bill Grenfell and Doug Adamczyk. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY KIERA MANION-FISCHER)

To see a statement from the Medina school board, click here.

Kiera Manion-Fischer and Loren Genson | The Gazette

The Medina school board voted unanimously Thursday to begin the process to fire Superintendent Randy Stepp. The vote came after a two-hour executive session.

“This decision is really based upon the conclusion of a long process of research, and especially with regard to the results of the audit that we received this week,” board President Karla Robinson said.

Randy Stepp

The other four board members declined to comment on the advice of the school district’s legal counsel.

“This was not an easy decision to make,” Robinson said. “I know some in the community may have wondered why we didn’t do this more quickly, but we really needed to allow due process to take place; we needed to allow the audit results to come in.

“That’s why we’re acting now.”

Stepp will be notified of the board’s decision today. He could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

Robinson said Stepp will have the opportunity to come before her and board Vice President Susan Vlcek and argue the case for why he should not be terminated.

“The board takes that information into consideration and makes a decision,” Robinson said. “If we decide to go forth with termination, we would immediately suspend Dr. Stepp without pay and we would begin the process as outlined in the Ohio Revised Code.”

Robinson said the full board could take that action at a special 3 p.m. meeting Monday at the school board offices, 140 W. Washington St.

If the board votes to proceed with the firing, Stepp has the right to a quasi-judicial hearing during which both he and the school district can present evidence.

In Ohio, the termination proceedings of administrative personnel are overseen by a neutral party, who will make a recommendation to the board. The board can either accept the recommendation or appeal it to Medina County Common Pleas Court.

Robinson said the hearing process takes a few months. “It’s a fairly lengthy, convoluted process.”

The board vote to begin the firing processes came two days after a special state audit, requested by the school board, found Stepp misspent at least $4,121 in district money that must be repaid.

Additionally, the auditor found that nearly $947,128 kept in a “carryover fund” held by the Medina County Schools’ Educational Service Center was spent without proper authorization by the school district.

The audit also stated that a “proper public purpose was unclear” for more than half a million of that money.

Brittany Halpin, a spokeswoman for state Auditor Dave Yost’s office, said the “findings for recovery” of the misspent funds were referred to both the county prosecutor and the city law director.

The public uproar over Stepp’s superintendent’s contract has resulted in changes in the school board: Only three of the five members who voted to approve a new five-year contract for Stepp in January, which included an $83,000 signing bonus, remain in office.

Board member Dr. Robert Wilder retired in February and board President Charles Freeman resigned in March.

Board member Bill Grenfell is not seeking re-election and his term expires at the end of the year.

Both Robinson and Vlcek announced last month they will step down next year to allow the three members elected in November to replace them.

School board members said they did not know the full cost of the benefits provided by Stepp’s contract, including more than a quarter-million dollars to pay off Stepp’s old college loans.

The board placed Stepp on paid leave April 8, pending the outcome of the state audit, and rescinded his new contact a week later.

Stepp responded May 17 with a lawsuit in federal court.

On Thursday, Medina County Teachers Association President John Leatherman said he was pleased with the board’s vote to terminate Stepp, but is looking forward to the election of new board members next month.

“When I still think back to how it all started with a secret board meeting and minutes that were given to me that didn’t show the change in his contract, there were reasons why we had to have a change,” Leatherman said.

Leatherman and other community members pushed for Stepp’s resignation along with that of other board members as the money spent by Stepp was uncovered.

“I do applaud what they did tonight, and with them being sued I know it doesn’t make their life easier,” he said. “I think it was a courageous last move for the outgoing board members and I think the community will appreciate it.”

Medina resident Mark Kuhar, who started the Medina City Schools Outrage Page on Facebook, said the board made the right decision in moving to fire Stepp.

“I think it helps the Medina City School District move forward to get past everything that went on,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s one of the big hurdles that the board has had to overcome in bringing back community trust.”

Kuhar urged the community to support the district’s 5.9-mill, five-year levy on the Nov. 5 ballot.

“I think the community needs to look at this and say the district is making the right moves,” he said. “A vote for the levy is warranted at this point.”

Lori Berger, special education teacher at Heritage Elementary School, which is scheduled to close if the levy fails, said she was “thrilled” by the board’s action Thursday.

“I mean, I think it’s the final push that I think we’ll be able to pass this levy because a lot of people were looking at it as he was just milking the district,” she said.

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com. Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.

  • Advocate

    Good decision by the Board. It’s too bad they simply didn’t do their job all along. They turned a blind eye to what Mr. Stepp was doing believing they and he wouldn’t get caught. Good for the people in the Medina City School district for standing up for your children and the community.

  • brunswick

    The school board is trying to publicly hang this guy to cover up the fact that they gave him a contract that they couldn’t defend once it became public. This whole problem is all about the school board and not the superintendent.

  • Wake up Medina

    Please vote to fire that fool Knight and yourselves as well, including the treasurer. All need to go now before we vote yes to any levy. Goodbye to all, you have cause tremendous damage to this community and it’s children. Shame on you all!!!!!!!

  • lige

    The school board and Stepp are both to blame! Stepp was able to manipulate EVERYONE to obey his wishes and the board needs to own it instead of trying to make themselves look innocent. Please give me a break! I do not believe for one minute that the business manager knew nothing. I do not believe that the two who are supposedly leaving next year and the past who have left didn’t have some idea of all this BS. There are still too many people that were under the Stepp rule who I know understood what was required to play the game to stay employed that are still there. Each and everyone of those in a admin positions. Everyone turned a blind eye to the master manipulator and the greed. Until the day comes that I hear from any of them a “yes I own it…I knew it…and I ignored it to cover my rear to stay on the good side and employed/etc” I can’t support one thing they need. When the time comes those who will be choosing a new super need to look long and hard and they need to make sure that they do not choose someone that had any position in the district during the Stepp years. It will take a long time to recover from their mess.

  • OhioGuy10

    I am thrilled the process has begun to fire Stepp. He is notna good person. His firing still does not change other issues regarding MedinanSchools. nnThe Treasurer does not report to the Superintendent butnrather the board. He or his predecessor could have easily reported any of thenitems in the audit. He obviously put his job before the right thing to do onnbehalf of the district. There needs to be a change. He really controls thenmoney. And you want us to give him morenbecauseu2026.?nnDid Stepp really by off Admins, Teachers and board membersnwith gift cards? If a district is in financial distress shouldnu2019t peoplenquestion this whern they received them? Who attended these u201cPower Lunchesu201d.nCouldnu2019t they eat someplace cheaper, say the school cafeteria? None of them minded the perks when Steppnshared them. nnWhile Stepp was milking the district so were a lot of othernpeople. Do you really expect the public to trust you after 9 months of self-discovery?nTrust takes time and more change is needed. We still have the highest paidnteachers in the county and the lowest test scores. Whose fault is that? nnOnce again, Stepp is an idiot but the board, Treasurer, Administrativenteam and the Union allowed this to happen. It was only when two of the buddiesnhad a spat did it become public. Stepp deserves to go but so do a lot ofnothers. If this so called new board wanted to move forward they would be makingnat least some of those changes.

  • ohiogirl

    Actually, it’s both. They are going to have to wait a long time for the public to get past this. As far as passing a levy? Right.

  • Hmmm

    ” It was only when two of the buddieshad a spat did it become public.” Yes, I’d like to know how this really all came to light. Was everyone turning a blind eye until someone didn’t get what they want?

  • Concerned

    Election coming quickly. New Board agenda: Immediately get rid of remaining old Board members – yes the new Board can force immediate resignations if they have the backbone. Form independent search committee to find new Superintendent candidates Get someone from outside district to replace Knight on temporary basis who is aggressive, forward thinking, doesn’t speak to everyone like they are first graders, Make sure that Board activities up front, open, and totally transparent. Have new Board immediately look into involvement of existing financial/business staff and replace as necessary. nAction needs to be started Immediately after election. Needs to move quickly and professionally and must not in any way involve OLD board members.

  • Medinamomofone

    The BOE threw Dr. Stepp under the bus. To claim ignorance of his contract and district expenditures is ridiculous. The BOE and treasurer were clearly not doing their jobs if they expect us to believe that they didn’t know what was going on and that they shouldn’t have to “micromanage”. As much as I want to support the levy, it’s very difficult for me to justify giving more money to the same treasurer, to an unknown BOE with no track record, and to a district without a permanent superintendent. Clean house first, let us see who is elected to the BOE, hire an outside superintendent and negotiate a reasonable and sustainable union contract and THEN come back and ask me for more tax money.

  • Bill Williams

    I’m outraged that Stepp has been sitting at home receiving his full pay since his suspension. And now a convoluted process of many more months as he appeals. Absolutely ridiculous.nnnnI’m shocked that the auditor states that $500,000 was spent without a clear public purpose, and people are more excited about a few thousand.nnnThere is no doubt about Stepp’s moral character. He has none.

  • lookingallaroundme

    If $500,000 was spent without a clear public purpose and your treasurer was unaware of missing correct documentation, I would be concerned about the treasurer.

  • what a guy

    Is it me or does Randy Stepp look like the bad guy from a Lifetime original movie? If the role fits…