June 30, 2016

Partly sunny

No more pay for Superintendent Stepp

From left, Medina school board member Doug Adamczyk, interim Superintendent Dave Knight and board President Karla Robinson attend a special school board meeting on Monday afternoon. The board voted unanimously to terminate Superintendent Randy Stepp and suspend his pay immediately. (LOREN GENSON / GAZETTE)

Medina Superintendent Randy Stepp no will longer be collecting a paycheck from Medina Schools.

The school board voted unanimously Monday to suspend Stepp’s administrative and teaching contracts with the district while it starts the state-prescribed “termination process.”

Before the vote, board President Karla Robinson and Vice President Susan Vlcek met with Stepp and his attorney in a hearing where Stepp was given the opportunity to plead his case.

“The board took the information he provided in that hearing into account in our decisions and just now the board met in executive session and has decided to proceed with termination,” Robinson said.

The full board met at 3 p.m. for about 40 minutes before voting to start termination proceedings.

The board first announced its intentions to begin termination proceedings at a special school board meeting on Thursday — two days after a special state audit was released that found $4,121 in “findings for recovery” against Stepp for “public money illegally expended,” which must be paid back.

In addition to the findings for recovery, the auditors also questioned whether the $172,011 payoff of Stepp’s student loans to the U.S. Department of Education should have been reported on his W-2 form from the district. Stepp directed the payment be made using district money.

The district will have to follow Ohio laws regarding termination procedures, which include notifying Stepp in writing of the reasons for his termination.

Robinson said the letter would be going out soon and that she and the board’s attorneys were working on drafting the letter.

“We’re still pulling together everything that we will be placing in this termination proceeding,” Robinson said.

She said she expects the letter to Stepp outlining the allegations against him will be made public once it is completed.

After Stepp gets the certified letter in the mail, he has an opportunity to have a hearing in which both he and the board will present their cases to a neutral hearing officer. Both Stepp and the board then would have the opportunity to appeal the hearing officer’s recommendation to Medina County Common Pleas Court.

Robinson said she’s not yet sure of what the legal costs will be to terminate Stepp.

The board placed Stepp on paid leave April 8 pending the outcome of the state audit, and rescinded his new contact, including an $83,000 bonus a week later. Stepp responded May 17 with a lawsuit in federal court.

The board has an insurance policy that is covering its costs in defending a suit brought by Stepp, but Robinson said any action the board is taking to terminate Stepp is not covered by the policy.

“There are legal costs to this proceeding, no question,” Robinson said. “Yes, it’s going to cost us some dollars to litigate this matter, but this is the right thing for the district.”

Robinson said the lengthy process of investigating Stepp and building a case for termination has been difficult for everyone in the district.

“Our administrative team has been amazing throughout this process,” she said. “They’ve been doing everything in their power to keep it out of the classrooms.”

John Leatherman, president of the Medina City Teachers Association, said he’s still surprised by how quickly the board has moved since the release of the audit last week to begin termination proceedings.

Leatherman said he understood that the administrators were waiting on results of the audit before taking action.

“We really applaud them for following through on this,” he said.

But Leatherman added that many teachers are struggling to understand that Stepp continued to receive his salary while on leave for almost seven months.

“As far as my teachers were concerned, it’s not normal,” Leatherman said.

He praised the teachers, saying: “They’ve stayed classy; they’ve stayed professional. We want to get back to the students because it has been taxing for everyone.”

Leatherman said he hopes the five-year, 5.9 mill levy on the Nov. 5 ballot passes.

He called Stepp’s firing “one of the last pieces” voters had asked for in order to support a levy.

Leatherman said he hopes the community can begin to move on in the coming months.

“We need to heal,” he said.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.

Loren Genson About Loren Genson

Loren Genson was The Gazette's senior reporter. From August 2012 through September 2015, she covered Brunswick city and state and national government. To contact The Gazette, call the managing editor at (330) 721-4065.

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