July 24, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Medina School Board back in teachers’ good graces

MEDINA — Medina teachers have withdrawn their vote of no confidence against the school board.

The teachers took a vote of no confidence in the board about 11 months ago after learning about a five-year contract approved for Superintendent Randy Stepp during a school board work session in January 2013.

The board now is comprised entirely of members who have been in office less than a year, which was why teachers voted to lift the ban, said John Leatherman, president of the Medina City Teachers Association.

“They’re glad to have a new board and we’re happy to be moving on,” Leatherman said of his fellow teachers.

The contract the board unanimously approved in January 2013 included an $83,000 signing bonus for Stepp, and was passed during a work session of the board and was listed as a contract amendment on the agenda.

After other details of Stepp’s contract were made public last spring — including payment of more than a quarter-million for Stepp’s educational expenses — public pressure increased for board members to resign or choose not to run for another term. On Monday, two new board members were installed and joined three members elected by voters in November.

Leatherman said union members had a lengthy discussion before voting to lift the vote of no confidence, and in the end, asked Leatherman to re-read the reasons for the no-confidence vote to board members at their meeting Monday.

Among the concerns raised in the March 7 no-confidence vote were issues of open meetings violations regarding the approval of Stepp’s contract and the complaint that board members did not tell the union about Stepp’s new contract even though union members were in bargaining discussions with the board over approval of a new contract that included no raises for teachers except for seniority “step” increases.

“We’re bargaining again in the late spring and I think the teachers just wanted to remind the board of the reasons for the no-confidence vote last year,” Leatherman said.

Leatherman said he went back through old documents until at least the early 1970s and couldn’t find any other instance where the MCTA took a vote of no confidence.

“As far as I know, it was the first time a vote of no confidence was taken against the school board,” Leatherman said.

He said he believes lines of communication are strong now and hopes to keep it that way.

Board President Tom Cahalan, who was appointed March 23 following the retirement of Dr. Robert Wilder and won election in November, said he was happy to see the no-confidence vote lifted and hopes to start to put the past board’s activities behind him.

“It was a great new beginning, with a new board,” Cahalan said. “Things are looking really positive for the future and to have the teachers on board with us. It feels like things are back where they should be.”

Cahalan said he understood why Leatherman re-read the original no-confidence vote to the board. He said it’s important to remember the transparency concerns of the past as the board works toward better communication with teachers and the community.

“I don’t think we were offended. We have three new people who haven’t yet felt the impact that Doug (Adamczyk) and I have,” Cahalan said. Adamczyk was appointed to the board in April to replace Charles Freeman, who resigned.

In October, following the release of a special state audit that found at least $4,121 in illegal spending, the board voted to begin the process of firing Stepp, who has filed several lawsuits challenging the firing and contract cancellation.

Cahalan said teachers have been supportive and helpful to the new board members and he hopes to continue the positive collaboration.

“You want to have teachers, students and parents working together towards educating our children and doing it in a positive way together,” he said.

Doug Eastwood and Tracy Givelekian are the newest members of the board, replacing Karla Robinson and Susan Vlcek.

Eastwood, 50, a Medina Township businessman, is a 1981 graduate of Medina High School and has two children in Medina schools.

Givelekian, 46, of Montville Township, has lived in the district for more than seven years and serves as a senior associate/editor at ICF International. Givelekian was active in last fall’s successful levy drive. She also is PTO president-elect of Sidney Fenn Elementary School, but said she won’t take that post because of her appointment to the school board.

“They are already looking for someone else,” she said Tuesday.

Eastwood and Givelekian were installed on the board Monday night and will meet with members of the teachers union before the union’s next executive board meeting.

“We want them to meet everyone and get to ask a few questions and get to know each other,” Leatherman said. “It helps keep those doors open. It says let’s not be afraid to talk to each other.”

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.