In drawing up a new contract for superintendent, both the board of the Medina City School District and Randy Stepp, at best, have displayed extraordinarily poor judgment and a tin ear about growing concerns regarding public expenditures.
The board approved a contract for Superintendent Stepp in January that includes an annual salary of $139,000, a retention incentive of $83,000 and a provision to reimburse him $93,000 for a master’s degree in business administration. The contract also would repay Stepp for past education costs — bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees for a total of $172,000 — that presumably would count as professional development.
Retention incentives are fairly common to hold off competition for proven professional talent. A board thus may have good reason for trying to keep a superintendent whose district is rated excellent. Professional development, typically involving short courses, workshops and conferences, also is standard practice, enabling educators to refresh knowledge and skills.
Still, it is far too generous, even irresponsible, to pay a hefty bonus and the bill for the superintendent’s entire past education. Stepp contends the board unanimously approved the contract provisions, including his use of funds from the Medina County Education Service Center for payments.
The Medina board is asking voters to approve a 5.9-mill levy request on the May 7 ballot. It needs to show it is capable of making sound financial decisions. The contract thoroughly undermines the board’s credibility. It is entirely appropriate that it has asked the state auditor to investigate and has put Stepp on paid leave. Its next best bet is to suspend the levy request until it rebuilds public trust.