If I lived in Medina, I wouldn’t vote for another school levy as long as I lived.
Or at least until every last school board member apologized and resigned.
And maybe left the state.
You probably heard about the ridiculous $83,000 bonus the board handed to Superintendent Randy Stepp in January.
And you probably heard that, after a massive public outcry, he announced he was giving it all back.
What you might not know, unless you subscribe to the Medina Gazette, is how this guy is paying back the fine people of Medina.
Although he got his bonus in one lump sum, tacked onto his Jan. 17 paycheck, he has elected to “give it back” through payroll deductions that amount to $256 per week.
He will “give back” his unconscionable windfall by August 2019.
A kid who is in sixth grade right now will have graduated from high school.
In other words, Stepp hasn’t given back his bonus at all; he has turned it into a six-year, interest-free loan.
When the financial squeeze on public education has never been tighter, these knuckleheads on the school board take public money and give a school official a “retention bonus” that is nearly twice the median annual income of an Ohio household?
That doesn’t compute from any angle. Well, unless you’re living in the Stepp household.
And that ain’t the half of it.
Actually, that’s not even close to half of it. It’s more like 31 percent of it. The board provided additional perks that make drunken sailors look like Shylock.
Medina taxpayers also repaid Stepp’s federal student loans to the tune of $172,011. That was done with a single check, sent in 2012.
They paid another $93,738 to Case Western Reserve University for courses he took there.
Yes, the board paid off the superintendent’s school loans — and even agreed to pick up any tax liability he might incur.
The Gazette followed up that revelation with a survey of Ohio’s 33 largest school systems and discovered — surprise! — not one of them had ever agreed to pay off an administrator’s college loans.
If you’re surprised by the size of the loans, you’re not alone: The Medina board members have admitted they didn’t know how much money was involved until after the fact.
Way to keep an eagle eye on the public till, guys.
But wait. There’s plenty more.
Late last week, we learned that, in the midst of the righteous public outcry, the board paid a Cleveland PR firm $20,370 to put a better spin on the situation.
That contract covered two weeks. So add another lightning-fast 20 grand onto the public’s Stepp-related tab.
And we haven’t even talked about the merit raises that were built into his contract (he has vowed to forgo one for $36,000) and an additional 50 grand, give or take, in allowances and other fringes.
All this on top of a base salary of $134,700.
You’d think this guy was Alex Rodriguez in his prime, able to auction off his services to any number of insanely eager over-bidders. Heck, Stepp’s old contract wasn’t even going to run out until August 2014.
Then there’s that little matter of his Florida vacation in 2008. The Gazette poked around in school records and discovered the super took his whole family to a four-day conference in Orlando, Fla., and was reimbursed for seven nights of lodging, including five nights at a luxury hotel, where the room for Stepp, his wife and three daughters weighed in at $550 per night.
In an email to staff and parents Wednesday night, Stepp wrote he had to stay at the high-priced hotel because he decided to attend at the last minute and “there were no available discounted conference accommodations” left.
But the Gazette discovered through a public records request that Stepp had booked two rooms at the conference hotel six months earlier, and the district had paid a $198.88 deposit for him at that hotel two weeks before he went.
Stepp also wrote that “everything relating to my contract and education expense reimbursement was done in a transparent manner.”
If he wants some real transparency, here’s a look at his infamous Jan. 17 pay stub, covering two weeks of work.
“Gross Y-T-D: $95,900.16.
“Net Pay: $81,962.85.”
By the way, Medina’s teachers just got a new contract, too. Theirs includes no pay raise, higher health-care premiums and bigger class sizes.
Please note that Stepp’s new contract was approved unanimously. The lead culprit, school board President Charles Freeman, resigned at the end of March.
Everyone except new addition Thomas Cahalan should follow his lead.
And just keep going.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.