MEDINA -- Two school board members posted statements on the Medina City Schools website on Wednesday, announcing their resignations.
Karla Robinson and Susan Vlcek, theremaining two board memberswho voted in favor of a controversial contract for the superintendent, will resign next year.
In January, the boardawarded Superintendent Randy Stepp a new contract, a contract thatincluded annual raises of $4,530 through 2019, an $83,000 signing bonus and payments of more than $260,000 for Stepp's college loans.
That led to a huge public outcry and protests in the community against the school board.
Stepp was placed on paid leave in April. The board then voted to rescind that contract, saying it violated open meeting laws because the public hadn't been notified about the intent of the Jan. 7 meeting and executive session.
In May, Stepp sued the school board.
Related story: Medina schools superintendent sues school board
Statement from Karla Robinson:
"This November, the Medina City Schools community faces several crucial decisions. The community must elect three new members, the majority, of their school board. And the community must decide what public education will look like in our district for the medium and long term. This past year has been incredibly challenging for the Medina Board of Education.When the controversy with the school board first arose, I was blindsided.It took time to begin to figure out what had occurred.We had two choices: leave the board, thereby leaving our mistakes for someone else to deal with, or stay, using our knowledge of what had occurred to create the proper checks and balances to ensure such mistakes will never happen again. Susan Vlcek, Bill Grenfell and I chose the latter course of action. For me, the most important reason I stayed was the requests we fielded from many of our school administrative team members, who were extremely worried about too much change happening on the board at once. Many of them implored us to stay. I also felt a deep sense of responsibility to those who elected us, to do the best we could to improve our policies and procedures going forward. In the last few months, this board accomplished many significant changes and improvements under our leadership. We placed the superintendent on leave, in order to conduct a thorough and above-board investigation. We called in the Auditor of State to conduct that review, the results of which we hope to have soon. We ensured that the board ratified a new, two-year agreement with our teacher union, a contract with significant changes that have been requested by the community for some time. We worked with our attorneys to review our practices, rescinding the superintendent's contract that was made in error. We changed our meeting notices and practices to more fully comply with both the letter and the spirit of Sunshine Law. We responded to community input by pulling the levy from the ballot. We conducted a thoughtful but fast search for an interim superintendent, as well as searches to replace two board members. We began and continue to review board policies, procedures and practices. Behind the scenes, the board has been working hard to calm the waters with our administrative team, to ensure the best possible educational atmosphere for our students."
"Our administrators rose above and beyond all expectations; they are overworked and yet continue to ask what else they can do to make our schools better. We have coordinated our legal response to best protect our district and its interests. We have sought out expert opinion, from retired superintendents in other districts, current superintendents, Ohio School Boards Association experts, and our peers, so as to find a way forward for this district that relies on best practices and highest possible transparency. Susan and I do not claim to have done all of this perfectly. We have stumbled along the way. I am very sorry for every mistake I've made as a board member. But the task was and remains immense: please recall that this district has not passed an operating levy since 2005. Our issues as a district and a community predate this controversy, and will take time and energy to get past. Particularly, Susan and I have been seeking counsel about our futures in board service. We want to responsibly transition to a new board, giving our superintendent, treasurer, and administrative team the best possible situation going forward. After careful consideration of our options, and in coordination with and with the full support of Superintendent Dave Knight, we announced our plans today."
"Susan Vlcek will continue to serve the board until January, 2014. At that time, a majority of the board will have been newly elected to their positions. This timing allows the new board, rather than the current board, to conduct the search to replace her, and gives enough notice to the Career Center board, on which Susan also serves, to plan for their search as well. For my part, I will continue to serve the board until May 31, 2014. I have been the board member responsible for coordinating our legal matters; the timelines for each of the cases currently call for nearly all of the significant matters to be resolved by that time."
"I continue to work with Mr. Knight and the rest of the administrative team to organize board training on many key issues for the new board members the community will elect this fall, which can comfortably be completed by the end of May. This also allows the new board to focus on a replacement during the summer months, which are a quieter time in board service. My deepest gratitude goes to the teachers, staff, and administrative team at Medina City Schools, whose dedication to our students inspires me daily. And I am particularly thankful to my family for their ongoing support during this difficult time. Now, Susan and I would like to urge the community to turn their attention to something far more significant than our personal situations: what kind of education do you want to provide for the nearly 7,000 students who are served by Medina City Schools? And who do you want to elect to lead this effort? We have 7,000 students and more than 700 staff members who are counting on this community to make an informed choice at the ballot box this November. At this time, we implore the media and the community to focus their attention in that direction."
Statement from Susan Vlcek:
"If we were to chart a comparison, I believe there would not be central force in any community that rises very far above its public schools. Serving schools - their children and families -in any capacity is an honor and a gift. It is an investment in today and tomorrow. Since the day we moved to Medina and walked into Ella Canavan with our first first grader, I have felt great trust in and gratitude for every person who wakes up and dedicates his or her day to in some way caring for our children. As so many in our great community do, I've always tried to find ways to support these people."
"In transitioning out of board service, I will continue to do so.For us to be our best as a community and a society, every person can and should do the same. I share your frustration with the ongoing legal battle, and could not be more regretful and sorry to be part of any decision that draws one moment of focus away from the great work going on in our schools every day. We as a board have learned much from our mistakes, and have implemented changes that will make the district stronger as we go forward. Forward must be our focus. Issues and concerns will always be present. So will our children. Each of them will define us more than any issue. The children must be the focal point of our decisions. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the rich history of Medina City Schools. I'm going to do my part to ensure that rich history continues."