Superintendent Fred Clarke is leaving Rochester Community Schools after 14 months with as much as $181,000 severance, according to the deal approved by the Board of Education Monday night.*
That represents about $13,000 for every month Clarke served the district.
Clarke was chosen in 2011 as the top candidate to lead as superintendent. He started July 1, 2011, and officially resigned Monday.
During a 20-minute special meeting, Board of Education members outlined the agreement and offered their best wishes to Clarke, who did not attend.
Board members also expressed their desire to "get back to work" after two months of uncertainty in the district's leadership role.
Clarke's resignation follows his announcement in July that he was looking to leave Rochester for a job that better fit with his passion to work in a district that had a wide achievement gap.
His severance agreement with the district, which he signed Sept. 5, hinges on whether he is offered and subsequently accepts a position with Bay-Arenac Schools, where he is one of two finalists for the superintendent job.
If he does not become employed by Bay-Arenac, he will be paid:
- $94,391 in severance pay, which is the balance of his contracted salary plus Social Security and retirement contributions. This is the amount he would have been paid, under his contract, through Dec. 31. Of this amount, $23,154 will be paid within seven days; the rest will be paid within 15 days. (Editor's note: an earlier version of the story added the $23,154 to the total severance; it is actually included.)
- $75,747 in additional severance pay if he has not obtained a job before Dec. 31. This is equivalent to two-thirds of the amount of salary he would have been paid had he remained employed by the district until June 30. This would be paid in a lump sum by Jan. 15, 2013.
- $10,796 in health insurance benefits for Clarke and his family through June 30, 2013 or until he obtains alternative employment.
Also under the agreement, the board will provide official letters of recommendation and positive references for Clarke for future employment opportunities. The agreement also states that neither Clarke nor board members will make "disparaging remarks" about one another.
Board Trustee Beth Talbert said she had no interest in making disparaging remarks about Clarke. Rather, she said the board "genuinely wishes what's best for Mr. Clarke and his family.
"But especially we wish what's best for our district. We are chomping at the bit to start talking about some of the focus schools and student achievement, and to be getting back to work."
From the moment he announced his intention to seek employment outside Rochester, Clarke vowed to cooperate with the district during a transition.
Clarke was hired in March 2011 to replace retiring superintendent Dave Pruneau. He was the superintendent in Albion and was chosen from six finalists, which included Rochester's assistant superintendent Geraldine Moore. School Exec Connect, the search firm that helped Rochester find Clarke, has agreed to help the district with a new search for free.
"I'm sure all of us — the board, the administration, Mr. Clarke himself and the public — are disappointed that we are addressing the change after only a year or so," Board President Jennifer Berwick said. "This is not what either the board or Mr. Clarke anticipated when he was hired.
"However, these situations are not unusual, and when they do occur, a severance agreement as in this case is the best outcome to allow parties to move forward."
Five members of the public attended the Monday night meeting.
In the interim
Tresa Zumsteg, a former middle school principal in Rochester and the retired deputy superintendent of the Oakland Intermediate School District, will serve as interim superintendent.
She attended Monday night's meeting and officially begins her duties with the district Tuesday.
Under an employment agreement approved Monday night, Zumsteg will be paid $900 a day by the district until Dec. 31. She will not receive insurance or retirement benefits; she will receive a mileage stipend, $1,000 a month in travel reimbursement expenses and $2,000 a month in housing expenses beginning Dec. 1.
Beginning Jan. 1, she will be paid $650 per day.
The next superintendent
In the meantime, board members will proceed with a search for a permanent leader for the district.
Talbert will lead the search committee; board members Lisa Nowak and Pat Piskulich will also serve on the committee.
* Editor's note: This story was corrected from an earlier version, which included an incorrect total severance figure.
For more coverage of the Rochester superintendent transition:
- Rochester Superintendent Fred Clarke Seeking New Job
- Search Firm Won't Charge School District to Find Fred Clarke's Replacement
- Rochester School Board Found 'Right Person' to Transition District
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