"He's not being fired. He's being reassigned." Mike Kilroy"Because members of this board could not get along with this highly qualified superintendent and behave as mature adults, we will spend an additional $100,000 of public tax money." Ben Kotowski "It's been two great years and my son has enjoyed getting a great education here." Geoff Palmer
West Geauga Schools Board of Education voted Monday night to reassign Superintendent Geoffrey Palmer to a newly created position of special assistant for transition, effective June 13, and appoint Michael Nutter of Columbus to the position of interim superintendent on that date.
Palmer, who is serving his second year in a three-year contract, will be paid his original base salary through the remainder of his contract term, ending July 31, 2015, which, according to a former board member, is estimated to be about $100,000.
According to a joint statement read by board President Michael Kilroy, Palmer will provide assistance on special projects and other transition-related duties at the direction of the interim superintendent.
According to a draft of the agreement clarifying terms of Palmer’s separation, Palmer is to perform his new duties “offsite” and “nothing shall prevent Mr. Palmer from seeking or engaging in other employment” after June 13.
Board member Ben Kotowski called the joint agreement “a fig leaf.” He was the only board member to vote against the measure.
“Because members of this board could not get along with this highly qualified superintendent and behave as mature adults, we will spend an additional $100,000 of public tax money,” Kotowski said.
Former school board member Kathy Leavenworth addressed the board from the audience and voiced concern the board was engaging in reckless spending practices by paying for its legal counsel to attend board meetings and now for having to pay salaries for two superintendents.
She also pointed out the board eliminated $250,000 in new revenue by voting to reduce the number of open enrollment students next year.
After the meeting, Leavenworth said taxpayers most likely would see a new levy on the ballot much sooner than they should have as a result of the board’s “reckless” spending.
Palmer’s voice wavered with emotion as he gave his remarks.
“I’d like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the students, parents, teachers, staff and community for the friendships you extended to me and my family,” Palmer said. “We are proud to be Wolverines.”
The majority of the more than 100 people attending the meeting gave Palmer a standing ovation.
“What happened in a month?” parent Adriana November asked Kilroy, without being recognized to speak. “Last month you assured us it wasn’t true that you were trying to get rid of the superintendent. This board seems to decide what to do when it wants to without the public.”
Kilroy responded, “We’re done with this subject.”
Before moving on to other agenda items, Kilroy announced he was stepping down from his position as board president in September.
After the meeting, Kilroy declined to state why Palmer was being removed as superintendent.
“I’ll have to ask legal counsel,” he said.
Kilroy further clarified that, prior to the board’s March meeting, he said it was not true that Palmer was being fired.
“He’s not being fired,” Kilroy said. “He’s being reassigned.”
When asked after the meeting why the board would want to relieve him of his duties, Palmer said, “We have a different vision and different view of operations.”
“It’s been two great years and my son has enjoyed getting a great education here,” Palmer said. “I still believe I have a lot to offer. I look forward to the next chapter of my life.”
When asked, Nutter said he had served as a superintendent for 11 years in Green Schools and the Columbus area before starting his own consulting firm. He said he would be spending three days a week working at West Geauga until the end of the school year.
No salary or stipend was disclosed by the board to pay Nutter.
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