The Washington County Insider has the resignation agreement for the former school superintendent. Go read the whole thing. As a reminder, The former West Bend School Superintendent Erik Olson resigned in December after being on a leave of absence for several months. It was widely circulated, if never officially confirmed, that he had a major medical issue but eventually recovered.
The backdrop is that Olson was hired in the summer of 2016 with a three-year contract. At the time, the school board had a majority of conservatives and moderates who hired him. In April of 2017, a liberal majority swept into power on the school board and they clearly wanted a superintendent who more closely aligned with their vision for the school district.
Olson resigned in December saying in his resignation letter that, “during my leave I have come to realize that a majority of board members and I have differing visions for the school district’s direction.”
So… what’s in the resignation agreement and what does it tell us?
Basically, the agreement pays out Olson for the remainder of his contract. He will receive the amount of his full salary until June 30, 2019 – about $238k. He’ll also get $10k for moving expenses and about $10k for unused vacation time. The school district will also pay for his benefits until June 30, 2019, or until he gets a new job. So the total actual amount is uncertain because of the variability of the cost of benefits, but it’s safe to say that the taxpayers of the West Bend School District are on the hook for something north of $300,000 to buy out Olson’s contract.
The key clause in the agreement is the “Nondisparagement” clause. It states:
The Parties agree that they will not make any statements concerning Employee’s employment with or separation of employment from the Board and District except as provided for in the statement mutually agreed to by the Parties and which is attached hereto as Exhibit A.
It’s a gag order for Olson and an excuse for the Board members to not discuss the reasons behind the resignation.
Here’s what I think happened… the liberal majority of the board didn’t want Olson around anymore because he was hired by their conservative predecessors. He hadn’t done anything wrong, so they couldn’t fire him. When Olson was sick, he truly did realize that this board would be terrible to work for, so he wanted out too. They got together and basically agreed that Olson would go away quietly and not criticize the board in exchange for paying out his contract.
Who wins? The School Board and Olson. They get to pick their own Superintendent and he gets to receive essentially his full compensation for the next year and a half as he finds a new job.
Who loses? The citizens of the West Bend School District who will have to carry the expense of two superintendents until the middle of 2019. Also the citizens and students who have to contend with the disruption of trying to recruit a new Superintendent in the middle of the year as the district is also going to be changing its teacher compensation plan, asking for more money in a referendum, etc. I fear that West Bend will struggle to attract a qualified Superintendent after the way we treated the previous two.