DENVER — Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Cindy Stevenson will receive a six-figure cash payout as part of her lucrative early-release agreement, even though she’s leaving the district with four months to spare on her contract.
Stevenson, whose last day of work was Feb. 21, will receive $204,194, which includes the $68,500 in salary she would have received if she had worked through June, according to district records obtained by The Colorado Observer through an open-records request.
Stevenson, who served 12 years as superintendent, will also be paid $35,894 for unused vacation days and $85,107 for unused sick days. She receives a $10,000 “retention bonus” and another $10,000 in “additional compensation” in lieu of a performance bonus.
It’s a generous farewell package for Stevenson, who submitted her resignation two days after voters elected a conservative pro-reform majority to the five-member school board on Nov. 5. She later requested and was granted an early release from her contract, which expires June 30.
The Jefferson County School District has been forced to cut $79 million in classroom spending since 2010, eliminating 500 full-time equivalent positions over that same period, and dipping into reserves to avoid deeper cuts, according to the district website.
The local teachers’ union, an affiliate of the Colorado Education Association, and its backers have insisted Stevenson was “forced out.” A crowd of about 250 people disrupted a Feb. 8 board meeting at which she announced her early departure with shouts and jeers until the meeting was adjourned early due to security concerns.
Stevenson told Fox31 that she left because she “wasn’t trusted or respected.”
Interestingly, Stevenson’s eight-page early-release agreement does not include a non-disparagement clause, which is often included in deals terminating the employment of high-ranking officials or key employees – especially those who leave their posts under less-than-amicable terms.
The absence of such a clause leaves Stevenson free to criticize the board and the district without violating the agreement or jeopardizing her payout. Stevenson is seen as a close ally of the teachers’ union, which opposed the election of pro-reform board members John Newkirk, Julie Williams and Ken Witt.
The three newly elected members voted in favor of Stevenson’s early release agreement, along with incumbent member Jill Fellman. Board member Lesley Dahlkemper, a vocal supporter of Stevenson’s, opposed the agreement.
The exit deal also prohibits Stevenson from volunteering or applying for employment with the district, including its charter schools, at any time before Dec. 31, 2018.
Stevenson has already been hired by the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE) to direct a new leadership initiative. Under the agreement, the district is no longer required to pay for Stevenson’s memberships in professional and trade organizations like CASE.