Speculation is swirling that Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Cindy Stevenson may have negotiated a sweet financial deal on her way out the door, even as union supporters continue to insist that she was “forced out.”
Stevenson’s exit terms may allow her to be paid through June 30, even though she has announced her departure to accept a new job and her last day as superintendent is Feb. 21. Her annual salary is $201,328.
A favorite of the teachers’ union, Stevenson asked to be released early from her contract in reaction to the election of three pro-reform candidates to the Jeffco school board in November. The board members now constitute a majority of the five-member board.
In an interview Wednesday on KOA-AM’s “The Mike Rosen Show,” Jeffco Board of Education President Ken Witt neither confirmed nor denied that Stevenson will be paid through the end of her contract.
Rosen: “Under the contract, by the way, she’s still paid until June?”
Witt: “Under the contract, we haven’t finalized those arrangements. We’ve agreed on terms, but we haven’t completed it.”
Rosen: “So even though she’s not working through June she may get paid through June?”
Witt: “Yes, those are all conditions of a contract, of a transition plan that we have to work out.”
Rosen: “Are you opposed to paying her through June as a board member with one vote?”
Witt: “As a board member with one vote, I’ll honor the agreement we arrived at.”
Rosen: “So she’s got no complaint, as far as I can see it.”
The Colorado Observer filed an open records request earlier this week with the school board seeking a copy of Stevenson’s contract and the amount of her exit deal.
The contract was released, but Jeffco Public Schools spokeswoman Lynn Setzer responded that the terms of Stevenson’s final financial agreement “will be disclosed upon payment.”
Stevenson announced just two days after the November election that she would resign her position as superintended after the close of the school year.
However, she issued a press release last week saying she had accepted a position with the Colorado Association of School Executives.
She then contacted the board through a lawyer to seek an early release from her contract, Witt told Rosen.
“So we arrived at mutually agreeable terms, and she announced her resignation at that Saturday meeting,” Witt said. “There was no board action.”
There was plenty of action in the audience as a union-fueled crowd of about 250 protesters loudly disrupted the Feb. 8 meeting. Union leaders circulated a memo asking foes of the newly elected board members to wear black in a show of support for Stevenson.
Witt said he believed the board had little choice realistically but to honor Stevenson’s request to leave the job early.
“In my experience, in a billion-dollar organization, when the senior leader says, ‘I’m not comfortable,’ has already announced another job, and is looking for a discussion for the way out, you oblige,” Witt said.
“You say, ‘Let’s figure it out,’ and you don’t drag it out. This is a large organization. We need to be focused on the future,” Witt said.
The pro-union group Transparency Jeffco has circulated a 15-minute video of the Saturday meeting called “Dr. Stevenson Forced Out” that shows the crowd jeering and booing. One caller to the Rosen show who identified herself as a student at Lakewood High School said her teacher played the video during English class.
“The counterattack has started, the teachers’ union fingerprints are all over it, and there’s never any trouble finding parents who are in line with the teachers union,” Rosen said.
“However, the voters spoke, and this conservative slate is now a majority on the Jeffco school board,” Rosen said.