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Pippi Mayfield, Forum Communications Co., Published June 03 2011

Frazee-Vergas to offer buyout to superintendent

FRAZEE, Minn. – Superintendent Deron Stender will be offered a $377,000 buyout of his contract.

In a special meeting Wednesday, the Frazee-Vergas School Board voted to offer the buyout to Stender, the district’s top administrator for six years, and cut short public input.

The buyout offer passed 4-3 and the amount includes more than $15,000 for Stender’s nontaxed pension plan.

Kristi Hastings, an attorney with the school district’s law firm, Pemberton Law, said she met May 13 with Stender to discuss buyout options per instruction from the board.

She said Stender was “interested in a full buyout of his contract.”

Once the buyout offer goes to Stender, he has 21 days to accept it. He can also waive the 21-day waiting time and move forward.

“If he doesn’t sign it, everything returns to status quo, no questions asked,” Hastings said before there was a discussion and a vote on the offer.

After he signs the contract, there is a 16-day period during which he can change his mind and pull his signature. Hastings said that is very rare because of the discussions, agreements and process leading up to the signing. Once Stender signs the papers, his employment with the district ends.

Board member Keith Janu said he wants the reasons for Stender’s buyout to be included in the settlement because it is something that will follow his career. Hastings said those reasons don’t normally go into the document, but they will be included in a letter that goes with it.

“I believe it’s in the best interest of the school district,” Board Chairman Rich Zeigler said of the buyout.

Janu questioned how the district is going to pay for the buyout, and that it certainly didn’t fit into the referendum promises.

Spending the money will not help maintain buildings, technology or curriculum.

Board member Ken Fett said that he hated to spend the money, but it would be good for the district to start over because there has been such negativity in the district since Stender arrived six years ago. He added that Frazee’s enrollment is declining while neighboring districts are growing.

“We have to get this district back on track,” he said.

Stender said Fett’s accusations were inaccurate, and questioned how many teachers and students have left the district since the new board started at the start of the year.

Board member Matt Bauer said he also hated to spend the money but thought it could be recouped, although he gave no explanation how.

Discussion became more and more heated, between board members, former board members in the audience and others in the audience.

Resident Carey Alger blamed the old board, saying they extended the superintendent’s contract for three years – long before the old one was up – so that it would tie the hands of the new board.

Mayfield writes for the Detroit Lakes Tribune.