Rochester Schools to Pay Up to $181,000 to Fred Clarke, Who Officially Resigned

The superintendent's severance hinges on whether he becomes employed by Bay-Arenac or another district in the next three months.

Superintendent Fred Clarke is leaving Rochester Community Schools after 14 months with as much as $181,000 severance, according to the deal approved by the Board of Education Monday night.*

That represents about $13,000 for every month Clarke served the district.

Clarke was chosen in 2011 as the top candidate to lead as superintendent. He started July 1, 2011, and officially resigned Monday.

During a 20-minute special meeting, Board of Education members outlined the agreement and offered their best wishes to Clarke, who did not attend.

Board members also expressed their desire to "get back to work" after two months of uncertainty in the district's leadership role.

Clarke's resignation follows his announcement in July that he was looking to leave Rochester for a job that better fit with his passion to work in a district that had a wide achievement gap. 

His severance agreement with the district, which he signed Sept. 5, hinges on whether he is offered and subsequently accepts a position with Bay-Arenac Schools, where he is one of two finalists for the superintendent job. 

If he does not become employed by Bay-Arenac, he will be paid:

  • $94,391 in severance pay, which is the balance of his contracted salary plus Social Security and retirement contributions. This is the amount he would have been paid, under his contract, through Dec. 31. Of this amount, $23,154 will be paid within seven days; the rest will be paid within 15 days. (Editor's note: an earlier version of the story added the $23,154 to the total severance; it is actually included.)
  • $75,747 in additional severance pay if he has not obtained a job before Dec. 31. This is equivalent to two-thirds of the amount of salary he would have been paid had he remained employed by the district until June 30. This would be paid in a lump sum by Jan. 15, 2013.
  • $10,796 in health insurance benefits for Clarke and his family through June 30, 2013 or until he obtains alternative employment.

Also under the agreement, the board will provide official letters of recommendation and positive references for Clarke for future employment opportunities. The agreement also states that neither Clarke nor board members will make "disparaging remarks" about one another.

Board Trustee Beth Talbert said she had no interest in making disparaging remarks about Clarke. Rather, she said the board "genuinely wishes what's best for Mr. Clarke and his family.

"But especially we wish what's best for our district. We are chomping at the bit to start talking about some of the focus schools and student achievement, and to be getting back to work."

From the moment he announced his intention to seek employment outside Rochester, Clarke vowed to cooperate with the district during a transition. 

Clarke was hired in March 2011 to replace retiring superintendent Dave Pruneau. He was the superintendent in Albion and was chosen from six finalists, which included Rochester's assistant superintendent Geraldine Moore. School Exec Connect, the search firm that helped Rochester find Clarke, has agreed to help the district with a new search for free.

"I'm sure all of us — the board, the administration, Mr. Clarke himself and the public — are disappointed that we are addressing the change after only a year or so," Board President Jennifer Berwick said. "This is not what either the board or Mr. Clarke anticipated when he was hired.

"However, these situations are not unusual, and when they do occur, a severance agreement as in this case is the best outcome to allow parties to move forward." 

Five members of the public attended the Monday night meeting.

In the interim

Tresa Zumsteg, a former middle school principal in Rochester and the retired deputy superintendent of the Oakland Intermediate School District, will serve as interim superintendent. 

She attended Monday night's meeting and officially begins her duties with the district Tuesday. 

Under an employment agreement approved Monday night, Zumsteg will be paid $900 a day by the district until Dec. 31. She will not receive insurance or retirement benefits; she will receive a mileage stipend, $1,000 a month in travel reimbursement expenses and $2,000 a month in housing expenses beginning Dec. 1. 

Beginning Jan. 1, she will be paid $650 per day. 

The next superintendent

In the meantime, board members will proceed with a search for a permanent leader for the district. 

Talbert will lead the search committee; board members Lisa Nowak and Pat Piskulich will also serve on the committee. 

* Editor's note: This story was corrected from an earlier version, which included an incorrect total severance figure. 

For more coverage of the Rochester superintendent transition:

  • Rochester Superintendent Fred Clarke Seeking New Job
  • Search Firm Won't Charge School District to Find Fred Clarke's Replacement
  • Rochester School Board Found 'Right Person' to Transition District

What do you think of the transition? Join the conversation on the Rochester Patch Facebook page.

RochesterMom September 19, 2012 at 07:48 PM
State Rep Tom McMillin put his blessing on the Clarke hire. Guess he is to blame too?
RochesterMom September 19, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Only 1 of those people made the decision on Clarke, Reno. What do Unions have to do with the Fred Clarke hire? Is he in union? Poor Logic sir.
Mike Reno September 19, 2012 at 08:05 PM
What on earth are you talking about?
Mike Reno September 19, 2012 at 08:11 PM
The union backed all seven of the members who voted for Clarke. But the point is more about the type of people they push into the chairs at that table... people with little or no hiring or management experience.
Steven A. Kovacs September 19, 2012 at 08:58 PM
If this was not so sad, it would be funny. Go back ten years and see where the seeds were planted. The School Board system in this District does not work: no understanding of basic budgeting; dog-and pony show meetings and agendas; Board By-Laws are a joke; District audits lack rigor; not enough real business world experience; and on and on and on ... An employment contract? You have to be kidding. The Board in its unanimous ways is just a rubber stamp. Go back in history and you will see that only two Board Members (none of the current sitting members included, I believe) ever voted NO. So bend over.
Doug September 19, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Dorothy September 19, 2012 at 10:07 PM
A better question is why are they paying Zumstag at all? Gerry Moore is already o payroll and has been doing the Superintends job since Clarke announced his job search. Moore applied for the job when they hired Clarke, and she should get the job now. Thanks to this sleight, we'll probably lose a good employee and for what?
Dorothy September 19, 2012 at 10:08 PM
I agree. We'll probably lose her now that they've passed her twice. Once Clark's job and not for Zumtag. I can't believe they are wasting all of this money when Moore is there, competent and already performing the job.
Dorothy September 19, 2012 at 10:11 PM
I would say he was dishonest about wanting the job, certainly is incompetent when it comes to doing and being committed to the job, and has materially breached the terms and conditions of the agreement to fulfill the terms and conditions of the job - such as be there.
Dorothy September 19, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Marcus - Do you pay a dentist based on how many cavities you do or don't get? He can't control how much candy you eat , how often you brush, and if you floss. Do you pay a doctor based on how healthy you are? He can't control how much you weigh, drink, smoke or sit on a couch. You don't pay a mechanic based on how good your car runs. He doesn't control how often you change your oil, etc. Paying a teacher on the grades a student gets is like the patient blaming the doctor and refusing to pay him/her because he/she is too fat and diabetic. Teaching is a two way street. Teachers send, children receive - when they're paying attention and/or care. What kind of grades did you get when you were a kid? Have you seen the current curriculum? Parents need to be held accountable. They have a responsibility to see to it that their children bring their home work home every night, attend school ready to learn, and are available to help with homework when they come home from work at night. How many parents are too busy to be involved. This is not the teacher's fault. Teachers do need to be held accountable, but you have to base it on something that's real and within their control.
Joshua Raymond September 20, 2012 at 02:09 AM
Dorothy, what methods do suggest to use to evaluate teachers? What is "real and within their control"? My children are at school from 9:00 AM to 3:56 PM. That is 6 hours and 56 minutes. Take away about 1 1/2 hours for lunch, recess, specials, or other incidentals leaving about 5 1/2 hours that a teacher can educate them. Before school is dedicated to getting ready. They get home about 4:15 and start getting ready for bed around 7:45, 3 1/2 hours later. In there, dinner lasts about one hour and another activity typically occupies one hour, leaving 1 1/2 hours. Teacher-assigned work uses up about a 1/2 hour of that. We now have 1 hour under our direction. 5 1/2 hours vs. 1 hour. Don't shift the blame onto parents when teachers are ineffective. Yes, there are ineffective parents who should be helping out more, but there are also ineffective teachers who need to be accountable. I've seen kids soar one year and crash the next, even though the support at home was still strong. Teachers matter significantly and that is why I want our schools to be filled with great ones. If the parents are the greater factor for a child's education, perhaps our money is being misspent. Instead of paying more to get excellent teachers, we should pay less, get mediocre teachers, and spend the money to train parents instead. I understand the economic and cultural impact on achievement, but I also know how important teachers are. And kids deserve to have good ones.
Rosie Osowski September 20, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Very will said, Richard. My daughter continues to learn from her fellow students because she doesn't learn the material from her teachers.
Baylea September 20, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Less and less going to classrooms and quality education for our kids. More and more going to our money burning, narcissist educators/politicians. After having kids in public and private schools, I say bring on schools of choice. When parents have a real choice of where they can send their kids, things will change and quickly.
Dorothy September 22, 2012 at 11:16 AM
Raymond - There are some bad teachers and worse principals in the District. I do not deny that. The fact that they are still there reflects poorly on the Superintendent and central office administrators. They can be fired, but it takes cause and due process. Something the Board is obviously unwillingly to do with Clark. Imagine paying him because he negotiated in bad faith and defaulted on his contract. I also agree that there are many good parents working hard to support their kids, and kids working hard to cope with arbitrary and ineffective teachers and administrators. The student code of conduct reads more like a penal code than a way to positively discipline and support our kids. It is reflection of the districts attitude towards our children. Evaluating teachers: I am not one. So the first thing I would do is ask them. There are many "excellent" teachers in the district that are just as frustrated with the bad teachers and principals as the parents, students and community. They would like to help problem solve instead of being treated like the enemy by admin and the community. Off the top of my head - innovation in the classroom, student/parent surveys scored over large periods of time so they can't be vengeful, # of parents asking for and clamoring to get into a particular teachers class, # of "extra hours" put in, amount of money spent out of their own pockets, do they have a functioning website, how helpful is it to parents and students,
Dorothy September 22, 2012 at 11:45 AM
Raymond cont: I think teachers wrongly grade children. Parents are entitled to a "clean" reading on academic achievement instead of a grade that incorporates student compliance with the teachers arbitrary rules. This is a state guideline. If the district can scoop in & cut pay, why can't they scoop in & regulate grading, websites, parent communication, etc. I agree kids get way too much homework. I'd love to see Khan Academy brought into the district, like they did in CA. It is free, unlike money grubbing charters, & it is a wonderful support for teachers & students. http://khanacademy.desk.com/ You & your kids can use it at home. It takes over the "rote" part of teaching allowing the teacher to become an academic coach for their classroom. To return to teacher input - confidentially survey the teachers & learning consultants (LC). LCs come out of the classroom & are quasi-administrators (more responsibility, more hours, for same pay). Get their recommendations & input on teachers, principals, district policy, etc. Ask them how to best evaluate teachers, students, principals, admin and the system. LCs are triage for the system, & it makes sense to talk to them about prevention - anonymously because they can't be candid if not protected.
Dorothy September 22, 2012 at 12:28 PM
JRaymond - Last but not least, the community & administrators need to quit attacking teachers & unions. They are not "the enemy". The utter disrespect for teachers is a direct result of the likes of Tom McMillin. In order to take our kid's money for their charter schools pals, they needed to demonize the public schools first. They couldn't go after the students & parents, they chose to ignore the administrators and principals that actually call the shots & have all the power, and they went after their favorite target - unions and the middle class - our teachers. Teachers are people, neighbors, partners, and mentors for our kids. Instead of Tea Party ideology, we need to support good teachers, weed out the bad at ALL LEVELS, and invest in our schools & our kids - not tear them down and apart. What kind of an example is that to set. My children are all grown, but I am more than willing to pay taxes so we can have good "public" schools, affordable university educations, clean air, clean food, and a future for our children, grandchildren and country. We should never have relinquished control of our school's funding to the state. Now these whiny free loaders want control from the grave with Proposal 5. Since when does 58 yeas and 42 noes mean you lose? Joanna VanRaaphorst is another solution to what ails our schools. http://www.joannaforrochester.com/ "You get what you pay for" is true everywhere - not just in the CEO boardroom. Sorry this was so long.
Dorothy September 22, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Reno: I do agree with you that the ISD hire was ridiculous and another waste of money when Gerry Moore is doing the job now - for free. And why we are paying severance to someone who did not negotiate in good faith, I haven't a clue. I have never seen such unprofessional conduct by a Superintendent - ever. Having said that, I wasn't crazy about your contributions when you were on the board. You couldn't tell the difference between a governmental unit and a for-profit corporation. When all is said and done, you need to put your ideological politics aside and quit attacking our teachers and the MEA. You are absolutely inferring that that the teachers and union are responsible for what ended up being two bad decisions by the board. In fact, it appears from your comments that you blame them for the weather and roads as well.
Dorothy September 22, 2012 at 12:51 PM
No unsuspecting districts with all of this publicity. No school in their right mind is going to hire this lemon.
Dorothy September 22, 2012 at 12:53 PM
There you go again Mike Reno. You backed George W. Bush - guess the deficit he ran up is your fault. Political bias and ideology is why you were a lousy board member too.
Mike Reno September 22, 2012 at 02:38 PM
I didn't say the ISD hire was a bad thing. In typical board fashion, it was rushed and not well thought out. But I think she will do well. And a big problem with Public Ed is that there are people like you who think there are significant differences between a government board and a corporate board. Boards should set and approve meaningful objectives, debate and discuss trends, and hold management accountable. School boards do none of that. They are full of nonsense rhetoric, and engage in groupthink. I am not sure what you can offer that would substantiate any of your ideology argument. That is nothing but a weak straw man argument. And finally... I respect teachers. It's the MEA That is the problem. Big difference.
Deb September 23, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Typical liberal school employee. Trying to get more than they deserve. Sounds like a master plan to get money if you ask me.
Daryl Patrishkoff September 24, 2012 at 12:11 AM
In reading this article and seeing some of the posts we are forgetting who is responsible for these actions. The School Board made the offer and signed the deal to give this money away that they do not have, they are broke. Ultimately it is our money they were not good stewards with, we need to hold them accountable. To demonize the Superintendant is just plain wrong. He followed the rules and disclosed that he was interviewing for another job. We can debate all day about how the board chose the wrong person, or the Superintendant is a crook and did not do his job. This does nothing but distract from the real issue of accountability of the School Board. If you were offered this package would you take it? The main point is the School Board is responsible for all of this. If you do not agree with this then you need to send them a message about that, but taking shots at each other and the other players is wrong. The buck stops with the School Board!
Clara T September 24, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Rochester School Board: Jennifer Berwick, President - Term Expires: December 2016 Beth Talbert, Vice President - Term Expires: December 2018 Chuck Coutteau, Secretary - Term Expires: December 2014 Lisa Nowak, Treasurer - Term Expires: December 2014 Gerald Moore, Trustee - Term Expires: December 2016 Jane Pierobon, Trustee - Term Expires: December 2018 Pat Piskulich, Trustee - Term Expires: December 2018
Colleen September 24, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Thank you, Clara! This is information we need to focus on. Also, it behooves all of us to be at the School Board meeting tonight, September 24, at 7:00 PM. at Rochester Community Schools 501 W University Dr, Rochester, MI 48307. Future dates for you calendars: October 8, 2012 October 22, 2012 November 5, 2012 November 19, 2012 December 10, 2012
Truth September 26, 2012 at 10:21 PM
It is very difficult to interview candidates who will not show up to be interviewed by the teachers and other staff members. Citizens have a right, as does the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, to screen and recommend candidates for their colleagues, friends and family. Perhaps we should have less finger pointing and more dialogue about educational issues.
Truth September 26, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Teachers and support staff are the MEA. The MEA leadership is elected by the members. Members screen and recommend candidates. Members set the agenda for the MEA leaders. It is a member driven organization. So, when you are bashing the MEA; you are bashing the teachers and support staff.
Mike Reno September 27, 2012 at 01:56 AM
I've talked to too many teachers, and I just don't buy into that MEA=teachers line of thinking. Certainly there are militant, ardent members. But their are many who just roll their eyes at the MEA. These are professionals who want to be respected and paid according to their skills... rather than basing it on the number of days ey have showed up for work. Of course, they must be MEA members as a condition of employment, and in order to avoid being a social pariah at work. But if you weren't holding them hostage... How many members do you think you'd have? Whaddaya say? Should we give it a try?
bettylou September 28, 2012 at 02:39 PM
False. The MEA is not required, and co-workers do not know if a fellow teacher belongs or not. The overwhelming majority of teachers WANT to protection that the MEA provides. The overwhelming majority of teachers are GOOD if not GREAT and rely on the MEA not to save them in case the get fired for being lazy (which has been implied so many times in these posts), but rather to protect their work conditions, and their ability to educate all of their students. And furthermore, the MEA is made up of teachers; hard working teachers who aren’t trying to take advantage of you or your tax money, but who are trying to protect their families and their students. We know we know. You support McMullen. You support charter schools; you support the destruction of public education. We get it. But why not just be honest, and stop trying to convince everyone here that you really do want what is best for the schools? You don’t. You want for profit companies that make a buck of off kids (not your kid though, let’s be clear) education.
Mike Reno September 28, 2012 at 03:42 PM
bettylou... the MEA is most certainly required. That, or pay to the MEA some "agency fee", equivalent to the MEA dues. Paying it is not voluntary, and either way paying the MEA is a condition of employment. I must say that this paranoia is acute beyond reason. The MEA protects a teacher's family and students? Or that any discussion about education means the destruction of public education? This paranoia... the fundamental lack of self-confidence is sad. You seem to believe that if offered the chance, that people would leave your schools in droves. Why would you think that? You seem to feel that you, your family, your students will be "attacked!". The MEA has polluted your thinking on this. People like and respect good teachers, and will always be fair. You have nothing to fear. It's the MEA who is skewing your perspective on parents, and the MEA who is tarnishing people's perspective of teachers.
Bruce Johnson August 23, 2013 at 12:24 AM
East Detroit Schools fired the High School Principal due to failing grades and then hired him back as a assistant Superintendent at $99,000 a year so they wouldn't have to show it on the fiscal report. The Superintendent Privatized whoever she could so she would receive her bonus by getting the school out of the Deficit. they continue to misuse funds and hired a Human Recourse .Maintenance Director that had some issues when he was running the City of St Clair Shores. He tried to commit suicide and blew his arm off. how can a school hire a person with Mental issues and rumors of sexual issues ?


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