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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.

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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