On the 13th of July, The Park City Board of Education and Associate Superintendent Tom Van Gorder entered into a “Severance, Waiver, and Release” agreement. The agreement conveys that:
- Mr Van Gorder’s tenure with the district will end on 8/31/2016
- The District will pay up to $200,000 to purchase retirement service credit for Mr Van Gorder
- The District will pay for 180 days of insurance benefits for Mr Van Gorder
- The District will pay Mr Van Gorder his Administrative bonus for 2015/2016, outstanding sick leave, and vacation leave.
There are also other pieces of the agreement: Mr Van Gorder and the district agree not to sue the each other, the district will provide letters of recommendation for Mr Van Gorder, both parties agree not to disparage each other, and the agreement is confidential (unless required by law to share…which the district was required to share), etc..
We won’t editorialize this much. We’ve talked with Mr Van Gorder only a handful of times, and he was always very pleasant, nice, and knowledgable. We take the school district at their word (per this agreement) that he was “a very valuable employee”, “has considerable knowledge”, and has “received consistently excellent evaluations.”
We still will note that $200,000-plus is a lot of money.
In case you’d like to review it, here is the agreement we received via GRAMA request from the School District. We have masked signatures because we wouldn’t want our signatures on the Internet (and assume these parties don’t either).
What’s also interesting to watch is the school board meeting where they ultimately approve this agreement. Here is the overview of the discussion:
- Motion is made to approve and second the “separation agreement.” They enter discussion.
- School Board member Nancy Garrison says she would like to discuss the matter. Ms. Garrison says she is “fully in support of the Superintendent forming her own administrative team so she can achieve her goals… but I don’t think this agreement represents the best use of public funds.”
- Then one of the board members (can’t tell who from the video) says, “we’ll need further discussion before I can vote for it.”
- School Board President says, “then we’ll need to adjourn to closed session.” They do.
- They come back and Board member Phil Kaplan has joined them via phone.
- Another motion is made that they vote on the agreement
- Board member Phil Kaplan, via phone says, these types of agreements are more common in the corporate world, in order for a team to function well you not only need the best players but those players that work well together, and this is not a high cost sort of deal. He says he will support it.
- Board member, Julie Eihausen says she agrees with what Nancy said but that “for our district to be able to move forward, we need to move forward.”
- School Board president Tania Knauer then says she agrees with Phil and Nancy and wants to do what is best for kids and moving on is what’s best for kids. So, she is for it.
- Ms Garrison then votes against the motion. Mr Kaplan, Ms Eihausen, and Ms Knauer vote for it.
- The agreement passes.
Strange. The public is left to try and piece it all together. What exactly is going on?
We still come back to the fact that $200,000 (plus benefits) IS A LOT OF MONEY. We have the same question as School Board member Nancy Garrison, is this the best use of public funds? Mr Kaplan stated that this isn’t a high cost sort of deal. We suppose it’s not in the same league with the reported $40 million buyout Fox News paid to Roger Ailes after he allegedly sexually harassed a coworker. However, for a district that has had to recently raise taxes because it went negative into its rainy day fund, $200,000+ is real money.
We are sure there is more here, but it’s obvious that the district wants to move forward and quickly… “for the good of the children.”
Again, what exactly happened here?
If you are interested, here are the school board videos that (we guess) discuss the agreement.