Coming on the heels of that included the , elimination of more than 85 teachers and the slashing of a number of educational programs, the Lakeville Area Public School District's School Board is now faced with a retirement announcement by Superintendent Gary Amoroso that he will leave the district with a post-retirement compensation tab of more than $360,000.
from Lakeville schools and from public education in a March 15 email sent to staff members. His official letter of retirement was presented to the School Board for approval during last night’s regularly scheduled meeting. Amorso is leaving the district effective June 30 to take a position as executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA), a non-profit professional organization. He has previously served as that organization’s president in 2009-2010.
Lakeville School Board member Bob Erickson urged the board to remove approval of Amoroso’s retirement request from the consent agenda. The item was listed under standard resignations and leave of absence notifications that also included other district employees.
That motion was adopted by singling out Amoroso’s name.
While the board has no ability to officially deny Amoroso’s retirement, it was clear some of the terms of his departure didn’t sit well.
Under terms of , the total compensation due to him from the district after his departure due to retirement comes to $361,572 according to district administration and is broken down as follows:
Severance and termination compensation: approximately $91,000
Unused sick leave: approximately $91,000
Medical insurance benefit for 10 years: $163,000
Dental insurance benefits for 10 years: $15,000
Erickson stated that the retirement compensation was consistent in keeping with the district’s agreement with Education Minnesota – Lakeville’s general provisions that covered other district employees. Erickson did question the severance compensation specifically, though, calling it “a little suspect.”
The district has already received feedback from attorneys at the law firm of Knutson, Flynn and Deans that essentially indicated the district would have to satisfy the terms of the contract as written.
Under the terms, Amoroso would not be entitled to the severance portion of the retirement package if he were either discharged or enters into a new employment contract within 30 days of his effective retirement.
Since neither of those conditions has or is likely to occur, the $91,000 in severance and benefits would have to be honored.
“My question is, is he not moving from one contract to another?” asked director Michelle Volk during discussion of the issue.
“I’m going to work for a non-profit organization,” said Amoroso after the meeting had concluded. When asked if that was the differentiating distinction that allowed him to collect the severance portion of the package, he responded “That’s the opinion of the board’s attorney, which is an opinion also shared by myself.”
Amoroso is leaving the district which currently pays him $183,401 in annual salary plus benefits. He has declined to comment on his compensation agreement with MASA, a non-profit professional association founded in 1968 that represents more than 500 superintendents and administrators involved with Minnesota schools.
Tax documents filed by MASA show outgoing Executive Director Charles Kyte received $151,885 in base compensation from their fiscal year ending June 30, 2009. An additional $42,959 in deferred compensation and non-taxable benefits was also listed.
That document also shows that a “written employment contract” was used to determine the organization’s compensation package for the executive director position.
MASA representatives could not be immediately reached for comment regarding whether that provision has since changed. A MASA press release on March 16 stated only that Amoroso would assume his position as executive director of that organization “beginning July, 2011.”
Previous news reports have stated Amoroso would assume his MASA position on July 1.
Kyte is retiring effective Oct. 1, 2011 after serving in that role for 11 years.
Lakeville School Board member Jim Skelly said he has felt somewhat “hamstrung” by open meeting laws which have prevented discussions regarding the contract prior to Tuesday’s meeting and other members agreed that they weren’t yet prepared to enter into open discussions on the issue.
It was clear, however, that most didn’t feel comfortable with the situation given what the district has just gone through.
According to district administrators, one full-time equivalency teaching position in the district costs $60,000.
But even amid the controversy, members also made a point to praise Amoroso for his efforts during his 10 years as superintendent of Lakeville schools, noting the progress in academic test scores that have positioned the district at or near the top of the largest Minnesota school districts in many tested categories.
“You have been a rock for our district,” said Volk.
“When we hired you, the main goal was to make us one of the most educationally premier districts in the state,” said board member Kathy Lewis, who was on the board that hired Amoroso. “You have accomplished that and I think that deserves thanks and kudos and I wish you well.”
Although it’s unclear what options the board has at this point with regard to the severance provision, further discussion is certain to follow. They voted to bring up the issue during a study session on April 5.
“I will abide by the contract,” said Amoroso regarding the apparent controversy. “And I would expect the board to abide by that contract.”
Erickson characterized the April 5 study session as critically important in shaping the district’s search for Amoroso’s successor and how his departure will impact that search. He also said the board has not yet had the opportunity to discuss how they would proceed in that search.
Erickson did voice his preference to alter the district’s agreement for any incoming candidate.
“Would I approve another contract for the new superintendent with the same language? No,” he said.