District Admits Superintendent Payout Closer To $1M

Board Members Call On Retired Chief To Resign Consulting Job

Following public outcry after 6News exposed a retired superintendent's $500,000 payout, Wayne Township Schools officials admit Terry Thompson actually received more than $1 million.

Thompson, who retired in December after 15 years with the district, received more an $800,000 in severance, $15,000 for retirement planning and was to stay on as superintendent emeritus, earning more than $1,300 a day for more than seven months, according to his contract.

6News' Kara Kenney first started asking questions about the sizeable payout on Jan. 11, but Friday was the first time the school district provided the actual figures.

6News also learned Friday that Thompson, in addition to the retirement package in his contract, also received a $35,000 early retirement incentive given to at least 60 other school employees.

"It was an attempt to save money," said district spokeswoman Mary McDermott-Lang.

6News also obtained an Aug. 4 memo from Thompson detailing the $10.2 million in budget cuts the district made since 2007, including trimming 127 positions.

Budget documents show the district has also made reductions in things such as elementary basketball, math textbooks and energy costs, while teachers did not receive a raise in 2009-10 or 2010-11 school year.

"I think that's crap. They should have spent the money on schools and us kids, and they didn't," said Jessica Skaggs, a graduate of Ben Davis High School, who said many of her textbooks had been falling apart due to budget cuts.

Thompson has not responded to e-mails and phone calls and was not at his school district office or home when 6News stopped by this week.

Current school board members Paul Calabro, Stan Ellis, Phyllis Lewis, Trish Logan and Michael Nance, who were on the board in 2007 when the contract was signed, have refused to speak with 6News on camera.

Ellis told 6News via phone he has received a number of calls from concerned taxpayers and that he is responding to them.

Board members on Thursday called for Thompson to step down from his position as superintendent emeritus.

McDermott-Lang explained that board members are disappointed in Thompson because they did not realize the full financial impact of the contract.

"They had a good working relationship with him and they trusted him," she said. "They agreed to sign it (the contract). They weren't aware of all the ramifications we're aware of now. If you read the contract, which I know you have, it's a very complicated."

Some taxpayers are now calling for school board members to resign.

"I think we need to reconsider who we've got in there because they're not here for us," said Wayne Township parent Dawn Skaggs.

McDermott-Lang said board members have no plans to resign, and the district has no plans to take action against the school district's attorney, Jon Bailey, with Bose McKinney and Evans, who reviewed the contract when it was signed in 2007.

"He was looking at the legal aspects of the contract, and not the financial aspects of the contract," McDermott-Lang said.

Bailey did not respond to calls Friday, but wrote in an e-mail, "The title 'superintendent emeritus' is unique, but an arrangement in which a superintendent's contract includes a provision for work before the contract term begins to work in parallel with the former superintendent or after it ends as a transition to a successor are relatively common."

McDermott-Lang said Bailey and Thompson's attorney are now hashing out whether Thompson will offer his resignation as superintendent emeritus.

If he does, that would save taxpayers nearly $200,000, but it's unlikely taxpayers will recoup the $800,000.

The State Board of Accounts said it will look into the matter when they audit the district in the fall.

"Any financial transaction is within our scope, including contracts," said State Examiner Bruce Hartman.

Jeff Butts, the district's new superintendent, did not respond to phone calls or e-mails from 6News.

The next board meeting is Feb. 28.

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