Retired Superintendent's $500K Payout Under Fire

Former Wayne Township Chief Kept On As 'Superintendent Emeritus'

Some are questioning why retired Wayne Township Schools Superintendent Terry Thompson is taking with him a payout of more than $500,000.

According to a copy of Thompson's contract, he was paid a severance of more than $283,902 -- the same amount as his 2010-11 salary -- when he retired in December after 15 years with the district, 6News' Kara Kenney reported.

Thompson also received $15,000 for "retirement planning" and will stay with the district for 150 work days as a "superintendent emeritus," for which he will earn $1,351.91 a day for more than seven months, the contract states.

Jon Ellis, the executive director of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, told 6News he has never heard of a superintendent emeritus designation and 6News could not find any other superintendent with a retirement package similar to Thompson's.

"I think it's pretty hard to defend that, pretty much on every level, especially in today's climate where there have been cuts in public education," said Nate Schnellenberger, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, which does not represent Wayne Township Schools. "There have been cuts in programs, tremendous cuts in the amount of employees."

According to media reports, the district has cut $10 million from its budget since 2007, the same year that the school board approved Thompson's contract.

Current board members Paul Calabro, Michael Nance, Trish Logan, Stan Lewis and Phyllis Lewis were on the board in 2007, although Lewis' name is not signed on the minutes from the July 9, 2007, meeting.

When 6News contacted elected school board members to ask why they approved Thompson's contract, they directed Kenney to school district spokeswoman Mary McDermott-Lang, who was not with the district in 2007.

"As our spokesperson, I and the other school board members have already debriefed Mary on anything. She should be able to help you," Logan wrote in an e-mail.

"I need to decline the invitation to chat with you about Dr. Thompson's contract. Please contact our spokeswoman, Mary McDermott, with any questions you may have," wrote board member Shirley Deckard, who was not on the board in 2007.

Board members Michael Morrow and Stan Ellis wrote similar e-mails to 6News. None of the board members were home when 6News stopped by Wednesday.

When asked what Thompson has been doing to earn his consulting fees, McDermott provided a one-page memo outlining his duties, including serving as an adviser to the new superintendent, Jeff Butts, serving as a construction manager on a renovation project and conducting an evaluation of all facilities.

McDermott said the district would not be providing any on-camera interviews on the subject.

Taxpayers who initially contacted 6News about the payout said they are afraid to come forward and raise concerns because of what they described as the hush-hush nature of the district.

"It's very frustrating. I think it's very frustrating to educators to see that," Schnellenberger said. "They feel they're not important and their role is not important. But someone else gets a big piece of the pie, when the pie's shrinking for everyone else. That is very frustrating."

Schnellenberger estimates starting teachers earn about $30,000, plus benefits.

"(Thompson's $500,000 payout) could certainly pay for a number of educators, which would reduce class sizes for our kids," he said.

6News stopped by Thompson's office in the Wayne Township Fire Department headquarters Wednesday but he wasn't there.

According to the Indiana Department of Education, Thompson was the state's 6th-highest paid superintendent in the 2010-2011 school year.

Butts does not have any provisions in his contract to become a superintendent emeritus nor receive a lump sum severance.