INDIANAPOLIS -- The outgoing Perry Township Schools superintendent received $385,304 in taxpayer money following his abrupt departure from the district, according to new numbers obtained by Call 6 Investigates, which is more than $60,300 than the district initially claimed.
In July 2017, RTV6 reported Dr. Thomas Little would receive a $325,000 payout after the school board terminated his contract more than two years early.
Little filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), saying he was fired for having Guillain–Barré syndrome, a rare but serious autoimmune disorder that causes muscle weakness.
Records show following his EEOC complaint, Little reached an out-of-court settlement agreement with the district in December 2017.
A Jan. 29, 2018 email from the superintendent’s office said, “Perry Township Schools provided final and complete compensation to Dr. Little in the amount of $325,000.”
However, RTV6 received a tip that Little received more compensation than the $325,000. RTV6 filed a public records request for all checks paid to Little, but the district denied the request, saying paychecks are part of the employee’s personnel file and should not be disclosed.
After pressing the district further, a Call 6 investigation confirmed that Little received $385,304 in compensation, not $325,000 as the district had initially claimed.
The payout includes $35,304.75 for wages, unused vacation and personal days.
The district also paid Little $350,000 under the terms of the settlement agreement, including $25,000 for general damages and $325,000 under the “no-fault” provision in Little’s contract with Perry Township Schools.
Call 6 Investigates has still not received copies of Little's paychecks.
The average teacher in Perry Township Schools earns about $54,000, state records show.
Little’s base salary was $195,200, not counting perks and benefits.
Public Access Counselor Luke Britt issued a four-page opinion in which he raised concerns about the school district’s response to RTV6 and the public, calling it “misleading.”
“Even the meeting minutes do not mention any reference to a buyout, written notice of cancelation or discussion of any personnel matter that would remotely qualify as ‘confidential,’” read the opinion. “The buyout to the sum of $325,00 is a substantial amount of money for any public employee or official and is going to raise suspicion and curiosity. To be dismissive of this consideration is imprudent.”
Britt said compensation, including buyout and settlement amounts, must be disclosed upon request under Indiana law.
Call 6 Investigates also exposed former Wayne Township superintendent Terry Thompson’s $1 million payout, which resulted in a new state law that calls for more transparency in superintendent contracts.
When state lawmakers expressed outrage about Thompson’s payout in 2011, Little testified and defended superintendent compensation.
"Superintendent pay across the board is based on productivity and based on their success in that district. We ask members of the committee to protect the authority of our local school boards,” Little said in 2011 as he spoke at a legislative hearing.
It is now illegal for a school superintendent to receive a contract buyout of $250,000 or more, or more than a year’s salary, whichever is the lesser amount.
Sen. Erin Houchin (R-Milltown) drafted Senate Bill 182 after becoming frustrated at buyouts all over the state.
“Our school corporations, when they're really looking for every dollar they have to put into the classroom, it's not fair to taxpayers or teachers or school students to put that extra financial burden on them,” Houchin said. "And that's why I initially drafted Senate Bill 182. We had seen contract buyouts in excess of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and in some cases up to a million dollars where you’re ultimately having to pay one superintendent to leave and then another superintendent to do the job. It was out of that concern that I drafted Senate Bill 182.”
Any contracts created before June 30, 2017, including Little’s, were not be impacted by the new law.
The $250,000 cap on payouts does not include any fringe benefits, such as car and cell phone allowances.
In addition to the $250,000 cap on buyouts, the legislation also limits superintendent contracts to three years for the initial and subsequent contracts cannot be more than five years.
Little is a former Superintendent of the Year with more than 35 years of experience in education.
Call 6 Investigates was unable to reach Little for comment.
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