Conrad Farner Resigns as Greenfield Superintendent

Farner has accepted a position in the Cedarburg School District. His resignation is effective Jan. 15.

UPDATED: 11:55 a.m. Jan. 8

Greenfield Superintendent Conrad Farner, who for months had been under growing scrutiny by some Greenfield School Board members, resigned Monday during a special closed session school board meeting.

Farner, whose contract with Greenfield was not set to expire until 2014, has accepted a position as the Director of Human Resources with the Cedarburg School District.

According to a statement released by the School Board, Farner’s resignation is effective Jan. 15.

Terms of Farner’s separation agreement require the district to contribute approximately $80,000 over three years to a tax-sheltered annuity account.

The tax-sheltered payments are designed to offset the waiver of significant contractual rights under Farner’s administrator contract, according to the statement. Farner’s contract called for an annual salary of $141,000, but with health insurance and other benefits, the total remaining value of Farner’s two-year contract was more than $260,000.

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Farner is waiving that amount as part of the agreement. Any budgetary savings as a result of Farner leaving will be applied to the cost of the tax-sheltered payments.

“The board believes these financial payments are manageable in light of the size of the district budget,” the statement said.

'He shouldn't get a dime'

Farner’s separation agreement passed 6-1 with board president Bruce Bailey voting against the motion.

“I voted no. I said he shouldn’t get a dime. He gets plenty,” Bailey said. “If he wanted to go, I say go. I didn’t want to pay him any money at all. His salary (over the years) was plenty. That’s sufficient. I don’t think he should have got extra money.”

Board member Russ Spahn said the tax-sheltered payments were a necessity.

"The six of us felt that in order to move on to where we want to go, it was in the best interest of the taxpayer, the parents and the students to give him what we did," Spahn said.

The statement said Farner has agreed to remain available at the district’s request to facilitate the transition.

“The whole board wishes to recognize the many valuable contributions made by Mr. Farner during his nine years as both director of human resources and superintendent in the district,” the statement said. “Both parties are now looking forward to new opportunities and new challenges in their shared goal of delivering the highest quality education to our students.”

Farner issued a statement about his departure to media outlets Tuesday morning. (Read the full statement here).

"I take great pride in knowing I served the students and families of Greenfield to the best of my ability and am leaving the district in much better shape than when I arrived," Farner said in the statement. "I appreciate all of the work my colleagues have done to serve Greenfield and support each other. It has been a wonderful experience to be part of such an outstanding learning community."

Farner has been with the Greenfield School District for nearly 10 years, including the last six as superintendent. Perhaps his crowning achievement was his role in pushing through successful referendums for the high school, performing arts center, pool and utility building and administration center. He was also outspoken about what he often referred to as the state’s flawed funding system for schools.

But in recent months, he came under fire by some teachers and board members for what was perceived as a declining culture within the district.

Troubled waters

Greenfield Education Association president Kerri Jo Patten made waves in June when she publicly spoke out against administration after she was unexpectedly transferred from a grade-school position at Maple Grove Elementary to a Middle School opening, one of many changes made at Maple Grove prior to the 2012-13 school year.

As Patten continued to voice her strong opinions about her own situation and issues she had with board-staff policies over the summer, some Greenfield School Board members also spoke out. Russ Spahn and others questioned the district’s culture during board-staff policy discussions and often butted heads with Farner publically.

Spahn and board member Cathy Walsh raised concerns about what they classified as a “disturbing” number of resignations over the summer, including a high number of teachers.

Those comments led to some district employees to showing public support for the district’s leader.

According to Bailey, the board will hold a special meeting Monday to discuss promoting assistant superintendent Todd Bugnacki to interim superintendent. Bailey said at the board’s Jan. 21 meeting, board members will discuss how and when they will conduct a search for a permanent replacement.

In early 2011, Farner was a finalist for the Menomonee Falls superintendent opening but missed out to Dr. Patricia Herdrich.

Jen January 09, 2013 at 03:07 PM
As a parent who let the district, I'm glad he left. I agree with Bailey, he should not have received the tax annuity. Greenfield is tight on money as it is. That money should go for educating children. I think the next superintendent should be an outside candidates with experience. Not Tod Bugnacki. A person with fresh ideas.
John Seymour January 09, 2013 at 03:48 PM
He made his own bed. Fortunately for him he landed on his feet with $80,000. You do realize that HE was the one who brought all of this on. HE started the fights and conflict. It was HIM who wanted all the power and was spiteful towards people who asked questions or left for better jobs I don't think the public realizes what all really went on with him in charge. Greenfield's reputation is bad because of HIM.
Concerned GF January 09, 2013 at 04:47 PM
That letter sure extremelty self-promoting. I don't think he could have given himself anymore credit except for invventing the Internet. I have seen first-hand how he has dismantled the joy and commaraderie that was at Maple Grove and hope that they can rebound from this. A great start was the removal of last year's Principal, who by the way, is out of the Greenfield School District as well. Guess they could not hide her incompetence and gave her the same direction as Farner, "You better start looking"!
SBR January 09, 2013 at 06:39 PM
Run for school board? That's a joke, it seems no one "runs" anymore, the are all put on there unopposed. I have served on boards, and I can tell you, the way this board conducts itself, is not professional or the best interests of the tax payers of Greenfeld.
KHD January 09, 2013 at 06:56 PM
SBR- I think the board they have in place now is the best they have had in a long, long time. Give them a chance, they finally saw the light to what Conrad really is. Also, Have you looked at the lawsuit against the district that was filed yesterday by the teachers? Conrad was responsible for that I believe. Maybe we can get out of that $80,000 to Conrad. I think as whole , everyone will be able to work together alot better with Conrad gone.
Terri January 09, 2013 at 08:07 PM
Thank you Greenfield School Board. I know that Farner left because he saw your writing on the walls. He was rejected for superintendent by at least two other districts, Muskego and Menomonee Falls and might have tried to stay and continue to devastate Greenfield further if it were not for your courage. I wish that we would not have needed to pay the TSA, but the fact that you gave that to him suggests to me that there was information that the public did not have access to. With or without that payout, the education of Greenfield's children took a bright, hopeful step forward by your actions.
karen k January 09, 2013 at 11:26 PM
Lots of armchair quarterbacking from the keyboard. If they are running unopposed, I can tell you that it only takes 5 minutes to fill out the paperwork for your candidacy. Have you ever served on a public school board before? I can tell you that there are a labyrinth of laws and regulations that oversee almost everything so while change can happen, it needs to happen within strict confines. There are also human resource considerations when someone leaves the district, especially a contract high profile employee. I am positive there are things we don't know because they were legally advised. There is also a time before the board meets for the community to have their chance to voice any concerns. How many times have you attended? That would be ZERO, I venture to guess. You probably aren't even from Greenfield.
karen k January 09, 2013 at 11:34 PM
John, I have had teachers in other districts tell me they would never teach in Greenfield if given the choice between almost every other district. Bad leadership is cited and low community support. New Berlin,MPS and Greenfield are the known stinkers and the last choice among the best candidates. That is the reality right now. There is no reason for it anymore and we can do better.
KHD January 10, 2013 at 01:30 AM
You know, there is also some other school news about Christy Timms, (GHS teacher) who has recieved one of the highest honors in the COUNTRY. It would be nice to see some comments and congratulations for this Teacher in that article. These are the teachers we need to keep in Greenfield. Lets show some support, Please
mr.chris a engel January 10, 2013 at 06:24 AM
these positions are rungs on a latter to greater pay opportunities.why does it cost so much to educate children to get such poor results? does more money fix this?no .third wolrd countries educate better fo much less under a tree.education in this country is not about the kids, its about the contracts, beennifits and pensions of the people we trust our children to .this man left his contract early.does he care about process here or is he climbing the ladder to fill his own pockets? I see this happen over and over and the tax payers get stuck over and over.citizens its time to take education back from those who abuse us.we are the boss .we pay their wages they are our children the system is broken.together we can fix it. educators,you are public servants.you are either for us or against us.
mr.chris a engel January 10, 2013 at 06:34 AM
if mr. farner were a true pupil caring addministrator he could return the $80000 . he chose to early out the contract. lets watch what he does. will this district fail if we dont fill his premature void?
just fyi January 10, 2013 at 02:02 PM
I know it can not happen but what the district truly needs in its next superintendant is a someone with business experience. We ask folks to run a multi milliondollar operation and all of thier experience and training is in education. A few business classes can not compensate for some real world experience. Perhaps then a well thought out budget process that does not simply continue the way things have always been done could lead to better results in the classroom and for the taxpayer. What that person does not have in education experience can be supplements by other staff. Thier first order of business would likely be to look at more shared services with neighboring districts, including thw work of the district offices
John Seymour January 10, 2013 at 02:56 PM
Just FYI. In order to get your Sup certificate you have to take several courses in school related finance. There is also a business director for each District. You need someone with an education background because after all, that is what you are there for. The problem has been that when you treat employees like second class citizens and don't treat them with respect everything else decays. It's one thing to make decisions and lead...it's another to be cruel. As far as shared services go...It's not going to happen. Our current Gov. is setting up funding to make more competition between districts. That will not lead to shared services. I think now that CF is gone everyone needs to just wait. The right candidate is out there. Someone who has all the experience necessary. Now we just have to hope they apply for the job.
SBR January 10, 2013 at 06:29 PM
Why in the world would he do that? The board wanted him gone, and that's what it took to have him "resign"
SBR January 10, 2013 at 06:30 PM
It would also help if they got rid of that union hack of a teacher that run their union. Then Greenfield can have a fresh start.
Lynn January 10, 2013 at 07:07 PM
Mr. Seymour, Lee, Terri - you pontificate with made up crap. You have no facts, you have never spoken at a meeting (if you are using your real names) - probably never have attended a meeting - and you are hurting this district and this community with your "opinions". Maple Grove is the top performing school right now (if you watched or attended board meetings you would know that) This district's staff - top to bottom - is caring, intelectual and supportive of administration. Certain board members have made a name for themselves by behaving in an unacceptable manner and acting on false information, relayed to them as gossip. The board president doesn't even to appear to be listening - and doesnt stop them. Then they issue an insincere apology 2 months later, like that makes it ok to say whatever they want. Would you want to work in that kind of an environment???? Please stick to facts in your comments.
John Seymour January 10, 2013 at 07:50 PM
I have been at 52 (I counted) meetings with Mr. Farner as I worked closely with him. The scores from Maple Grove's (and all schools in the state) report card reflect the previous 5 years as the test that was given to track the scores was given in the fall of 2012, 2011, 2010, and so on. (BEFORE the school was blown up after ONE YEAR of a horrible principal...the new one is great). That is a fact Look it up. Another fact is that the teachers in GSD and most Admins. are AWESOME It is the two at the top that are (were) terrible. The board president probably did not listen because he knew what was really going on and had had it. And finally, most of what I know can only be said in a court of law.
Lee January 10, 2013 at 07:55 PM
I have not responded with any made up crap! And yes, Lee is my real name. And I have never said a bad word about Maple Grove. And I have attended school board meetings but have not spoken. And I do not remember ever hearing a Lynn speak. So your beef with me is what? Your facts are what??? Move to Cedarburg where all seems to be right with the world. This is a forum of opinions, like them or not.
KHD January 10, 2013 at 07:59 PM
I think it is Mr. Farner that owes the district an apology, but since he is leaving, that is more than good for me. I still think they should do an audit of how all the referendum money was spent on the school. Look how he handled the work rules, It brought about a law suit. I know some teachers that didn't want to speak out against Conrad on their own for fear of non renewal. The Man was not good for the District and we will be able to move forward in a positive manner. I also think there should be some other non renewals as some people are just to close to Conrad. It happens all the time in business, when the head guy goes, so do some of his closest allies. The board we have now, I think, is one of the better boards we have had in a long time. Mr, Bailey knows exactly what was going on in the district, he is an informed, well respected citizen of Greenfield. Lets move on, the district will be in a much better place a year from now.
Lee January 10, 2013 at 08:01 PM
Why are union reps hacks? Define that please. And for the record, I have never been nor will I ever likely be a union member. But the terminology used by you and others amuses me. So define what a hack is please.
Lee January 10, 2013 at 08:11 PM
I second your motion. Well stated.
KHD January 10, 2013 at 08:38 PM
Well Lynn, looks like you are all mouth and no substance. I think it is you that is beaving in an unacceptable manner. Please stick to the facts, that is if you have any.
karen k January 10, 2013 at 11:53 PM
I third that motion! Hear, hear!
Fred January 11, 2013 at 02:15 AM
Wow, he must have been okay at one time to have been promoted to Supt.
John Seymour January 11, 2013 at 04:28 AM
He was okay...then he changed. I wish I knew why. I've never seen someone's personality change so quickly. It is actually kind of sad.
Jean January 11, 2013 at 12:07 PM
I am glad Conrad is leaving, but I really hope that potential candidates for the job aren't reading these comments! John Seymour-if you really worked closely with the admin. in Greenfield you are going to scare away anyone interested by letting them know they can't trust the people around them. You have been making inflammatory comments for months. They may be true, but they are not going to help us move forward or attract top talent. Let it go... He's leaving and we are left to try to fix what remains. Let's try to focus on and be positive about finding someone new. I want some new talented, excited blood to turn this district around, not to be stuck with whatever we can get!
KHD January 11, 2013 at 12:24 PM
Jean, I agree, the focus is finding someone now.
John Seymour January 11, 2013 at 01:46 PM
Jean ...I'm done now. I'm glad he is gone too. You have know idea how bad he was. Whenever his name comes up around SE WI it is met immediately with negatves and that directly reflected on GSD. My comments were true as it is all coming out now. However, had people like me not pushed on this he'd still be around ruining the GSD. I'm looking forward to moving on to someone new who will be a positive leader for ALL. There is no reason why GSD can't be great.
Renald Kominski January 12, 2013 at 11:54 PM
The key element to follow is a thorough evaluation process which the board should work on now, based on this experience. Teachers, parents, administrators and students should yearly answer a series of questions that would easily monitor the superintendent's growth process in working to raise the success of all students. I was a high-ranking administrator in this district for years and this type of "good ole boy" promotion has gone on for decades through the horrible, immoral, devious and unethical activities of the past superintendents. Sadly, for me, I was forced to leave and lie in order for the administration to promote another who was favored, even though I helped to raise the test scores considerably during my tenure. Think about the children for once, instead of hiring people who will climb a ladder of self-promotion, hurting and crushing those in the way. Treat people with humane respect, making sure the new leader has no connection to anyone in the present district office.
Fred January 13, 2013 at 01:04 AM
Well said Renald!


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