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.
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.