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The Jordan School District will pay its former deputy superintendent a package worth at least half a million dollars, after his full-time employment ended this summer amid threats of a district split.
The details were revealed in response to an open records request filed by The Salt Lake Tribune. The Jordan board voted July 22 to buy Burke Jolley out of his contract, which was scheduled to go through June 2015.
The district will pay Jolley $193,379 in salary and bonuses over the next 11 months, plus benefits until he's eligible for full Social Security benefits. The district also will pay for five years of retirement service credit conservatively estimated by the Tribune to cost the district at least $235,000.
Jolley, who worked for the district for 16 years and also served as its business administrator, said Thursday he was not able to comment on the circumstances of his departure.
Susan Pulsipher, board vice president, said, "That was the agreement he arrived at with the board.... We needed to honor his contract."
But Jennifer Boehme, Jordan Education Assoiation president, called the benefits and retirement aspects of the severance agreement "excessive."
"We recognize that districts need to offer a good package to business administrators and superintendents to attract good people to those positions, but we also recognize that during the time that these contracts were negotiated that teachers and classified employees were not receiving (cost of living adjustments), and in some years, not even receiving steps and lanes," Boehme said, referring to scheduled raises teachers receive based on education and experience.
District officials have said the decision to end Jolley's employment was "by mutual agreement." He left as South Jordan leaders threatened to split from the district over concerns that it wasn't keeping up with the city's rapid growth.
Board president Richard Osborn has said the district did not ask Jolley to leave, but rather that Jolley said, "If it will help things, I'll remove myself." Pulsipher said Thursday he left because of talks over the possible split, but said she couldn't elaborate.
South Jordan Mayor Dave Alvord has said some City Council members wanted Jolley out. And though Riverton leaders never threatened to split from the district, Riverton Mayor Bill Applegarth said Thursday, "I personally feel a change is good."
"A new broom sweeps better, and I think it's time to have a whole new look at the finances of the Jordan School District," Applegarth said. As for the cost of Jolley's departure, Applegarth said he trusts that the district is being careful with taxpayers' money.
The South Jordan council voted Tuesday to kill the idea of a split for this year after reaching an agreement with the district aimed at improving communication and planning. Earlier drafts of that agreement had called for "personnel changes" but that was not included in the final agreement, which was signed after Jolley's departure.
Osborn said last month, when the board voted on Jolley's separation agreement, that the terms of the separation would be confidential, prompting the open-records request. This week, The Tribune received a copy of that separation agreement from the district.
The newspaper also requested emails and letters written by school board members, the superintendent and Jolley regarding his employment to better understand the circumstances of his departure.
Joan Andrews, an attorney for the district, denied the request for that correspondence, saying in a letter that "they are nonetheless protected records as they contain personal recommendations and opinions regarding Mr. Jolley, the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."
The Tribune is appealing that denial.
The separation agreement, however, sheds significant light on how much it's costing the district to part ways with Jolley.
According to the agreement, between Aug. 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015, the district will pay Jolley a monthly salary of "at least $15,499.43." He'll also get $833.33 a month because of a bonus earned for the past school year. And he'll get a one-time salary bonus of $3,719.86. He'll also receive a bonus of $10,000 for the coming school year that may be taken as salary or directed to a retirement account.
The district also will pay his health, accident and life insurance until he's eligible for full Social Security benefits. According to Utahsright.com, Jolley's benefits recently cost the district about $68,000 per year. The district also will buy him five years of retirement service credit upon his retirement next summer. That credit likely will cost the district at least $235,734 by the most conservative estimate done by the Tribune.
If Jolley were to die before June 30, his family would still get the money and benefits.
Jolley will continue to work as a management consultant for the district, but the agreement notes, "The district will schedule any such work in a manner that will not conflict with other employment accepted by Mr. Jolley."
The agreement also says, "The district and Mr. Jolley agree that they will not disparage Mr. Jolley or the district."
It also states, "Mr. Jolley has been a very valuable employee to the district and possesses considerable knowledge and information about the district's operations and business."
An interim deputy superintendent has been appointed to fill Jolley's position, and the board will begin looking for a permanent replacement after newly elected board members are seated in January, Pulsipher said.
In November, the district sought voter approval of a $495 million bond, but voters rejected that proposal.