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Superintendent will be paid to leave Greenfield district

Jan. 8, 2013

Greenfield - Conrad Farner, Greenfield School District's superintendent for more than five years, will leave to become human resources director with the Cedarburg School District, with Greenfield paying him up to $80,000 in a separation agreement.

Farner's contract isn't up until the end of the 2013-14 school year, but the Greenfield School Board on Monday approved the separation agreement, following a closed session.

Under the agreement, the district will pay $40,000 into a tax-sheltered annuity account this year, $25,000 to the account in January 2014 and $15,000 to it in January 2015. If Farner gets another superintendent's position for at least $140,000 before that, the payments will stop, under the terms of the agreement.

Payout debate

Casting the only vote against it was School Board President Bruce Bailey, who said, "There's no need for extra money to leave the district." Farner's salary of $143,386 is sufficient, he added.

But Cathy Walsh, who was among the six board members voting for the measure, said supporters of the payout recognize that Farner would receive vacation pay and up to 10 percent in a tax-sheltered annuity if he stayed. The remainder of the payout would make up for Farner's drop in salary, she added. He will make $115,000 as HR director in Cedarburg.

Timing is also a factor. Walsh said it would benefit Greenfield for Farner to leave the district now because administrators who are looking for new positions will be in the market in February and March, Walsh said.

As a result, that's when Greenfield will have the better shot at finding a suitable replacement, she explained.

Conversely, if Farner were to pass up Cedarburg's current offer and then get another job in late spring or summer, the pool of prospective replacements would be smaller, she added.

Mutual parting?

It's common knowledge that Farner had been applying for other superintendent positions, Walsh said. But what the School Board's position on Farner's tenure and job performance is unclear.

Walsh said that it seemed to her that the School Board and Farner were going in different directions.

"There were differences in philosophies," Walsh said.

Other board members had even less to offer as an explanation about the separation agreement and its financial arrangement.

"It was something we felt we should do," said Rick Moze.

Len Cich declined to comment at all, saying he wasn't authorized to speak.

Moving forward

Farner, who under the agreement will release the district from any claims or damages, said he is looking forward to his new role.

"I have dedicated my professional career to building the most dedicated, caring and compassionate teams of educators and look forward to promoting and maintaining such teams in Cedarburg," he said.

Helping build the staff in Greenfield has been satisfying, and "the passion for meeting the needs of our students has never been stronger," he said.

Also looking back on these last few years, Farner said, "We have managed millions of dollars of budget reductions while still offering quality learning."

Farner's last day will be Tuesday. The board will likely name an interim superintendent Monday. Todd Bugnacki, director of elementary education, is a prime candidate, Bailey said.

Before becoming superintendent, Farner was HR director for the Greenfield schools for four years.

"I highly recommended him for his new position" as Cedarburg HR director, Bailey said. "I wish him well."

Board member Pam Sierzchulski said, "I enjoyed working with Conrad. I'm sorry to see him go and I wish him well at his new district."

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