New Prague schools OK early exit for Menozzi

  • Article by: SARAH LEMAGIE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 31, 2011 - 4:35 PM

The school board agreed to let the superintendent go on paid leave so he can begin the transition into his new job.

The New Prague school board has approved a six-week paid leave of absence for its outgoing superintendent and appointed high school principal Tom Doig to fill in as acting schools chief.

Board members said that Craig Menozzi requested the leave to make the transition to his new job as a superintendent in Iowa, which he starts July 1. At a meeting last week, the board approved the leave, which took effect May 17 and runs through June 30.

Menozzi will continue to receive his salary and benefits through June. His regular pay during the leave will total just over $18,000, according to Sandy Linn, the district's director of business services.

A resolution passed by the board said Menozzi's leave would be "beneficial in that it provides an early opportunity to begin the transition to new leadership."

Asked to elaborate on how the superintendent's early departure will aid the transition, board Chairman Jerry Walerius said, "I couldn't really answer how it would be beneficial."

Menozzi also stands to receive more than $32,000 for unused sick and vacation leave, plus another $5,000 in longevity pay. He will not receive severance pay, however, unlike some Minnesota superintendents who have left for other jobs. In Lakeville, for example, departing Superintendent Gary Amoroso stands to receive severance equal to half his $183,000 annual base pay -- a term of his contract that has drawn criticism from some residents.

The New Prague board plans to hire an interim superintendent, conducting interviews and deciding on a preferred candidate next week. Doig, one of several administrators in the school district with a superintendent's license, will fill in until the interim leader starts.

An assistant principal at New Prague High School is helping cover for Doig while he serves as superintendent. Doig said last week that he does not yet have a contract with the board for his work as acting superintendent.

Tension had been building for months between the board and Menozzi over issues including his contract, staffing decisions, attendance boundary changes and whether to hold a levy referendum this year.

In March, a group of residents berated board members at a public meeting, accusing them of micromanaging the superintendent and violating Minnesota's open meeting law. Two weeks later, Menozzi said he had accepted a new job leading Southeast Polk schools in Pleasant Hill, Iowa.

An attorney for the board said this spring that board members were investigating unspecified complaints about the superintendent, though Menozzi said he was unaware of any investigation. The board has not taken disciplinary action against Menozzi, and Walerius said last week that he does not expect the probe to continue.

Sarah Lemagie • 952-882-9016

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