December 20, 2014

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Fairview Schools reaches $150,000 settlement with former Oberlin superintendent

Geoff Andrews

Geoff Andrews

The Fairview Park school board has agreed to a $150,000 settlement to resolve pending litigation between the district and a former Oberlin Schools superintendent.

Geoff Andrews, who worked in Oberlin from March 2006 to July 2011, signed an employment contract earlier this year to lead the western Cuyahoga County school district.

However, before Andrews, who was the sole candidate interviewed, could start the job, the offer was rescinded by the board after school officials said they learned there may have been a discrepancy in how and when Andrews left his most recent job at the Western Academy of Beijing in China.

When Andrews applied in March, he listed his current job as the director the Beijing School. However, he lost that position in August 2013. That timeline did not match the information Andrews submitted to the Ohio School Boards Association when applying for the Fairview Park position.

Rescinding the offer put the district in a precarious position. After consulting a lawyer, it was decided that the best course was to settle out of court, according to a statement the board placed on the district’s website.

“After an extensive mediation conducted by Jack Beuttner, former director of field operations for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the board has reached an agreement that is fair to all parties and, most importantly, allows our district to move past this unfortunate incident and turn the page to a new chapter for our district,” the statement said. “This settlement — which includes a single payment of $150,000, enables the district to avoid potentially costly and protracted litigation — and all the time and disruption that typically accompanies such litigation.

“We also are pleased to note that Ohio School Boards Association recognized its role in the circumstances that allowed Mr. Andrews to emerge as our sole finalist for the superintendent position and is contributing to the settlement costs.”

Andrews has not publicly spoken since sending the community a letter when it was believed he would be the next superintendent.

The full nine-page settlement posted to the district’s website details how the district got to the point where it no longer wanted Andrews as its leader.

Andrews left the Western Academy of Beijing, according to the settlement agreement, after the Chinese school went through a board shakeup with new members coming on board around August 2012.

The settlement paperwork said that at that time, the relationship between Andrews and the school changed. By August 2013, it was agreed that Andrews would be placed on “Garden Leave,” allowing him to continue receiving pay and benefits for a year. The school was the one to make a statement on its website denoting Andrews’ removal as the director the school.

“After executing the WAB Confidential Agreement, Mr. Andrews and his family continued to reside in Beijing and his daughter continued as a student at WAB,” the settlement said.

Andrews began looking for jobs in Ohio in October 2013. He applied for the Fairview Park job in February. He offered six references, including those he worked for in Oberlin and at WAB, as well as current Oberlin Superintendent John Schroth and Oberlin City Manager Eric Norenberg.

The OSBA online application system only accepted five names. The reference letter of the former board chair of the Beijing school was never forwarded to the Fairview Park board.

The letter included information explaining Andrews’ dismissal at WAB.

“We were lucky to recruit him to WAB, and his early departure is testimony for a failure of governance at the school and on the part of the new chair, not in Geoff’s abilities or leadership,” wrote Chris Alberti in the WAB letter that wasn’t forwarded. “Geoff took on two tough assignments and ‘sacred cows’ at the Board’s request — major fundraising and reform of our inferior Chinese language and studies program — and he paid the price when he found that he did not have his chair and the board behind him.”

When interviewed April 2, Andrews thought the board had received and read all of the recommendations. There was no discussion about the China job. Andrews was offered the superintendent’s position within two days, largely based on the OSBA claiming he was the right person for the job and he was interviewing for other positions.

The disagreement over the resume discrepancy surfaced in June.

The six-figure settlement prohibits Andrews from any further litigation against Fairview Park Schools.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.