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Tuscola School Board – Fiscus gets $140k buyout

By David Porter
Steve Fiscus will receive nearly $140,000 and a letter of reference in exchange for resigning as principal at Tuscola High School, which he did last Wednesday. The pay-out is more than $50,000 less than Fiscus had remaining on his contract, which would not have expired until June 30, 2024.

Supt. Gary Alexander said the amout, $139,659.45, represents one year of salary plus Fiscus’ attorney fees and benefits including unused vacation days. Fiscus was a year into a three-year contract with a base salary of $97,863. He had been principal since the 2018-19 school year.

Fiscus was placed on administrative leave just days before the start of this school year, but no reason was given by the school district. Under the terms of the separation agreement between the parties, no cause is forthcoming. The School Board said in a prepared statement, “the Board wishes to emphasize this decision was not based on any allegation, and there have been no findings of misconduct against Mr. Fiscus. Any rumors or speculation in our community to that effect are false.”

The separation agreement also includes a non-disparagement clause that prohibits either party from saying anything bad about the other.

“Obviously something happened,” Judge Mike Carroll (retired) said on Thursday’s Tuscola Today, Yesterday & Tomorrow’s webcast. “To say nothing happened is an insult to the taxpayer.” [The webcast is a product of this newspaper.]

The separation agreement does acknowledge that claims were made and states that the “agreement is the compromise of the disputed claims” and that the document should not “be construed as an admission of liability or wrongdoing” by either party. 

Fiscus may have made claims against the district. The agreement states that “by mutual agreement, Fiscus acknowledges that he understands that the Board denies Fiscus’s [sic] claims concerning alleged unlawful employment practices, if any …” and that Fiscus waives his right to seek redress for any such claims made prior to the date of the agreement.

Fiscus was hired as Tuscola High School principal in March 2018 and attended his first School Board meeting that July. He had been an assistant principal and teacher at Prairieview-Ogden Junior High and also had coached.

His resignation letter was just two sentences long, but as part of the separation agreement, he was issued a substantial letter of reference from Alexander. In it, Alexander touts Fiscus’ advocacy for technology and his efforts to improve teaching and the learning process. He states that Fiscus “understands best educational practices and how to utilize all aspects of education to help students and staff be successful.”

He praises Fiscus’ organizational skills and notes the former principal’s efforts to curb tardiness and improve grades. He noted that Fiscus’ “high expectations” toward reducing tardiness were not met but that Fiscus’ effort “was evident.”

The School Board voted unanimously to accept Fiscus’ resignation.

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