Former Colfax superintendent to receive cash settlement

Payback of $50K bonus unknown
By: Gloria Beverage
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In accepting Jon Ray’s resignation last month, the Colfax Elementary School District board appears to be buying out the former superintendent/ principal’s contract for nearly $73,750. The settlement package was far less expensive than other alternatives, stressed interim Superintendent/Principal Ken Poulsen. “Both alternatives are quite costly and, in both cases, could have a greater negative budget impact,” he said. According to the terms of the agreement, Ray is on paid leave of absence until Dec. 31 and must remain available and accessible to the district. Within 10 business days following the effective date of the agreement (Dec. 31), Ray will receive a one-time lump sum payment of nearly $27,000 (less mandatory state and/or federal wage withholdings). The district has also agreed to contribute $475 per month to cover a portion of medical, dental and vision benefit premiums through June 30, 2010. It appears, however, that Ray is not being required to repay a pro-rated portion of a $50,000 bonus he received in July. A contract signed on June 30 stipulated that if Ray resigned, retired or was terminated before completing four years of service, he would have to provide the district with a prorated portion of the funds. Based on the date of his resignation, the prorated portion comes to approximately $43,750. “It was part of his original contract,” acknowledged Poulsen. “It has nothing to do with the settlement agreement.” Poulsen added that a confidentiality clause in the agreement prevents him from answering specific questions about the settlement package. The signed agreement does include a “Release of All Claims” clause, which appears to relieve both sides of any known or future obligations. Ray resigned on Oct. 22 following numerous closed session board meetings to address concerns raised by parents and community members at an Oct. 12 business meeting. Charges raised by parents in public session ranged from excessive texting and cell phone calls between Ray and a teacher on campus to concerns about his handling of school funds. In accepting his resignation, Sacramento attorney Scot Yarnell spoke on behalf of the board stating, “the board continues to believe that Mr. Ray is and has been an outstanding employee.” Ray elected to resign, Yarnell continued, because “his authority as superintendent/principal has been so compromised by the allegations presented to the board that his leadership and future at Colfax Elementary is problematic.” In one of the two hypothetical alternatives to the settlement agreement, Poulsen pointed out, a formal investigation could have cost the district approximately $40,000 to $90,000 with legal fees as high as $100,000. Additionally, “if someone is asked to leave a superintendent position with less than an 18-month settlement agreement, they are allowed – in California – to receive up to 18 months salary,” Poulsen continued. Business owner and CES parent Bruce Nissen may not agree with the settlement, but he understands why the board made the offer. “They could have fought it, spent $90,000 and months investigating him,” he said. “But they made a choice to negotiate with him. I believe they thought they were acting in the best interests of the children.” In the interim, Poulsen has started the search for a replacement. One option is to share a superintendent with another district, bringing that individual to Colfax one day a week. “As the neutral party coming in to keep the ‘ship’ headed in the right direction,” Poulsen said, “I believe we may be at a crossroads to put this issue to bed.”