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Gardner-Edgerton superintendent, 2 administrators fired

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GARDNER, KS (KCTV) -

Gardner-Edgerton Board of Education members are refusing to discuss their decision Thursday to fire the superintendent and two of his top administrators.

In a special board meeting, a divided board voted 4-3 to terminate the contract of Superintendent Bill Gilhaus.

In addition to Gilhaus' termination, the board terminated Christy Ziegler, executive director of educational services, and Lana Gerber, executive director of administrative services.

The vote was brought by the board after a lengthy executive session. The departures were effective immediately.

Pam Stranathan, director of secondary education, was named interim superintendent.

Board members and district officials are declining public comment, saying it's a personnel matter.

The decisions are proving to be controversial. Some district residents are demanding answers while others are applauding it.

This isn't the first time that Gilhaus has left the district. In May 2013, he and another school administrator announced their retirement. In the same meeting, the board voted to rehire them with a return day of 60 days later.

The district said this saved them $25,000. Gilhaus was under contract through June 2016. His salary was reduced after last year's departure from $174,000 to $118,000. His salary was slated to rise to $141,300 on July 1.

At one time, he was the fourth highest paid superintendent in Kansas.

When announcing the new contract last year, the district said keeping Gilhaus through a new contract would allow the district to keep experienced personnel who could have sought employment in other districts.

That contract was agreed to on May 6, 2013. Gilhaus will be compensated for unused sick and vacation time.

He got a $34,000 tax shelter, a monthly car allowance of $800 and a cell phone allowance of $100 a month. For the next five years, the district must make payments to a retirement account on his behalf because he was terminated. That amount will be equal to two-thirds of the salary of a beginning teacher.

The district had to provide notice by March 1 that they were not renewing the contract. The contract only allowed for three reasons to terminate the superintendent. They were the district becoming insolvent, incapacity by Gilhaus due to illness or accident or misconduct.

The misconduct had to be "seriously prejudicial to the operations of the district, including but not limited to neglect of duty or refusal to comply with legally valid, duly approved directives of the board."

To use this reason, the district had to first give written notice of the proposed grounds for termination and an opportunity for the board to speak in private as to why he did not engage in misconduct and why the contract should not be terminated.

District officials repeatedly refused to say whether the terms of the contract were followed.

The board discussed the issue for about 90 minutes before board member Rob Shippy made the motion, which was seconded by Tresa Boden. Others supporting it were Mary Nelson and Brad Chandler. Opposing were Mark Grannell, Mary Herbert and James Repshire who objected to the nature of the meeting.

Shippy said the decision was the right one.

"We're looking forward to moving forward in a positive direction," he said. He added that the district will continue to "offer the same education services we have."

Gilhaus' bio and opening letter to district patrons remains on the district's website. The district has not posted an announcement about the change to the district's website.

Heidi Negron, who has two children in the district, said the public has the right to get answers from its elected board.

"I don't know what the problem would be and I don't know why they wouldn't include the parents," she said. "That's something really important that we need to know about."

Gilhaus didn't comment on the situation until he released a statement Friday night, saying his reason was because he recognized a need to speak on his on behalf.

In the statement Gilhaus said the special board meeting was held without giving a full purpose or agenda to the full membership or to himself. He went on to say:

"No means of due process and no cause for separation was provided. This action came only two weeks after I received a very favorable annual evaluation. It must also be noted that my evaluations for the last 10 years have been equally favorable."

Click here to read his full statement.

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