TUSCOLA, Ill. (WCIA) — Former Tuscola Community High School principal Steve Fiscus’s split with the school district was “mutual” and over a “misunderstanding,” according to his legal counsel.
The Board of Education voted unanimously last week to buy Fiscus out of his two-year contract with Tuscola Community Unit School District.
Generally speaking, a board doesn’t agree to pay an administrator $139,659.45 to cut ties over nothing. Although Fiscus’s attorney admitted the timing was strange, he continued to say there wasn’t “a story” behind the decision.
Steve Fiscus was placed on administrative leave more than a week before the separation agreement. His attorney Brian Schwartz — who is also Deputy Director of the Illinois Principals Association — said he’s not sure why the former principal was removed just after school started, but he believes the reason to be a misunderstanding. Fiscus was never notified of any accusation of wrongdoing, Schwartz added.
When reporters asked what Fiscus’s understanding of the district’s decision was, Schwartz said he doesn’t believe Fiscus was given a reason or knows why, which is something he would’ve eventually been entitled to know in order to have the opportunity to argue for reinstatement in front of the school board.
Instead, a separation agreement was signed. WCIA’s Target 3 team acquired a copy of the nine-page document, mostly filled with standard verbiage straight from Illinois state statute.
The agreement, signed last Wednesday, reads “Fiscus “desire[d] to leave employment in the District effective immediately,” and his resignation letter was attached as an exhibit to the document.
That said, the letter and separation agreement are both dated Aug. 31, meaning — as reporters confirmed with his attorney — Fiscus’s resignation happened after a mutual agreement to part ways.
After the alleged misunderstanding resulting in administrative leave, Fiscus’s lawyer said both parties felt the damage had been done, and it was best to part ways. The district also wanted different leadership, he said.
Reporters asked board secretary Darold Spillman and Superintendent Gary Alexander to clarify in their words why the former high school principal was placed on leave and how that turned into resignation and/or mutual agreement to part ways.
The separation agreement bars both parties and Fiscus from disclosing the terms of the agreement “or Fiscus’s conduct or performance during his employment by the District.”
Spillman only said he was not present when Fiscus was placed on administrative leave.
Alexander said he’s bound by the board’s previous statement that said the agreement was “in everyone’s best interest,” and the decision was “not based on any allegation, and there have been no findings of misconduct against Mr. Fiscus.”
Also included in the documents attached to the agreement was a glowing recommendation from Alexander to Fiscus’s potential future employer(s). “Steve understands best educational practices and how to utilize all aspects of education to help students and staff be successful,” the letter dated Aug. 23 read.
Schwartz said Tuesday there were no findings of wrongdoing against the board either.
This article has been updated to reflect a post-publication response from the school district secretary.