District pays $200,000 to part ways with longtime administrator
The Park City School District is parting ways with longtime associate superintendent Tom VanGorder after they reached a separation agreement that could result in the district paying him up to $200,000 in retirement benefits.
Superintendent Ember Conley said in an interview that the split was amicable and part of a decision to reshuffle financial resources spent on the district’s administration.
“It was an opportunity for us to rebuild and restructure,” she said.
The Park City Board of Education approved the separation agreement in a meeting July 13 by a vote of 3-1. Board member Nancy Garrison voted against the measure, while J.J. Ehlers was absent.
Garrison did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As part of the separation agreement, which the district provided to The Park Record, the district will shoulder 95 percent of the cost to provide VanGorder with three years of retirement service credit from Utah Retirement Systems, up to $200,000. VanGorder is responsible for paying for the other 5 percent.
The district does not intend to replace VanGorder in the near term, Conley said, and will instead disperse his duties among current staff. The savings from not paying VanGorder’s annual salary, she noted, will essentially neutralize the cost included in the separation agreement.
Phil Kaplan, a member of the Board of Education, agreed with that assessment and said the board chose to support Conley’s desire to realign the administration team.
“There’s really no net cost — that’s the key,” he said, referring to the $200,000 payout being offset by no longer paying VanGorder’s salary. “There’s really no cost at all.”
According to Utah’s Right to Know, a website (utahsright.com) that provides salary information for public employees, VanGorder’s annual salary was just under $128,000, plus an additional $60,000 in benefits. The website states data for the Park City School District was last updated in April 2015.
In return for the retirement payout, VanGorder agreed to consult with the district about topics that were within his scope of responsibilities for one year so the district could retain and transfer his “institutional knowledge” about practices and policies, according to the agreement.
The agreement also includes a clause stipulating that VanGorder and the district may not “publically disparage” one another.
VanGorder, who is out of the country, declined via email to comment. He will officially retire from the district August 31.
Conley said VanGorder was amenable to the split.
“It was a great opportunity for him to retire and do some things that he’s been wanting to do, both personally and professionally.”
The retirement of VanGorder, who oversaw student services and the district’s nursing staff, comes after he was involved in an U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights investigation last school year into the district’s treatment of diabetic students.
The investigation found that the district had not properly cared for a diabetic student, and had discriminated against her by forcing a parent to accompany her on field trips. Parents of other diabetic students came forward with similar allegations when the investigation became public.
However, Conley said the district’s decision to seek a separation agreement had nothing to do with the fallout from the investigation. The agreement notes that VanGorder has received “consistently excellent evaluations” throughout his career in Park City.
“It’s not based on performance whatsoever,” she said.
VanGorder, who had been with the district since 1994, served as interim superintendent three times, most recently in 2012 before the Board of Education hired Conley.
A Parkite who immigrated to the U.S. when he was 13 is giving scholarships and internships to three first-generation graduates from PCHS.