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Fox names new superintendent, tightens anti-nepotism policy

Fox names new superintendent, tightens anti-nepotism policy

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ARNOLD • The next superintendent of Fox schools will be Jim Wipke, an administrator in the Rockwood School District.

The Fox School Board vote unanimously Tuesday night to offer him a two-year contract, beginning July 1.

“You have an unenviable, daunting task ahead of you,” said parent James Osia, who then welcomed Wipke to Fox.

Wipke addressed the roughly 75 people who attended the meeting and pledged to create a culture of trust and teamwork, and to visit every classroom during his first quarter as superintendent. He also said he plans to hold town hall meetings with parents.

His salary for the 2015-16 school year will be $175,000 — almost $100,000 less than his predecessor earned. His raise for the second year would be a maximum of 5 percent. Wipke is the executive director of secondary schools at Rockwood.

Fox has come under fire since nasty comments on a Topix website about district critics were traced to the home of Superintendent Dianne Critchlow and her husband, and to the homes of other administrators as part of a libel lawsuit.

Critchlow agreed in June to retire but denied she had made the comments. Her husband was fired from his job as director of the Bridges Alternative School; other administrators were reprimanded.

State auditors are probing district records, and the district is doing its own review.

Critchlow retired at a $267,468 salary, among the highest in the state for superintendents, and twice what she was paid when she was hired as superintendent a decade earlier.

Also Tuesday, the Fox board unanimously approved a tighter anti-nepotism policy that would bar the hiring of relatives of board members, the superintendent and assistant superintendents.

If an employee’s relative is elected to the board or hired to those positions, that employee could keep his or her job, but could not change jobs while that relative was on the board or serving as superintendent or assistant superintendent.

The board did not vote on a $66,000 payout for Andy Arbeitman, the assistant superintendent of elementary education, through a voluntary separation policy that gives certain employees half their salary to depart.

Arbeitman began working for the district July 1, 2013, and his salary is $133,495.

A decade of employment in the district was once required to reap that benefit, but that requirement was quietly erased earlier this year. Several speakers on Tuesday spoke against giving the payout to Arbeitman.

The district’s attorney is examining the policy and the board is “taking a serious look” at its options, said Board President John Laughlin.

Arbeitman came to Fox after resigning as superintendent of De Soto schools. He left De Soto with a $208,000 settlement from the district, which agreed to limit all responses to “employment-related inquiries” about Arbeitman to position held, dates of employment and last salary earned.

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