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06/09/2006

Chief of Kalkaska schools resigns

Resignation comes after porn incident

BY CHRISTINE FINGER

cfinger@record-eagle.com

photo McKenzie

KALKASKA — Kalkaska Public Schools board members accepted Superintendent Daniel McKenzie's resignation, but they wouldn't detail financial terms of his departure.

McKenzie, 42, submitted a resignation letter Tuesday morning during a school board closed session. That move came six weeks after the board punished him for using his work computer to access pornographic and financial Web sites.

The board on Thursday unanimously accepted McKenzie's resignation during a special meeting and approved a "letter of agreement and release" between the district and McKenzie, who did not attend the meeting and did not return calls seeking comment.

Board president Jim Peters said the agreement — already signed by McKenzie — releases the district from future legal liability and also includes a financial component.

But Peters refused to specify a dollar figure or provide a copy of the document following Thursday's meeting, which included no board discussion about the terms before the vote.

Board members contacted after Thursday's meeting refused to elaborate on the agreement that was drafted by Lansing attorney Michael Farrell.

Trustee Donna Wednieski, however, said the board must explain those details to the public, and she expected a report at Monday's school board meeting. She said the terms reached between the district and McKenzie address her concerns.

"I am satisfied, and I'm not going to stop him from resigning," she said. "The best thing for Kalkaska is to move forward and get a fresh start."

Trustee David Hogerheide questioned why the financial details of the agreement should be made public and directed questions to Peters.

Dawn Phillips Hertz, attorney for the Michigan Press Association, said the courts generally hold that such public employment records are public and subject to disclosure.

The Record-Eagle filed requests under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act for the letter of agreement, as well as other documents including McKenzie's resignation letter, personnel records, employment contract, and logs of school computer use.

McKenzie, who has not been accused of a crime, was hired as Kalkaska's superintendent in 2003.

The school board voted in April to make him pay the district $10,000 for his inappropriate computer use. He also received a letter of reprimand, lost three weeks of paid vacation, and the board cut a year off the term of his contract.

The $10,000 was to be taken from McKenzie's paychecks over the next year, reducing his yearly salary from $108,000 to $98,000. One of his paychecks was docked before he resigned.

Board members did not immediately act to appoint an interim superintendent, but established a subcommittee of board members to review potential candidates. Peters said he is authorized as board president to sign documents and perform other duties while the post is vacant.

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