Wilson’s severance pay will likely exceed $300k — see contracts

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

The total cash value of outgoing Claremont Unified School District Superintendent Jeff Wilson’s severance package will very likely exceed $300,000.

The separation agreement includes a guaranteed cash settlement of $296,818, representing 12 months of salary, up to a year of health benefits worth up to $8,050, and a cash out of unused vacation time after Wilson’s final day on July 1.


Wilson was fired March 17 “without cause,” just nine months into a three-year contract. Both Wilson’s separation agreement and contract are posted on the COURIER website at claremont-courier.com.

The district’s board of education re-hired superintendent Jim Elsasser, who had guided CUSD for nearly nine years prior to Wilson’s short tenure, at its April 21 meeting. Elsasser will be paid $335,000 per year plus a generous benefit package. The new contract represents a $31,604 raise over Elsasser’s previous contract with the district in 2020, which is also available on the COURIER’s website.

Last week’s CUSD board meeting was striking in that the public comments related to the superintendent issue were quite heated. Most all expressed disappointment and anger about a perceived lack of transparency regarding the circumstances and timing of the firing and hiring of the outgoing and old/new superintendents.

The COURIER filed a Freedom of Information Act request with CUSD Monday, April 18, seeking the financial details of Wilson’s firing, which are public record. The district responded to the request the morning after the April 21 meeting, in which it voted to hire Elsasser.

The nine-page separation agreement is, as expected, long on legalese. Much of the language focuses on making clear it is the final bit of business between CUSD and Wilson, and that neither party will sue the other going forward.

It also contains answers to several questions the board left unanswered over the past two weeks, including the overall value of Wilson’s severance, but also heretofore unreported details of his firing.

The board approved Wilson’s firing in a unanimous 5-0 vote at a March 17 closed session. The document was signed by Wilson and his lawyer, David Bristol, on that date. Board president Steven Llanusa signed the separation agreement March 18, and CUSD’s lawyer Alexandria M. Davidson followed suit on March 22.

One of the key questions surrounding the district’s ongoing superintendent drama is whether the board was made aware of Elsasser’s availability and/or interest in the CUSD job prior to its decision to fire Wilson. That’s a key question because the district did not entertain any other candidates for the coveted job, nor did it advertise the position or open it up other applicants.

It also negotiated the deal with Elsasser behind closed doors, without any public input. The first time the public was made aware Elsasser was set to return was on Monday, April 18, when the CUSD Board of Education posted the agenda for its upcoming April 21 meeting.

When asked at the conclusion of last week’s board meeting how the timing of Wilson’s departure and Elsasser’s re-hiring went down, Llanusa said, “On the advice of legal counsel, because it is a personnel matter, I cannot discuss privileged information. That’s all I’m prepared to say at this time.”

The COURIER reached out again to Llanusa on Monday via phone, text and email to ask for details regarding the timing. It has not yet received a response.

Quantifying the dollar value of Wilson’s health coverage as part of his severance package is not a straightforward exercise.

“Benefits coverage costs is a bit complicated so here is some detail,” said CUSD Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources Kevin Ward in an email to the COURIER. “CUSD pays premiums/employee contribution on a 10 months (Sept – June) cycle. Ten months is the schedule that may employees work, the school year, so that cycle matched up with paychecks. CUSD staff have an employee contribution for health benefits.

“Those premiums/employee contributions pay for 12 months of coverage. So, the premium/employee contribution payments made during the 21-22 school year cover an employee until the end of September 2022. If Jeff does not take a position that has health benefits, the cost will be $805.00 per month for 10 months. That will start in October and continue through July. So, the District may pay up to $8,050.00 for a full 12 months of coverage. We anticipate a slight rate increase (2-3%) on Health and Welfare Benefits in January, when the new policy/rates are implemented but that will only have impact on the remaining months of the coverage period.”

All this to say, the final tally for what taxpayers will pay Wilson to walk away from the final two years of his three-year contract will not be available until after his final day on the job, July 1.







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