Battle Ground school superintendent to get $401,715 payout

Shonny Bria ‘was asked to leave,’ school board vice president reveals

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

Published:

Updated: June 27, 2013, 10:53 PM

 

Settlement details

Bria will receive her full salary for the 2012-13 school year and will receive the following compensation:

• Payment of $150,000 in the 2013-14 school year and $150,000 in the 2014-15 school year, a total of $300,000.

• Two full years of medical coverage (medical, dental, vision) for Bria and her husband, worth $45,360.

• Vacation cash-out of $41,149 for 38 days, paid in accordance with her contract.

• Payment of $15,206 into a health savings account for unused sick leave.

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BG schools agreement with Shonny Bria

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Resolution thanking Shonny Bria

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When the Battle Ground school board met Thursday afternoon, it was the ninth special meeting since April 29, when Shonny Bria, the district’s superintendent, announced her retirement. At seven of those special meetings, the superintendent’s position or personnel were on the agenda.

After the Battle Ground school board president insisted for more than a month that departing Superintendent Shonny Bria would receive no special favors, it has been revealed that she will get a payout of $401,715.

The payout includes $300,000 in cash, equivalent to nearly two years of her $154,699 annual salary, $45,360 in insurance benefits for her and her husband, $41,149 in vacation cash-out, and a payment of $15,206 for unused sick leave into a health savings account.

The agreement was signed April 29, the same day Bria announced her “retirement” and six days after voters approved a four-year maintenance and operations levy. It wasn’t revealed until Wednesday afternoon, Bria’s last day in the office.

But Monty Anderson, board vice president, said Thursday, “Put two and two together. She was asked to leave.”

The district initially announced only that Bria would receive $300,000 plus benefits. When pressed later Thursday, the district disclosed the value of those “benefits,” which raised Bria’s actual payout to $401,715.

School board President John Idsinga told The Columbian as recently as Tuesday that Bria was not receiving compensation for the two years remaining on her contract. He insisted she was receiving only the same compensation as any other retiring employee: the ability to cash in unused vacation and sick days.

“We were still in the process,” Idsinga said by phone Thursday.

Idsinga said that although the agreement bears his signature, Bria’s signature and the April 29 date, it wasn’t finalized until a closed-door meeting of the school board Tuesday.

Even high-level administrators in the district office said they did not know about the district’s agreement with Bria until Wednesday morning, when Bria called a staff meeting and read the agreement to the staff.

Duane Rose, who will become interim superintendent July 1 and has been serving a liaison role between the district and school board for two months, said he did not know about the agreement. Neither did Lynn Hicks, who begins her interim deputy superintendent duties July 1.

Nor did Mary Beth Lynn, the district’s finance director.

“All of this was news to me,” Lynn said Thursday.

As for the $300,000 payout, “It will have to come out of the general budget,” she said.

It’s not clear when Bria will receive her check or checks. The agreement says the payment dates are to be determined by Oct. 31.

Teacher Ellen Joslen, president of the Battle Ground Education Association, learned about the agreement and Bria’s payout Thursday morning.

“I was just surprised,” ­Joslen said. “I had been told that wasn’t happening. That would pay for five full-time teachers including salary and benefits.”

Bria has consistently declined to be interviewed and could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Gregg Herrington, the district’s communications director, responded to earlier interview requests with, “Shonny told me she does not want to talk with you. She will not meet with you.”

Bria’s statement

Bria said in a prepared statement: “As I leave the Battle Ground School District, I want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the many people who have made my time here so fulfilling. The children and parents in this district have been the best I have ever worked with and I will miss them terribly. I have made friendships with people here who will be dear to me forever.

“The 15 years I have served the district have been the most rewarding time of my professional life. It has been my honor to work alongside our employees. They are second to none. As I leave, I am gratified to know they will remain and continue to serve the children well.

“It has been a pleasure to work with the many board members who have served this district during my tenure. The tireless work of these dedicated volunteers will never be forgotten,” Bria wrote.

Her last day of employment with Battle Ground is Sunday.

Bria is the second consecutive Battle Ground superintendent to receive a six-figure buyout. Leo Beck received compensation of $160,000 plus six months’ salary, for a total of about $210,000, when he left the district’s top position in 1998. Bria was hired to succeed Beck.

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4515; http://twitter.com/Col_Schools; susan.parrish@columbian.com.