Ripon school officials have closed a loophole enabling at least one administrator to earn a doctoral degree on the district’s dime, only to take a higher-level position elsewhere.

From now on, the district will require ongoing employment for administrators to qualify for tuition reimbursement, and require a pro-rated reimbursement if an advanced degree is earned and the administrator leaves within three years.

The issue first came to light about a year ago, when then-Ripon High School Principal Dan Tjernagel was chosen to become superintendent of the Sturgeon Bay School District. The Ripon Area School District had just paid for Tjernagel’s doctorate.

“The district has paid a total of $17,770 for Dan Tjernagel’s tuition for his doctoral degree during the last two years. The district reimburses 100 percent of the tuition costs,” then-Business Manager Rick Ketter explained in June 2014.

One month after Tjernagel’s resignation, the concept of reimbursement came up at a Ripon School Board meeting.

“We pay for administrators to earn PhDs, and it seems like there ought to be payback if they get their PhD and leave — a pro-rated payback,” then-board President David Scott said. “... If you just come here, use our money to get a degree and then leave, well then you should pay us back for a significant piece of it.

“It’s fairly common in a lot of other districts.”

Monday, the board agreed to make that change in the 2015-16 administrative salary guide.

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