Supt. Ely looks to get out of Schenectady

Ah, my old friend Eric Ely, superintendent of Schenectady schools, patron and pal of Steve Raucci, t

Ah, my old friend Eric Ely, superintendent of Schenectady schools, patron and pal of Steve Raucci, the former buildings and grounds chief who awaits trial on charges of arson and terrorism.

Ely’s own patrons and pals on the outgoing school board graciously extended his contract last summer, even though it still had two years to run, thereby shielding him from the vicissitudes of employment that might result from the election of new board members, but never mind. He’s looking for another job anyway, the ingrate. Shopping himself all over the country.

He is one of three finalists for the superintendent’s job in Erie, Pa., as you heard the other day, and he is also one of 23 contenders for the superintendent’s job in Billings, Mont. He’ll go anywhere that will have him, apparently.

In Erie my sources tell me he is a long shot because of the favorite-son position of an assistant superintendent there, Jay Badams. Some members of the school board didn’t even want to advertise the position.

Ely, by the way, declines to confirm any of these job-hunting reports, even though the Erie trustees told him and the other finalists two weeks ago they should notify their home districts, according to my source.

His position as a contender in Montana is posted on the Web site of the Billings Gazette, where he appears as No. 5 on a list of 23. Also on the Web site is a long list of proposed qualifications for a new superintendent, prepared by the director of governmental relations for the Montana School Boards Association as a result of conversations with school employees and community members.

These are heavy with such nuggets of school-speak as “education model delivery” and such curious renderings of common English as “forth righteousness,” but plowing through it all, I do find elements that are relevant to Ely.

“Transparency,” for example, occurs over and over as a desirable trait in a Billings superintendent. “Greater transparency and accountability to combat public distrust,” is one recommendation. “Transparency — open communication with the community,” is another. “Straightforward and transparent,” is yet another.

All of which brings a smile to my lips since it’s hard to imagine anyone more opaque than Eric Ely and his patrons on the Schenectady school board. They have done everything they can to keep secret the cozy relationship that apparently existed between him and the celebrated Raucci, for example, and it was only through a back channel that we learned Ely regularly blind-copied Raucci on his e-mails to other administrators.

“Good public relations skills — media and community relations person,” was another recommendation, and that made me smile again, remembering as I do how Ely to this day forbids the school district’s spokeswoman to speak to reporters (like me) that he disfavors, in my case because he is offended by the Freedom of Information requests I file.

“Knowledgeable on budgets,” is another attribute sought by the people in Billings, and I have to give Ely that one. He is so knowledgeable on budgets that he was able to completely hornswoggle the people of Schenectady last year, foisting on them a budget with 5.8 percent tax increase after they had voted down his original budget with a 4.8 percent increase.

It was the slickest move I have ever seen in a superintendent, and if he is immodest enough to bring it to the attention of the School District 2 Board of Trustees in Billings, I don’t see how it can do anything but help him.

Alas, another recommendation is “not a ‘bully model’ as superintendent,” and that one would surely work against him if the testimony of disgruntled employees could be heard.

The Billings school board is expected to decide on its finalists tomorrow and bring them in for interviews on March 1 and 2.

The Erie board has scheduled public meetings with its finalists on Feb. 18, 22 and 23. Each candidate is to make a brief prepared statement and then take questions from the public. I’m thinking I’ll drive out there for Ely’s turn.

word watch

Besides “forth righteousness,” the Billings people also want a superintendent who will “recognize the freewill sentimentality of Montanans,” according to the report prepared by the state School Boards Association, and this makes me wonder if they don’t have any dictionaries out there.

What do you suppose they mean by freewill sentimentality? Sentiments of freedom? Maybe, but I wouldn’t bet on anything.


In my report the other day on the trial of John Lewis, I misidentified an assistant chief of the Schenectady Police Department. He is Patrick Leguire, not McGuire, which I knew, but blew.

Categories: Opinion

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