After 6 years on the job, Kiffy flunks

Perhaps you remember that when Jeff Janiszewski became president of the Schenectady school board bac

Perhaps you remember that when Jeff Janiszewski became president of the Schenectady school board back in July 2004, one of the first things he did was get his wife hired as a “behavior intervention specialist” at a salary of approximately $40,000 a year, which was a nice jump for her, since she had been a mere teacher’s aide at $12 an hour.

And perhaps you remember that the school administration conveniently neglected to do the necessary Civil Service paperwork, with the result that Catherine Janiszewski, known as Kiffy, was able to remain in the job provisionally, without taking the necessary test.

That is, until I found out and wrote about it, and then, finally, the paperwork was filed and the process was set in motion to administer a test to her and to anyone else who might be interested in applying for the job.

Not to keep you in suspense, I can tell you the test was finally given earlier this year, 19 people took it, including Mrs. Janiszewski, and — God’s honest truth — she didn’t make the grade. By which I mean six people scored ahead of her. Since the school district is required to hire from among the top three, it cannot legally hire her for the job that she holds on a temporary basis.

What’s more, even if the district drags its feet on hiring one of the qualified candidates, it still must fire Mrs. Janiszewski within two months of when the test results were certified, according to Joe McQueen, spokesman for Schenectady County. The results were certified on April 20 (I was slow to learn about it), so that means they must terminate her no later than June 20.

Actually, Mrs. Janiszewski doesn’t even have seventh place all to herself in the scoring. Two people scored 95 on the test, four scored 90, and eight scored 85. She was one of the eight. Because of the tie scores, all those who scored either 95 or 90 are considered hireable.

Anyway, there you have a nice little example of how the Schenectady school district has been operating. The wife of the board president has been allowed to hold a job for close to six years that we finally learn she was not qualified to hold, as her salary climbed year by year up to $50,000.

Of course I remember a year ago when Superintendent Ely denounced me for having the temerity to file a Freedom of Information request for Mrs. Janiszewski’s payroll records, a routine public document.

He angrily told me I should follow her around for a day to see the wonderful work she does, and he ordered the school district’s designated spokeswoman, Karen Corona, not to take my calls any longer.

parting gift

As for the district’s director of human resources, who would have been in charge of processing or not processing the Civil Service paperwork, that would be Michael Stricos, who recently had the good sense to retire. (He’s the one who presented Steve Raucci with a framed photo of Marlon Brando as the Godfather.)

What did Mr. Stricos get paid as he went out the door?

Well, he got $13,344 for the days he had not been sick, $15,074 for the vacation days he did not use, and $42,833 as “incentive.”

Incentive: That’s a little parting gift that is written into administrators’ contracts — one-third of their annual salary. It’s not really an incentive, but incentive sounds better than parting gift.


And then there is Superintendent Ely, still shopping for a job after striking out in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Montana.

Just recently he was one of 31 contenders for the superintendent’s job in Forest Hills, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati (though the Cincinnati Enquirer reported yesterday the field was narrowed to two, and Ely was not one of the two.)

I can tell you, one of the refreshing things about school districts outside our own fair state is that they post their applicants’ information online.

I had never seen Ely’s resume until the Billings, Mont. school district posted it, and I had never seen his letters of recommendation until the Forest Hills school district posted those.

There are nine of them, four from current luminaries of the Schenectady school system, and they make for entertaining reading.

The aforementioned Jeff Janiszewski, Ely’s chief patron on the board, wrote, “I have never worked with a more straight shooter than Eric,” which was to be expected, but the one that struck me was the letter from Maxine Brisport, current board president and candidate for re-election in next week’s voting.

Though she is at pains now to distance herself from the Janiszewski-Ely axis, she wrote last November in what appears to be a generic letter of reference that he is still using, “Although I would love to have Mr. Ely continue in the role of Superintendent in Schenectady, I would enthusiastically and without hesitation recommend him highly to any school district.”

Now, admittedly, this was before the trial of the notorious Steve Raucci, where we acquired a goldmine of details about how Ely protected Raucci as Raucci tyrannized his employees, but even then we knew plenty.

We knew that Raucci had been charged with the crimes he was eventually convicted of, and we knew he exchanged chummy e-mails with Ely. We knew that Ely took Raucci into his confidence to the extent of blind-copying him on his e-mails.

Even knowing that, Brisport praised Ely for “his ability to assemble a supportive and professional administrative team” and for having “high expectations for all employees of the district.”

She even asserted that Ely “provides information well before a personnel issue escalates,” which is pretty funny when you think about the Raucci scandal, because the one thing that Ely most emphatically did not do is provide information before that little personnel issue escalated into a major criminal trial and half a dozen lawsuits.

Brisport also noted that Ely cared about “every issue he addresses, such as safety, security, physical space and school climate.”

So I’m grateful to the Forest Hills School District for posting these florid and imaginative recommendations. I learned from Montana, and now I have learned from Ohio about what goes on in Schenectady.

Categories: Opinion

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