The Niskayuna Board of Education voted Tuesday night to extend the contract of Superintendent Susan Kay Salvaggio by one year, amid calls from some members of the public to delay the vote until new board members are seated.
The board approved the extension by a vote of 4 to 2, with one abstention.
The vote came in a meeting where multiple people spoke during the public comment portion arguing that any contractual or financial decisions should be delayed until the new board is seated next month.
The new board includes two incoming members who ousted incumbents in the same May election that resoundingly defeated the district’s first budget proposal.
Those arguing for the delay also presented an online petition backing their position, with 187 people signing it as of last evening. The petition did not name any particular positions or individuals.
“For me, the petition highlights my lack of faith in this board,” district resident Stacy Lampman told the board, noting that she felt bad saying that as there were two outgoing board members. “But over the years we’ve had these budget gaps and you’re trying to plug holes. There’s really no long-term plan.”
Tuesday night’s vote extends Salvaggio’s contract one year, to June 30, 2015. Her original three-year contract would have expired in 2014. She was appointed in 2011 at an annual salary of $192,000.
The extension comes after two contentious public votes, one that voted down the original district budget proposal in May, and a second that saw the $75.7 million budget pass.
Voting in favor of the extension were board members John Buhrmaster, Robert Winchester, Debbie Gordon and outgoing board member Jeanne Sosnow.
Voting against were board members Barbara Mauro and Deb Oriola. The other outgoing board member, David Hudson, abstained.
Board members took the vote without commenting on their votes. Mauro and Oriola afterward declined to discuss their votes at length.
But Buhrmaster said he supports Salvaggio. The problems cited by those wanting to delay the vote, he said, lie with the board, not the superintendent.
“I think Superintendent Salvaggio has done an excellent job over the last couple of years,” Buhrmaster said. “We need stability in this district now. Some of the things the board has done have been unsteady.”
Buhrmaster said the public has spoken, replacing two board members. But he said he feels that the leadership is strong.
Next year, he said, the board needs to work together better, something he said he didn’t believe happened in forming the budget this year. “I don’t blame that on the superintendent, I blame that on us,” Buhrmaster said.
Earlier, during public comment, Buhrmaster also read a statement from board member-elect Kevin Laurilliard, who had planned on attending but couldn’t due to a family emergency.
According to the statement, Laurilliard said he was comfortable with the current board deciding on a one-year extension.
“Because,” Laurilliard said, according to the statement, “the current board members have been interacting and conducting business with the superintendent since the beginning of her employment.”
But incoming board member Patricia Lanotte urged the board to delay. She said she sees the vote as an assumption that Salvaggio wouldn’t get a fair shake with the new board. She took issue with that.
“As an incoming board member, I want this community to be behind me and this board,” Lanotte said. “And I think you would do yourselves a disservice if you ignore it, for whatever reason, and what you’re saying to them is ‘We do not have faith in the unbiased opinions of the incoming board members.’ ”
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