Three members of the Mechanicville City School District Board of Education announced their intention to resign Monday night after voting against an extension of the school superintendent’s contract.
Superintendent Michael McCarthy received a three-year extension on his contract with the district in a 4-3 vote. Board members Joanne Boisvert-Fraser, Anita Carney and Michelle Guido voted against the contract.
All three announced their intention to resign after the vote, saying they felt the contract decision was rushed and an example of decisions being made without full disclosure to all board members.
McCarthy’s previous contract was set to expire in June 2010. Guido said she received a copy of the proposed contract about a week ago and was asked for thoughts but there was no “sit-down, roundtable discussion” about the contents.
“We didn’t have any big discussion. I like Mike as a person, but I think we needed more time to consider a very important issue in spending money right now,” she said. “I don’t understand the need for speed on a contract that didn’t expire for a year.”
She said she is very sad that she had to leave. “I’ve been active in the PTA for 20 years and I think I can make more of an impact in the community at the PTA level,” she said.
McCarthy said everyone on the board had received the same information about the three-year extension before Monday night’s vote.
“I was surprised when I heard them indicate they were going to resign,” McCarthy said Tuesday. “The remaining board members are committed to the students and to moving the district forward.”
Carney’s resignation was made official on Tuesday when she presented a written resignation to the clerk of the board. The other two women had not submitted official resignations as of the close of business at the school Tuesday.
Boisvert-Fraser and Carney told The Daily Gazette they also wanted to see written evaluations of McCarthy’s performance, but none have been produced.
Boisvert-Fraser said the board had set goals each year but there have been no follow-up reports on whether McCarthy was seeing that the goals were reached.
“He’s the chief executive officer of the district and he’s supposed to follow through on board directives. We never get reports on the follow-up,” she said.
McCarthy was hired by the district in 2003 with a contract that paid him $99,000 the first year plus $1,000 because he had a doctorate degree.
The contract year is from July 1 through June 30. This year, his salary is $142,800 plus $3,000 for his doctorate.
Beginning July 1, he is scheduled to be paid $149,940 plus $3,000 for his doctorate.
Under the new contract, the salary will remain at $149,940 for 2010-11 plus the $3,000 and another $1,700 in what is called increment pay. That increment pay will rise each year by $1,700.
Carney said the increment pay is traditionally paid only to teachers, not to administrators.
“The contract places his increment and $3,000 doctorate stipend in his salary, which means future raises will be based on the additional money,” she said. “Right now the $3,000 is paid in a separate check and does not count toward raises or his retirement.”
McCarthy’s pay is to increase 1 percent the second year of the contract and 2 percent the third year of the pact.
Boisvert-Fraser said she was distressed by the increase in McCarthy’s salary when the district’s budget for next year may require cutting employees from the payroll.
She said she has asked repeatedly to have the entire board involved in drawing up the budget for next year, but only two board members were named to the finance committee and she isn’t sure when they meet.
“I’ve gone to school board meetings in other districts and I see [all board members] working together and explaining their process. I can’t even find out where we are. We should have a worst-case scenario so teachers know they might be losing their jobs,” she said.
McCarthy said the finance committee members are Frank Grimaldi and John Bove, who were appointed by board President Shannon McHale. He said McHale often attends the committee meetings.
“Everybody is welcome to attend those meetings,” he said. “We’ve also had a couple of budget workshops, and a public forum was held last Wednesday night. We’ll have another forum on March 26.”
He said it’s true the committee has not announced how many layoffs are anticipated. That’s because it isn’t clear how much state and federal aid will be coming to the district to fund the budget.
“There are staffing cuts included in the scenarios,” he said. “Even with the deficit-reduction aid back in the budget, we probably will have to do some reductions.”
Last week, the school board adopted an early retirement incentive package directed at persuading some of the longest-serving teachers to retire. Newly hired teachers are paid lower salaries and benefits and the board hopes to be able to replace the higher-paid teachers in next year’s budget.
McCarthy said he met with union officials Tuesday afternoon to discuss the package but he had no way of knowing what the budget impact will be.
The incentives are for teachers with a minimum of 10 years employment who are eligible to retire by Aug. 31.
They must sign an irrevocable letter of resignation by April 1 and in return, $15,000 will be added to their 403(b) retirement plan.
The incentive plan was included on the original agenda sent to The Daily Gazette before the board’s March 5 meeting, but at the beginning of the meeting that night it was removed from the items to be discussed.
McCarthy said the incentive was discussed during an executive session later in the evening and brought back to an open session and voted on after the public had left for the evening.
Boisvert-Fraser and Carney said they were sorry to leave the board but felt they can accomplish more for the community if they are part of the audience. They said they can ask questions and demand answers from the floor that they say have been ignored behind closed doors.
Boisvert-Fraser was re-elected in May.
“The board has been very divided, and whenever I asked to have the New York State School Boards Association send someone to do a clinic to help us work together better, I was ignored,” she said. “Discussing things internally is not the same as having an outsider arbitrate.”
School board members McHale, Grimaldi and Bove could not be reached for comment Tuesday.