Board of Education President Jeff Janiszewski denies having anything to do with his wife getting a city school district position without having to take the required civil service examination.
Janiszewski said his wife, Catherine, had been working for the district for seven years as a paraprofessional when a “behavior intervention specialist” position was created in 2004. She applied and was hired on a provisional basis pending a civil service test. However, the district never acted on a letter from the county Civil Service Commission advising that a test was required.
“Apparently, it got stuck in a folder and nobody realized that it required a response,” Janiszewski said.
He said he found out about the Civil Service Commission’s request from a newspaper story. He added that the Board of Education is not typically made aware of this type of correspondence from civil service officials. Usually, district staff handles that material. Further, Janiszewski said he was not on the school board when his wife was hired.
Janiszewski served on the board for a single term from 1991 to 1994 before leaving the board to concentrate on raising four children, according to news accounts at the time. He decided to run again in 2004 to focus on safety and discipline.
He took office July 1, 2004. His current term is up in 2010.
The school district’s failure to respond to the Civil Service Commission’s request for information about the position of behavior intervention specialist five years ago was revealed April 26 by Gazette columnist Carl Strock.
The behavior intervention specialist works to improve student discipline, particularly through implementing the district’s Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) program, which rewards good behavior.
Janiszewski said Schenectady had been using BOCES staff to help implement PBIS. However, as it got more involved with the program it realized that it needed someone full-time in the position to work on behavior. Then-Superintendent John Falco sought to create the position.
“My wife anticipated at some point the test will be put forward and she understands that as a provisional employee she will have to past a test to retain the position,” he said.
He notes that there are plenty of people throughout local and state government that are hired on a provisional basis.
Schenectady County spokesman Joe McQueen said the behavior specialist exam has been requested by the local Civil Service Commission. Now, it is up to the state to set the date for the test. McQueen did not know when that could happen.
McQueen said the Schenectady City School District initially sent the paperwork to county civil service officials to create the position of behavior intervention specialist.
“It was sent back to the school district and the district did not submit it back to the Civil Service Commission,” he said.
McQueen said the district finally sent the correct paperwork last month.
District Superintendent Eric Ely said the problem was apparently discovered during one of the commission’s routine double checks of personnel positions.
Ely said the district has worked with the county Civil Service Commission to make sure everybody is in the right position and has the right civil service title. Sometime back in February or March of this year, there was a conversation between the county and the district about the behavior intervention specialist position.
Ely said the district found in the personnel files an acknowledgment letter from the commission indicating that it had received information from the district about the behavior intervention specialist. However, apparently civil service officials had sent out a follow-up letter seeking more information about that position. That was not in the file. Ely said he is not sure what happened. There may have been some turnover of secretaries during the past five years, he said.
“We’re trying to track down where the communication glitch has been,” he said.
Ely said the district has hired a second behavior intervention specialist. This employee also will have to take the test, which has not been developed.
Ely said people are often hired for positions on a provisional basis and sometimes it can take six months or even a matter of years before they complete a civil service test. Some tests are not given every year.
As for criticism raised about Ely’s wife and her job with the school district, Ely said his wife arrived here in August 2004, when he took a position as assistant superintendent. His wife had been a special education paraprofessional in New Hampshire working at the high school level. She interviewed at Oneida Middle School for a vacant paraprofessional position and was offered the job.
Ely said the district is constantly filling vacancies. It has about 430 paraprofessionals, and they have a 35 percent annual turnover rate.
“We have paraprofessionals stay 25 to 30 years. Also, we have paraprofessionals who have stayed for two or three days,” he said.
He said it is a relatively low-paid position with wages starting at $9 an hour.
“You’ve got to work here for a long time to get up to the $15, $16 hour range,” he said.