The Board of Education on Tuesday voted to extend the contracts of Superintendent Eric Ely and other top administrators — with no input from the public.
Ely, whose contract is up on June 30, 2011, was given an additional year to 2012. Employees who had their contracts extended to 2011 were William Roberts, assistant superintendent for operations; Associate Superintendent and High School Principal Gary Comley; Human Resources Director Michael Stricos; Chief Technology Officer Lawrence Murphy; and School Attorney Shari Greenleaf.
The board adopted these contract extensions as part of its consent agenda, which took less than a minute.
Board President Jeff Janiszewski was about to take a motion to adjourn the meeting when resident Bill McColl stood up to make a comment.
“Would you suspend the agenda and extend the privilege of the floor to the public?” McColl said to applause.
“Sir, you’re out of order. Please take a seat,” Janiszewski said.
McColl repeatedly interrupted Janiszewski and asked the board to allow public comment.
“You are not a member of this board. You don’t get up and hijack this meeting. I will rule on that. It is denied,” Janiszewski said, raising his voice.
Outgoing board member Linda Bellick said that since members of the public had shown up — about 75 total — the board should take public comment. Some of those in the audience had waited until the board finished an executive session lasting an hour and 45 minutes to discuss “litigation.”
Resident Joan Elliott expressed concern about the way the board was conducting its business.
“It seems to me it would have made much more sense for the contracts to be held up and voted on when you had the two new members,” she said.
New board members Joyce Wachala and Diane Herrmann will take their seats on July 1. Both had expressed concern that the board was taking these actions before the independent investigation into Steven Raucci’s alleged workplace misconduct is completed. Raucci has been indicted on 26 counts of terrorism and other charges for allegedly planting explosive devices to intimidate his enemies. The district also commissioned an independent investigation to investigate charges that Raucci harassed and demeaned colleagues.
Wachala said that the board and administration has to earn the respect of the community.
“I’m hoping that happens sometime very soon. Although we can extend contracts, people can always be fired,” she said.
Resident Andrew Chestnut said the board had lost his trust with its violation of civil service rules in creating positions and drafting a second budget that was higher after the first one was voted down by the public.
“I believe the most helpful thing you can do to help our children right now is to resign, and I call you to do so,” he said.
Janiszewski’s daughter Caitlin, a graduate of the high school, defended her father and the board.
“I just want to thank you, Dad, and every person on this board for putting up with this crap. ... I don’t trust the media, and I believe it’s getting worse,” she said.
Maxine Brisport and Gary Farkas were the two board members who voted no on the consent agenda containing the extensions. Brisport said she believes the district should hold off on all contract extensions for six months until the district can move forward from these controversies.
Janiszewski again defended Ely’s role in helping to raise district test scores and reduce disciplinary problems and said the superintendent has been the victim of “character assassination.”
The board on Tuesday also filled Raucci’s old job permanently. It voted to appoint Rinardo Insognia, currently the director of facilities management at The Sage Colleges, to the position of supervisor of building and grounds at an annual salary of $87,500.
Its other action was officially adopting the $160.6 million budget and setting the tax rate at $20.46 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in Schenectady and $21.54 for Rotterdam parcels in the city school district. The district is using the city’s new updated assessment roll.
Not all of the top administrators’ contracts were brought forward for renewal Tuesday. Those not acted on were Assistant Superintendent for Business Michael San Angelo, whose contract is up June 30, 2010, and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Matt Weinheimer, whose contract is up in 2011.
“The board has taken a decision not to renew Mike San Angelo’s contract at this time, and counsel has advised us it’s a personnel matter and we shouldn’t comment on it,” Janiszewski said after the meeting.
A lawsuit filed by five people against the district alleges that administrators knew of the allegations of physical assaults, vandalism and verbal threats by Raucci and did nothing. One of those people, Ryan Rakoske, alleges that he tried to inform district officials about Raucci in a May 2005 meeting with San Angelo, then-Superintendent John Falco, Janiszewski and Stricos.
San Angelo was Raucci’s direct superior. The operations and maintenance department reports to the assistant superintendent for business, according to an organization chart provided by the district.