The Schenectady City School District Board of Education on Wednesday revised its ethics policy to include a new section prohibiting board members from voting to appoint relatives to positions.
Ann Reilly, chairwoman of the board’s Policy Committee, said the district wanted to address hiring issues that had come up in the human resources department.
“It hasn’t been an issue with this board, but it’s one that our attorney believed it was important to include,” she said.
Reilly was alluding to prior instances of nepotism, including the district hiring the wife of former board President Jeff Janiszewski as a behavior intervention specialist.
Municipal law says spouses sitting on school boards can vote to hire family members, but some school members choose to recuse themselves. That will be required under this new policy.
Also added is a new section that prohibits people from using their district position for financial gain for themselves or relatives or any private organization in which they have an interest. Another new part says district resources should not be used for personal or private purposes.
Reilly said the changes weren’t designed to address any specific issue. The board did not discuss the matter during the formal part of the meeting, but Reilly elaborated on the revised policies when asked.
A previous board of education had come under fire during the scandal involving former facilities director Steven Raucci, who is serving 23 years to life at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. Raucci was convicted of arson and vandalism charges for placing bombs on homes or cars in an effort to intimate people he perceived as enemies. During these incidents, Raucci had used school district vehicles and some supplies.
In addition to the ethics policy, the board also adopted minor changes to other policies, including amending the Equal Employment Opportunity policy to add language saying people cannot be discriminated against on the basis of “ethnicity” and “domestic violence victim status.”
Reilly said domestic violence was added because they did not want victims to be penalized if they have to miss work because of court appearances or other reasons.
In other business, the board accepted the independent audit report from Bonadio & Co. Auditor Alan Walther said the major issue for the district is booking property tax revenue it has yet to receive, which isn’t part of generally accepted accounting principles. The board made a conscious decision to treat uncollected tax revenue from the city as revenue.
No other substantial problems were found, but Walther characterized the district’s financial situation as “difficult,” in response to a question from board member Cheryl Nechamen.
President Cathy Lewis said because of its own cash flow issues, the city is delaying by one year its payment to make the district whole for uncollected taxes. School officials expect to receive this revenue in May 2013.
Also, no one spoke at a public hearing on the district’s 2012-13 Contract for Excellence plan. Because of its status as a high-needs, low-performing district, Schenectady is receiving $14 million in extra state aid this year. It will use the funds to reduce class size from the contractual limit of 25 to 22 per section for kindergarten through second grade; from 30 to 24 for grades 3-6; and from 32 to 25 for grades 7-12.