BoE Meeting 6/10/2008
The Board of Education met for a special meeting last Tuesday evening. All nine members of the Board were present.
Business as Usual
On the agenda were personnel issues, appointments and re-appointments, hires, retirements, promotions, demotions, and stipends.
The Board voted to approve the re-appointment of Brian Buckley as the district’s Business Administrator at a salary of $150,000. Mr. Buckley is the district’s CFO and is responsible for the development, preparation, and management of the district’s $56M budget. Mr. Buckley oversees district-wide payroll and accounting operations and ensures that the district is compliant with all state and federal reporting requirements. Mr. Buckley gets high marks from some board members for his forthrightness and helpfulness.
The Board voted 1-3-5 against the reappointment of Hoboken Tax Collector Louis Picardo as Treasurer of School Monies, with only Anthony Romano voting to approve. The position, which was to be increased from $5000 to $7500, is paid to a financial custodian who maintains the district’s bank accounts independently from the school business office. Per state statute, the position is usually given either to the municipality’s Tax Collector (Picardo, who recently ran into trouble with the Zoning Board) or Chief Financial Officer (George DeStefano).
Evidently, Brian Buckley had been doing the work for Louis Picardo, who in years past was paid $5000 to merely sign his name. Superintendent Jack Raslowsky explained Picardo’s past level of involvement: “He’s done what we’ve asked him to do over the last two years and I think in all honesty, if we haven’t asked him to do more, and we’ve asked him to perform a minimal sort of check-and-balance or a minimal sign-off, I think that what’s we’ve asked and that’s what we can hold him responsible to do.” The board then re-voted on and approved an amended item that would pay him $5000 rather than the $7500 and requires that he actually perform the work he is being paid for. Again, Farina, Defalco, Raia, Garcia, and Rhodes abstained, as Picardo apparently prepares tax returns for many people in town.
Board member Theresa Minutillo inquired about the appointment of Howard McKenzie to the newly created position of Supervisor of Math and Science. Though lacking a science background, which Raslowsky maintained was made up for by McKenzie’s supervisory experience, McKenzie’s salary will increase from $68K to $92K. Raslowsky suggested that by creating the new position, McKenzie’s former position (high school math teacher) becomes available for one of the recently laid-off teachers. The appointment was approved 6-3 with board members Minutillo, Carrie Gilliard, and Rose Markle voting against.
Minutillo also inquired about the appointment of Kate Kezmarsky, currently an English teacher at the high school, to the newly created position of Supervisor of Humanities. Though Kezmarsky lacks the Masters degree desired for the position, Raslowksy maintained that she was the best-qualified of the pool of candidates applying for the job. Her salary will increase from $72K to $90K. Again, by creating the new position, the district may hire one of the recently laid-off teachers to fill her position. The appointment was approved 7-2 with Minutillo and Markle voting against.
When Minutillo asked about how these two new positions would affect the district’s mission to cut costs, Raslowsky responded that the transfers of other supervisory staff would ultimately result in cost savings for the district. The business administrator should have a cost-savings analysis of the district’s recent right-sizing efforts by the next meeting.
SEE THE REST OF THE MEETING HIGHLIGHTS AFTER THE JUMP…
(6/10/2008 BoE meeting recap, continued…)
During the public portion, parent and former school board candidate Maureen Sullivan questioned some of the transfers and appointments. Sullivan took exception to pay rates for bus aides that go as high as $19.21. Raslowky explained that some aides are full-time, with other responsibilities that include opening the mail and watching doors. Raslowksy further explained that there are contractual obligations that go back years, that “they are what they are,” and that “they are certainly to protect the rights of workers through the years.”
Sullivan replied “I’m sorry if it sounds sarcastic, but it sounds like we need a dose of reality. If we’re spending twenty dollars an hour on bus aides, we really need to think about how we’re spending our money.”
Other items of note:
- Patrick Ciriello, a high school gym teacher making a salary of $90K, was given two $2750 stipends for work performed this year and last year in “pool operation and safety.”
- The Board approved the appointment of Douglas Macaulay as Teacher of Video TV Production and Moderator of Television Studio at a total salary of $85K.
- A part-time Cosmetology Instructor was appointed at a salary of $25K.
Who’s Minding the Store?
The Board’s Finance Committee (Phil DeFalco, Frank Raia, and Anthony Romano) will serve as the Negotiations Committee. DeFalco – who was recently elected to the Board with the “Parents for Progressive Education” slate, Frank Raia – who was campaign treasurer for PPE, and Anthony Romano – supporter of PPE, will be negotiating the upcoming contract with the district’s faculty and staff unions
A campaign advertisement for the PPE slate in the April 13th Hoboken Reporter proclaimed: “Phil DeFalco, Carmelo Garcia and Frances Rhodes-Kearns have the backing of Hoboken’s teachers. Hoboken’s teachers are backing the Parents for Progressive Education school board candidates as evidenced by the fact that they have contributed heavily to their campaign.”
Can’t Stand the Heat?
The Board finally approved a contract to the low bidder for replacement of the high school auditorium air conditioning system for an amount not to exceed $238,534.
Bored of Education?
Early in the meeting, Board President Francis Rhode-Kearns set the tone for future meetings by asking her fellow board members to refrain from grandstanding and needlessly prolonging the meetings. While this measure is most welcome, the new Board majority also made it clear that they do not want to spend too much time immersed in the details of running the district. In a prepared speech, Rhodes-Kearns asked that Board members refrain from removing items from the consent agenda (items that are voted on collectively and approved in their entirety) except to abstain, vote no, or address a question that could not be answered before the meeting. She added:
“I believe we all have plenty of time to review the agenda, make our calls, and get our questions answered. Every item on this agenda has the recommendation of our superintendent, the business administrator, and at least one board committee. Therefore, a reasonable assumption can be made that all items will be approved tonight. Let’s not waste the evening discussing the inevitable. Let’s instead spend our time as a board the future, which includes planning, policy, and the budget issues that affect our children and our community. We must also listen to parents, to the staff, community members, and our students about their ideas, dreams, and goals. The day-to-day issues are the responsibility of the superintendent and the staff.”