Here is my letter to the editor read on-air on WHDD this morning as my own personal opinion….
Brain Kavanuagh’s letter of April 12th was right on. When you vote May 8th on the Region 1 proposed spending plan consider the following:
1. Over the last three fiscal years Central Office administrators have had salary increases of 6-7%
2. With the exception of the director of special education who has had 20 days added to her work year every other Central Office administrator has been given more days off with the superintendent and assistant superintendent leading the pack
3. The assistant superintendent has been given the additional benefit of a $2500 annuity
4. The superintendent’s annuity is tied to her salary (6%) giving her an additional increase
5. The unusual wording in the superintendent’s contract allows her to take any graduate level courses at a 100% reimbursement with no limit on the number of courses she can take annually, no limit on the cost per credit and no reporting system regarding the successful completion of the course. Over the last 3 fiscal years the cost to the taxpayer for course reimbursement has been $26,600. The spending plan does not specifically account for this expenditure
The Board’s majority has refused to revisit these contracts to level the playing field. They fail to realize that annual renewal of these contracts so that there is always a term of 3 years costs the Board plenty. Should a future Board decide that they no longer want the services of an administrator their hands will be tied. That means employing someone who no longer fits the bill until the contract finally ends or using taxpayers’ money for a buyout. Neither alternative is acceptable. That the Board’s attorney allowed so many of these contract conditions to stand, despite the obvious detriments and the lack of the best interest of the Region and/or the taxpayer, is astounding. There doesn’t appear to have been any negotiation at all, but an immediate acquiescence to administrators’ demands without any thought or consideration of the financial impact to students and taxpayers. These folks are the highest paid public officials in the area. Our local communities have been holding the line on all kinds of expenses including salary and benefits for a number of years. That this small group is treated as if it has some entitlement is an insult to all those other public employees who have been asked to sacrifice, to say nothing of those in the private and non-profit sectors. Here is a breakdown of the four top administrators’ financial packages NOT including vacation, personal, sick and other time off: superintendent: $168,798 (plus $12,000 budgeted for tuition reimbursement); assistant superintendent: $151,746; director of pupil services: $143,070; business manager $136,107. All are working fewer days than in 2009-2010 for more pay and benefits.
These items and others of a crucial and important nature both at HVRHS and Central Office need to be addressed. So far the majority has refused to do so on the advice of the superintendent and board chairman. Keep that in mind when you vote.
Patricia Allyn Mechare
Every vote counts, look at past results and see how close we are, let’s send a clear message to the administration and school board:
NO TO THE “EXTENSION” OF CONTRACTSReferendumResults (1)
Friday, April 27, 2012 9:11:21 PM
Subject: Letter to the editor:
There are multiple inaccuracies in the 4/26 issue. I’ll begin with the editorial. Neither the Sharon representative nor I voted against the budget on March 28. We voted against giving the “central office” administrators raises and contract extensions. I voted against them this year as I did last year because — in my opinion and according to my conscience — giving these pay raises and extensions would express a lack of consideration for the taxpayers of Region 1. We are still living in a time of economic uncertainty. The majority of people here are not wealthy business-owners, they are hardworking employees, some of whom have lost their jobs, some of whom have lost their homes, many of whom make well below the middle class median household income of around $50,000 for a family of four, and most of whom have not had raises for the past few years. The administrators’ present compensation packages range from over $100,000 to around $180,000 for the superintendent. Taxpayers will be asked to bear an additional tax burden for necessary and mandated repairs to the high school building. To ask them to pay for raises for people who already earn so much money is – in my opinion and according to my conscience – untimely. Any budget increases at this point should be to improve student learning.
The editorial says that I didn’t attend the April meeting “when the budget and bond issue were voted unanimously to be sent to referendum by the board,” perhaps leaving readers wondering if I didn’t attend in order to avoid that vote. In fact, I was away on assignment as I have been every April at that time for the past three years.
The superintendent, chairman and Becky Hurlburt in the Cornwall Board of Education story and Irene Hurlburt in her letter are wrong in claiming the contracts can’t be changed if the budget is defeated. Of course they can. The raises are included in the proposed budget and if the proposed budget goes down, the raises don’t magically remain in place — they go down too. The chairman’s claim that if the budget is defeated programs will be cut is also nonsense. If the budget is defeated the region continues to operate and bill the towns based on the current 2011-2012 appropriations. If the budget is defeated, the board needs only to eliminate the contract extensions and raises of the administrators – with the exception of the principal and assistant principal whose contracts expire June 30, 2012. Contracts extensions and raises for the “central office” administrators are what people object to. Get rid of them and the budget will pass easily.
As for Irene Hurlburt’s claims about “innuendos,” if she’s referring to me she should know that my objections to the questionable actions of the board and superintendent over the past three years have not been by innuendo, but rather in clearly articulated written statements that are part of the public record and available to any citizen.
Gale Courey Toensing
Falls Village, Connecticut
Contrary to what some people believe, when one opposes the Region One Budget on the grounds of administrative contracts, it does NOT have to affect the education program of Region One. The reasons are simple and irrefutable:
1) The total dollar amounts spent on education programs will not change (the only change to the proposed budget would be that the new additional annuities, the new vacation days, and the new sick days for administrators would be eliminated).
2) Should the budget be defeated, the Region One Board would simply have to re-submit a budget that keeps the current administration contracts (which include already negotiated raises for all administrators) in place for the remainder of their current contract term.
New contracts can be negotiated when they enter the final year of their current THREE YEAR CONTRACTS, as specified in their current contracts.
I, along with many others, oppose the Region One budget for very simple reasons:
1) If one negotiates and signs a three-year contract, common business practice dictates that one honors that contract, and opens new negotiations as previously agreed upon, in the same way that the teachers do (the same way that is stated in their current contract).
2) It insults the collective intelligence to claim that contracts that are being renegotiated (additional vacation days, additional sick days, additional annuities …) are extensions. Extensions are just that, extending the current contract with no changes and no additions. It further strains credulity to the limit by claiming, as some have done, that the new contracts cost nothing. That is not true. “Extended” contracts that call for additional vacation days, additional sick days, additional annuities, etc. are by their very nature not free.
No one is asking for, or has asked for, anyone to lose their jobs of be laid off. No one is asking for, or has asked for, money for the education programs to be taken from the budget. What is being requested, as we have been requesting for two years, is that the administrators in Region One honor their three-year contracts, plain and simple. It’s not about personalities and it’s not about vendettas. It IS about honesty, it IS about a transparent, open administration of our school system, and it IS about one principle: Honoring your word, and your signature on a contract that you negotiated, and signed for a three-year commitment to educate our children.
For the record, all of these concerns were raised prior to last year’s budget vote, but were never addressed in this year’s hearings. In fact, any attempts to raise the issues were shut down by the Region One board before any discussion could take place. It is about time that the board acts as our representatives, rather than the administration’s rubber stamp. For these reasons, I will once again vote no on the Region One Budget May 8th. A no vote will send a message to the board to start acting like an independent entity that leads, oversees and interacts with the administration, instead of the other way around.
To: Marshall Miles
From: Gale Courey Toensing
April 21, 2012
During the March meeting of the Region 1 Board of Education I tried to put a list of initiatives on the agenda, but my effort was shut down by the superintendent and Phil who advised the board to vote against adding my item to the agenda. At last Thursday’s community meeting, Lou Timolat asked Phil to put the initiatives on the agenda and Phil said, ”I have no problem with that. . .Anything that should be on the agenda will be on the agenda.” Below is a copy of the initiatives that I asked to be put on the agenda for the board to take home and think about, so that we could have a discussion the next month. They are all based on the statutes, our policies and bylaws, and Connecticut Association of Boards of Education policies. I plan on re-introducing them next month:
From: Gale Courey Toensing, Falls Village representative
March 5, 2012
Region 1 Board of Education
Meeting March 5, 2012
1) Series 3000/Business
3160 Transfer of Funds between Categories:
“Transfer of funds to a new item or new position will be done only after full Board consideration and discussion.”
Action: Motion that the board is to review and approve transfer of funds before they are transferred.
3170 Budget Administration:
“Over-expenditure of a budget category as these categories appeals on the one-page budget summary (see 3120), except as provided in 3171, will not be permitted except by formal action of the Board.”
Action: Motion that the board is to review and approve over-expenditure of a budget category before the category is over-expended.
3326 Paying for Goods and Services and 3432 Budget & Expense Report/Annual financial Statement
The1990 version of policy 3326 says “payment of properly approved invoices will be made once a month, following approval by the Regional School Board at its regular meeting and upon recommendation of its designated officers or agents.” That policy was revised in 1993 and does not include that sentence. However, policy 3423 requires that the board reviews bills each month. It says, “A monthly report of disbursements and budget balances will be submitted each month at the board of education meeting.” We are receiving budget balances, but not disbursements.
Action: Motion that the board receives a monthly report of disbursements to include the names of payees and amounts.
2) Board goals, board self assessment — from CABE Series 2400.
Attached is suggested CABE process for board self assessment. Obviously a board can’t fully assess itself if it doesn’t set goals for itself. Number 2 on the CABE assessment list is that the board sets annual goals. This board met in 2009 and set long range goals, which now appear on our agenda each month. Some of these ”goals” which should not be considered as annual goals because they are part of expected duties and responsibilities as a board (for example, “continue to maintain the building” and “support curriculum, instruction, and assessment development.” Setting annual goals will help focus our work and give us standards by which to measure our performance.
Action: Motion to set a special meeting before the end of June, 2012, to set board goals for school year 2012-2013.
3) Superintendent’s goals and job evaluations from CABE Policy 2400
Clearly, it is inappropriate for an employee to devise his or her own evaluation instrument for his or her employer to use in evaluating the employee’s job performance. Equally clearly, it is inappropriate for an employer to use as an evaluation tool an employee’s self evaluation on how well he or she has performed against a set of goals he or she has set without consultation with the employer, although such a self evaluation can be a supplementary part of the superintendent’s job evaluation by the board. One of the key questions on CABE’s Superintendent’s Performance Evaluation – which was developed collaboratively by CABE and CAPSS – is “Does the Superintendent of Schools consistently meet or exceed the mutually established performance goals . . .?” in the various categories in the evaluation process. The board needs to develop ‘mutually established performance goals” with the superintendent and replace the superintendent’s job performance evaluation document.
Action: Motion that the board meet with the superintendent in public (as required) to discuss and develop district goals and objectives for the upcoming school year.
Here is video from the Falls Village Region One informational session in Falls Village (thanks to CATV 6.com/YouTube web page)
BY RUTH EPSTEIN Republican-American
Toensing, an outspoken member who conducts community forums a few times a year, focused on the budget that will be considered during a daylong referendum May 8 in the region’s six towns — Canaan, Cornwall, Falls Village, Kent, Salisbury and Sharon.
She said she was speaking as an individual and wasn’t advising people how to vote.
The Lakeville Journal has a great story on the annuity of Patricia Chamberlain
Here is a link to the Tricornernews.com the Lakeville Journal website…
Some excerpts from the story….
An April 13 email letter to the Region One Board of Education from former Assistant Business Manager Choo K. Singer, who worked for Region One from 1991 to 2010, raises questions about how Region One Superintendent Patricia Chamberlain’s annuity has been handled for tax and pension purposes. The letter, which has been widely circulated and posted on a website run by WHDD radio’s Marshall Miles, claims that Region One Business Manager Sam Herrick was wrong when he said at the April 4 public hearing on the Region One budget proposal “that the superintendent’s annuity had always been part of her base salary and had been reported as pensionable income to the Connecticut Teacher Retirement Board (CTRB). Herrick said in a phone interview Tuesday, April 17, that he did not dispute the substance of Singer’s letter. He said that at the public hearing he incorrectly stated that Chamberlain’s annuity had been processed through payroll, when in fact it had not until the current fiscal year. “I thought we had been doing it that way.” Region One board attorney Gary Brochu sent a memo to Region One Chairman Phil Hart Tuesday, April 17, stating “there is nothing illegal or inappropriate with the superintendent receiving some compensation in the form of a tax-sheltered annuity.” Brochu’s memo also says there is no prohibition on converting a nonelective annuity benefit to an elective annuity benefit. In a phone interview April 17, Brochu said, “The Board of Education and any employee are entitled to negotiate [contracts] as they see it.” He said that the CTRB evaluates the pension claims of retiring employees on a case-by-case basis, and in the event of a problem, it’s between the employee and the retirement board. “It has nothing to do with the school district,” he said.“The only impact is on the employee.”
Singer was out-of-town this week but said in an email ask ing for comment that her letter describes the “superintendent’s deliberate attempt to ‘deceive the public’ and get around the state government regulation for her personal gain through the business manager.” She also said that, “The annuity may not have any impact on our budget now but it could be costly to all Connecticut taxpayers in the future, if the public school administrators find a way to inflate the pension base a few years before their
regiononereport’s comment on this story…
Get the paper, read the whole story, you will see, that Choo Singer is right on target, it’s not what is paid now, but what we all will pay well into the future on a “pumped up”, deceptive retirement plan for our Superintendent.
Here is the language in the superintendent’s contract on her reimbursement that regiononereport.com found: “The Board shall reimburse the Superintendent for the cost of graduate level courses at an accredited college or university. The reimbursement shall be at one hundred percent (100%) of the tuition fee. Reimbursement shall be made to the Superintendent upon submission of a receipt for payment to the Board”. The high school teachers’ contract, in contrast, has much more specific language: “24-1 Teachers who successfully complete graduate level courses in a program of courses approved by the Superintendent of Schools shall be reimbursed at a rate equal to fifty percent (50%) of the cost of a credit hour at the Connecticut State University up to a maximum of six (6) credits hours annually. 24-2 Reimbursement shall be made within thirty (30) days of the date that the teacher submits to the Superintendent the college receipt for the payment together with written evidence from the college that the teacher has satisfactorily completed the course with a grade of “B” or better. 24-3 To be eligible for reimbursement, the teacher must have prior approval of such graduate level courses from the Superintendent or his/her designee. 24-4 Decision of the Superintendent to approve or disapprove course reimbursement shall not be subject to the grievance procedure set forth in Article 3 of this Agreement.”
As you can see. there is little to no accountability in the superintendent’s contract regarding course work as compared to the teachers’ contract. Apparently she does not have to have her course work approved by anyone – like the Board of Education, she is not limited in terms of tuition costs as the teachers are to state university tuition costs, she does not have to provide evidence of a minimum grade in her course work from the institution from where she is taking courses and there is no provision regarding the number of courses she can take annually.
A sweet deal, on top of a great deal….