It’s unfortunate that at a January 21st combined ABC/Regional School District #1 meeting Attorney Gary Brochu didn’t offer all pertinent information regarding the history of governance by Regional School District #1’s Board of Education, particularly in hiring a superintendent and supervising regionally shared services for all seven boards of education. The lack of transparency and an inaccurate account of previous legal opinions is unfortunate.
Someone asked if the State had ever weighed in regarding the District’s long-standing governance and structure. Brochu indicated that it hadn’t. However, in a 1979 memorandum between Mr. Cashman and Mr. Dopp of the State Department of Education, Cashman concluded that the Services Center and what is now known as the ABC Committee were not validly authorized or created under statutes 10-158a or 10-66a. That was presumably because the Region was organized under a special act and amendments to that act, previous to the inception of these statutes. Given the circumstances Cashman believed that the local boards of education and the Region One Board followed the spirit of the law and should qualify under section 10-158a – the very statue of which Brochu insists the District is in violation. Further, Attorney Craig Meuser in his 2006 legal analysis acknowledged, “in principle, the Series 7000 policies may be interpreted as to act as a10-158a agreement”.
Recommendations for modifications in the areas of “Board Withdrawal From the Center and the Committee,” “Joint Employment of the Superintendent” and “Supervision and Employment of Center Personnel” were made. Some recommendations were implemented, others weren’t. In his final communication, Meuser provided no recommendation to change the governance from the Board to the ABC Committee, nor did he suggest any deviation from the proportional payment of the superintendent that now exists. In fact, he recommended that the ABC Committee continue to be advisory.
Legal opinions regarding the 7000 series from 1964 through 2004 concluded that the adoption of the 7000 series by the six local boards of education and Regional Board of Education constituted an agreement by and between the local boards of education. Those opinions further concluded that the operation of the Services Center and the actions of the ABC Committee would be governed by the terms of the 7000 series policies. That this information was not clearly shared with the Board and the public is unconscionable.
There should be skepticism regarding Brochu’s advice. He’s been unsuccessful with FOI complaints. He failed to avoid two suits costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. He backed a “retirement package” for $150,000+ when the Board was not a party to an administrator’s suit and wouldn’t have been responsible for any monetary award. He was unsuccessful in a residency case in Kent. Other faulty advice has been equally as costly and problematic. Since 2010 there has been constant unrest with accompanying astronomical legal costs. His flawed advice has not been, nor does it continue to be, in the best interest of the District or in maintaining the 75 years of collegial cooperation among our towns.
Town of Canaan (Falls Village) Board of Selectmen
Patricia Allyn Mechare, First Selectman
Charles H. Lewis, Selectman
Greg D. Marlowe, Selectman
Jonathan Moore of the Region One Board of Education just mentioned one of the considerations in the possible hiring of a new Assistant Superintendent was
that “it might be time we tackle an issue that is literally right around the corner and that is our current superintendents retirement” …
Okay folks, here is the bottom line:
Coupled with the change in the way Region One pays the superintendent from a seven way weighted split, to a seven way unfair even split (taxpayers is Sharon, Cornwall and Falls Village will be paying MORE per student in Region One than the other towns), is also a proposal to formulate a joint employment agreement that spells out who has the responsibility for dealing with the hiring and evaluation of the superintendent. Currently the Region One Board has the final vote on those issues (with, by the way input from the ABC). There folks…you have it, plain and simple. It’s an Illegal power grab. This change of responsibility on who is the superintendents boss is plain and simple…IT’S A GOVERNANCE CHANGE. And in our opinion, and other legal opinions, this can not be done by the ABC or Region One Board, as the governance of Region One has been set by STATE STATUTE. To turn this responsibility of the weighted vote From The Region One BOE to the ABC Committee, is unfair. Again, that weighted vote formula was put in place with the formation of The Region One School District 1939 by the Connecticut Legislature, and is part of Connecticut’s General Statues. Now Attorney Brochu, the superintendent, and ABC want only a show of hands from ABC and Region One Board to change the entire face of governance in Region One. The ABC may legally be able to change the way the superintendent is paid to an even split (I say maybe) , but to change who is the superintendents immediate supervisor can (I believe) only be changed by changing the state statute…and that can only be done by the legislature. Is there no one else in Region One who is offended by this? Is there no State Representative or State Senator who can interpret Conn. General Statutes? Or is the opinion of Attorney Brochu the beginning and the end of this power play? Our ABC and Region One board should be focusing on more important matters: Our students, the shrinking student population, the costs of simply running a high school designed to hold 600 or more students with only 300-400 students (and falling), negotiating new contracts with teachers and non certified employees, the need to revamp Region One not to have an Assistant to the superintendent, and the need to be looking far enough ahead to realize the need to hire a NEW Superintendent after this current contract is over.
Priorities folks, priorities.
For full editorial
One more piece of an extended denouement
It’s unfortunate it had to come to this.
The dysfunction that overtook the relationship of the Region One Board of Education and its administration in the run-up to the approval of last year’s Region One budget (only after seven tries) was invasive and destructive. It permeated the atmosphere of the high school and the region, as well as damaging the longstanding, generally positive relationship Region One voters had with their high school, pupil services and central office.
The budgetary changes made during the seven proposals leading to the ultimate approval of the 2013-2014 Region One budget included increases in the legal expense line. This was because even at that time, it seemed the leaders of our regional school district weren’t able to solve their differences without resorting to court cases. It is therefore a relief that a case stemming from that time period has finally come to a conclusion. Yet some regret cannot be avoided, as well, acknowledging that the money and energy consumed by these court cases have sapped resources that could have been better spent.
The case was Goncalves v. Toensing, which was dropped on Oct. 31 (see stories by reporter Patrick Sullivan atwww.tricornernews.com or in the print Lakeville Journals of Nov. 6 and Nov. 13.) Former Assistant Superintendent Diane Goncalves was suing for defamation the former Region One board member Gale Toensing, who had been the elected Falls Village representative. The settlement included Goncalves leaving the district through early retirement as of Oct. 31, while receiving her full year’s salary of $140,976, and health insurance through June 30, 2018, in addition to other benefits.
Superintendent Patricia Chamberlain has said that she will be taking over Goncalves’ duties for the immediate future. This raises the question of whether that may be an overwhelming task, in that previously the responsibilities were attended to by a highly paid full-time employee. But if this is not an untenable situation for the superintendent, it raises another question as to whether the region needs that full-time assistant superintendent position as part of its structure.
All Boards Chairman Region One Subcommittee November 19, 2014
A report on the ABC meeting from The Republicn-American
full story avaiable at Rep-am.com
Five of the six towns that form the Region 1 School District appear to support, or are at least neutral to, changing the way the superintendent of schools is compensated. One town, Falls Village, is adamantly opposed.
The towns currently each pay a portion of the superintendent’s salary based proportionally on student populations. That’s the same method district towns use to handle costs for the operation of Housatonic Valley Regional High School, special education and the central office.
Region 1 Superintendent Patricia Chamberlain has a base annual salary of $151,327, plus an annuity of $9,080 for a total of $160,407.
Under a new joint agreement, the towns would each pay one-seventh of the Chamberlain’s compensation, with the seventh piece of the pie coming from the regional high school’s budget. This benefits towns with larger populations. Falls Village, the smallest town, would see an increase of $15,485; Cornwall, $12,364 and Sharon, $2,574, while Canaan would have a reduction of $13,902, Salisbury, $9,290 and Kent, $7,230.
FALLS VILLAGE RESIDENT LOUIS G. TIMOLAT told the committee it can expect legal action if changes are made that ignore the founding principles of the school district.
Following the meeting, Timolat cited the inequity of changing the formula for the superintendent’s compensation. He noted that Canaan, which has 280 elementary school students, gets 6 percent of educational cost-sharing grants; Falls Village, which has 78 elementary students, gets 1.7 percent.
“We don’t split $700,000 in educational cost-sharing equally across the district,” he said. “Is that because the original legislators were asleep at the switch? No, there was logic to it. But because the distribution is weighted, North Canaan gets several times the amount we do. They have already been compensated for the additional cost (of tuition).”
It has been argued that towns paying a flat payment of one-seventh of the superintendent’s salary is fair because she performs the same work for big schools and small. Timolat disagreed.
“Her assertion that ‘I do the same thing for everyone,’ that the size and scale and complexity of the site has no effect on amount of work she does, cannot be true,” he said. “If it is, then the larger entities are being shortchanged. To double the share Falls Village pays of the superintendent’s salary is an outrage and a fraud.”
He further objected to the change in structure for the district.
“We would be creating a separate bureaucracy to do what we have done for more than 70 years,” he said. “The foolishness of such a thing. In structure, it kind of usurps some of the authority of the regional board.”
He said he believes the district’s attorney, Gary Brochu, misled residents when he said the region is not in compliance with educational law. “That statute says we ‘may’ do this, not that we ‘shall’ do this,” he said. “Even the village idiot would know the difference between ‘may’ and ‘shall.’ It would change the founding governing structure of the district. This is a subject to be addressed by the towns and not be imposed upon the towns.”
Andrea L. Downs of Falls Village, chairman of the Region 1 School Board, had reservations, too.
interfere in or busy oneself unduly with something that is not one’s concern.Question 1: Is it ethical to criticly comment in a public meeting on and then criticize another towns local board of education?Question 2: When does a towns Board Of Finance members suggestion that the town attorney look into somthing to see if its legal become a threat for a lawsuit?Answers:Question 1: NOQuestion 2: It DOESENTAgain this year a North Canaan Board Of Education member raises concerns and questions over another towns Board Of Education. Very poor manners, very poor conduct for a board memebr, just plain wrong…again.Watch the video
Full story at:
Students thank veterans during ceremony
BY RUTH EPSTEIN
SALISBURY — Salisbury Central School students paid tribute to local veterans Monday not only through music and words, but looks of gratitude as well.
As each veteran rose to tell his or her name, branch and years of service, the youngsters and audience members applauded loudly and smiled with awe. Veterans from World War II to current conflicts all stood proud to have served their country.
New way to pay superintendent
How will towns divide expense?
BY RUTH EPSTEIN
FALLS VILLAGE — Opinions on whether to change the way Region 1 towns divvy up the superintendent’s salary are varied.
A proposal put forth by the All Board Chairmen Committee has the six towns, as well as a high school, each paying one seventh of the superintendent’s pay package. The towns always have been assessed proportionately based on their school population, which is how the costs are distributed for the operation of Housatonic Valley Regional High School, special education and the central office. Under the new arrangement, some towns would be paying more than their current assessment and others less.
The ABC Committee has been working on revising school governance, and some members said they believe this would be a more equitable arrangement.
At this past week’s meeting of the Canaan Board of Selectmen, member Charles Perotti said he heard from his niece Dolores Perotti, chairman of the town’s Board of Education, asking for the selectmen’s support of the proposal. He said she noted that the superintendent gives all the towns an equal amount of her time without favoritism. The selectman said he heard Falls Village is pushing back on the idea.
“We’re not getting more hours because we’re a bigger town nor is Falls Village getting less,” Charles Perotti said.
Selectman Susan J. Clayton said that is one item where population shouldn’t come into play. “There are certain things in the budget that don’t apply and I think this is one of them,” she said.
THE CHANGE FOR THE TOWNS’ LEVIES would be the following if the proposal is approved: Canaan, a reduction of $13,902; Cornwall, an increase of $12,364; Falls Village, an increase of $15,485; Kent, a reduction of $7,230; Salisbury, a reduction of $9,290, and Sharon, an increase of $2,574.
Jennifer Weigel of Salisbury said the board doesn’t have funds, so it should be left to each local board.
Ned Gow of Canaan said because the superintendent’s job is the same for all boards, “there is logic in using a straight division.”
Downs said she wasn’t sure it makes sense to break out 1 percent of the budget and handle it differently. No vote was taken.
Here is what Region One Report thinks:
Falls Village an increase of $15,485
Cornwall an increase of $12,364
Sharon an increase of $2,574
North Canaan a reduction of $13,902
Salisbury a reduction of $9,290
Kent a reduction of $7,230
If this plan were actually put in place by the Region 1 board….a myriad of lawsuits from taxpayers would result. Why? This is why: Taxpayers in Falls Village, Cornwall and Sharon would be asked to pay more per taxpayer to fund Region 1 than individual taxpayers in North Canaan, Salisbury and Kent. The small towns would be carry the larger towns that have a much bigger tax base.
Whats next? Sam Herrick’s salary? Teachers contracts? The Housatonic Valley Regional High School fuel bill? Where does it stop?
This is meant to be a Regional School District with every town paying their FAIR SHARE to fund it. That includes the superintendents salary. This is a very sad development, with the Superintendent actually going from town to town at local board meetings pushing local boards to support this. Instead of worrying about her salary (boy would lots of people in the Region 1 area love to worry about having her salary!), maybe the Superintendent should worry about why, under her leadership, in the past two years the region is paying out almost $400,000.00 due to legal actions on behalf of or due to both the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent. Thais $400,000.00 taken directly out of educating our students.
If the ABC continues on this path, there will be possibly hundreds of thousands of more spent on a legal fight with taxpayers, and boards of finance from the smaller towns.
This battle has not yet begun, but we are ready to rally people in the smaller towns to fight for their rights. This is a battle that will be joined, and a battle that will cost thousands of additional dollars for the district that could go towards education.
If the ABC and Region 1 boards want to save the taxpayers money, a couple of great first steps would be to stop al the buy-outs, and cut the bloated expense in the Central Office.