Correction, 3:17 p.m.: Erik Anderson voted against tabling, Bryan Meek was in favor. Updated, 1:48 p.m.: Paragraph to explain the charter-mandated role of a Norwalk mayor when the Board of Education votes on a motion.
NORWALK, Conn. — Raises for Norwalk Public School administrators will not be further considered until the state budget situation is resolved.
The Board of Education on Tuesday voted 5-4 to table the proposed increases, which had been worked out in executive sessions, with Mayor Harry Rilling breaking a tie by casting his first vote as an ex-officio Board member.
The Republican budget cuts Norwalk education funding by $79,000, Board member Artie Kassimis said in opposition to the raises, asking, “If that is the case, then what do we cut?”
The Board was considering changes to the salary ranges and compensation plan for non-union Senior Management positions for 2017-18 through 2019-20.
Senior administrative positions were slated to have their compensation levels adjusted upward to reflect changes in the Norwalk Association of School Administrators (NASA) contract, a five percent raise, Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski said.
The recommended compensation range for the Chief Academic Officer, the Chief of School Operations and the Chief of Specialized Learning and Student Services would be $189,000 to 209,000. The Chief of Technology, Innovation and Partnership, the position currently held by Ralph Valensizi, and the Chief Financial Officer would be $179,000 – 205,000.
Chief Academic Officer Michael Conner, who has been hired to be the Middletown Schools Superintendent, made $171,374.95 in 2016, according to city documents.
The range for the Chief Talent Officer would be $169,000 to $195,000 and the range for the Chief Communications Officer would be $112,000 to 139,000.
The changes in the compensation ranges would mean that:
- Chief Talent Officer Cherese Chery would get a 5.5 percent raise, to $174,075
- NPS Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton would get a 3.5 percent raise, to $185,653
- Valenzisi would get a 2.5 percent raise, to $189,374
The proposal also gives the administrators a one-year renewable contract instead of a two-year contract, which Adamowski said would make things easier.
Norwalk Federation of Teachers (NFT) First Vice President Joe Giandurco spoke against the changes.
Budgets are frozen and NPS is “failing to give administrators the state-required training to certify them as evaluators,” he said, continuing to add that with the uncertainty about state grants, “those raises seem quite foolish at this time.”
The Board conversation was short and civil, with Yvel Crevecoeur the first to volunteer that he would vote no, given the state budget crisis and the status of Central Office.
“I would like to have further discussion on the policies and procedures related to this package to ensure that we are able to retain individuals in the district,” he said.
Shirley Mosby agreed, first citing the budget and then saying, “I am not comfortable with supporting a 5 percent increase when the administrative staff and teachers have received between 2 and 2.6 percent. I do understand about compensating for services but at this time until we get some kind of certainty as to what is going on… in state assistance and because of that reason there alone, it’s not toward the individuals, I will be voting no.”
Kassimis said he thought the administrators were worth their wages.
“My statements have nothing to do with the people that are in these positions. The word that comes to mind is the word ‘tact.’ The word tact is defined as sensitivity when dealing with issues. I believe this one specifically requires a lot of it,” he said.
The Board was prepared to make massive layoffs this year before the Norwalk Federation of Teachers agreed to a change in health insurance providers, he said.
An executive search company said that 60 percent of executives that change positions do it for reasons other than their salary, and 84 percent leave for promotions and other opportunities, he said, before making a motion to table the proposal until the state budget is worked out and the city releases its hiring freeze.
Bryan Meek, Mosby, Kassimis and Crevecoeur voted to table the proposal. Erik Anderson, Mike Barbis, Heidi Keyes and Chairman Mike Lyons voted against tabling.
All eyes turned to Rilling.
As an ex-officio Board of Education member, Norwalk’s mayor only votes when there is a tie. This is the first time there has been a tie since Rilling was elected in 2013.
“This is a very challenging time,” Rilling said. “We don’t know what we are facing. The city is facing up to $5 million to $6 million worth of cuts from the state of Connecticut and that is going to be a significant challenge. I, too, agree that we need to compensate people fairly, compensate them competitively so that we don’t lose people. I believe that the motion to table is quite appropriate until we have a better handle on what is going to be coming down the road from the state of Connecticut.”
Later, Hamilton touched on the state budget uncertainty, explaining briefly the state grants that NPS receives.
The legislature on Friday approved a budget formulated by Republicans, which is expected to be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy.
Because the bill wasn’t sent straight to Malloy’s desk, it will be days before he will have the opportunity to veto it.
“We have been trying to figure out a lot of what is going on,” Lyons said. “I have been back and forth a lot with (Republican State Rep.) Gail Lavielle, who herself is trying to figure out exactly what is going on. The Republican budget apparently reformatted a lot of the ways that these budget line items have been set up. People haven’t really figured out what the impact on Norwalk is of that reformatting. I think clearly what is going to happen is that the governor will veto then he is going to say, ‘Alright we have to find some kind of compromise, we’ll take the two bills and let’s work it out.’ When that happens we’ll know where our numbers are.”
After the meeting, Lyons said Adamowski specifically mentioned Conner during the executive sessions where he requested the compensation increases.
“One of the things you generally don’t want to do is having people at lower levels making more money than the people they report to. Part of the reason we wanted to do this …(Adamowski said) ‘I don’t want to lose good people like Michael Conner,’” Lyons said. “Artie is right. I think a lot of times when people make a lateral move it’s a career opportunity, they may not necessarily make much more money.”