NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s new superintendent will have the highest salary in the state if his contract is approved Tuesday night, Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Bruce Mellion said.
But Board of Education Chairman Mike Lyons said Sunday night that Mellion’s information is wrong.
Mellion said Sunday that, in addition to the $250,000 base salary (actually $220,000, with $30,000 contributed to an annuity) already mentioned by the BOE, the contract includes a $16,000 loan to cover moving expenses, which will be forgiven if Superintendent Manuel Rivera stays in Norwalk for a year. It also includes a performance compensation of up to 20 percent of the superintendent’s salary — $50,000, Mellion said.
Altogether, that would be an additional $66,000 that the board would have to figure into the reconciliation next spring – a reconciliation that members have already said is going to be tough.
“Dr. Rivera will NOT be eligible for a bonus for the first year of his contract; the earliest a bonus could be set up would be in May of 2014, to take effect for the contract year starting in July of 2014 (see contract section 4(D)),” Lyons wrote in an email. “So in year one he will definitely not be the highest paid superintendent. I don’t know who the highest is, but I know Westport’s superintendent’s salary this year is $292,000, vs. $250,000 for Dr. Rivera ($266,000 if you include the housing allowance for the first 6 months).”
In addition, “Dr. Rivera will get no housing allowance in year two (‘next year’s reconciliation’), and will only get a bonus if the Board decides to provide for one in the review process next May,” Lyons said. “So as of right now, the actual impact on next year’s reconciliation is $0, not $66,000.”
Mellion said he agreed that Norwalk Public Schools needs the best superintendent possible, so appropriate compensation is necessary. But he sought to put it into context.
“For eight years we have found our operating budgets to be in very difficult situations, including this one,” he said. “Except that last year, before Dr. (Susan) Marks left, we lost the utility aids, the intervention aids. We lost middle school intramurals, we lost the APs (assistant principals) in half the elementary schools, and the librarians. Now, granted, Tony (Daddona, interim superintendent) was able to try to piece something together, to try to attend to some of those, and that has gone forward to some degree.”
The extras built into the contract are sending a mixed message to the 1,300 employees, he said, in light of the tough bargaining stance taken by the board, led by Personnel and Negotiations Committee Chairwoman Sue Haynie.
“(Haynie) has done everything within her power to suppress, bully employees in every bargaining unit, and does it with abandon all the time,” he said. “No shame about it whatsoever. Never says anything positive about them, never says anything good about them. Just tries to kick them and kick them and kick them. Which I think is unfortunate and very wrong. We understand there are certain economic realities but you don’t have to go out there and try to kill everybody.”
Now comes Rivera, he said.
“We’re going to give him the moon, the stars, the solar system, the milky way and everything else,” he said.
Lyons said Mellion is good at hyperbole.
“Sue Haynie didn’t negotiate the contract with Dr. Rivera,” he said. “Steve Colarossi and I for the board, and Diane Beltz-Jacobson for the Corporation Counsel’s office, did the negotiating; so whatever problems Bruce has with Sue aren’t relevant to our negotiation with Dr. Rivera. Of course, taking a strong negotiating position in contract negotiations is not, per se, ‘kicking teachers,’ any more than the union taking strong stands on its part (which it definitely does) amounts to ‘kicking’ the Board.”
One more point: the performance standards are ill-defined, Mellion said.
That’s true, Lyons said.
“The standards and the measurement are to be set mutually by the Board and the superintendent (the contract says that ‘reasonable, measurable and objective criteria for being awarded such compensation may be determined by the Board’) in any year the contract clause is used,” he said. “The criteria listed in the contract are specifically stated simply to be ‘by way of example.’ The contract is deliberately broadly worded to give discretion to the Board to set whatever ‘measurable and objective’ criteria it chooses in any given year.”
The clause also says that the bonus may be up to 20 percent.
“Bruce is assuming Dr. Rivera would be given the maximum 20 percent bonus at the start; it would be more likely to start at something like 5 percent,” Lyons said. “In any event, the Board would only use this clause in a budget year when it made sense; in a tough budget year it could simply be foregone.”
Lyons was quoted in the Hour as saying that the contract is suitable for a CEO. Mellion said this is the public sector, not the private sector.
Lyons said the unions are adamantly opposed to incentive pay, which shouldn’t prevent the board from offering it to administrators.
“Our teachers are the fifth-best paid teachers in the state, funded by taxpayers who aren’t anywhere near the fifth-wealthiest in the state (and with ridiculously low ECS funding from Hartford),” Lyons said. “Many of our other employees (e.g., nurses and custodians) also rank in the top five. If the employees are objective about their pay and benefits in relation to employees throughout the state, they will have to admit that they are treated very well by the board.”