Lyons: New Norwalk super won’t be best paid in state

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Norwalk Board of Education Chairman Mike Lyons shakes hands with Manuel Rivera, Ph.D., last week after Rivera signed the preliminary contract making him Norwalk’s new superintendent of public schools.

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.”

Rivera Contract – Final


11 responses to “Lyons: New Norwalk super won’t be best paid in state”

  1. M. Murray’s

    Is Mr Lyons suggesting a 20% bonus options for teachers? There were complaints here alleging that Norwalk teachers were the 5th best paid in the state. Will be waiting for comments on this one. Are they paying moving expenses for teachers they hire if they stay for 6 months?

  2. Ken P Jr

    We should pay what we can afford, not be directed by what other places pay. Man its no wonder we are in such a mess. We worry much more about compensating our municipal employees than we do about keeping Norwalk affordable for taxpayers. And why offer ANY bonus to ANY of these employees? In the REAL world you get bonuses for making your boss money. Since these positions dont make us a red cent and already paying more than most Norwalkers make bonuses are absurd. How about starting people at $30,000 to $50,000 with raises IF they are worth it?

  3. M. Murray’s

    Interesting that they pushed teachers dfor hard freezes yet they are writing in huge yearly raises plus 20% bonuses

  4. marjoriem

    I think the point of the additional 20% is to keep Rivera loyal to Lyons, Haynie and the rest of them. What better way to get a puppet superintendent? The Board already wants to choose curriculum without input from literacy experts. Now they control everything. The Board decides if Rivera gets this money, not taxpayers., not administrators, not any other constituent. Understand it now, folks?

  5. LWitherspoon

    Welcome to Norwalk, Dr. Rivera! Here is a very good example of the sort of ridiculousness you will need to contend with from Teachers Union head Bruce Mellion.
    Does Mr. Mellion feel that it’s too generous to pay our new superintendent 14% less than Westport’s superintendent? If so, would Mellion support paying Norwalk teachers 15-20% less than Westport teachers?
    Mike Lyons is right – Mr. Mellion and his ilk have staunchly resisted the idea of performance pay for teachers. Mr. Mellion’s fear of a system that rewards excellent performance shouldn’t keep us from offering generous performance incentives to Dr. Rivera. As Peter Berman says, Rivera’s job is among the most important in Norwalk.

  6. Just to clarify in relation to M. Murray’s comments — there are no annual increases provided for in Dr. Rivera’s contract; unlike union contracts, which build them in, any raises for Dr. Rivera must be approved each year by the Board. There is also no bonus required by the contract with Dr. Rivera; there is merely a clause allowing such a bonus should the Board decide in the future to offer one with performance objectives (Dr. Rivera will get no bonus for his first contract year in any event). Also, it isn’t an “allegation” that Norwalk’s teachers are the 5th best paid in the state; that is a fact found by the arbitration panel in the recent contract arbitration. And I would love to offer performance incentives to high-achieving teachers, but unions universally oppose them.

  7. M. Murray’s

    In was in error assuming that there was a contractual yearly increase. I think any increase should be limited to 3% which is about what other City Department heads are getting.

  8. piberman

    Here we all are once again with the ever hostile NFT’ Bruce Mellion criticizing the BOE’s contract with our new Supt. And complaining about school budgets. Yet not a word about the Award Panel’s statement that his bretheren were the 5th highest paid n the state. Lets encourage the revitalized BOE and new Supt. to keep up the contract pressure on the NFT during future “negotiations”. After all they deserve no less.

    It will be a “warm day in the winter” before Norwalk public school teachers have the professional courtesy to welcome a new Supt. without spewing out the same old baloney. Of course, if their “performance” matched their exalted salaries we’d be singing their praises. Shame.

  9. marjoriem

    Mike Lyons, please clarify the wording on the contract. Does it actually say up to 20% or 20%?

  10. Suzanne

    Wow! And the children and students are, um, where in this discussion? I would like to see these articles and responses be what my taxes are paying for: education-centered, kid-centered. Priorities here seem all mixed up with everyone caught up in blame. Remember what this is about! Kids! Education! Norwalk’s future!

  11. marjoriem — The contract says “up to”. The amount can be anywhere from zero (where it is year one) up to a maximum of 20%.

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