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Norwalk BoE reverts to contention over ‘$1,000 a day’ interim’s contract

NORWALK, Conn. – The phrase “$1,000 a day” is worthy of freaking out, Board of Education member Jack Chiaramonte said Tuesday, following a repetitive 7½-minute speech from BoE member Shirley Mosby regarding the contract for Norwalk’s latest interim superintendent.

Mosby said she wasn’t advocating for Deputy Superintendent Tony Daddona personally, but she felt that the person in that position should have been offered the interim superintendent job over outsider James Connelly, who has been an interim superintendent in multiple locations over the last 14 years.

She used the phrase “$1,000 a day” eight times, plus one “$1,000 salary.”

The Board eventually approved the $965-a-day contract for James Connelly, who will begin work as a consultant  Jan. 19 in advance of Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera’s last day on Jan. 31, in a 4-2-1 vote. Mosby and Sherrelle Harris voted against it. Rosa Murray abstained. Migdalia Rivas and Artie Kassimis were absent.

BoE Chairman Mike Lyons started the discussion by saying that the offer to Connelly had been changed at about noon Tuesday, removing the $1,000 a month maximum allowance for hotel stays and saying that hotel bills would be paid at the chairman’s discretion.

“I am still not comfortable with the salary of this person,” Mosby began. “Basically, from everything I can see, basically, I haven’t seen anything that can justify the salary that we are giving the person.”

Amending the agreement at noon did not give the public time to weigh in, she said. Many people are not happy with Connelly’s $965 a day, she said, adding that three people had approached her about the topic.

“We do have a deputy superintendent here who has been working closely with Dr. Rivera and if we are talking about trying to save money and advocating putting it into different areas, this is just a temporary position, we could have shifted the responsibilities over to that person who is already familiar with what is going on, whether it is Mr. Daddona or whoever is the deputy superintendent. I am just sitting here advocating for that position, deputy superintendent,” Mosby said. “We could have at least decided to push it over there and let that person take over and save the money, $1,000 a day, for an interim person. We could have allocated the money for some more things to help our children in the education area.”

Board of Education member Shirley Mosby
Norwalk Board of Education member Shirley Mosby discusses her concerns at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting in City Hall.

Plus:

“We really didn’t even have a discussion, it was just, boom, here’s a contract. I think we should have all sat down and had a discussion if there is something that really needed to be put out there. Say this is the reason why and all that…. All nine of us should have sat down somewhere and discussed this.”

“We sit here and we keep saying that we want to do things that’s innovative, out of the box, all that we like to save money and do all this stuff.”

“It’s not about personalities and whether we like them or not, it’s about doing what is best for our children. There’s a deputy superintendent here, we could have saved that $1,000 a day, and we could have sat here, because right now, it’s a placeholder. It’s really a seat-warmer position that’s going to continue the initiative that Dr. Rivera has put in place, but that a deputy superintendent should be very much versed with that because he was sitting here working with them.

“To keep sitting here, spending this type of money, and then expect – honestly, I don’t know what to tell people out there. They are asking me. I cannot honestly say, I cannot say, I cannot back this up, or find anything that can justify this, especially when you have somebody sitting here. Whether you like the person or not, the fact that the person has been here, the person was the interim superintendent for a whole year, prior to us – and from what I can see, everyone said the person did a wonderful job, even gave the person a plaque. Now all of sudden the person is not good enough or whatever, I can’t get into it at this point. I don’t know what the reasoning is, I don’t know if that is something that I want to get into at this point, but I can’t sit here wholeheartedly and justify giving someone $1,000 a day, especially when we had options we could have sat down and discussed.”

The email Lyons sent earlier Tuesday did not explain why Connelly should get $1,000 a day, she said. “I didn’t see anything supporting documents or anything to support the reasoning of this $1,000 a day, other than an email breaking down the salary of the former interim superintendent,” she said.

Mike Barbis was much more succinct.

“I think, Shirley, if you had read the email it very clearly stated the previous interim superintendent was being paid, he did the math, $1,019 a day. The email also stated this would be the lowest-paid superintendent in Fairfield County. So I think it was there,” he said.

Lyons said Daddona also received all of his benefits when he served as interim superintendent after the departure of Susan Marks, “at considerable expense.”

“This person will not be receiving those benefits so if you factor that in he’s substantially less expensive than the last interim superintendent,” Lyons said. “We should also keep in mind the last time we had an interim superintendent we also brought in a deputy superintendent it cost us about $800 a day to fill in for the lost position there.

“I think this cost is clearly less than the last time around,” he continued. “The going rate for superintendent in Fairfield County, it’s pushing up into the $260-$270 range now. I found a website which I actually posted on our famous little local NancyOnNorwalk blog: they had a register where you could set up and check the salaries of the superintendent in the state, and everybody in the lower Fairfield County area is higher than us.”

Mosby said there was a difference between Daddona and Connelly in that Daddona started in August.

Marks resigned in July 2012; her last day was in August of that year. Rivera, in his last two weeks, will work with Connelly to ensure a smooth transition.

“If you took the time to post it on the blog why didn’t you send it to us board members instead of that one little email breaking down what the ex-interim received?” Mosby asked. “Why hasn’t that letter of understanding, then why didn’t you send it to the Board members because we are, excuse me, a nine–person board. Information needs to be shared with all Board members, especially something that you’re trying to make your case or point on it. That was not shared with us. … It is not up to us to go there, go to NancyOnNorwalk, or any type of resources like that, especially when we have a leader that can send us that information and make sure we are truly educated with what is going on if that is the case, and we could have questions that we could ask.”

The history is that interim superintendents are paid based on the salary of the outgoing superintendent, Rosa Murray said. While Connelly will not get benefits, the benefit of Daddona is that he “knows what this district is all about,” she said.

Sherelle Harris asked if Dadonna even wanted the role, or if it was offered to him. No one had a clear answer.

Chiaramonte said he was getting blindsided. He pointed out there had been a meeting, at which the selection of Connelly was discussed.

Murray and Mosby were at that meeting. Harris was not.

Now people are second-guessing, Chiaramonte said (see above video).

“This reminds me of the custodians contract, where the language was put in by certain board members years ago, years ago, that that’s the way the custodians contract was going to go, and then when it comes to fruition, they all say we, ‘Gee, shouldn’t have done this,’ when it was the same people who were against it then,” Chiaramonte said. “So, this to me is a circus. We already had this discussion and now we are bringing it up in the public. I think it’s ridiculous. Let’s move forward. He’s getting paid the same amount of money that anybody else in that position is getting paid.”

And, “If I’ve got to hear $1,000 a day one more time, I’m going to freak,” Chiaramonte said. “I am freaking out because I am just tired of it. We are wasting our time right now rehashing out what we have already had in meetings. Can we please move on?”

Harris had the last word in the discussion.

“When we ask questions, it doesn’t mean that we mean all this opposition, or we are trying to hold things up, it’s just we have questions,” Harris said.

Comments

22 responses to “Norwalk BoE reverts to contention over ‘$1,000 a day’ interim’s contract”

  1. MarjorieM

    Mosby and Harris are right. First, Board members should not have to read the details here on NON. Second, Daddona was a clear and better choice. According to Mike Lyons, he did a fantastic job the last time around. What is this about not liking him? Are we back in second grade?

  2. Norewalk Lifer

    Anger management classes are in order.

  3. Mary

    Feel bad for Jack. Lost the chairman’s seat and his business, even after working so hard at both. No wonder he is so hot off the line and sometimes has difficulty expressing himself effectively without touching someones nerve endings.

    Looking at Jack speaking but hearing Rodney Dangerfield voice, ” I don’t get any respect”. Yes you do Jack, we all love you and appreciate your commitment to the community.

    Maybe a little R&R is appropriate. Life is too short to blow fuses over the little things. Plenty of big things going on to keep the blood pumping and the pressure release valves working overtime.

    Far as the housing subsidy modification, by the chairman, (at the chairman’s discretion), in of itself, belated and slipped through as it was, was a needed correction. How an additional 250 week got in there in the first place, supposedly a housing per diem for an elderly gentleman that doesn’t like to drive after 9pm, is, well seems like a perk undeserved.

    There are other ways to use financial incentives to motivate productivity besides footing the bill at the motel 9 and pizza party’s.

    At least we are not paying for aircraft radar, parking ramp fees and log books this time for a part time employee. Speaking of which, what is the max on an interim’s official district credit card? What is normally allowed to be charged on the credit card and what is at the board’s, correction, the chairman’s discretion?

    An interesting notation is; ” at the chairman’s discretion.” At the chairman’s discretion. Indeed, at the chairman’s discretion. Something about those fours caveat words just do not sit right, seems
    undemocratic and exclusionary, opaque and leaves vast room for interpretation by a single individual.

    Seems that is a recurring theme in Norwalk governance and outdated and obsolete charters. Too much power for certain positions and to few that know what the heck is going on, no less who is supposed to do what, how and when.

    Thinking about it, that isolation of power and influence may be one of the dynamics that has been and continues to be counterproductive to progressive ambitions. An issue that needs further examination and discussion and eventual actions to remedy.

    And the debate continues,,, whether this site, where many of us faithfully check in to get educated in what is going on, apparently also by those that are supposed to be educating us… The debate continues as to whether this site,”NoN”, is a blog, or a local, non profit, independent, quality journalism news site?

    Or, is it something else, a soap box, attempting to be manipulated by some, to repeatedly promote agendas and grind axes, whatever they may be, personal and/or political?

    One fact is clear, NoN reports do at least attempt to remain unbiased and focused on truth. Unlike blogs and other local for profit news sources, long fettered with the political soap box, where the truth is lost in a sea of mistruths and halftruths and flat out fabrications, without a compass.

    So, Mr Lyons, is NoN a soap box blog or a respected local news source?

    Also like to know why last time at bat Mr Dadonna was enthusiastically promoted by you sir, Mr Lyons, both before and after Mr Danonna’s temporary interim ship but apparently you didn’t even give Mr Dadonna a courtesy call/email this time. Did someone discover that someone else is perhaps part of the, status quo, problem?

    Whatever the real reason turns out to be why Mr Dadonna wasn’t even considered and there certainly may be very good cause, it certainly can be handled with more tact and respect than has been displayed in public. Two life skills the chairman has apparently yet to master.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @ Mary, Mike Lyons, et al

      According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary:
      blog: a Web site on which someone writes about personal opinions, activities, and experiences

      NoN is not a blog. The comment section, letters and guest opinions could certainly be considered a soap box. Comments are open to all who stay within the guidelines; letters are open to all unless they’re filled with misinformation, material that would not be allowed in comments or in our own stories; or terribly redundant. Guest opinions are open to those with some background in the subject who have something to say and can do so in a cogent manner.

      Thanks for asking.

  4. Mark, sorry for the offhand comment – I know you’re not a blog (I was thinking of the comments section where I contribute, and which section I think of as a blog). I have great respect for what you and Nancy do, as you know.

  5. Marj, what was inappropriate about this whole discussion is that the Board has already voted to designate Mr. Connelly as the interim superintendent, offered the position to him, and he has accepted. When you read articles about “dysfunctionality” in Boards of Education, two examples keep coming up – Board micromanagement, and constant revisiting of matters that the Board has already decided. We have a few members who continuously engage in both of these dysfunctional behaviors. A well-known example of the former is detailed here (https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2014/08/fractious-norwalk-boe-argues-over-25k-contract). Last night’s debate is an example of the latter. I could have gaveled members down for even bringing up the topic of appointing Mr. Daddona, since under Roberts Rules it is not germaine to discuss a matter that has already been decided by the Board during a debate on another topic (the rate of pay for the person selected for the job). I let the debate continue anyway, but it was still inappropriate revisiting of a decision already made.

    The endless repetition of ‘$1,000 a day’ was ridiculous. Mr. Connelly will be paid $965 per day; Mr. Daddona, when he served as interim, was paid $1,019 per day – without a peep of protest from anyone. The $965 per day rate for Mr. Connelly will be the lowest of any superintendent in lower Fairfield County (see my lengthy explanations regarding this topic here (https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2015/01/norwalk-boe-to-vote-on-965-a-day-contract-for-temporary-superintendent). Choosing Mr. Daddona again would NOT have saved money; it would have cost more (as I pointed out last night, when we hired Mr. Daddona last time he (reasonably) had us bring in an interim Deputy Superintendent at $800 / day, on top of the $1,019 per day we paid Mr. Daddona.

    Regarding the contract, it was drafted by our attorney, Tom Mooney, and set the salary equal to the BASE salary of Dr. Rivera ($220K / year). As Rosa Murray pointed out last night, this is the exact procedure that has been followed with all previous interims during her time on the Board, so no Board member should have been surprised by this. The contract was sent to all the Board members last week. One member, Artie Kassimis, asked if the $1,000 per month for hotel expenses could be deleted. I communicated this to Mr. Mooney and it did get removed. These communications were all copied to the entire Board. That was the only comment any Board member made on the contract until last night. Ms. Mosby easily could have raised any other issues she had with the contract as Mr. Kassimis did, but didn’t do so.

    Marj, who said anything about not liking Tony Daddona? As you correctly note, I have continuously praised his service. The Board already decided weeks ago to hire Mr. Connelly, so getting into a debate over Tony for the position last night was simply out of order. I let it go on anyway (since some of our members just don’t seem to ever get Roberts Rules), but this kind of procedural irregularities (usually engaged in by the same folks who endlessly complain about ‘following the process’) really needs to stop.

    Mary, the change in the contract wasn’t “slipped through”. As Ms. Mosby acknowledged, it was communicated to the Board earlier in the day, and it was approved by vote of the Board. He will have no “district credit card”.

    One thing I agree with you on, Mary, is that the Tony Daddona situation “could have been handled with more tact”. Since it was other Board members than I who inappropriately brought this up in public session (I didn’t say anything about it), this isn’t a “life skill” that I have to master – but perhaps those who did this will take your good advice and learn to master that skill themselves.

  6. Concerned

    Daddona should be appointed as the Interim – it makes so much sense there’s actually no need to explain. Spending a $1,000 a day here – $33,000 for a search firm there – adds up quickly. Seems this BOE is very cavalier when it comes to spending the taxpayers’ money. At least they seem to have eliminated the $1,000 a month ‘travel expense’ allotment for Connelly. I guess they determined that occasionally having to drive 1/2 hour home, late at night, was not such a hardship after all – actually, thousands of Norwalk taxpayers do it every day. Just sayin’

    As for Briggs, it’s repair, maintenance and transportation issues should be one of the very top priorities for the Norwalk BOE. Shame on them if it’s not. Might not be as ‘glamourous’ an initiative as P-TECH, or one that an hyper-ambitious superintendent builds his resume on, but it is ABSOLUTELY NO LESS IMPORTANT. Briggs students are Norwalk’s children, too.

    Still surprised that so many Norwalkers were ‘blinded by the light’ of Rivera.

  7. Concerned, this Board just came in with the smallest budget request increase for the BoE in decades – we have a proven track record on saving costs. And by choosing Mr. Connelly, we were the opposite of being “cavalier” with spending money; it cost us far more to put Mr. Daddona in that position last time, this is saving money.

    This Board is also the first one in decades to do anything about Briggs. Not only do we have architectural study work underway (never done before [see article above on budget]), but we have also spent large sums of money devoted to turning Briggs’ educational program around – with considerable success (see https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2014/03/briggs-high-school-progress-touted-by-students-administrators).

  8. Piberman

    We’re back to the future where BOE decisions are now second guessed after the fact. And dissenting members have a public forum. Accepting majority decisions is the mark of a mature board.

  9. Norwalk4Life

    Thanks Mike for leading this board and making prudent decisions. It looks like some folks on the BOE just like grandstanding and politicizing things. Also, if Daddona was intermin superintendent, wouldn’t another consultant need to be hired to take over Dadonna’s role?

  10. Gerry K

    It’s a blog.

    From Wikipedia:
    A blog (a truncation of the expression weblog) is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web and consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first). Until 2009 blogs were usually the work of a single individual, occasionally of a small group, and often covered a single subject. More recently “multi-author blogs” (MABs) have developed, with posts written by large numbers of authors and professionally edited. MABs from newspapers, other media outlets, universities, think tanks, advocacy groups and similar institutions account for an increasing quantity of blog traffic. The rise of Twitter and other “microblogging” systems helps integrate MABs and single-author blogs into societal newstreams. Blog can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @ Gerry K

      …which is why no news outlet with any journalistic standards allows its editors and reporters to use the open-source Wikipedia as a first, sole or attributable source for anything.

  11. Norwalk4Life, yes, that’s what happened last time – we named Tony as interim and, at his recommendation, filled his Deputy position with an interim Deputy at $800 / day.

  12. Jody Sattler

    Thank you Mike Lyons for clarifying these points. I am very happy that we are bringing in a Interim from outside the district. I have not seen any clear points listed to show that the current Deputy Superintendent was the better choice. I appreciate that the board acted quickly to find a qualified Interim.

  13. Kathleen Montgomery

    Ms. Mosby: “It is not up to us to go there, go to NancyOnNorwalk, or any type of resources like that, especially when we have a leader that can send us that information and make sure we are truly educated with what is going on if that is the case, and we could have questions that we could ask.”

    It IS up to you to carefully read what is sent to you as an elected BOE member and it IS up to you to educate yourself so that you have pertinent questions to ask. The diatribes with no salient points during meetings can be prevented if you only choose to do what any responsible committee member does in committees everywhere. One cannot responsibly vote YES or NO without being prepared.

  14. MarjorieM

    Perhaps I am slow, but Daddona was on the payroll already. Adding additional money so that he could be a temporary superintendent does not translate to $1019 extra/mo. Yes, a temporary person to cover Mr. Daddona’s position would cost $800/mo. I don’t see where the math adds up to more money. What you get in exchange, it seems to me, is someone who knows Norwalk, has a proven track record in the position and runs a peaceful Board meeting. As for not liking Daddona, I believe that was an accusation by a Board member. Something does not make sense here. If I am missing the point, I guess I need a refresher course on my math.

  15. Marj, the person who mentioned people ‘not liking Tony Daddona’ was Shirley Mosby. No one else on the Board said anything like that.

  16. MarjorieM

    There’s something still not right. The Deputy Superintendent’s job has been eliminated. Daddona was praised for taking over NHS and for his temporary stint As superintendent, yet you don’t ask him to be temp superintendent again AND you eliminate his job? We know the RedApples hate him for holding the former Nathan Hale principal accountable. Is this what calling for accountability gets you in Norwalk?

  17. MarjorieM

    No answer, Mike? Fine way to pay back someone who has been very loyal to Norwalk. Other employees, who were “moved” to central office to get them out of their jobs were treated with dignity. What is really going on? Shame on e eryone if what I think is going on is true.

  18. A_Taxpayer_And_A_Citizen

    Mike Lyons,

    The board of education had a fair and legal vote, and do the issue of who will be the interim superintendent has been settled. No amount of further discussion is going to profit anyone, except for those who are just trying to put you on the defensive.

    Additionally, there is no amount of discussion that would convince some people that there were legitimate reasons for going outside for the interim superintendent, and so you shouldn’t waste your time trying.

    Keep the faith, Mr. Lyons. Many of us think that you are doing a great job.

  19. Piberman

    Is the BOE Chair obligated to conduct the BOE’s public business in scheduled public meetings or has the BOE authorized its Chair to engage in public discussions outside public meetings in any venue the Chair decides is appropriate ?

  20. Farhan Memon

    @Mike Using Fairfield County salary comparison to justify the $1000/day being given to interim and full-time supervisors misses the point — we’ve created a bubble of out-sized salaries to our collective detriment. Norwalk has the opportunity to walk away from the hyper-inflated salaries. If superintendents don’t want to work in Norwalk that is quite frankly their problem. I am sure that there are any number of people who will work in that position for $150K a year. It’s time to ratchet down the salaries.

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