Norwalk BoE to vote on $965 a day contract for temporary superintendent

James Connelly
James Connelly

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s next interim superintendent would be paid $965 a day in an agreement effective through June if approved at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

James Connelly will officially begin work as interim superintendent Feb. 1, but will serve as a consultant in the two weeks prior to that. He is also eligible for reimbursement for lodging should he need to stay late in Norwalk and then need to be here early the next morning. The maximum reimbursement will be $1,000 a month.

Connelly’s salary is $965 per business day worked. That would work out to $250,900 for a year’s work. The agreement is effective through June 30, unless the Board lines up a new superintendent before then.

Connelly served from 1982 to 2000 as superintendent and assistant superintendent in Bridgeport. He has since made a career of serving as an interim superintendent, in Killingly, Putnam, Woodbridge. Montville, Oxford and Naugatuck.


52 responses to “Norwalk BoE to vote on $965 a day contract for temporary superintendent”

  1. Paul Persius

    965 a day, wow. Take into account the extra 1000 per month for his half hour commute and it is over 1000 per day. What is it about Superintendents where they are able to hypnotize the decision makers to get anything they want?? It seems like all logic goes out the window when we talk about superintendents, ie. annuities, moving expenses, now commuting expenses, etc.

  2. Carol

    totally unacceptable !!!!!!

  3. MarjorieM

    Surely the deputy superintendent could have taken charge for a few months. Mike Lyons had praised him last time he took over. He was almost free to taxpayers by comparison. We are only talking temporary here!

  4. Paul Lanning

    No, no, no. Outrageous. Norwalk taxpayers are paying way too much for basic services, and this news is just ludicrous.

    Who came up with that outrageous $ amount, and what is it based on?

    Where does he live–why would we pay for his “lodging”?! Private-sector commuters are generally reimbursed for business travel, but not for staying over where they work. You pay your own commuting costs, then maybe try to finagle it as a tax deduction, which the IRS usually won’t allow.

  5. Kathleen Montgomery

    I believe we’re talking about the best transition for the students. There’s a great deal of time until the new superintendent arrives. It is critical that the the BOE has made the decision to strive to ensure that the district will not take a single step backward. Forward momentum is everything right now.

  6. M. Murray’s

    For that amount of money, we better see test scores like Darien, not Bridgeport. Let’s make sure receipts are required for lodging reimbursement. He doesn’t live that far away.

  7. MarjorieM

    Kathleen Montgomery, you are beginning to sound just like Lisa Thomson and Sue Haynie. Oh, that’s right, you are best friends with one of them.

  8. Oldtimer

    There are some of us that don’t really understand why an outsider was selected, or why he should get paid that well. Having said that, very few of us, outside the BOE, have looked at all the factors, and we need to believe Mike Lyons and the rest of the BOE have made a real effort to do the best for the system and the children they can. With Rivera having been the most highly compensated City employee, how does the interim’s total compensation compare ?

  9. Mike Lyons

    The $965 figure is certainly an eye-opener, but is less so when evaluated in context. The per diem amount of $965 is based on the $220,000 starting base salary paid to Dr. Rivera, divided by 228, a number that is based on the number of work days per year less the 32 days that typically includes 20 paid vacation days and 12 paid holidays for the superintendent. Logically, if holidays were paid as is usual, we would include the number of holidays in the year in the divisor to get the per diem rate, which would reduce the per diem amount to $785/day (but not the total due, since Mr. Connelly would get paid for holidays, as other employees do, if we calculated it that way). Thus the number in the article above stating that the salary would be $250,900 per year is a miscalculation; it is actually $220,000. By contrast, Dr. Rivera is currently paid at a rate of $256,000 per year (which includes a $30,000 annuity).

    The $1,000 per month is a maximum, which would be hit only if there were a large number of late night meetings. Mercifully, our BoE meetings lately haven’t gone very late. The proposed contract requires submission of receipts for expenses incurred under that provision.

    This “outrageous” amount is less than we pay Dr. Rivera, and about what we paid Tony Daddona to take over as interim superintendent in 2012. It is less than what is paid to most superintendents in Fairfield County. The market sets the compensation rate for positions like this; you either match the market, or you get second-tier personnel. If we cut the pay and got a less qualified superintendent, you can bet your bottom dollar we’d get attacked here for that instead.

    BTW, I know that superintendents like Dr. Rivera (with Harvard Ph.D.’s and national reputations) command high salaries, but try to keep this in perspective. Here are the MINIMUM annual salaries for utility-level players in our sports leagues – NFL – $420,000; MLB – $500,000; NBA – $507,000; NHL – $525,000. I think paying a superintendent of schools for 11,500 students about half of what a rarely-used utility infielder gets paid by the Mets isn’t really that “outrageous”. But maybe that’s just me.

    Happy New Year!

  10. MarjorieM

    Hey Mike, with the salary comparison you just made to “hardly used utility level players”, I guess you will be voting for huge salary raises for teachers who teach the future CEOs, politicians…maybe even the future President. They hold approximately 24 little lives in their hands. Teachers protect children with their lives, as has been the case in other districts. What do you think their salaries should be worth by your calculations?

  11. Mike Lyons

    Marj, we have a LOT of teachers making over $100K per year (salaries others on this site have criticized us for paying in the recent article on highest salaries in the City). Connecticut generally ranks 2nd or 3rd in teacher salaries in the country, and Norwalk ranks 5th in the state in teacher salaries, way ahead of many towns with much higher medium incomes than Norwalk’s taxpayers have. So yes, I have already voted for high salaries for Norwalk’s teachers. What gets me criticized sometimes is the efforts I make to be sure we’re getting our money’s worth for those high salaries.

  12. Kathleen Montgomery

    Marjorie, I actually don’t know either Lisa or Sue, but thanks for the comparison. They make a great deal of sense.

    Thanks for the info, Mike. To a promising, fruitful New Year!

  13. M. Murray’s

    Maybe the next superintendent should be given a 5 year contract with stipulations that if he leaves prior to the completion of his fifth year, there is a substantial penalty. If we continue to bring in outsiders with no personal investment in the community, maybe we need a financial investment on their part to complete a longer term contract. We can’t keep the revolving door concept going.

  14. Mike Barbis

    Marj/Steve: Its a new year. Rivera will be leaving in a few weeks. We are making a fresh start. I was going to make some comments on NON’s BOE article today but decided, in the spirit of a new year, let’s give this a fresh start. Maybe you should consider doing the same. Your non stop attacks and criticisms are getting old. Try being constructive for a change!

  15. Mike Lyons

    M. Murray, we are looking into possible use of “golden handcuff” compensation methods to encourage people to stay. But neither Dr. Marks not Dr. Rivera left because of compensation issues.

    As then mayoral candidate Harry Rilling put it in June, 2013, “You don’t lose good people because of lack of pay or compensation … You lose good people from lack of giving them the support they need to do their job.” Dr. Rivera had 5 solid votes (with a usual 6th) behind him on a 9 member Board. Board support is what we need to improve more than compensation packages. That has to be a prime objective for the DTC and RTC in selecting their BoE candidates this year.

  16. MarjorieM

    Mike, does Connelly also collect retirement checks from Bridgeportt? Is Norwalk paying any medical insurance costs for him? Other insurances? Does he collect an annuity from Norwalk? Other benefits? These retired superintendents who make the circuit seem to have a real deal going for themselves if they collect any of the above.

  17. M. Murray’s

    Although compensation may not cause a candidate to leave, having a significant buyout penalty may cause them to make a commitment and stay. It also helps the city recover money spent for searches.

  18. Paul Persius

    You don’t lose good people because of lack of pay or compensation … You lose good people from lack of giving them the support they need to do their job.”

    A little confusing. The BOE always uses the argument that we need to pay teachers and admins so much to remain competitive. So which is it??

    Was there any negotiations involved in hiring the temp?? If so, what was his starting request?? Do we just go in there with guns a blazing offering up the store??

  19. Mike Lyons

    Marj, I don’t know what Mr. Connelly gets in retirement benefits (though it would be from the State, not Bridgeport), but I assume he does get them. We are paying no insurance costs for him, and no annuity or other benefits other than his salary.

  20. Mike Lyons

    M. Murray, we have to be careful about imposing an actual “penalty”; even for highly compensated employees, “pay docking” can run afoul of federal or state wage and salary laws. “Golden handcuffs” (where the employee loses the option to receive additional pay) are, by contrast, legally cleaner.

  21. Wineshine

    I think some commenters here need to get a grip on reality. Penalizing someone for making a decision to leave a job is ridiculous, no matter what the reason. Guaranteed money is a totally different issue, but Expecting someone to give back compensation for work already done would create a windfall only for an employment attorney, IF the employee actually agreed to it in the first place. Connecticut is an “at will” state, which works both ways.

  22. Lisa Thomson

    I am not ‘happy’ about the per diem number either but it IS the market rate as outlined by Mike Lyons – who incidentally gets paid nothing (like all BOE members) for his efforts.

    I will spare everyone my regular diatribe about the difficulties of bringing change or reform into the ‘closed system’ called public education. And it would be fantastic if we had the option of taking existing NPS ‘administration’ and putting them ‘in charge’ but that just isn’t how this cake was baked. If the changes Marks or Rivera started could have been done, they should have been done by NPS administration years ago, but weren’t. Why? Obviously, we have brilliant teachers and principals. But why couldn’t NPS bring the programs or funding that outsiders did? Over the years, I’ve witnessed first hand the ‘fiefdom’ infighting or direct undermining of outside superintendents over student achievement or streamlined operations that might have benefitted the taxpayer; much of which has been documented in 3rd party reports. This is not to disminish the role that collective bargaining rules and tenure play in ALL NPS personnel matters, making change that much more difficult – but attitude and vision at the top go a long way.

    If Norwalk wants to see the new initiatives continue, sadly we have to go outside. We will also need to reaffirm the need for change with the BOE fall elections to ensure that the NEXT superintendent has the FULL support needed, when up against those staff, who hold the district hostage. Nothing short of our children’s education, property values and city reputation is at stake.

  23. M. Murray’s

    Maybe salary should then be lessened and bonus for completion of each year. Maybe a non-compete type of clause where he could not take a similar position for a number of years?

  24. MarjorieM

    “But why couldn’t NPS bring the programs or funding that outsiders did? Over the years, I’ve witnessed first hand the ‘fiefdom’ infighting or direct undermining of outside superintendents over student achievement or streamlined operations that might have benefitted the taxpayer; much of which has been documented in 3rd party reports”

    Could you explain the above, please? Specifically “I’ve witnessed first hand” and “documented in 3rd party reports.” I don’t see how you could have witnessed “first hand” since you are not employed by the school system and “third party reports” sound like hearsay. I have not witnessed any of that. What in the world are you talking about?

  25. Lisa Thomson

    Marj – I am still on vacation but since you asked 🙂

    As a community member of the District Data Mangement Team since 2007, I have seen plenty. This NPS group of central office staff, principals, teachers and union representatives met on a regular monthly or quarterly basis – where we reviewed and discussed student benchmark data, specific schools, practices, curriculum, etc. I have witnessed NPS staff behavior on a regular basis for nearly 9 years as an outside ‘insider’ and know full well those who sought change and those who fought against it.

    As for the reports: Check out the reports page of the Red Apples website, where you will find the Pricewaterhouse Report, Cambridge, GE and CREC Reports. When we asked Marks for copies of them years ago under FOIA – she happily handed them over – otherwise I doubt they would have seen the light of day.

  26. Mike Lyons

    M. Murray, Wineshine makes the point I did, that legally a penalty almost certainly wouldn’t fly. Bonuses for remaining past a certain point are a possibility.

    Marj, a non-compete clause would be unlikely to fly because there is no actual competitive market among public schools (each system covers a defined geographic area). Non-compete clauses in private sector contracts (like mine) are designed to prevent an employee from going to a competitor, not designed to prevent them from working (in order to hold them in their current job). In any event, Connecticut is a very non-compete unfriendly state and the courts often refuse to enforce them.

    As I said before, although we will certainly examine “golden handcuffs”, the best way of assuring a long-term superintendent is having a fully supportive Board of Ed and staff, which both Marks and Rivera each lacked (despite the best efforts of the current Board majority).

    Also, Marj, Lisa is right that several outside entities that surveyed our school system have identified resistance to change and ‘protection of feifdoms’ as a major problem with some of our staff; that’s a reality that simply has to be addressed (and is not at all uncommon in large governmental organizations). The reports are described and linked in this article: https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2013/06/norwalk-schools-culture-seen-as-an-obstacle-to-growth. Finding a new superintendent is part of the solution; dealing with the ‘cultural’ issues in NPS — which Manny Rivera had made a good start on — is also a necessary part.

  27. Mike Lyons

    Sorry, I attributed the non-compete question to Marj but it was M. Murray’s.

  28. Secondhand Rose

    This is totally unacceptable. I work 40 hours a week and $965 is what I make as take-home pay for TWO WEEKS AFTER TAXES.

    Shame on Norwalk and the BOE if they agree to this!

  29. Mike Lyons

    The rate we’ll be paying Mr. Connelly will be the lowest in lower Fairfield County; see http://www.nhregister.com/news/superintendents.

  30. anon

    Norwalk Public schools salaries are some of the best in the US. $962 a day for interim superintendent, most principals already make that with benis, average teacher salary $400+ a day, custodians over $200 a day.

  31. Paul Lanning

    Mike Lyons says that Norwalk ranks 5th in CT in teacher salaries.

    Quick question: what is Norwalk’s rank in test scores?

  32. Mike Lyons

    Our test scores rank highest among Connecticut cities https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2013/08/test-scores-norwalk-tops-among-cities-but-lags-behind-state), though obviously not as high as the wealthy communities around us achieve.

  33. MarjorieM

    Speaking of high salaries, no one ever answered how the ass’t principal at Fox Run managed to make more than the deputy superintendent and almost as much as the superintendent. Could we have an answer to that please?

    1. Mark Chapman


      Mike Lyons responded the morning of 12/30:

      Several people asked about the anomalously high salary reported for Cranbury Elementary School Principal Elisa Nelson. I checked with our CFO, Rich Rudl, and he explained that “She worked last year as the interim principal at Naramake, where she earned approximately $165k for the school year which was about $85k for January through June. She then retired at the end of the school year. Per the NASA contract she was entitled to a severance payout of her sick time which was approximately $47k (this is something we successfully grandfathered out of the NASA contract this fall, so new administrators will not be eligible for this payout in the future). In addition she was entitled to her NASA salary deferral which was approximately $5k (this is the salary NASA members deferred until retirement or separation of service a few years back). Then she was called back immediately to be the interim principal of Cranbury, where she earned about 77k for that time.”

  34. MarjorieM

    Thank you, Mark Chapman. I must have missed the explanation.

  35. Paul Lanning

    School systems that pay their teachers lower salaries than Norwalk are producing better test scores than Norwalk.

  36. Mike Lyons

    Not school systems with similar socioeconomic conditions to Norwalk’s; we outperform them. Wealthy communities with medium family incomes twice or three times Norwalk’s do outperform us. I suspect those socioeconomics have something to do with it.

  37. MarjorieM

    It is a fact that children from higher socioeconomic families come to school with much larger vocabularies than children from lower socioeconomic conditions. People with money usually expose their children to museums, travel experiences, books, etc. Vocabulary is the most important indicator of success in achievement. Research has proven this true time and time again. As long as there is poverty in Norwalk, we are looking at lower test scores. The only valid comparisons for test scores are to cities similar to Norwalk.

  38. Kathleen Montgomery

    Well said, Marjorie.

  39. Steve Colarossi

    Once again, Mike Barbis demonstrates the snarky,fact-less commentary that, no doubt, is a factor in the acrimony of the current BoE.
    Certainly, when any future superintendent learns of Mr. Barbis’ penchant for breaching confidentiality and creating dissension among his BoE peers, will it surprise anyone when our next superintendent endures this pettiness for only a brief time?
    Of course, it would be refreshing for the alleged reformers, who bemoan a lack of professionalism of some BoE members, to actually be fair and cite Mr. Barbis for his contributions to BoE iignobility.

  40. MarjorieM

    Thank you, Kathleen. Sorry for the mix up before. I thought you were a different Kathleen when I said you were besties with Lisa or Sue. My error!

  41. Mike Barbis

    Steve, What are you talking about? What confidentiality are you alleging I breached? Are you still harping on my quote in the Hour about Rivera’s departure? That was no leak as Nancy Chapman already told you. You didn’t like my comment that we should try and have a fresh start in 2015? What is wrong with you? Why are you so bitter? Is it because we didn’t hire Daddona as interim?

  42. Kevin Di Mauro

    It appears Mike Lyons is still very much needed on the BOE.

  43. Lisa Thomson

    Steve-Marj – You’re posts have alot in common – not the least of which are wee morning hour posts. Hmmmm…makes me wonder 🙂

  44. MarjorieM

    Mike Barbis, Lisa, you are not clever enough. I can guarantee you that Steve and I are not the same person. On the other hand, you, Lisa, and Mike Lyons are not the same person, but you sound exactly the same.

  45. Lisa Thomson

    Thanks Marj, I consider that a compliment as I believe Mike Lyons to be the best thing to ever happen to our BOE!

  46. Paul Lanning

    Point well taken. Just asking.

  47. Steve Colarossi

    Mr. Barbis needs to appreciate that the public would expect, if he is to respond to postings by someone with whom he disagrees, that he would not prattle that the poster (one “MarjorieM”) is the alter-ego identity of a former BoE member. As even Mr. Barbis must be aware, I have never felt the need to hide my opinions (notwithstanding that I often post them late at night).
    Secondly, Mr. Barbis questions when he has ever breached confidentiality. When he confirmed reports to The Hour that Dr. Rivera had announced his resignation, there were only unnamed sources for the story at that time. However, Mr. Barbis confirmed the rumors. Although rumors might have been leaked to the press, without named confirmation, it is doubtful that the rumors would have gone to press. A prudent elective official who was respectful that the news was Dr. Rivera’s to share, would have set ego aside and, rather than need to see his name in print, allowed Dr. Rivera to announce, on his own timetable, news of his resignation.
    Secondly, in Mr. Barbis first year on the BoE, he made a comment about the resignation of the school department’s former CFO and remarked that it was due to medical considerations (which was not accurate). Now, Mr. Barbis was not on the BoE at the time of the resignation, so he was not privy to any confidential discussions as to why this employee left; furthermore, regardless of how he came by this alleged “information”, employee health information is entirely confidential and should not have been relayed by Mr. Barbis in any fashion.
    The third time Mr. Barbis breached confidentiality was when news of the possibility that the BoE was considering hiring Mike Nast as interim superintendent was announced by Mike Barbis friend and confidant Nora King. Knowing that Ms.King is not on the BoE did lead me to conclude that she would have obtained her information from Mr. Barbis.
    Mr. Barbis makes several odd suggestions as to why I respond to his comments. I, too, question, why I should allow his lies to be quite some bothersome.
    To a certain extent, I am troubled that any elective official resorts to childish claims rather than honestly respond to concerns raised by a member of the public; I think that those types of responses discourage public debate and can dissuade people from asking the tough questions that are needed to improve government and our schools.
    I would suspect that I find the comments all to reminiscent of the dismissive tone and bullying I witnessed in emails that Mr. Barbis had circulated as a BoE member- and in particular, am reminded of his attempts to berate Midaglia Rivas when we were trying to decide upon candidates to interview (during the last superintendent’ search process).
    But, perhaps the main reason why I feel compelled to respond to the childishness of Mike Barbis is that he is a member of the Board of Education which serves my city and is responsible for educating my children, and, quite frankly, my neighbors and fellow citizens deserve far more mature and responsible leadership.

  48. Lisa Thomson

    Steve, Isn’t it a bit early to be campaigning in District E?

  49. Steve Colarossi

    Not since Wile E. Coyote opened his first box from the Acme Bait and Switch Company has such a clumsy trap been set.
    But, thank you Lisa Thompson for bringing back happy memories of watching Saturday morning cartoons.
    For those of you who weren’t Road Runner fans, let me explain what ever-the-politician-Lisa Thompson (who is still smarting from her failed attempt to get Sue Haynie re-elected) is trying to do. You see, she won’t respond to specific facts, especially when those facts accurately depict her friends’ lack of professionalism. So, she tries to spin the debate (a little bait and switch) by dangling the prospect that the only reason I would criticize Mike Barbis must be that I am planning on moving to District E to run against him. Now, no offense to Rowayton and West Norwalk, but I like my District A neighborhood and being able to walk to Valencia so I won’t be moving.
    Hers is a clever little distortion, written with no belief in its truth but technically maybe not a “lie”.
    But like the flypaper used by Wile E. Coyote, it’s a trap that only snares the person setting it because it shows an unwillingness to engage in an open and honest debate on how we can best improve our schools. And, the longer they try to deflect attention from their lack of ideals and their patently obvious personal vendetta, the greater the public’s focus will be on the political vacuum they are trying to create.

  50. Nora King

    Wow – you seem very vindictive Steve with your comments.

  51. Steve Colarossi

    Sadly, Nora King seems to have confused an individual’s right to defend himself with the vindictiveness of her posse. But, their childish retorts, insidious rumor-mongering and lack of honesty deserve rebuke.

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