July 25, 2008

School Hiring Strategy Draws Mixed Reaction

By Abbe Smith, New Haven Register, Conn.

Jul. 25--WEST HAVEN -- The Board of Education this week approved hiring a coordinator to oversee the district's expanding science program.

The move comes just months after board members and Superintendent of Schools Neil Cavallaro promised not to create new positions this year as the City Council scrambled to find $500,000 to stave off teacher layoffs.

On Tuesday, Cavallaro clarified that he meant the district would not create a second assistant superintendent's position, as was rumored. Cavallaro stressed that no new person is being hired to fill the position of science coordinator.

In fact, Cavallaro said at Monday night's board meeting, "We are going to get a better value for the money we are spending than what we have."

Raffaela Fronc serves as acting science coordinator, though she is a teacher and science department head. She would earn about $88,000 this year in that role. However, if Fronc is named science coordinator, she switches out of the teachers' union and into the administrators' union and would make about $88,600 this year.

While Cavallaro said the district will post the new position, Fronc is the front-runner because of the work she has done so far to expand the science program. She would be expected to work an additional 35 days as coordinator, if hired.

C a v a l l a r o said the only other position that would have to be filled if Fronc is named science coordinator is a new science departm e n t h e a d for the upper grades, which i n c l u d e s a $4,800 stipend.

City Councilwoman Nancy

R. Rossi, D-7, who heads the council's Finance Committee, lambasted the board and Cavallaro for going back on their word not to create new positions in the face of dire budget constraints.

"Chairman (Mark) Palmieri, you got up and said there would be no new positions," she said.

Rossi said the position sounds like a "wonderful idea," but unsuccessfully urged the board to wait until next year to request the position.

The school board originally requestedmoney for a science coordinator, among other new positions, as well as allday kindergarten, but those h o p e s w e r e dashed when Mayor John M. Picard slashed t h e b o a r d ' s budget in the spring.

T h e e x t r a h a l f -- m i l -- lion dollars s c r o u n g e d up by other departments, including the police and public works, was meant to keep existing teachers employed, not hire for new positions.

"If you have extra money, by all means, give it back to the departments that gave it to you," Rossi said.

Rossi also noted that Fronc would have the opportunity to make more money down the road as a coordinator than she would have as a teacher.

Others, including Jon Capone, the district's athletic director and president of the administrator's union, spoke in favor of the new position.

"We think it is something vitally needed to keep us moving forward," he said.

Carrigan Middle School Principal Patricia Libero praised Fronc for her work as acting science coordinator and urged the board to approve the position.

"We need to be on top of the science curriculum," she said.

Advocates of the new position argued that it is necessary to move forward with important science-related partnerships with the University of New Haven and Yale University.

Picard also appeared at Monday's meeting to speak in favor of the new position.

"I think it is something we sorely need," he said. "It's important that we focus on science, engineering and math."


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