School district officials conceded at a meeting Monday night that there were no advertisements posted nor interviews conducted before selecting a new interim superintendent to lead the district.
Instead, Board President John Lamela said he and board vice president Stephanie Wohlrab relied on current Interim Superintendent Thomas Gialanella’s recommendation to promote Dennis Filippone to the position. The board unanimously voted in favor of appointing Filippone to the position, except for members John Barton and Sharon Cantillo, who were forced to abstain.
Though no one who attended the oft-tense meeting Monday questioned whether Filippone was qualified for the position – all comments about his skill and character were overwhelmingly positive – several residents were critical of the process, as well as the fact that Gialanella would be kept on staff in a new role, earning about $66,000 per year for two days of work per week.
“I didn’t pick myself, and I didn’t pick Mr. Fillippone,” said Gialanella. “I gave the board president and the Vice President my recommendation.”
Filippone will be paid the equivalent of $177,500 per year as interim superintendent, while Gialanella will be paid $638.56 per day, for two days of work for the 2017-18 school year. He will not receive paid vacation time of other benefits. The salary would work out to $66,410 if Gialanella works every week of the year.
“I hope the board looks long and hard about the precedent that they’re setting,” said resident and former board member Karyn Cusanelli, criticizing the fact that there were no job postings or interviews of other candidates.
“What’s going on here?” asked resident Melanie Briggs. “Have you people become your own little clan where you make decisions without the public knowing what’s going on?”
George Scott, another resident, was also critical of the process.
“The previous interim superintendent had a doctorate,” he said, referring to Dr. Richard Caldes, who served in the interim role until Gialanella was selected by a newly-elected school board in Feb. 2016. “There had to be other qualified people. The answer isn’t, ‘none, I just picked somebody.'”
Gialanella will take on the title of Interim Director of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, the position which Filippone currently occupies. The question was also raised as to whether that job can be properly handled by an employee who only works two days per week.
“It’s going to be a strain, without a doubt,” Gialanella said.
Gialanella and Filippone will switch positions July 1. Filippone was appointed to fill the position for one year, and said he has no intention of becoming a permanent superintendent once the contract of Walter Uszenski – who is facing criminal charges – runs out June 30, 2018.