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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Council approves principals’ contract

As published in the Record Journal, Wednesday December 14, 2011

By Russell Blair
(203) 317-2225

— The Town Council approved a new, three-year contract Tuesday for the school district’s administrators that runs from 2012 to 2015 and includes pay raises totaling more than $130,000.

The pay increases over three years, including general wage increases and step increases, amount to 4.79 percent, according to Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Jan Guarino: 0.75 percent in the first year, 2.09 percent in the second and 1.95 percent in the third, for a total of $130,930.

But the raises are coupled with higher insurance co-pay­
ments for the bargaining unit, the Educational Administrators Association of Wallingford, which includes the town’s principals, assistant principals and other school administrators. Currently, the copayment is 16 percent, Guarino said. In the first year of the new contract, the amount contributed by the administrators increases to 18 percent, in the second year 19 percent and in the third year 19.5 percent.

School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said additional insurance-related savings include co-payments for services that used to be cost-free to employees.

“Zero dollars was common across the co-pays,” Menzo said. “We’ve made significant changes; this is something we cannot continue to offer in these economic times.”

Menzo said this year’s contract is less costly to the town than past agreements.

“There is a significant reduction in terms of total cost,” he said.

The three previous contracts for administrators contained increases of $373,000, $266,000 and $234,000, Menzo said. The multi-year raises amounted to 15.05 percent, 10.65 percent and 12 percent.

Menzo said he was pleased with the outcome of the negotiations.

“We do feel that we made growth in the contract,” he said. “There are a lot of areas. This is a challenging contract with many aspects that are unique to Wallingford that we have to work through over time.”

“I want to thank you for your diligence and negotiating hard,” said Democratic Councilor Vincent Testa. “You’re seeking out areas of potential savings that may have been overlooked in the past.”

Councilor John Sullivan, a Democrat who voted in favor of the agreement, said there were still some aspects he didn’t agree with, including longevity payments and an insurance waiver that allows administrators to get cash payments in lieu of taking benefits.

Before the council began talks on the contract, there was a debate about the agenda item, which called for a temporary adjournment of the meeting for the purpose of discussing the agreement.

Town Attorney Janis Small said such talks in the past were held in executive session, but pursuant to Freedom of Information laws the council meeting can be temporarily adjourned and the matters can be discussed in a “non-meeting.”

Sullivan said he has gone into executive session before, not to discuss strategy, but specific questions about the contract that eventually were asked again in public. He said he was in favor of discussing the agreement entirely in public.

An initial motion to recess the meeting and hold a “non-meeting” failed, but after an hour of public questions, a second motion to go behind closed doors, made by Republican Councilor John Le-Tourneau, who said he had strategy questions, passed. Sullivan and Democrat Nicholas Economopoulos, who opposed both motions, remained in the auditorium during the closed-door discussions.

Tuesday’s vote came after the contract was tabled at the council’s last meeting on Nov. 30, when several councilors said they received backup material just a day before the meeting. Tuesday’s meeting was the last for Republican Vice Chairman Jerry Farrell Jr. and for Testa.

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