Approval of scheduled raises and contract extensions for four non-union employees did not come without some emotionally charged debate during Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting.
The board voted 3-2 — with Dr. Darlisa Ritter and David Gioiello opposed and Amanda Kilmartin abstaining — to approve 3 percent raises for school Finance Director Rick Belden, Director of Operations John Calhoun, Director of Technology Daniel DiVito and Human Resources Director Carole Pannozzo.
Ritter, stating that she had not yet seen the contracts, had called for the agenda item to be tabled until July, but school Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet and Board of Education Chair Mark Holden said that, in the case of Pannozzo, her contract expires at month’s end and a decision was needed.
“Every one of these people I think are wonderful,” said Ritter. “I think each one is a positive asset to our organization, but I want to follow the letter of the law, and I want to see contracts in advance, compare them and do what’s right. I would ask that we table this item until July, and once we have the opportunity to see all the contracts, then put it back on the agenda.”
Ritter said the Board of Education has been “taken to task” by two legal agencies for not properly disclosing contract details and questioned why she has not received the contracts as she had requested.
"I talked to Tom (Minotti) today, and he said he had not received contracts either. I think I deserve that respect to get the information I ask for,” said Ritter.
“If you asked, I would have provided what you needed,” responded Clouet.
Clouet said that, six days ago, he set out a memo to the board highlighting the 3 percent raises and three-year contracts but heard nothing back, leaving him to believe that no one had any questions.
“I am a bit surprised that you are waiting until tonight to bring this up,” said Clouet. “we’re giving our teachers a 3 percent raise. We’re giving our unionized administrators a 3 percent raise, so I do not think it is fair to punish people who are not in a union.”
“This is not a punishment,” responded Ritter. "I expected (the contracts) in my packet. It is the right thing to do.”
During this back and forth, Pannozzo, a longtime member of the Shelton school district, became emotional, saying a couple of times that she is “so embarrassed,” to which Ritter apologized.
The salaries approved by the Board of Education Wednesday are: Belden, $165,830; Calhoun, $108,211; DiVito, $142,031; and Pannozzo, $159,620.
"The right thing to do is recognize that these people as very valuable and worthy of the same 3 percent raise as our teachers and union bargaining unit,” said Clouet, adding the total cost to annual budget of these raises amounts to $45,710. “If (the 3 percent) was out of the normal range, I would agree with what you are saying, but this is right in the normal range.”
Clouet said that Ritter had made these requests prior to the meeting, and he would have provided whatever information she desired.
“When I did not hear anything, I thought you were fine,” said Clouet, adding that these raises are also necessary to help keep stability in a district where some individuals are leaving for higher paying jobs elsewhere. “I do not think this kind of discussion is helping in that regard.”
brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com