CANFIELD SCHOOL BOARD Member threatens to sue over hiring
One board member expressed her feelings on the business manager's contract by ripping apart a stack of papers.
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- A school board member is threatening to sue the board over its hiring of Dennis Kowalski as business manager.
Martha Zarlenga said she thinks three of her fellow board members promised Kowalski a job when he was a finalist for the position of superintendent. The board later promoted Dante Zambrini from assistant superintendent to superintendent.
"You three are in cahoots," Zarlenga said to board members Mark Squicquero, Bruce Brocker and Sam Pitzulo during a special board meeting Wednesday afternoon.
When Zarlenga threatened to sue, Squicquero replied, "That will certainly help us financially." He strongly denied that he, Pitzulo and Brocker promised Kowal-ski a job.
The board voted 3-2 Wednesday to hire Kowalski as business manager. Squicquero, Brocker and Pitzulo were in favor, and Zarlenga and board member Charles Eddy Jr. were opposed.
The board also voted 3-2 on July 30 to promote Zambrini. Pitzulo, Zarlenga, and Eddy were in favor of hiring Zambrini, and Brocker and Squicquero were opposed.
Zambrini replaced Doug Hiscox, who was named associate superintendent. Hiscox is expected to resign Jan. 31 to pursue other jobs in education.
Zarlenga called Kowalski's contract a "political treatise."
"Here's what I think about the contract," she said as she ripped apart a stack of papers.
Kowalski received a two-year contract that calls for him to be paid $70,000 each year. The contract, which will expire July 30, 2004, was prorated to Wednesday.
As business manager, Kowalski will be responsible for purchase orders, buildings and grounds, and transportation expenditures. Board members said the position of business manager was created in response to local residents' concerns about the financial operations of the district.
Eddy said he was "extremely disappointed" with Squicquero, Brocker and Pitzulo. He stressed that he didn't think the board should have hired a business manager before the vote in November on the 6.9-mill, five-year additional operating levy.
School officials have said the district needs additional revenue to avoid going into debt and being placed in fiscal emergency by the state.
Mary Ann Gardner, one of the two Canfield parents who attended Wednesday's meeting, said she was concerned that the board didn't discuss the levy at its meetings.
"We need the money in the system before we can be spending money," she said.
Squicquero said he thinks Kowalski can help the district save money. He added that he thinks the board has made several recent personnel decisions that allowed it to afford hiring Kowalski.
Those decisions include not hiring an assistant principal for the high school for at least six months, hiring a new director of special services that will earn less than his predecessor, and not hiring a replacement for Zambrini.
Eddy noted that he saw Kowalski with Zambrini at C.H. Campbell Elementary on Tuesday, the first day of school. He said he didn't expect to find Kowalski working before the contract was approved.
"I was completely dumbfounded," Eddy said.
Pitzulo responded that he was "surprised you're surprised." He said the board met in August to discuss hiring Kowalski.
Pitzulo noted that he thinks Kowalski's strength is in business and Zambrini's is in academics.
"When you're strong in one suit, you hire someone who's strong in your weakness, not that [Zambrini's] weak," he said.
Kowalski has worked in education for 35 years, including 17 years as a principal and eight years as superintendent in Strongsville. He said he came to Canfield on Monday so he could get acquainted with the students, staff and buildings.
"I hope I wasn't too zealous," he said.