A divided Port Chester school board voted to add two years onto Superintendent Edward Kliszus’ contract this week, over objections from two members alleging an illegal meeting and a “back-room deal.”
The dispute was over the timing of the agreement, well in advance of when it takes effect. Kliszus is completing his first year of a three-year contract at a flat $217,000 salary with no district-paid health benefits. The board on Wednesday signed him on for 2014-15 and 2015-16 at a 1 percent salary increase for each of those two years.
The 3-2 vote came just as board President Blanca Lopez leaves the board and is replaced by Tom Corbia, a retired Port Chester teacher who defeated her in the May election. Lopez, Carolee Brakewood and Bob Johnson said they were doing what’s best for the district and its children. Brakewood said of Kliszus, “I think he’s a bargain-basement deal, and I’m happy to lock him in.” The 1 percent raises translate to $4,000 over the two years, she said.
Board members Anne Capeci and James Dreves didn’t criticize the superintendent or his performance, but faulted him and the board for what they cast as a sneaky maneuver. “This proves that there is a huge lack of trust,” Dreves said. He and Capeci also voted in the minority in the decision to hire Kliszus last year, but have since praised his work during an extremely difficult budget process. Port Chester met the tax cap and approved its budget by a 2-1 voting margin.
Corbia spoke at the outset of the meeting, criticizing the rumored agreement for happening at a time when teachers are still learning how many will be hired back for the fall. The teachers union just agreed to a four-year contract with .5 percent increases over the next three years, a reduced choice of health insurance and a delay in pay increases known as steps and lanes.
Before approving the contract extension, board members thanked the teachers for making concessions. On that message, the board was unanimous.