At the last Herricks School Board meeting one of the last items on the agenda was an addendum to the contract for Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, Dr. Ronald Barnes.
Apparently, trustee Karin Filippi wanted to discuss the addendum with the attorney and did at one point, but was not satisfied with the amount of time she was allotted.
The board members and trustee Filippi disagreed on the addendum and an unpleasant exchange between Filippi and the board erupted.
Since the contract and any addendum are part of personnel matters and are not discussed in public it was hard for those in the audience to discern exactly what the argument was about.
However, the following communication was received by The Illustrated News, written by school board trustee Karin Filippi and was followed by a communiqué from Herricks Superintendent Dr. Jack Bierwirth:
The statement by Filippi:
"I feel duty bound to explain the reason for my negative vote on Feb. 3 at the Herricks School Board meeting. I am currently serving my third year as trustee and my 16th year as an active member of the community. I have witnessed and experienced many things during this time; some very positive and unfortunately some negative.
"Perhaps the most disturbing and troubling of these negatives is our current board thinking (majority) and behavior as to the nature of its responsibility and role as elected trustees. This is best reflected by the statement trustee Richard Buckley made that he felt he did not need to check, if the superintendent said it, that was good enough for him. This is after Roslyn!
"Now to the specific issue. In October 2004, an agenda item that was before the board was the contract renewal of our assistant superintendent of instruction Dr. Ronald Barnes. It was a four-part contract with various items. Based on experience and knowledge as a parent, taxpayer and trustee I voted against this contract. Several weeks later the board was informed by the superintendent that a clarification of this contract would be advisable. Subsequently, a six-page 'clarification' was sent to the board.
"After very careful review, I had several questions for our legal counsel and financial auditors. Questions basic to the issue i.e. the cost and what was the district to gain from this action? I expressed my concern to my fellow board members and they reacted with annoyance. I documented my concern and requested an opportunity to dialogue with legal counsel with all board members present. Counsel was present one evening for a discussion on another issue. For only eight whole minutes, virtually no time was left for my concerns. Again, I expressed my desire to meet prior to any vote on the issue. I explicitly asked my fellow board members if they had any concerns with this 'clarification.' All four trustees were satisfied with the contract and the memorandum of agreement with my questions unanswered.
"Given Roslyn, William Floyd, BOCES and the other school districts, vigilance is not only necessary but a responsibility each trustee must embrace wholeheartedly.
"I voted no to the Memorandum of Agreement for Dr. Barnes' contract on Feb. 3. And, my sincere hope is that our Herricks community awakens and takes nothing for granted."
The Illustrated News contacted Herricks Superintendent Dr. Jack Bierwirth and asked him to clarify the nature and the purpose of the addendum to Dr. Barnes' contact.
He sent the following explanation:
"Subsequent to the Board approving a new contract for Dr. Barnes last fall, legal counsel for the District and I determined that the position of the Office of the Comptroller, Alan Hevesi, and the IRS rules called for a greater level of specificity regarding the handling of any payments which might be due to Dr. Barnes at the time of his retirement.
"Accordingly, an addendum to his contract was drawn up which meets the requirements of IRS Section 415(c)(1) and the position of the Comptroller's Office. This is the same section of IRS regulations which cover any payments to any teacher or administrator due upon their retirement. This document clarifies and memorializes the method by which Dr. Barnes will receive the benefits in his existing contract.
"This addendum does not modify in any manner the calculation of any payments due to Dr. Barnes in the contract signed on October 20, 2004, increase his benefits or result in any additional cost to the District."