North Stonington school board discusses policies

North Stonington - The Board of Education held its final discussion on policies regarding mileage and travel reimbursement and use of the board's credit card during a work session Wednesday.

The proposed policy revisions come after former superintendent Natalie Pukas paid the town $18,491 in a settlement agreement earlier this year after she was accused of misusing the school district credit card in her name during her tenure. Pukas resigned in June, and an audit of her usage revealed a number of expenditures not district-related.

Board of Education Chairman Bob Testa said the decision to revise these policies came well before the audit report was released in August. Nonetheless, in light of Pukas' apparent misuse, Testa said the revisions - which he declined to detail while they are still in draft form - are meant to improve upon and add detail to the existing ones in order to prevent future "human failings."

Earlier in the evening, the board voted to appoint Alex Karpinski as the newest member of the board, replacing Ed Scarchilli, who resigned in September.

Karpinski was one of three candidates for the job, all of whom Testa said were exceedingly qualified for the job.

"It's a difficult position we're put in, to make this decision," he said.

Following the vote, Testa said the board will still appreciate any support the two other candidates can provide to the schools in town.

"The other two candidates are phenomenal," he said.

The board also voted to hold a public hearing regarding a petition to close Wheeler High School filed earlier this month by resident Donna Feldmann. The petition is the latest turn in a yearslong debate over whether to close the high school and pay tuition to send students to another school district or to conduct much-needed renovations.

Superintendent Peter Nero has said that the petition, while it has garnered 179 signatures, is "loaded with erroneous facts," including that the board has proposed $60 million for a new addition to the high school and that the town has funneled $15 million in repairs to the building in the last decade. Nero said repairs cost $5 million less than the petition states.

The public hearing will be held as part of the board's regular meeting Nov. 28 at 6:30 p.m. at North Stonington Elementary School.

a.isaacs@theday.com

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