New London school board approves contract extension for interim superintendent

New London — The Board of Education has approved a contract extension for interim school Superintendent Stephen Tracy even as the district collects applications for the permanent position.

The approval of a one-month extension will keep Tracy in the district through Feb. 28. The board approved the contract by a 6-1 vote on Wednesday, with school board member Jason Catala voting against it.

Tracy has led the district since August, when former Superintendent Manuel Rivera, now a school board member, retired. Tracy previously served as the superintendent in New Milford and Derby, as the interim superintendent in Fairfield and has worked for both the for-profit Edison Schools Inc. and the state Department of Children and Families, where he was responsible for overseeing education of children in foster care.

He’s led the district through a tumultuous period of painful budget cuts that were the result of losses in city and state funding. The school board in September approved $628,000 in reductions that included freezing 18 unfilled positions. In November the school board was forced to trim $2 million more from its budget while managing to avoid any layoffs.

Tracy on Wednesday announced a shift of more than $172,000 from individual school budgets to hire bilingual educators to cope with an influx of 51 students who arrived in New London from hurricane-affected areas of Puerto Rico.

School board President Mirna Martinez said Tracy’s been doing a good job under the circumstances and has even sacrificed a portion of his own salary and made some central office cuts as part of the budget trimming.

“I am grateful for him being here during this time of great transition because he’s experienced, honest and competent,” Martinez said.

Tracy’s latest contract is the second extension since his first three-month contract was approved in August. That contract ran from Aug. 28 through Nov. 23. A copy of the first contract extension, approved by the school board in November, was not immediately available from the district.

The newest contract calls for Tracy to be paid a per diem rate of $725 per day for a five-day week, or about $15,000 for the month. The contract includes an extra $2,000: $583 per month for insurance, $416 toward retirement, a $500 stipend for travel expenses and $500 for miscellaneous expenses.

Catala, who also voted against hiring Tracy in August, said he thought the extras included in the contract extension were too much. He said it appeared Tracy’s commute from Goshen and his stays at local hotels on late meeting nights were contributing to the cost of the contract.

“He knew coming in he lived two hours away. I can’t continue to support this contract mainly because we had somebody local ready to step in. We had good candidates from New London,” Catala said in a reference to unnamed applicants for the interim superintendent position.

“We really need places to save,” Catala said.

Martinez, who recently was named the chairwoman of the search committee, said there are about 15 members on the committee, including the entire school board, which recently was sworn in.

She said there is a committee meeting scheduled for Jan. 2 and steps are in place for how to proceed with the search. About two dozen people, she said, have applied for the superintendent’s job.

The meetings are held privately and not noticed to the public.


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