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Port Chester School Trustees Fight over Superintendent Contract

Edward Kliszus received a 2-year extension after a year in the district.

Over the furious protests of two school trustees who had been excluded from the decision to put the issue on the agenda, the Port Chester Board of Education has given its superintendent a 2-year contract extension.

The “yes” vote from Trustees Blanca Lopez, Robert Johnson and Carolee Brakewood gives Edward Kliszus, who was hired last year, a contract through 2016 with a 1 percent raise for each of the last two years.

Kliszus is paid $217,000 a year and his original 3-year contract included no salary increases, board members told the audience at the June 27 meeting.

The topic provoked angry exchanges among the board members. Watch the video of the meeting here.

“This in my opinion is a backroom deal that was fabricated by three board members and Dr. Kliszus,” said Trustee James Dreves in a prepared statement. 

Dreves and Trustee Anne Capeci said when a contract extension was discussed by the whole board, they wanted to wait until Kliszus had been with the district more than a year and had been evaluated more than once—and promised to put it on the table in early 2013.

Capeci angrily described meetings between Lopez, the board president, and Brakewood, its vice-president, including one at Brakewood's house.

That was not a meeting about the contract, Lopez said today, but a casual get-together before the budget vote in May, not about the contract. She said it was disingenuous of Capeci to imply otherwise.

All the trustees agreed that on June 25 Lopez and Brakewood, in Kliszus’s office for an agenda meeting, spoke with Johnson on the phone and decided to put the contract extension to a vote Wednesday night. 

Dreves and Capeci said they learned about it when they heard rumors around the district June 26. Dreves said he only found out the details by calling the district clerk the morning of the meeting.

Brakewood, Johnson and Lopez said Dreves and Capeci were practicing power politics.

“What is going on tonight is an attempt by the more senior members of the board to pressure the younger members of the board to vote their way on an issue,” said Lopez. “I don’t need to sit on a board for 20 years to know a good superintendent when I see one.”

Lopez leaves office June 30. She lost her bid for a second term in the May election.

Trustee-elect Tom Corbia, who ran second in the 3-way race (Dreves was re-elected), spoke at the meeting before the vote. He objected to the timing of the contract extension, for coming too close to recent teacher layoffs.

Corbia, who will be sworn in at the district’s annual reorganization meeting July 6, said he had been civil and open and didn’t deserve to be browbeaten for his opinions.

Johnson emphasized that Kliszus’s salary is flat for the next two years and that he had received a very positive review from the whole board. He reminded the audience that Kliszus is paid “substantially less” than his predecessor, Donald Carlisle. 

Lopez said after the meeting that Carlisle's compensation package, including benefits, totalled $275,000. Kliszus, who is a retired New Jersey educator, receives no health benefits from Port Chester.

Reviewing the history of superintendent contracts, Capeci read a list of those who worked with 3-year contracts and received multiple extensions. A 4-year deal is fiscally irresponsible, she said, as it commits the district to a larger payout if the board members decide to ask a superintendent to leave before his or her contract expires.

“Jim Dreves and I are reasonable people,” Capeci said. “We had great confidence in Dr. Kliszus and we hoped he would have confidence in us.”

Brakewood said it was Capeci who was irresponsible.

“I think he’s a bargain-basement deal and I’m happy to lock him in,” she said.

Editor's Note: This article has been revised for clarity and to add information about the previous superintendent.

Brian Zeller July 01, 2012 at 02:28 AM
John Na, Your posts are amusing when you get all testy. But they are also full of lies and distortions. The Three Amigos did extend the contract in public. That's the only way a contract can be extended - in a PUBLIC vote. As for all the accusations about the Superintendent being part time and working from home two days per week, I suggest you look up the words LIBEL and SLANDER in the dictionary. Every superintendent has a contract. Vacation days are numbered and stipulated in this contract. You are throwing $hit on a wall to see if anything sticks. It doesn't. p.s. did you cheat off of Robski48 in spelling class?
Kathy TPC July 01, 2012 at 03:03 AM
John Na is the type of person to throw temper tantrums when things don't go his way...sounds familiar...
PC Lover July 01, 2012 at 12:50 PM
American Woman you are saying that the three trustees with children currently attending the schools are maliciously voting for fewer teachers, larger class sizes and extending a superintendent that is not good. On what planet would that logic make sense? Don't you think they want the best education and school experience for their own children?
Brian Zeller July 01, 2012 at 05:19 PM
I see that John Na just pulled down all of his posts. His true identity was becoming increasingly obvious. John Na, while you were in very poor taste in slandering and defaming a public figure, you seem to at least have some sense of having gone too far. Removing your posts was a good idea and a step towards respectability.
Kathy TPC July 01, 2012 at 06:49 PM
John NaD deleted his comments because he gave too much away.
George Datino July 02, 2012 at 11:31 AM
What we have here is the age old question, “Do the ends justify the means?”. In my opinion, for whatever that is worth, on public boards, the ends never justify the means. Actions (real and perceived) are as important as results. Whether or not Dr. Kliszus should have gotten a contract extension at this time is one discussion and the other discussion is on the process that occurred. I am not close enough to the situation to say whether or not Dr. Kliszus deserved an extension at this time, so I will not discuss that, however from what I see in the article, the Board of Education did have that discussion. “Dreves and Trustee Anne Capeci said when a contract extension was discussed by the whole board, they wanted to wait until Kliszus had been with the district more than a year and had been evaluated more than once—and promised to put it on the table in early 2013.” Two points in the process. First, Capeci angrily described meetings between Lopez, the board president, and Brakewood, its vice-president, including one at Brakewood's house. That was not a meeting about the contract, Lopez said today, but a casual get-together before the budget vote in May, not about the contract. Whether or not the meeting was a contract negotiation or a casual get-together demonstrates that these types of meetings are unwise. We will never know what was discussed and there is the negative perception that it was a contract negotiation. That does not make the Board look good.
George Datino July 02, 2012 at 11:32 AM
The second point is the June 25th Agenda Meeting. I don’t know all the rules governing how items are put on an Agenda but if a call had to be made to Trustee Johnson to get opinion or vote, it is really not that far of a stretch to say that indeed a quorum of the Board of Education was reached and they had an official meeting. This could possibly open up the Board (and by default the District) to a legal challenge, which could in turn lead to an overturn of the vote because the adding of the agenda item could possibly be deemed illegal. Therefore the vote on the agenda item would become null and void. I am not an attorney, so I don’t know what part of the whole process was legal. For all I know all of it could be. Still, what happened didn’t seem to follow the norm or what I have seen others call “The Smell Test”. What I also found interesting was that a board that was past an election and changing membership would vote on such an item. For the most part, unless faced with something pressing (which wasn’t in this case), it is customary to have the newly elected board pick up on something like this. Even when such votes occur, I have seen many individuals who have not been re-elected abstain from the vote. Though still within their rights to vote, I am just making an observation about what I have customarily seen in the past.
Aidan July 02, 2012 at 11:47 AM
What ever the result, the process was flawed. The public was ill-served ... and the BOE appears dysfunctional and anything but a working team. And that is not what the taxpayers ... the ultimate arbiters ... deserved.
JC July 02, 2012 at 12:33 PM
I could not agree more with you Aidan and George that this is not about the money, is about process, someone says is only 4,500.00 not much compare to a budget of around 80 million dollars more that the school budget of many countries around the word and we are only 27,000 people, so the question is, If something so small was handle like this, How about other major decisions are handle? and I said small because many people says is only 4,500.00. The correct thing was to let the next board to make this decision. I just hope that the members who oppose to this decision don't do the same in the future and can lead by example. The big problem I see in my opinion is not the results but the process, the way business are conduct here!. By the way they are elected officers and non body ask them to be out there and ones they are elected they have an obligation to answer to the residents not matter if they have vote for them or not or if they agree or disagree with them. We are here the ones talking about what happen but we haven't hear anything from them yet.
Ralph Spoilsport July 03, 2012 at 12:03 PM
I watched the meeting. Let us call it the "the politicians vs. the parents." As a used car salesman, I know a good deal. Keeping the current super for an extension is an excellent decision for the school district. As clearly demonstrated, the "politicians" used their "partisans" to make noise when the vote THEY wanted was lost. Illegal meetings? PLEEZE... The next time you see Ms. Capeci ask her when she was president, which restaurant did she prefer to use to hold her meetings with the superintendent. Ya' think the pot calls the kettle black? I do. The "politicians" used smoke blowing tactics; the "politician" version of "sour grapes." The "politicians" wanted to WAIT to give the guy an extension. The "parents" wanted stability by granting it now. Why? I believe they wanted to keep politics out of the superintendent office by using the two year extension as a backstop. At the meeting the "parents" were bullied by the same "politicians" who ill-advisedly renewed the overpaid "internet doctor scholar superintendent" from Texas. The so-called Dr. held the position for five years. In this recent vote it was the "parents" who made the decision, not the "politicians." Why would the "politicians" use emotional partisan temper- tandrum tactics? Do I really need to answer that question? ... Oh did I mention? A wonderful 2007 Caddy SRX was just driven onto the lot. Come on down give the tires a kick...
George Datino July 03, 2012 at 12:16 PM
"Why would the "politicians" use emotional partisan temper- tandrum tactics? Do I really need to answer that question?" - Ralph, I wish you would answer the question. I keep trying to understand if this was such a "no brainer", why so much fuss? Can you help those of us who don't know get an understanding? Thanks in advance.
JC July 03, 2012 at 01:15 PM
I definably wouldn't buy a car from you unless you show me a carfax report, because your judgement is very poor, its not about the money and its not about a fuss. Is about how all of them do business as you mention. I think the one who is thinking in a political way is you, because you recognize that it is a problem with both sides, but you are ok with this because came from people whom you agree with. It is about the process not about who made the call. The last superintended I agree with you was a disaster and the way things had been handle now are too. Not political Just the facts.
Fed Up July 03, 2012 at 04:36 PM
So for those who are opposed, what is it about Kliszus that people don't like? I personally do not see anything wrong with an outgoing board member taking a final action like extending a superintendent's contract. The people on the board who were opposed to extending Kliszus were ones that voted to extend Carlisle who was AWFUL!!!! Personally I think the three board members who voted to extend the contract did a fine thing. It is nice to know we will have some consistency at the superintendent position for several years to come. There is a lot of useless banter going on around here and whining. Give me Lopez, Brakewood and Johnson all day every day. They know what they are doing and have nothing but the best interests of the community at heart. For those who attack the Brakewoods and Blanca Lopez, why don't you go out and try to do 1/100th of what they do for Port Chester and maybe we'll have a better Village.
JC July 03, 2012 at 06:51 PM
I dont oppose Kliszus. No the others member of the Board who oppose the move and no one from the people who has posted comments has says nothing bad about him Dr Kliszus, well except one. Is the process nothing else. please tell me what Lopez and Brakewoods Do that make them so special?. Because what Lopez do in human resource she got pay for it, brakewoods and Johnson and the rest of the Board so far my concern they can resign if is to much for them, the past budget was a fiasco and some of them have been there from the beginning of our problems so they are part of the problem. So the hope is that things change, no more scare tactics, no more back deals, stop hiring people who are no competent for the jobs, just because they know some body, stop giving to the people things that they don't want ask the people what are their concerns and needs, instead of experimenting with things that don't work and only alianate the community. Thats all. So this is a great opportunity for change, we have the member of the board on record so we can make them accountable for their actions from now on.
Juan Jose Chajon July 03, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Really, they have to stop doing this, what are they thinking that this is Game of thrones from HBO, Enjoy the holiday and relax.
Brian Zeller July 04, 2012 at 03:04 AM
Aidan, in my view, the school board was in agreement on just about everything this year except the appointment and extension of the superintendent. Apparentlly this was a hot button issue that made tempers flare. Think back to how irate Dreves and Capeci were when Dr. Kliszus was hired. They put up quite a fuss when that happened - called it a HUGE MISTAKE to hire anyone but Frank Fanelli. Is it any surprise that they would not want to give Dr. Kliszus an early extension? By the same token, Lopez, Brakewood and Johnson were in support of Dr. Kliszus from Day #1, stating he was the BEST CHOICE for superintendent. Is it any surprise that they would want to give him an early extension? Now... keep in mind that on every other topic and vote this year, all five board members have been a united front. I predict that once tempers cool, the board will resume its united front on the usual array of topics. Then everyone can go back to watching the far more exciting village board meetings.
Brian Zeller July 04, 2012 at 03:22 AM
Interesting observation, George. But there is precedence for outgoing board members to extend superintendents they have worked with during their terms. Think back to 2008 when Larry Lupo led Dreves and Capeci in voting to extend Dr. Carlisle's contract right before he got off the board. He most certainly did NOT abstain or wait for the new board to 'pick up on this.' My guess is that the same thinking is applicable here. Fortunately, Dr. Kliszus has already accomplished far more than we ever saw from Dr. Carlisle.
George Datino July 04, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Hi Brian, I guess my observation was more general and I simply remember other boards that I've observed where things like this wouldn't have happened. I don't know all the details surrounding the extension of Dr. Carlisle's contract (things like past board reviews, how many years left on his contract at the time of the extension, etc.) so I cannot compare what happened then and what happened now. I have no opinion on Dr. Kliszus. I have never had any interaction with him, so I can't say I have any strong feelings one way or another about whether he deserved an extension at this time. What I simply found appalling was the process that took place for it to happen.
PC Lover July 04, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Fed Up you are right on the money. Lopez, Brakewood, and now Johnson give and give and give of their precious time and strengths and these whining, talking head, back seat drivers take pot shots at them...albeit with horrible spelling and grammer. They were voted in fair and square to make these difficult decisions on behalf of the school district and so be it. In my opinion, extending the contract allows the superintendent to put out some short term "small fires" but more importantly to set long term goals and to navigate his plan through to fruition. Hopefully he can remain above the fray and focus on what is important to all of us...the highest quality schools possible. I am confident that the school board did the right thing and the children will benefit for their action. It's too bad the board will have a majority of members who do not have children in the system. Without a strong, experienced, focused superintendent who is not afraid to speak his mind the children will suffer.
PC Lover July 04, 2012 at 02:04 PM
JC for you to ask what Lopez, Brakewood and Johnson do that is special not only indicates a complete lack of understanding of the difficult and trying nature of their elected positions, it also clearly indicates that you likely have never met any of them or had 5 minutes of conversation with them. If you did, you would know that these are intelligent, educated, thoughtful, community-minded people who take time away from their families to serve you and your family. JC, before you question the intentions and accomplishments of others who actually serve, maybe you should ask yourself what you have done for your community. If the question is, "what would "JC" do?" Obviously the answer depends on which JC we are talking about...
JC July 04, 2012 at 02:26 PM
@ PC Lover, Well, about lopez it is not only my opinion, but the opinion of those who voted against her. They disagree with the way she handle not only this situation but everything else. Now, about Brakewood and Johnson next election will tell. Now because you call your self PC Lover means that you are the only one who cares for Port Chester, the older residents care too, 70% of them pay taxes too and things are getting rough for them, so they want every single penny used wisely what's wrong with that? Many people do a lot of things for others, but we are Not out there waiting for the photo shoot or the news paper highlight. NO one has question their intelligence or their education, I will question everything else.
JC July 04, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Game of thrones, I have to watch it.
Lady Liberty July 06, 2012 at 11:16 AM
The whole thing was a disgrace. Extension or Not...raise or no raise. Teachers took a beating...Dr. Kliszus should have NOT been at the back room deal! He should have refused extension until the proper time. This man fled NJ to work four days in NY. Port Chester should hang their heads in shame!
George Datino July 06, 2012 at 11:37 AM
Lady Liberty, You are not the first person to mention that Dr. Kliszus does not work a full work week in the office. Can you provide more detail? Does he work remotely on days he is not in the office? Does he work extra hours (attending evening meetings, etc.) on the days he is here? Instead of taking allocated vacation days off a week at time, does he simply take a day a week off? I am just wondering because I too am troubled with these statements and am trying to keep an open mind about it for a reasonable explanation as to why he wouldn't be here 5 days a week. Any info you have would be appreciated. Thanks.
Lady Liberty July 06, 2012 at 01:42 PM
George. I know Dr. Kliszus stays for board meeting- but never at the school on Fridays and sometimes Mondays..not sure of what he is calling it. Sorry i can't be of more help
George Datino July 06, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Thanks anyway.
Brian Zeller July 08, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Lady Liberty. it's the school board's responsibility to oversee the superintendent and make sure he is working to his contract. Any superintendent has a contract that stipulates how many vacation days he or she can take. The same goes for teachers. Didn't the entire school board just give Dr. Kliszus a positive evaluation? If so, then that means they (the five member board) feel that he not only performing successfully but working WITHIN his contract. Are you a teacher, Lady Liberty? If so, then your principal is keeping track of your absences. If you are curious to find out the details of the superintendent's contract and vacation days, then why don't you simply FOIL the district for it? Better to arm yourself with facts than shroud yourself in anonymity while you spout misleading statements about a superintendent.
Lady Liberty July 08, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Brian..no I am not a teacher and the ENTIRE SCHOOL DID NOT EVALUATE!. How dare u say I am sprouting miisleading statements! School board should have waited till the end of Dr. Kliszus's contract to extend. A three unions conceided to the board, and I do know what I am talking about
Fed Up July 09, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Don't spew negativity without being able to back up those words with actual facts!! You are basically defaming someone and then when asked to provide details as to why, unable to respond. That is cowardly and wrong. If you don't have the facts, don't make a statement. So what is Kliszus doing on Fridays? If you can't answer the question, don't make the statement. Maybe he is tending to school business that does not require him to be "in the school". I still haven't heard what the negatives are about Kliszus for those opposed to his extension. Are there any concrete statements or opinions based on actual events/knowledge? C'mon people. Lot of bold statements with no reasoning behind them. Post your reasons. If you know what you are talking about Lady Liberty, type facts here as you know them instead of "sorry I can't be of more help".
George Datino July 09, 2012 at 01:04 PM
What is below is a copy of what I typed in another article. Honestly, if the Board would like to avoid future fiascos like we witnessed at the end of June, I think they should look at some of their rules. One in particular, would be Agenda Items. What I found very interesting and somewhat out of norm with other Board's I have seen is that fact that a Resolution that would require a vote be put on an agenda only two days prior to the meeting. I would think that any resolution on an agenda should be on the agenda when the agenda is published with the Public Notice of the meeting. If that is impractical, set a date, maybe a week or so away, where all resolutions need to be publically noticed and all backup would be in the hands of all the trustees. If any trustee would like to add something to the Agenda, I think they should be allowed to after the official Agenda is noticed, however, that item would only be a discussion item. Any vote on a resolution coming out of that item would be properly placed on a future agenda. The other rule that I would look at has to do with the discussions Board Members may have or had with the Superintendent concerning his contract. To me, any member who has those discussions should have the authorization by a vote of the board to engage in those talks. If that type of rule does not exist, the Board may want to look into it.

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