CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. -- Residents in the Cambridge Central School District are witnessing change and it's finally for the better, say officials.
Members of the Board of Education unanimously voted to elect longtime board member Paul Baker-Porazinski to the role of president, a position which has been vacant since the resignation of Dr. Kerri Brown early last month, and which was filled by Vice President Lillian Herrington during the interim.
Following the election of returning BOE member Don Boyd just two weeks ago, the four-member board is almost complete again.
The longstanding conflict surrounding the extension of Superintendent Vince Canini's contract has also been resolved. After revisiting the previous decision made by the board to not renew his contract, members voted 3 - 1 to extend Canini's role as supervisor for another three years to end June 31, 2017; an offer which he has accepted.
Boyd indicated prior to his election that he considered the superintendent matter to be a priority, and the board held two executive session meetings to allow him time to form an accurate opinion. Boyd could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
Herrington maintained her former position and again voted against the extension, but could also not be reached for comment.
"There's nothing in his file that would suggest he shouldn't continue on as executive administrator," said Baker-Porazinski, who also noted that the current pool of available superintendents in the region is small and competition from other schools in the area who are looking to fill the same position would likely make the process more difficult.
"When [members of the board] voted not to extend, not a single reason was given," he said.
Frequently in recent months Canini has received the public support of teachers, parents and residents within the district, who have spoken out in support of his work at CCSD over the past four years.
"I can't believe he has chosen to stay here after the treatment that he has been given over the past year and a half," said Baker-Porazinski, noting that Canini could have chosen to retire as early as July.
More than 40 people were in attendance for the board's regular meeting on Tuesday night, despite the heavy snowfall. Several members of the community spoke, stating that they were pleased the issue was finally being resolved.
"In a small district a superintendent is very hands on, and our district is thriving," said Baker-Porazinski. "Right now it is in a fantastic financial situation, and our rankings are continuing to go up."
Canini earns an annual salary of approximately $138,000, which will remain in effect through the end of his current contract, set to expire June 31, 2014.
"In the four years he's been here he's only gotten one raise," said Baker-Porazinski of the two percent pay increase Canini received in 2012.
Following renegotiations, members of the board agreed to build a step increase into his new contract, which will include a two percent raise over each of the next three years.
"In exchange, what he has agreed to do is to contribute two and a half percent more toward his health and dental costs," said Baker-Porazinski. "This year he's paying 12.5 percent, the next year he's going to pay 15 percent, and then 17.5."
In addition, BOE members have agreed to a more flexible arrangement regarding vacation days, wherein up to five vacation days may be paid per diem, if not taken during the fiscal year.
"Over the last couple years, Vince worked during 13 of his vacation days, so what he asked is that in future years, if he needs to be here during his vacation days he won't lose all of them," said Baker-Porazinski, who noted he thinks the arrangement is fair.
Canini has lost nearly three weeks of earned vacation time over the past year, due to his attendance at state-mandated personnel reviews which typically take place during the summer, according to Baker-Porazinski.
None of the new terms will be applied retroactively, but will instead take effect on July 1, 2014.
Canini declined to comment for this story, citing a desire to move forward and to put the focus back on the students.
Next comes the task of filling the fifth and final seat on the board, which members have agreed to fill by holding another special election, set to take place Feb. 3.
Baker-Porazinski said the board's first priority will be to make the board whole again. "We have enough people, I'm sure we could have agreed on an appointment but it's really worthwhile to hear the public's view," he said.
The as-yet-undetermined new member is set to be sworn in on Feb. 4, and will serve through June 2014, the remainder of Brown's former term.
Board President Baker-Porazinski said he has already "put the wheels into motion," to address previously neglected matters and wants to work on rebuilding the integrity of the board. In one of his first acts of business as president, Baker-Porazinski appointed the entire board to a new audit committee or "committee of the whole."
Members have almost finished reviewing a new policy manual, which they have rewritten completely over the past two years, and will now also focus on additional policy review as well as financial and personnel matters in an official capacity.
"It was nice to have Lillian's vote, I really appreciated that," said Baker-Porazinski of his new role as president, stating that he feels the board is finally coming together after almost two years of conflict.
"When people think about the board of education I want them to have confidence," he said. It's easy to lose trust and really hard to build it back up."
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