District 24 Superintendent Ed Fale announced last week that, after discussions with the school board about its vision for the future, he would not seek an extension of his contract, which is set to expire in June.
“I have loved being your superintendent — and still do,” Fale, 69, said at the district’s Nov. 29 meeting. “I am so proud of what we accomplished in this district together. I intended to stay three years. It turned into 19.”
Fale said he believed that, under his leadership, the board took two struggling schools — William L. Buck and Brooklyn Avenue — and turned them into “en-vironment[s] of excellence.” Holding back tears, he also thanked staff members for their commitment to the district.
Board of Education Vice President Tony Iadevaio said the board would begin interviewing search firms at its next meeting on Dec. 13.
“I didn’t see a need for a search at this particular time,” Iadevaio said, though he did not say why. “It wasn’t a unanimous decision. It was a majority decision. But that’s what we have to go by.”
Iadevaio said that he and Trustee Paul DePace are the only two remaining board members from Fale’s 1998 hiring, and that the board is exploring other options to fulfill its vision for the future.
“I think he’s doing a good job,” Iadevaio said. “Effective superintendent. He has loyalty to the district. He knows the players, he knows the decision- makers. He knows the people up in Albany. He knows the local legislators.”
“We’ll see what happens as a full board when the seven of us do the interviews of the search firms on the 13th,” Iadevaio added, “and we’ll take it from there.”
He declined to detail the differences between the board’s and Fale’s visions for the future, because he said the matter had only been discussed in executive session.
Board President John Maier declined to comment, saying he wanted to speak to the board before issuing a statement.
Fale’s probable exit after this school year does not appear to be the result of budgetary constraints. He was granted a one-year extension last June at the end of a previous three-year contract. In 2014, the board approved a deal that would allow him to retire and then return at a lower salary. Fale is legally allowed to collect a pension and a full salary, so the district hired him back at $130,000 annually — a reduction of more than $100,000 in his $244,500 salary at the time. District officials heralded the deal as a windfall of more than $500,000 in savings over the life of the agreement.
Although District 24 lost a lawsuit against the Central High School District last month over a dispute stemming from the Green Acres Mall tax-break debacle, Fale said that he and the Board of Education agreed about their case. District 24 had withheld tax revenue from the high school district over differing interpretations of whether Industrial Development Agency-owned property was taxable, but stored it in an escrow account so as not to squander taxpayer dollars if the suit was unsuccessful.
Parents who attended the meeting said they were unsettled by the board’s lack of explanation of the divergent visions for the district’s future.
“The board was super-squeamish,” said Melissa Herrera, the Carbonaro Elementary School PTA’s vice president. “There was something in the air.”
“I’m not saying it’s all been peaches and sunshine,” Herrera added, referring to painful budget cuts the district weathered in 2015. But she said that Fale is “approachable, accessible and compassionate. He’s willing to listen.”
Simona Simone, the Carbonaro school’s PTA president, said she disapproved of starting a superintendent search. “He has seniority up in Albany; he can make deals,” she said of Fale. “A new superintendent can’t do that.”
According to Simone, Fale said at the meeting that if the board were to grant him a contract extension beyond this year, he would consider accepting.
“There’s more questions than answers at this point,” Simone said. “There’s an agenda there. I just don’t know what it is.”
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