Hannibal Board Approves Superintendent’s Retirement

Mike DiFabio
Mike DiFabio

Hannibal’s Board of Education approved the retirement of Superintendent of Schools Mike DiFabio Wednesday night, a formality that comes as the district is already engaged in finding his successor.

The board’s vote was unanimous and came without comment.

DiFabio’s retirement, effective June 30, 2011, will bring with it a lump sum payment of $40,000.  It’s a length-of-service award that was negotiated into his contract.

DiFabio’s retirement will end a tenure that began in crisis.

He inherited a school district that was falling onto the state’s list of schools in need of improvement, at the same time that it was coping with the discovery of a scheme that saw a department head using hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money to buy high performance auto racing parts to install in racing cars.

DiFabio guided the district as it instituted a new program that produced solid gains in elementary reading scores and through two school construction projects.

In recent years, DiFabio has had to guide the district as it was forced to cut programs and services because of state aid cutbacks.  His final budget will likely bring even more cutbacks.  He refused his last contracted pay raise because of the financial crisis.

He was not planning to retire.  The Board of Education last year rejected a contract worked out between DiFabio and a committee of board members.

There is some uncertainty whether the board offered DiFabio an opportunity to renegotiate his contract.  DiFabio has said he simply decided to leave.

The district has hired a consulting firm to lead the search for a new Superintendent.

In other board actions:

  • The board heard a report on progress on the current construction project.  Project manager John Putnam said that most outdoor work has been buttoned up for the season.  New equipment in the kitchen is almost completely installed and a Health Department inspection is set for Friday. Indoor renovations to Fairley Elementary rooms 102, 104, 106, 108, 110 and 114A are underway.  Outside doors are being installed at the high school.
  • Board member Donna Blake, who serves on the BOCES Board, told board members that BOCES will ask county taxpayers on Feb. 28 to vote on a $20 million package of improvements to the campus in Mexico.  There has never been a renovation project at BOCES, she said.
  • The board approved several revised policies, including one that bars board members from working for the district for one year after their last day of service on the board.
  • The board heard that the school district will receive $75,000 from the state to help with the corrective actions needed at Kenney Middle School, which remains on the state’s list of schools needing to improve test scores.  The amount is less than what the district had hoped for, but will cover all of the items the district needs to do because DiFabio said he was able to get a consultant’s audit for $10,000 less than he was told it would cost.
  • Board members hired Debra Farnham and Julie Goodman for two new teaching assistant positions; appointed Richard Talamo as a substitute bus driver; appointed Judith Rusho as a substitute teacher; approved a medical leave of absence for teaching assistant Susan Barry and a maternity leave for Valerice Stuart; and an agreement with bus driver Keith Reis.
  • Board members approved restoring one ticket taker position for home basketball games.  There have been two people selling admission tickets in the past.  These positions go to members of the teachers’ union, paying $80 per event.  When tickets are sold, the ticket takers act as supervisors at the games.  Board members eliminated the positions, making the games free of charge, to save money.  But DiFabio said that further study showed the ticket takers took in enough money to pay for their positions, and generated an additional $1,300 to help subsidize the other paid positions at basketball games.  Restoring one position will result in a longer line to get into the game but should generate the same amount of revenue, board members decided.