Hannibal Schools Waits for Word of Federal Aid, But May Not Hire Classroom Teachers With the Money

Hannibal could receive tens of thousands of dollars from the federal bill, approved this week, to give schools money to keep teachers at work.

But Hannibal Superintendent of Schools Mike DiFabio says he is leaning against using the money to bring back teachers laid off in this year’s budget cuts.

“My feeling is that if you call a bunch of teachers back, you’d be widening the (budget) hole for next year,” he told the Board of Education Wednesday night. “I’m not going to add five more (teachers) and then cut ’em again” next year, he said.

Districts across the state are eagerly awaiting word of how much money is in the package for their school, when they will get the money, and how they will be able to use it. So far, there is no district-by-district breakdown of the aid package. There are two possible ways the money will be delivered — through the federal Title I program or through the state’s regular education aid formula.

DiFabio said that if the money showed up after the start of the school year, as he believes it might, then it would make no sense to bring in classroom teachers once classes begin. State law may prohibit schools from using the money to hire teachers, as the law says a district can only spend what voters approved in the April and May budget votes. Excess funds are supposed to be applied to the tax levy or to reserve funds.

Schools suffered a $1 billion cut in school aid this year and are likely to take another large cut next year, as the state slowly recovers from a devastating recession and sharp downturn on Wall Street, which generates the largest share of the state’s tax revenues. Gov. David Paterson said Thursday on a radio interview that the deficit for the 2011 budget should be about $8 – 9 billion, which is about the size of the deficit this year that caused him to cut education aid.

The district has already been told that its mandatory contribution to the state teacher retirement system fund will increase from 6.19% of its payroll to 8.6% of its payroll for the 2010-11 school year. The employee retirement fund contribution, which covers non-teachers who work for the district, will double. In recent years, the local contribution has been as low as zero.

Hannibal is also facing some immediate financial uncertaintly because of changes and potential changes in its administration.

Superintendent DiFabio is planning to leave the district at the end of the school year. A committee of the Board of Education agreed on a three-year contract extension for DiFabio earlier this year, but the full board voted it down. DiFabio then said that he would have to leave at the end of the 2010-11 school year because he will have no contract. He repeated that on Wednesday. There appear to have been no formal contract discussions since then.

The board will almost certainly attempt to save money on the salary of a new superintendent.

However, DiFabio’s salary — $138,000 for the upcoming 2010-11 school year, according to records supplied to the state Education Department and analyzed by Oswego County Today.com — is already the third-lowest in the county and only about $4,000 higher than the lowest salary. When benefits are added, DiFabio’s $178,226 salary package remains the third lowest.

His pay is also well below the the average statewide salary for superintendents of approximately $165,000 in 2009, and below the median salary of about $158,000. The statewide average and median with benefits added is approximately $206,000 and $190,000, respectively.

Superintendents are in short supply, according to the state, a factor that drives up the cost of hiring a qualified superintendent with experience.

The district will also be replacing its second-ranking administrator in the coming weeks. Director of Pupil Personnel Kate Colucci resigned to take an administrative position with the East Syracuse-Minoa school district. She will leave the district on October 31. DiFabio said it may be necessary to replace the 25-year veteran with two people, adding to budget pressure.

The district is also in the process of trying to hire a superintendent of buildings and grounds, a position the district used to have, but combined with the jobs of athletic director and transportation supervisor for a few years. Now, those jobs are being separated. The high school assistant principal, whose appointment was confirmed Wednesday night by the board, will take on the athletic director’s duties.

Which leaves the question: What to do with whatever money comes to Hannibal as a result of the federal teacher jobs program?

DiFabio told the board that he’d be inclined to spend that money, if the rules allowed for it, on specialists to help students with academic problems. “If we can have interventions for our students, even for one year,” it would be worthwhile, he said. The district has come off the state’s lists of schools needing to show academic improvement. A return to those lists would cost the district money for mandatory additional help for students.

1 Comment

  1. Don’t use the money for anything to educate the kids–Hire more adminastrators and give them all raise’s–don’t know how adminastrators can be in short supply–I would be glad to be one for 178000 a year–I worked at Central Square School 40 yrs ago and saw how little a superintendent actually does, most work is done by his secretary and assistant–he is mainly a mouthpiece and a figurehead.

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