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Falls School Board votes to extend superintendent's contract to 2015

Without any prior public discussion, the city School Board voted 5-4 Thursday to extend Superintendent Cynthia Bianco's contract by three years, until June 30, 2015.

Her current contract was to have expired at the end of the coming school year.

The contract extension makes no changes in her salary, which has been set at $157,945 for the coming school year.

Some of those who voted against the extension said they were not voting against Bianco's performance but were objecting to the length of the extension or to its timing.

They said they would have preferred a two-year extension instead of three years and that the vote should have been delayed a few months instead of being taken at the beginning of the new school year.

Carmelette Rotella, board president, said she viewed the vote as an 8-1 endorsement of Bianco's performance, with the other "no" votes being based on timing and on the length of the contract.

Bianco, who at age 67 is in her 45th year as an educator, said the extension "isn't about money. It's about educating our children. This is a 'can do' district, and I am a 'can do' person."

Citing increased student achievements in some areas, the superintendent said, "The state of our School District is good, and it is improving."

Rotella said a performance review in June rated Bianco's performance as "exceeding expectations." She said the contract extension would give the School District "stability and continuity." She also cited Bianco's "passion for her work and the respect that her staff holds for her."

Joining Rotella in voting for the extension were Russell Petrozzi, the board's immediate past president, and board members Kevin Dobbs, Robert M. Restaino and Nicholas Vilardo.

James Cancemi, Johnny Destino, Arthur Jocoy Jr. and Don J. King voted against the extension.

Cancemi said a two-year extension would have been more "timely," adding, "I have some personal concerns about the handling of some issues, but I show no displeasure with Mrs. Bianco."

"The timing is wrong," Jocoy said. "I vote no at this time."

King, the longest serving member of the board with 33 years' service, also objected to the length of the extension and to the timing of the vote when the board "should be thinking all about kids and teachers, and not about the superintendent's contract." He added that he had "no objections with Mrs. Bianco's performance as our superintendent" nor to the concept of an extension.

Destino, who is completing his first yer as a member of the board, said:

"I believe the problems affecting this district can't be solved until there is a change in leadership. Superintendent Bianco has been in charge for three years and has failed to address such basic issues as staff management in our facilities department."

Destino said he believed this year's defeat of a proposed bond issue to improve school buildings and grounds showed "a lack of faith in our district's leadership. It's past time for a change in how this district is managed."