NAUGATUCK – Wayne McAllister will continue as the Board of Education’s part-time business manager, at least for a few more months.
The school board voted unanimously at a special meeting March 16 to extend McAllister’s contract for no longer than six months, giving him time to complete some of the reforms he started.
“What I’d like to see is the opportunity to finish off the initiatives that we started and the progress that we started to make,” McAllister said.
McAllister said he should finish by the end of August. His current contract is up at the end of June.
McAllister, who is also the borough’s controller, has filled in part-time for the Board of Education since the district’s financial crisis last year.
Although many board members agreed the best solution for the district would be for McAllister to continue in the position full-time, McAllister said he was not interested in doing so.
The solution settles a disagreement among board members as to whether to hire a new business manager when McAllister, most members agreed, has been doing a great job.
Some thought he should continue in his current arrangement indefinitely while others thought the district needs a full-time position.
Board member Barbara Lewis pointed out that, although McAllister has brought important reforms to the office, working part-time, he simply can’t handle all the intricate details of overseeing contracts and other district issues.
“With a full-time business manager, they are not just business manager. They are manager of the services, of the outside services,” Lewis said.
McAllister said when he was full-time business manager years ago, he put in about 50 hours per week.
“The central office is not functioning the way it should because we don’t have enough time in the day to do it,” Lewis said.
Extending McAllister’s contract does not resolve the dispute over the timeline for hiring a new business manager.
Some board members thought they should continue the search, which has already begun, and hire a new business manager next month, ahead of elections in May.
“[The new board is] not going to have the background or experience in order to be able to choose a new business manager, since they won’t know the background or basically the job,” board member Rocky Vitale said.
Others thought the search should be suspended until closer to the date McAllister will leave, allowing the new board to pick the business manager they will work with.
“I’ve met some of the candidates who are running for the new board. They all seem like very intelligent people who are very interested in serving. I realize there’s a certain learning curve, but I think they would have the intelligence, and the ability, and the capability to do interviews just as we would do them,” Heller said.
He pointed out that the two people most qualified to pick out the best candidate, the superintendent and business manager, will still be there to guide the new board.
“I realize we’re loosing a tremendous number of years of experience but you know I’m confident that we’ll be able to get the new people up to speed,” Heller said.
Board chair Kathleen Donovan said the board should just let the process take its natural course and whichever board is in office when they are ready to hire will make the decision.
“Both boards, I’m sure … are qualified to hire somebody,” Donovan said.
In the end, the board agreed to leave the decision up to Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson.
“There are some tremendous improvements going on in the business office right now, which Wayne is deftly handling, and there’s really value added to letting him complete that process,” Tindall-Gibson said.
He said they should wait and see how long it’s going to take for McAllister to finish what he wants to accomplish, and hire someone three months before he plans to leave.
“So, since you just extended his agreement six months, it seems to be that we could extend the process at least three months. … Let’s wait and see what it looks like at that point, and if we’re ready to go, go, and if we’re not, wait a little bit longer,” Tindall-Gibson said.
The only downside of the plan is that some candidates may end up taking other jobs before the district can offer them one, but that’s a risk they’ll have to take, Tindall-Gibson said.
“This will give us a chance to focus on the budget, adopt it, get municipal backing, and that way, the funding will be in place for this,” board member James Jordan said.
Everyone agreed that it is important for McAllister to work with the new hire for a few months, allowing their contracts to overlap.
“I’m a firm believer in transitioning and that it would benefit the board,” McAllister said.