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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, June 12, 2008
Coming and going
By David S. Lewis
VOORHEESVILLE The district has gained an interim superintendent and is losing a popular elementary school principal.
Dr. Raymond Colucciello will be the acting superintendent for the district, by unanimous decision of the school board at Monday’s regular meeting. Colucciello, currently the acting superintendent for the Ballston Spa Central School District, will take over for Linda Langevin, who announced her resignation last month. She is leaving in August for personal reason after two years at the helm of Voorheesville school. Colucciello worked in the Voorheesville district as an acting principal at both the middle and the elementary schools. He will be paid $130,000 for 10 months.
Kenneth Lein will be leaving his $87,000-a-year post as Voorheesville Elementary principal after four years. He will become principal of the Montessori magnet school in Albany.
Colucciello, 70, will be leaving the Ballston Spa district in August; he will only have a few weeks’ rest before beginning his work for Voorheesville in September. Colucciello said he is looking forward to the new position.
“I am excited,” he said. “I always look forward to serving a community, and I have served Voorheesville in the past.”
Colucciello was the high school’s interim principal from August of 2001 to January of 2002.
“I’ve had experience in 10 districts,” he said, including Troy, Schenectady, Voorheesville, Sharon Springs, and, of course, Ballston Spa.
“I did dip around a lot, in those days,” he said. “Some people will tell you that I can’t hold a job,” quipped Colucciello, who has worked in education for over 48 years.
“I came for a period of six months and stayed for three years,” he said of his Ballston Spa experience.
That wasn’t the first time an interim position lasted longer than expected. After retiring “the first time” for one month in 1993, Colucciello returned to Sharon Springs as an interim principal.
He then returned to Schenectady City Schools, where he accepted an “interim superintendent” position; he came out of retirement and stayed for seven years, before retiring again in 2000.
He said he is careful to come out of retirement to stay within the law, and that he never earned more than $30,000 per year while collecting his pension, which is a limit imposed by the state.
“We followed the law, in all of these cases,” said Colucciello. “I wasn’t one of these ‘double-dippers,’” he said, referring to a phrase popularized by the state’s attorney general, who is making an issue of administrators on sizable pensions, who are also collecting salaries in interim posts.
Colucciello said that one advantage for districts that hire retirees as interim administrators is the money they save while searching for superintendents. Districts usually don’t pay health insurance, or into the state retirement fund, for such. Colucciello said the savings accrued for the district is usually between $20,00 and $25,000 a year.
Colucciello has been receiving a pension between $79,000 and $80,000 per year since 1993. His Voorheesville contract allows the district to give him one day’s notice before termination, with no severance pay; he said the contract is designed to be temporary so he can be replaced with a permanent superintendent
“This is about them finding somebody,” said Colucciello. “That’s my role…I’m like the bullpen, you come in and do a closer, and then you leave; you pitch a few innings and then you leave.”
Colucciello said there were other advantages to hiring a retired superintendent as an interim.
“Some people consider my 48 years of experience can be helpful to a district,” he said wryly. “The fact of the matter is that, typically, when a retiree gets hired, it’s about what they can bring to the job until they can get their real person.
“Interims serve that purpose, to fill the void while the district is looking, and often times an interim can bring some things and do some things that you cannot do as a new person,” he concluded.
The board had the opportunity to see a number of résumés and interviewed two candidates; it determined that Colucciello was the best option because of his many years of experience as an acting administrator and because of his previous experience with the district, said school board president, David Gibson.
New York State Education Department Commissioner Richard Mills is under fire for lax oversight on the waivers necessary for retirees under 65 who receive more than $30,000 in post-retirement jobs with school districts. All nine state senators from Long Island have called for his resignation, complaining that many retired school administrators have re-entered the system and are making six-figure salaries, in addition to their six-figure pensions.
While the district’s top position has been temporarily filled, an unlooked-for resignation from the elementary school’s Kenneth Lein resulted in many accolades and expressions of sorrow on Monday.
School board member C. James Coffin noted Lein’s popularity in the community.
“I am surprised with the support that you have in this community,” he said. “Whenever I have been at a function, people have shown a great regard for you. Thanks again for a great four years.”
The high school’s principal, Mark Diefendorf, said that he had traveled with Lein, and become close to him. He called the parting “bittersweet,” and said that Lein was a “professional.”
Lein received a standing ovation from the board and everyone else attending the meeting.
Lein, the elementary school’s principal for the last four years, is moving on to work in at the Montessori magnet school in Albany, part of the public school system.
Hired in Voorheesville to replace Ed Diegel, who had been the school’s principal for 18 years, Lein told The Enterprise at the time of hiring that, with 18 years left to retirement, he planned to spend them all with Voorheesville. Lein said this week that he was interested in the developmental model that the school presented, but that his main reason for leaving was his desire to work in an urban school setting.
When Lein was hired for the 2004-05 school year, he was paid $76,000. As principal of the Montessori school, Lein estimated his contract would be for $100,000 per year; this year in Voorheesville, he made about $87,000.
Several people at the board meeting spoke of the special rapport Lein has built with the children at the school.
“You can see it when he walks down the hallway,” said Chris Allard, a bus driver who is president of the United Employees of Voorheesville, the union for the district’s non-educational employees. “The kids just love him.”
She recounted seeing him dressed as a “reading wizard” and reading to the children.
“Not everyone does that,” said Allard. “Those kids just sat there; they were mesmerized.”