For years now, the Carbondale Area School Board has been “out of control” in approving big increases in wages and benefits for teachers and administrators, and for a simple reason — some school board members have immediate family members who work for the district and rely on those increases.  And now, as a result, superintendent Dr. Dominick Famularo has been made the scapegoat for this irresponsible policy, and he is being made to pay for it with his job.


For years now, the Carbondale Area School Board has been “out of control” in approving big increases in wages and benefits for teachers and administrators, and for a simple reason — some school board members have immediate family members who work for the district and rely on those increases.  And now, as a result, superintendent Dr. Dominick Famularo has been made the scapegoat for this irresponsible policy, and he is being made to pay for it with his job.
That’s the charge being leveled by director Tracey Andrews, one of the board’s three minority members.
During a meeting on Nov. 16, the board voted 6-3 to not renew Famularo’s contract, which expires in Sept. of 2012.  Andrews and her two fellow minority board members, Diane Harrity and Nancy Mark, cast the dissenting votes.
Famularo is the highest-paid school superintendent in the county, with a salary, annuity and benefits package estimated at nearly $190,000 for the current school year of 2011-12.
Board president Gary Smedley told the NEWS that renewing Famularo’s five-year contract would cost the district upwards of $1 million in all over the life of the contract.  He stated that he and his fellow majority board members felt that was far too high, particularly in light of the loss of some $2 million in state subsidies this year.
Andrews, on the other hand, said she feels the board itself is at fault.  She argued that the majority members ignored past warnings about the bloated contract agreements they entered into with teachers and administrators.
“It’s too bad that the board got so out of control with all these big raises that were given over the last few years,” she related, “because now Dr. Famularo is being blamed for it.”
Andrews said she tried to caution the board’s majority members the last time they approved one of these packages, telling them they should think about “what would happen down the road.”  However, she said her concerns were dismissed out of hand and the increases were once again adopted. 
She said she was particularly concerned that Famularo’s salary increases were contractually tied to those being given to the teachers — so, for instance, when the board gave the teachers 4 percent pay raises annually in their current contract, Famularo’s salary automatically went up by 6.5 percent.
As for Famularo, she speculated that “he probably went along for the ride” as his earnings rose to their current level.  Andrews agreed that the amount is too high at $190,000, but she suggests that the contract should have been renegotiated and scaled back — something Famularo said he was willing to discuss.  That way, she explained, the board could have found some of the savings they were looking for and at the same time kept Famularo in his position, insisting he is by far the best person for the job.
Andrews said a portion of the blame also falls on the voters for not “looking at the dynamics involved” in various school board races — specifically, candidates with immediate family members working for the district.
She stated that those candidates “rely on the raises in pay and benefits that their spouses or other immediate family members may receive” —  and even if they recuse themselves from specific votes, they can influence their fellow board members within a majority bloc to approve huge contracts.
“That’s why we don’t need people who have an immediate family member working in the district to be serving on the school board,” Andrews stated flatly.
Director Marcella Kaczmarcik declined to comment on the board’s decision not to renew Dr. Famularo’s contract.  She also refused to respond to Andrews’ specific charge regarding board members personally benefitting, through their spouses, from bigger wage and benefits contracts for district officials.  Kaczmarcik’s husband, Dr. Paul Kaczmarcik, is principal of Carbondale Area Elementary School, and he is also believed to be a prospective candidate for the superintendent’s position.
As it stands, Dr. Kaczmarcik is the most expensive elementary school principal in the county, with a salary and benefits package that puts his pay at over $155,000 for the 2011-12 school year.  And as is the case with Famularo, a significant factor in Kaczmarcik reaching that salary level is the fact that he has been working in the district for nearly 40 years.
Famularo declined to comment on the controversy surrounding his contract when questioned by the NEWS about it last week.  The board says he can reapply for the position, but Famularo stated that he hasn’t even thought about whether he will do so or not since the contract doesn’t expire until next September.