Schenectady Edumacation…

…probably leaves much to be desired.  I’ll tell you why, but first a humorous (in my opinion) story:

I attended RPI in Troy, NY for my undergrad degree.  I became a big RPI hockey fan (Let’s Go Red!) while I was there.  Our biggest rival is Union College in Schenectady, just a few miles down Route 7.  Neither town is known for being ummm…  a phenomenal place to live.  So, a few years ago, I found my eyebrows ascending when I heard a Union fan yell “Troy sucks” during a RPI v. Union game.  I turned to him and said, “Dude. You’re from Schenectady.  That’s like one armpit telling the other armpit, ‘you stink.'”

Nowadays, I live just outside Schenectady.  Therefore, I keep an eye open on Schenectady news.  Much of the news is not positive.  Shootings. Decaying infrastructure.  Ugly politics.  Recently, much of the news revolves around the school district:

First, there’s the conviction of Schenectady School District’s facilities manager Steven Raucci.  Scary guy.  How he managed to stay employed by the school district, I cannot explain.

Next came this year’s school budget defeat.  After cutting a few more bucks from the original (more than $161 million) budget, a contingency budget ($160,708,288) is now in place.  But don’t worry Schenectady residents, your taxes will only increase by 2.96% instead of the original amount (nearly 6%).  You can get the details from the school district’s web site.

Most recently, it’s the debate surrounding the resignation of Superintendent Eric Ely.  Ely has faced considerable criticism over his handling of the Raucci situation.  A recent Times Union article said the following:

Ely was criticized for a close working relationship with former district facilities director Steven Raucci, who was convicted of arson and weapons possession charges.

It’s been no secret that Ely has been looking for a new job.  (And he just landed one according the aforementioned TU article.)  What’s the big deal then?  Most likely it’s the agreement between Ely and the school board over compensation and other issues that beg questions:

  • Ely could be paid big bucks AND retain his health care coverage until he starts a new job.  Even after reading the agreement, I’m not sure exactly how much compensation he will receive.
  • Ely is protected from litigation.  That could be huge if civil lawsuits arise from the Raucci situation.
  • If I’m reading the agreement correctly, he could receive almost $800 in per diem if he has to come back to the district as a witness in another year.
  • He’ll get favorable job recommendations from the district.  Really?

All of this because “certain irreconcilable differences have arisen between the Board and Mr. Ely”  as described in paragraph 4 of the Agreement. Seems a bit excessive to me, especially for a position where compensation is already well into six figures.

It’s all a bit of a distraction from, what’s it called?  Edumacation?  No, wait. EDUCATION.

During the very heated meeting where the school board accepted Ely’s resignation, WNYT reported:

Outgoing board member Jeff Janisweski tried to come to Ely’s rescue, but the shouting continued.

“Is the lunacy and immaturity done?” Janisweski at one point asked the irate audience. Then he shrugged and said, “Apparently not.”

Indeed.  I suspect we’ll see more embarrassing Schenectady School District news in the near future.

Why should I care about the craziness at a school district that my kids will never attend?  They are compelling stories, and while extreme, could be indicative of problems that exist in public school districts across this state and country:

We fund public schools with our taxes.  We need to educate ourselves about our school districts before the problems become Schenectady-sized.

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