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Candidates question hiring

Date: 8/30/2011

Aug. 31, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD — The controversies over School Superintendent Dr. Alan Ingram continued last week with questions raised about the hiring of a new Chief Academic Officer for Teaching and Learning coming from both challengers to Mayor Domenic Sarno.

City Council President and mayoral candidate Jose Tosado asked about whether or not the position was properly advertised, while School Committee member Antonette Pepe noted the job, though filled, no longer existed according to a restructuring of the School Department completed earlier this year.

The location and outcome of the 40 boxes of Finance Control Board (FCB) documents was also unresolved last week.

Tosado questioned whether or not the position had been properly advertised and if an out-going superintendent should make such an appointment. Natalie Brunelle Dunning was selected for the position and began working for the city on July 9.

Ingram hired Brunelle before the revelations concerning his contract and its side agreements as well as before his resignation.

According to a statement released by Azell Caavan, the chief communications officer for the Springfield Public Schools, “Dr. Ingram has said that he made the School Committee aware of the vacant chief academic officer position on April 6, when addressing the issue of changes made to the district’s organizational structure. Those changes included the appointment of an assistant superintendent of schools and deputy superintendent of schools. The promotion of Beth Schiavino-Narvaez from chief academic officer to assistant superintendent created the vacancy, which Dunning was hired to fill.”

Tosado’s questions about Dunning came soon after he released a video and press release about his views on the state of the public schools in the city.

“A culture of performance and accountability will be the foundation of my entire administration. We will regain control of school department spending and track the progress of young people through college graduation or career attainment. We won’t stop until all young people succeed. Whatever it takes,” Tosado stated.

Tosado’s video can be viewed at

School Committee member Antonette Pepe said her concerns over the hiring centered on whether or not Ingram created a position that didn’t exist —a position that is costing the taxpayers $110,000 in salary.

Pepe explained that earlier this year Daniel Warwick was promoted to deputy school superintendent and Schiavino-Narvaez received a new title as assistant superintendent. Her duties with the new title included her work as chief academic officer, Pepe asserted.

When Schiavino-Narvaez left the district, the vacancy was with the assistant superintendent position rather than the chief academic officer job.

Pepe questioned whether or not the assistant superintendent slot was now open.

She said that Ingram is not bound to discuss such hirings with the School Committee and that body has no control over them. He is, however, supposed to confer with the committee about the selection of principals, something he has not done, Pepe said.

In discussing Schiavino-Narvaez’s departure, she said, “What a loss to this system.”

City Councilor Timothy Rooke told Reminder Publications the Department of Revenue informed him the FCB notes and memos are being organized by their staff and will be shipped to Springfield in about two weeks. Which office will be responsible for the storage of and access to documents, which would reveal which members of the FCB were involved in crafting Ingram’s side agreements among other issues, has not yet been resolved.

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