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Agreement reached, Horoschak retires as superintendent

Under an agreement announced Saturday, Peter P. Horoschak has retired as superintendent, thereby starting a process to find a new leader for the school system of about 9,400 students and 1,000 teachers.

Horoschak, whose 3-year contract expires this coming July, was abruptly placed on administrative leave in September without explanation. The terms of the agreement were not released and the 6-sentence statement mutually issued by the department and Horoschak said they “have agreed not to make any further comments regarding this matter.”

Reasons for the committee’s action in September, which, at the time, Horoschak said came as a surprise, were not disclosed. Also, the parties did not release any financial terms of the agreement.

Rather, the committee thanked, “Dr. Horoschak for his leadership during trying financial times for the school district. His experience assisted the district in consolidating elementary schools and in making very difficult decisions to reduce our staff. Despite budget reductions, during the past three years, the district has experienced budget surpluses. Academically, the district has continued to make overall progress.”

The statement closes wishing Horoschak “success in his future endeavors.”

Bethany Furtado, chair of the School Committee, could not be reached Monday or yesterday to address the question of whether and when the committee would conduct a search for a superintendent.

Rosemary Healey, legal counsel for the department and human resources director, said yesterday the committee has not instructed her on whether to conduct a search.

While the committee has not voted on Horoschak’s retirement, she is confident the committee would do so at a future meeting.

She would not say whether Horoschak, who had a contract to be paid $165,225, continues to be on the payroll.

Asked about a search, committee member Eugene Nadeau said, “I don’t know if that’s what we’ll do.”

Asked if Richard D’Agosinto, who has been serving as acting superintendent, would now be elevated to the position, Nadeau said, “I’m sure we can do what we want. That’s too much common sense.”

He added, “that is something Rosemary [Healey] will have to rule on.”

Nadeau said D’Agostino is “well respected and has his eye on everything.” He felt in particular that D’Agostino’s response to the massacre at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn. was the right move. D’Agostino ordered that all elementary school doors be locked, including the front door. Until that time, the practice was to lock all but the front door where visitors had to be cleared. Now visitors must ring a bell and be let into the school.

Mayor Scott Avedisian said yesterday he was informed of Horoschak’s retirement on Saturday. He did not know if the committee would conduct a search for a superintendent.

Earlier this month, attorney Jeff Sowa and Healey had nothing to report on Horoschak’s status. Sowa, who represents Horoschak, said there hadn’t been any recent discussions and Furtado said the committee couldn’t take action until the matter of his contract was resolved.

Neither Sowa nor Horoschak could be reached for comment yesterday.

Speaking about Horoschak and his wife, Nadeau said, “They are honorable and decent people.”

Horoschak was picked to succeed Robert J. Shapiro, who retired in 2007 after serving the Warwick school system for 50 years. A graduate of West Point, Horoschak served as superintendent in six other districts in different parts of the country before coming to Warwick.

14 comments on this item

Why the secrecy?

He was paid with PUBLIC money so the PUBLIC is due a reason.

If it is personal, that is all that has to be said. There is no need to drag a person through the mud if there is a reason that doesn't need to be made public.

If it is malfeasance, dereliction of duty, or some other reason with job performance, the public has a right to know what the reason is. It is a public matter. Yes, we have a School Board there to represent us, but if we don't know how or why the Board acts in a particular manner, we have no way of judging their performance come next election.

There is a reason and the public is entitled to know what it is. If some janitor had been busted for coming to work stoned, rest assured that it would be all over the media.

Come clean on this issue, please.

While this is rightly a personnel issue for matters pertaining to the issue(s) surrounding Dr. Horoschak's dismissal, it surely is not that as it pertains to the cost to the School Department/taxpayers. Taxpayers deserve to know how much of our tax dollars are being expended in this agreement between the parties. We don't need to know what the former superintendent did or did not do that resulted in the action but we do need to know how much public funds will be transacted here. If tranparancey is truly valued within the School Department, then that info should be shared with the public.

The actions of the School Committee are as transparent as mud.

The personnel issue should be confidential, not the payout. The public has a right to know the cost of this settlement as they are paying the bill.

This is the exact SAME story but Scott Avedisian is the person not speaking. Have there been 4 or 5 front page Beacon articles about this? No.


"RIPTA chief placed on administrative leave

The head of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority was placed on administrative leave on Wednesday.

RIPTA board chairman Scott Avedisian placed CEO Charles Odimgbe on leave after considering information from state police.

RIPTA said in a statement the decision was a "personnel matter and not related to a criminal investigation."

An investigation was launched last week following a security breach at the transportation agency.

Someone covered a security camera in a room where cash bus fares are handled. Officials have not said whether any money was stolen.

Eight employees, including three managers, were fired and a ninth employee was suspended in connection with the investigation."

RIPTA said this was a "personnel matter and not related to a criminal investigation". Sound familiar. Where is the Beacon story about this? You will not find a story that would say anything negative about Mayor Avedisian in the Beacon.

Justanidiot, regarding your comment about judging the performance before the next election. I presented a balanced budget with cuts in funding each of 4 years after several years of deficit spending. I put new books into the hands of our students. I fixed all the roofs that were leaking so students could focus on studies. I introduced a 20% co-pay for ALL employees and guaranteed it in negotiations with all the school unions and employees through contracts that saved the schools MILLIONS. I thought that was a good resume and performance for a new member of the school committee elected in 2008. I was not re-elected in November.

The person who was elected is currently under investigation for a felony and a mis-demeanor. Feel free to get the Police Incident report from 10-26-2012 at the Warwick Police Department. Report #12-5688-OF This is still under investigation. I'm outraged that this information was not made public prior to the election. John Howell emailed me when I questioned him last week and admitted he knew of the report prior to the election and spoke with the Police Chief and still decided not to run a story. The taxpayers in Warwick should be equally outraged. I am waiting for a full investigation and will be visiting the Board of Elections.

The Beacon knew about this 10 days before the election. Did the Beacon do a front page story about it? No, they did not. Instead they wrote several stories about the superintendent being on administrative leave for personnel matters.

Which would you rather have known 10 days before the election? That the superintendent was STILL on administrative leave or that one of the 4 people running for school committee was involved with a police incident involving a felony, misdemeanor and destruction of property? As a warwick Resident and taxpayer, I would want to know who it was I was voting for. The Beacon did not run the story on the school committee member involved in the incident. Instead they ran a story about the superintendent and unanswered questions.

The answer the how much the superintendent is being paid can easily be seen by checking the school committee budget which is a public document. If John Howell, of the Beacon wanted the information, he could simply have asked to look at the budget, No expenditure, can be made by the school committee without a notation in the budget and where the money went. Instead of doing his job, he writes another story about not getting information.

Personnel matters should be kept confidential. A financial settlement should not. Those are two different matters.

The School Committee agreed not to release the cost of the settlement. Why? The School Committee could have insisted on the financial info being made public or not approve the settlement.

I have to conclude that theyhad a weak case and did want the public to know cost the their decision to place the superintendent paid leave with any hearing or due process.

Let's remember this when the School Committee asks for more money for "the kids".

Personnel matters should be kept confidential. A financial settlement should not. Those are two different matters.

The School Committee agreed not to release the cost of the settlement. Why? The School Committee could have insisted on the financial info being made public or not approve the settlement.

I have to conclude that theyhad a weak case and did want the public to know cost the their decision to place the superintendent paid leave with any hearing or due process.

Let's remember this when the School Committee asks for more money for "the kids".

GordianKnot, even the weakest case can be dragged out forever with legal fees that potentially outweigh the fight. I know that I wanted to move forward. It is public record that I didn't vote in 2010 to renew the superintendent, I also didn't vote to renew him this time. The committee voted to settle this to move forward. It is a classic case of not being able to make everyone happy. The finance portion of the budget is presented at each school committee meeting. You are welcome to attend and ask the same question. I am sure that you will be happy with the outcome.

As far as the school committee asking for more money for the kids, that is a cop out for you to say. We educate students, so "everything" is for the kids. The fact is expenses go up every year, but the school budget has stayed the same since 2008. The school budget stays the same for the last 4 years while the city budget goes up $30 million annually during the same period. We need more technology and NOW more safety for the schools. Is safety "for the kids"? You can bet it is. Are you willing to pay for the safety of all the employees and students at the school?

The school committee asks for more money to pay bills. If the school committee didn't ask for it they surely wouldn't get it. The school committee is denied additional funding each year even after asking. The Mayor asks for more taxes each year... I don't hear you complaining about that. It is one of my complaints. Please attend a school committee meeting and ask about the finances in addition to posting on the Warwick Beacon website. There IS a finance portion of the school committee meeting at each meeting.

Finally, you reply to my posts and you ignore what you want. I noticed there was no comment on the Avedisian- RIPTA personnel matter? It is the exact same situation. I noticed that you did not comment on the school committee member in police incident report 12-5688-OF. No comment on the Warwick Beacon ignoring the school committee police report for a felony, misdemeanor and destruction of property 10 days prior to the election for someone running for school committee.

For the record, I think the School Committee has done some good things (dealing with declining school population and some bad things suing the city).

My only question is what is the financial settlement. That is not a personnel matter. It is a personnelo matter becausethe School Committee made it one. . You could have offer the settlement, kept the personnel matter secret and make the financial payout public.

This lack of acccountability is upsetting. Oh by the way. Did the School Committee hire legal counsel? I thought the School department had its own in house counsel who was handling the case. Was special counsel hired? Is the in house counsel being paid extra for the defending the School Committee? This is what upsets me. The rationale for settling is because of legal fees when youhave in house counsel as well as the fact that the financial terms of the agreement could have be public. No accountability or transparancy.

Here is the scenario regarding suing the city as I see it. At the time, the schools were in a financial situation where the city had cut local funding by $6.2 million. Just prior, the schools implemented the mandatory 20% copay on all employees essentially breaking the contract with the teachers.

The teachers were ready to sue the schools for breach of contract. We had to attempt to get money to pay for the co-pay if the teachers sued. The city raised taxes that year the full amount and gave none of the money to the schools. The lawsuit against the city for funds gave the schools a chance to prove we didn't have any additional funding coming and lead to the schools sitting down with the teachers and negotiating a contract settlement with the teachers. The teachers didn't want us to sue the city and lose in court and have our mandatory implementation of the higher co-pay become a landmark case for all other cities in the state to use as a reason for other cities to implement the same change.

The schools probably would not have won in court verses the city because the general assembly changed a law for that one year period. Suing the city (and losing) would have proven to the teachers and the courts that every effort was made to get the additional funding to pay for the co-pay of the teachers, that we were unsuccessful and if we went to court for the implementing the co-pay it would be found that we couldn't meet our obligation.

Suing the city for the money prevented us from going to court with the teachers. The teachers saw the efforts we expended to get the additional funding and sat down with us in negotiations to secure the co-pay concessions without going to court. Because we secured the concessions with the union we didn't need the additional funding, that is why we dropped the case against the city.

Regarding the accountability of the school committee with financial matters. Since the previous budget officer left several years ago, I have found the new financial officer impressive with giving out financial information. We now have one section of each school committee meeting dedicated to a financial update, something that had never happened before. Regarding the financial settlement, I am sure that can be answered at an upcoming meeting. I am not the spokesperson for the committee. The next School Committee meeting will meet after I am no longer on the committee. Personally, I would not vote for anything unless it financially made sense. I would also never vote to give someone more than they deserved. You keep saying that the School Committee is not transparent. The fact is it is more transparent than ever given the new State accountability system requirements, the creation of the parent communication advisory committee, open meetings laws, connectEd messages and the website updates. I even post on the Beacon Website in the comment section and on my Facebook page when I want to release information. What school committee member past or present continuously comments or releases additional information in this social media manner? None.

The school committee is always releasing information. It is released to the Warwick Beacon as well as the Projo. The School Committee has an excellent working relationship with the reporters at the Providence Journal who are not biased in my opinion when it comes to Warwick Schools. They write it as it is. I can not say the same for the Warwick Beacon. Prior to being elected to the committee, I had a subscription to the Beacon. I cancelled it 3 years ago because I found that it was all written as opinion. The entire paper is an editorial. Russ Moore was an excellent reporter and would dive into a story and search for answers and would ask tough questions. When Russ left, I cancelled my subscription. I also know that some stories are sent to city hall for approval prior to being printed. I know this for a fact because a family member of mine worked there during my time on the committee. When they told me, I lost all faith in the local independent newspaper.

If you had your choice between releasing information to a newspaper that would write the story the way it is or continuously sending information to a paper that would twist a story for their own purpose, who would you talk to when information was to be released? It is not a question of transparency for the School Committee, it is a question of honest reporting by this newspaper. The information is being released within a reasonable timeframe. This newspaper releases the story before they have all the facts. So rather than hold on to the story to write it when it is complete, they release it without certain key points. They will say, someone could not be reached for comment or we withheld information, neither of with is true. I was never even contacted for this story. Eugene Nadeau was contacted and he is not the Chair or Vice Chair of the committee. The Chair is the spokesperson for the committee and Rosemary Healey as legal council could have also answered the question if the question was asked properly. I know for a fact that no attempt was made to even contact the Chair for this story. Not contacting the spokesperson makes it easy to write the story anyway the Beacon wants and gives them the ability to claim no transparency continuously.

Finally, yes, we have one full time staff member to represent the schools legally. This is a full time job, she typically puts in 40-60 hours a week. If we were to go to court we would have to hire someone or several people to either cover for this person while they were out of the office for handling a lawsuit for us or one or more people to handle the lawsuit itself. There is no way this person could continue to do their regular job and take care of the legal requirements and duties involved in a lawsuit.

I hope you find this information helpful. As of January 8th, I will not longer be on the School Committee. I have enjoyed being on the committee and I know the schools are much better off financially and educationally than when I arrived on the committee. It has been my pleasure to serve. Sincerely, Patrick Maloney Jr.

Something does not smell right and the public deserves to know the details.

Mr, Mahoney. Thank you for your service to the city. I might not have always agreed with you but respect you for running for office. You spent time away from your family and had many difficult issues to deal with such as closing elementary schools.You were accessible and expressed your point of view. Best Wishes

Thank you GordianKnot. I also acknowledge that we didn't always agree and that is ok. I believe it is one of the strengths of a community ask questions, comment and raise concerns because it leads to ideas. I have appreciated the input. I have always checked the Beacon site for feedback on our decisions. I was surprised at some feedback and I always went back to check to see if I could have made a different choice. I think it made me work harder.

I will still volunteer at my children's schools and will stay involved in other ways. If there is a time when you know we are together at an event, please feel free to introduce yourself, I would like to meet you and any others on the site. Good luck to us all in 2013.

Sincerely, Patrick

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