CHESHIRE — School Superintendent Jeffrey Solan will remain at the helm of the school district for the next three years, according to the terms of a renegotiated contract Solan and the Board of Education signed last week.
The board, coming out of a closed-door executive session during a special meeting June 29, voted to enter into the new contract, effective as of July 1. The agreement ends on June 30, 2023.
Solan had previously been working under a three-year pact that was negotiated in 2019 and would have ended June 30, 2022.
Under the terms of the new contract, Solan will receive a base salary of $195,520, an $11,200 increase over his previous base salary of $184,320.
The total compensation package is similar to Solan's most recent contract. Under the terms of past agreements Solan had been receiving a tuition reimbursement of $10,200 to cover most of the expenses related to his pursuit of a doctorate in education leadership from Southern Connecticut State University.
Solan, who had completed the program's academic coursework and successfully defended his dissertation, earned that degree in May.
Several board members described the newly negotiated salary as a rollover of the tuition reimbursement into his base salary.
The contract does not include annual pay increases. However, it does include a provision stating any adjustment regarding salary can be made in the form of an amendment to the signed contract.
It also includes a provision allowing for additional compensation related to performance, which “shall be linked, in part, to specific goals and objectives of the District for the year in question which shall be agreed to by the Superintendent and the Board.”
Republican board members Faith Ham and Adam Grippo voted against the motions to enter into a new contract and to adjust Solan's base compensation.
Neither said their objections reflected their views of Solan's performance.
Ham said she would like to see the board adopt what she referred to as “a clean contract, in which we have defined terms in that contract.”
Ham said neither of her votes were meant as slights against the superintendent. Ham said she thinks Solan is worthy of a raise.
“It's just a really bad time,” Ham said, explaining increased unemployment and other economic uncertainty had factored into her vote.
Grippo said he was also philosophically opposed to the contract. At the same time, he offered praise for the superintendent.
“It's been an incredibly challenging year and Jeff has risen to the occasion,” Grippo said during the June 29 meeting.
Board chairman Tony Perugini, a fellow Republican, voted against the pay increase, but supported the motion to enter into a new contract. He also cited the economic uncertainty stemming from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, Perugini spoke positively of Solan’s performance, particularly during the district’s transition from in-person to remote instruction, which he said was handled well.
“It was not 100% perfect but by and large feedback from the community was incredibly positive,” Perugini wrote in an email to the Record-Journal. “We also learned some do's and don'ts from the process that, I think, can help shape future options with how we deliver education.”
Perugini said the district’s communication with families during distance learning was both frequent and meaningful, an improvement over previous years.
Anne Harrigan, a Democrat, voted in favor of the contract extension and salary.
“I want to send a clear message that I am in favor of Dr. Solan staying on and doing his good work,” Harrigan said prior to the vote.
Republican board members Tim White and Andrew Martelli, along with Democrat Kathryn Hallen also supported the new contract.
White noted the district's overall strong academic performance, especially compared to similar school districts.
“Our academics are strong,” White said during the board's discussions. “I want the superintendent to be focused on reopening and I want the superintendent to feel appreciated. Money is part of it.”
According to a superintendent evaluation form Solan had provided to the board, he listed goals to improve students' complex thinking, increase teaching practices that emphasized students' social emotional learning and further develop the district's math and science curricula. He also included statements and charts showing the district's progress in boosting student achievement over the previous three school years.
During last week's board meeting, Hallen cited the district's strong overall academic performance in supporting a new contract and compensation.
“We are a top performing district in the state of Connecticut. That's not a mistake. That's not luck — that's from the top down,” Hallen said, adding Solan has a “laserlike focus” she said “permeates the school district.... we are getting great results from that to me.”