Taxpayers punished

Last week, Gloversville’s Board of Education voted to appoint Helen Stuetzel as interim assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, at a pay rate of $425 per day. It will be Stuetzel’s job to fill in for Frank Pickus, the Gloversville Enlarged School District’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction who was arrested March 2 by Colonie police and charged with possession of 4.2 grams of methamphetamine. Pickus has been placed on paid administrative leave and has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

It remains to be seen how the criminal case against Pickus will be resolved and whether the district will be forced to continue paying him, but in the meantime, it is clear the taxpayers will be the ones punished for this situation. Stuetzel, who worked as the interim principal at Gloversville Middle School in 2012, has a Ph.D in reading and likely will do a competent job filling in for Pickus, but the cost of her employment is high.

She will only be paid for every day she works for the district, so it’s difficult to predict the total bill, but if she were to work five days a week for a full year at that price, her income would be $110,500, more than the annual household income of 91 percent of the households in Gloversville.

Meanwhile, Pickus, who is under contract to work for the district until 2016, continues to be paid his 2013-14 salary of $100,719. Pickus could remain on paid leave for an extended period.

A similar situation is occurring in the Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School District. There, Superintendent Laura Lawrence was placed on paid leave for reasons the school district has refused to reveal. Lawrence continues to receive her $108,000-per-year salary while the district pays interim Superintendent Thomas Gallagher $500 per day.

When Pickus was first suspended, Gloversville Superintendent Michael Vanyo said district administrators, including himself, would temporarily share Pickus’ duties. It would be nice if the administrators could continue doing Pickus’ job until Pickus’ employment status is resolved. That’s how the situation likely would be handled in the private sector.

How easy it is for public schools to spend money that belongs to the taxpayers.