West Haven Board of Ed gives Superintendent Cavallaro a three-year contract with a 1-percent raise in third year

West Haven Superintendent of Schools Neil Cavallaro, center, addresses the City Council during a council budget hearing in April.

West Haven Superintendent of Schools Neil Cavallaro, center, addresses the City Council during a council budget hearing in April.

The Board of Education overwhelmingly approved a new three-year contract for Superintendent of Schools Neil Cavallaro Monday night, June 25, giving Cavallaro a 1 percent raise in the contract in its third year.

Cavallaro, who makes $187,000 a year, will not take raises in the first two years of the contract.

His raise in the third year will come despite the fact that the city is millions of dollars in debt, raised taxes this year, is being told by the state Municipal Accountability Review Board to make “structural changes” in its budget to make it more sustainable and is asking union workers to accept zero-increase contracts because of the poor fiscal shape it’s in.

The board’s vote was unanimous except for member Jim Morrissey.

“I’m not against Mr. Cavallaro...” Morrissey said. “I think he did a good job over the past five years.”

But he said he thought a two-year contract would have been more appropriate and had reservations about the board’s attorney, Floyd Dugas — who often works closely with Cavallaro — negotiating on behalf of the board. He said the city should have hired an outside attorney.

Morrissey also said with all that teachers, paraprofessionals and other school employees have given up over the years, he thought Cavallaro should have taken no raise for three years.

“We are in tough times,” Morrissey said. “I’ve seen the teachers take pay freezes ... I don’t feel comfortable giving pay increase in the third year.”

As part of the new contract, Cavallaro gave up a buy-out clause that was in his previous contract that could have cost the city about $500,000 if he had retired while the contract was still in effect, Board of Ed Chairwoman Rosemary Russo said.

He also gave up reimbursement the city would have provided if he ever decided to get his PhD, she said.

Russo defended the raise after the meeting, saying that “for the next two years, he’s going to work very hard” to provide the best education possible for city school kids while keeping expenses down.

“He’s not the highest-paid superintendent” in the area,” Russo said. “Milford just hired a superintendent for $200,000.”

Cavallaro thanked the school board for its support.

“I love the job ... and I’m glad that the Board of Education had the confidence in me,” he said later.

He said afterward that he felt the third-year raise was appropriate, but his contract always could be renegotiated if conditions change, or depending on what the teachers and other unions get when their contracts come up for renewal.

“The MARB also made it clear that the Board of Education has done a pretty good job of managing its money over the years,” Cavallaro said.

The board at its previous meeting approved a two-year contract for Assistant Superintendent Anne Druzolowski and a three-year contract for Business Manager Matt Cavallaro, in both cases with no raises over the life of the contract.