The Board of Education voted 7-0 Wednesday evening to hire Ernest Perlini as interim superintendent, filling the vacancy to be left by departing schools chief Elizabeth Feser.
Perlini served as superintendent of schools in Newington for 16 years before his retirement in 2009. His hiring is contingent upon contract negotiations and passing a background check, but he is expected to start work on March 21. Feser, who has held the top education post in Windsor since 2002, accepted an offer last month to become superintendent in Milford, and will start work there on April 4.
“He (Perlini) has proven himself,” said board member Cristina Santos, during extended discussion of the hiring. “He has a track record. He’s been through 16 budget cycles.”
Board Chairman Milo “Rusty” Peck said after the meeting that Windsor is “extremely fortunate” to be getting an interim superintendent of Perlini’s caliber and experience. “It’s difficult to find someone to fill a job like this on an interim basis,” Peck said.
Tied to the vote was a provision that Perlini, for his presumed year as interim superintendent, will not be compensated more than Feser would have been. The superintendent’s salary is currently $183,000 annually plus benefits, according to Craig Cooke, director of human resources for the school system. Perlini’s contract situation is complicated somewhat by his 2009 retirement as an educator; there are legal restrictions on how he can be compensated. The board’s lawyers, Shipman & Goodwin, are expected to negotiate two contracts, one for the period of March 21—June 30 and another for the remainder of a year of employment.
Board members expressed some concern about the responsibilities and focus of an “interim” superintendent, due in part to the rush to replace Feser. “We as a board haven’t discussed what we want from an interim and eventually a permanent superintendent,” said Lucille Browne.
“If we as a board do not articulate our expectations, I see problems down the road,” said board Secretary Doreen Richardson. The board tentatively agreed to schedule meetings to discuss and settle priorities for Perlini. The interim superintendent, board members indicated, could perhaps not be expected to entirely fill his predecessor’s shoes.
“We’ve been a little spoiled,” said Paul Panos, board minority leader, speaking about Feser. “She was highly visible and a part of the community. She went above and beyond the call.”
Perlini, 64, was not present at the meeting, held at the board offices at L.P. Wilson, and could not be reached for comment at home by telephone later in the evening. He worked in the Newington school system for 40 years as a teacher; assistant principal and principal at Martin Kellogg School; principal of Newington High School; and assistant superintendent before becoming superintendent from 1993-2009. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from Parsons College, a master’s degree from the University of Hartford, and a doctorate from Nova University, according to Newington town records.
Peck noted Perlini’s experience in overseeing “something similar” in Newington to the anticipated reorganization of Windsor elementary schools, considered by all as a major challenge to the interim superintendent and whoever will ultimately be selected as the next permanent head of the school system. “There were candidates who did not want to take that on,” said Peck.
Though the board stayed focused on Perlini’s qualifications and the logistics of hiring him, members couldn’t help but look ahead to the challenge of finding his successor. Though the hiring has been rushed, the prevailing sentiment was to get Perlini on board and move ahead.
“I’m more concerned about moving forward,” said Howard Jubrey. “Sorry for the lack of a better word, but he’s a temp.”