Budget Commission allows Superintendent, East Providence School Committee to fill numerous vacancies

EAST PROVIDENCE — With the start of the 2013-14 term just two weeks away, the East Providence Budget Commission Thursday, Aug. 22, granted Superintendent Kim Mercer and the School Committee conditional authority to fill a number of recent vacancies that cropped up in the system. Mrs. Mercer told the Commission 22 employees either requested leaves of absences, submitted their resignation or moved to previously open positions within the department since only Monday of this week, raising the number of positions to fill from five to 27. Mrs. Mercer called the amount "inordinate" while requesting to be given the power to post, interview and fill the vacancies prior to the opening day of school on Sept. 5. The Superintendent and the School Committee can act accordingly, then the Commission will likely sign off on the hires at its next meeting later in September. In another bit of school business on the Budget Commission docket Thursday, the state overseers gave their final approval to the collective bargaining pacts agreed to earlier this calendar year with the East Providence Education Association, the teachers' union, and the East Providence Teachers Assistants Association.
The main points of each contract include small, incremental cost of living increases throughout the duration of the pacts as well as increased co-pay and a uniform healthcare plan for each group. The contracts are five years in length back-dated to the start of the current fiscal year. The agreements run through FY2017-18.
Library notes The Commission approved a request from City Library Director Eileen Socha to post and fill a position of Digital Literacy Instructor. The position and program, which has a cost of $10,000, are paid for through a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). The program, offering instruction of basic computer skills and resume writing to obtain employment via the internet, is expected to begin in late September, Ms. Socha said. Also from the Library, the Commission voted to table a request from Ms. Socha to hire a part-time librarian to cover a four-hour shift on Sundays. Ms. Socha said much of the full-time staff has passed on the chance to work the extra time. Her department would likely see a savings by hiring a part-time employee at a lower pay rate instead of paying a full-time employee time-and-a-half. The Commission opted not to take a position on the subject pending further information and clarification on its budgetary impact. City notes The Commission approved three other personnel actions. Christine A. Spagnoli, of Coventry, was hired to fill a vacant Budget Analyst position in the Finance Department. Ms. Spagnoli, according to Finance Director Malcolm Moore, has worked previously at the state level, at the Rhode Island Department of Education and procuring grant monies. According to Mr. Moore, Ms. Spagnoli ranked highest among the final three candidates interviewed for the post. Mr. Moore also noted the city received five applications, one candidate dropped out of the search and four were interviewed. Ms. Spagnoli will receive a compensation package of $16,659 for the remainder of the 2013 Fiscal Year then is budgeted to receive a package in the amount of $99,954 from FY14 through FY17. A part-time student clerk position can be posted and filled in the Canvassing Department. Several seasonal positions for the upcoming indoor season (October to May) in the Recreation Department can be filled. Finance Advisor update The Commission announced the liaison position created under the amended Fiscal Stability Act, a Municipal Finance Advisor, is en route to being filled. Budget Commission member and Deputy Director for the Department of Revenue Christy Healey noted the posting period for interested applicants closes on Friday, Aug. 23. Mrs. Healey said the State Department of Revenue has receives several inquiries for the position. Commission Chairman Diane Brennan told those in attendance Thursday a review of the applications will begin shortly followed by calls to candidates to set up interviews. Mrs. Brennan said she hoped to have more information to offer on the matter by the next Commission meeting scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 12, at 3 p.m. in Room 306 of City Hall.


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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.