Even though it was outside of his contract, and it was an unprecedentedly tough budget year with teacher layoffs, the School Department and School Committee agreed in Fiscal Year 2018 to pay former Supt. Fred Foresteire nearly $200,000 in unused vacation time. That was in addition to his $223,880 base salary, his car payment of $2,500 and his longevity payment of $4,200.
Fiscal year 2018 ran from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018.
According to City records, the School Committee approved a payment of $119,321 and a payment of $79,547 (for a total of $198,868) to be made to Foresteire on Sept. 7, 2017 and July 12, 2018 (the July payment was charged back to the 2018 budget). Even though it was not required to be paid to Foresteire until he resigned, retired or died, the Committee approved such payments, according to City officials. Those payments were processed by the Financial Department in City Hall, which can only make such payments if the School Committee approves them.
The payments came in a year when the Everett Public Schools seemingly didn’t have two pennies to rub together.
Only about a month after making the Sept. 7 payment to Foresteire, the schools came to the City to ask for supplemental money for budget deficits that they anticipated.
The City agreed to pay the School Department an extra $2 million to help with those anticipated deficits. Then, early in the year, the School Department reported that major deficits were looming once again.
That situation resulted in a major fracas at City Hall in the spring, where teachers were threatened with layoffs and a showdown emerged between the superintendent and Mayor Carlo DeMaria.
DeMaria eventually agreed to have the City give an additional $5 million, later adding another $500,000, for a total of $5.5 million.
It was only a few months later, after the close of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, that the School Department agreed to pay Foresteire another $79,547 for unused vacation time – even though teachers were being laid off and the contract did not require it to be paid.
School Committee members contacted by the Everett Independent did not recall the payments right off hand.
Former Chair Bernie D’Onofrio didn’t immediately recollect the vote to allow the payments to Foresteire.
Another member said he believed that it had been done in executive session, but also did not recall immediately the vote taken to allow the payment. Under education reform, the School Committee acts as the final approval for any expenditures, which is why they have a vote to ‘Pay Bills’ on most every agenda. Once approved, the Committee sends the ‘authorization to pay’ to the City Auditor’s office, which makes the final payment.
That is opposed to other departments like the Police Department, where the chief can authorize any payment to the auditor’s office and no vote is necessary for the payment.
The most recent contract for Foresteire, for 2015-2021, had clear language about his unused vacation and sick days.
As of the 2015 date of the contract, it indicated that Foresteire had accumulated 446 unused vacation days.
“Upon retirement, resignation or death, the superintendent or his estate will be paid the per diem rate for each day of unused vacation leave,” read the contract.
Additionally, as of that 2015 date, the superintendent had amassed 135 unused sick days. They were valued at $160 per day, payable upon retirement, resignation or death.
On Jan 3, 2019, as per that contract, City records showed the School Committee authorized, and the City paid, Foresteire $24,000 for that sick time.
A School Committee official said that one can expect more money to be paid out for those unused vacation and sick days in the coming weeks.
A City official said that, on the flip side, the large amount of unused vacation time was a liability that the City would have had to pay at some time. So, making the payment did get that liability off of the City financial pages and improved the City’s financial position.