The Woonocket Budget Commission gave Superintendent Giovanna Donoyan the go-ahead to fill 29 open positions already in the budget Thursday, but told her to wait on three.
Following the approval of Woonsocket Schools' new Financial Controller, Donoyan asked the Commission for authority to transfer people within the district to fill open positions, so long as those positions were already approved within the Woonsocket Schools budget.
"These are not new positions, at all," Donoyan said.
Commission member Dina Dutremble asked Donoyan for more advance notice of the school committee's actions, particularly regarding hiring decisions.
Commission member John Ward said he thought that was a good idea, but noted that twice a month, the School Committee will have met the day prior to the Budget Commission's Thursday meeting, which would hamper their ability to provide advance notice.
"Not necessarily, John," Dutremble said. She pointed out that School Committee members receive packets about the upcoming meeting's agenda the Friday before their Wednesday meetings, which could also be sent to the Budget Commission.
Budget Commission Advisor David Eaton said he could arrange to get the School Committee packets to the panel.
Budget Commission Chairman Bill Sequino told Donoyan she had the authority to fill approved positions as long as they were funded by grant money, but, "We want to see any new position supported by Woonsocket tax dollars."
The Commission approved allowing Donoyan to fill all but three of the 32 positions she asked permission to hire for. They tabled a decision on hiring a curriculum director because a requirement set for that position, a job description, had not been delivered to the Budget Commission. They also tabled hiring an IT position and a technology specialist position for further discussion.
Interim School Finance Director Ralph Malafronte expressed confusion over the rationale behind the process for hiring on already-budgeted positions. He said the positions were in the already-approved budget and had also been approved by the School Committee. He said that previously, under those conditions, their understanding was that they needed to inform the Budget Commission, not wait for their final approval.
Malafronte said that on the IT position, the School Department had already hired a vendor do do the job while they waited to fill the position. Sequino said that was information the Budget Commission should have had ahead of time. The School Department has the authority to approve spending under $15,000.
Malafronte said the Commission's interest in holding judgement on specific positions was confusing, and it would be easier to bring all positions to be filled before the Commission.
"Do me a favor? Think on it, and come back next week," Sequino asked Malafronte.