Tags Posts tagged with "Contract"


Huntington town officials will hold a public hearing on the future of Grateful Paw Cat Shelter Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. File photo

Huntington town officials are weighing the pros and cons of a change of leadership at Grateful Paw Cat Shelter, but some volunteers fear their minds are already made up.

The town board voted 4-1 to schedule a public hearing on Little Shelter Animal Rescue taking over operation of the town-owned cat shelter for Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. at town hall.

Little Shelter was one of two organizations who responded to the Oct. 3 town’s request for proposals (RFP) by those looking to operate the shelter. The RFP is for a five-year contract to operate the cat shelter starting January 2018, undertaking the responsibilities of taking in and caring for any stray and displaced cats; emergency pickup of stray cats in the town; operating a trap, neuter and release program for feral cats; and facilitating cat adoptions by residents.

David Ceely, executive director of Little Shelter, believes his nonprofit’s experience as an independent no-kill shelter makes the company qualified for the job.

“We handle a lot of the emergencies, particularly the cat emergencies in Huntington already,” he said. “We think that facility has so much more potential. We would like to maximize the potential that facility has and represent the Town of Huntington.”

While Little Shelter has never had a formal business agreement with the town, according to Ceely, the nonprofit has informally worked to pull dogs from its town shelter to alleviate overcrowding and help prevent euthanasia due to lack of space.

The other application was submitted Nov. 3 by League of Animal Protection of Huntington, according to its president Debbie Larkin, who has run the nonprofit shelter for more than 40 years.

“I’d like to hope every council member and the departing supervisor had the chance to read through the proposals carefully,” Larkin said. “I hope that this response to the RFP was not an exercise in futility for us and their minds were already made up.”

The two responses were reviewed by a five-person panel comprised of representatives from the town attorney’s office and Department of Public Safety, according to town spokesman A.J.Carter. The applications were evaluated based on criteria outlined in the RFP: proof of not-for-profit 501(c)(3) status in good standing; sufficient employees/volunteers to operate the facility; plans for emergency cat pickup; adoption applicant criteria; breakdown of medical services provided for adopted cats; and submission of the past two years of shelter records and IRS 990 tax filings showing a not-for-profit status. Based on these criteria, the panel found Little Shelter to be the “successful, responsive and responsible proposer.”

Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (R) was the only board member who voted against scheduling a public hearing on Little Shelter taking control of the cat shelter come January. Edwards said she is in favor of the town signing a contract with LAP.

“We were going to award the contract before to the [League of Animal Protection],” she said. “Now that they got their 501(c)(3) status back retroactively, I think it would have only been fair to give it back to them.”

Town officials first solicited bids from any organization interested in running the cat shelter earlier this spring, after it came to light in April that the LAP had lost its not-for-profit status with the IRS in 2015 but never notified the town. Huntington Attorney Cindy Mangano said the town became aware of this breach of the contractual agreement when drawing up a new document, as the previous agreement expired in December 2016.

At the June 13 town board meeting, council members voted to give LAP an extension until Nov. 30 to regain its not-for-profit status and halting the current RFP process.

The organization’s attorney and accountant were able to get its 501(c)(3) status reinstated by the IRS within five weeks, according to Larkin, and retroactively applied to the date it was lost.

LAP’s president and several of its volunteers called on town officials to make an executive order to immediately approve the contractual agreement previously drawn up this spring at the Aug. 15 board meeting, which would extend the organization’s operation of the cat shelter.

Instead, Supervisor Frank Petrone (R) insisted the town was legally obligated to move forward with the RFP process, otherwise fearing it could run the risk of another interested party taking them into court over the matter.

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Joe Rella is planning to continue as Comsewogue’s superintendent for the immediate future, though he says he’s retiring in 2019. Photo by Barbara Donlon

The Comsewogue school district and community scored a win at a board of education meeting Feb. 6. The board unanimously approved a resolution to extend the contract of the district’s superintendent through the end of the 2017-18 school year.

Joe Rella was named superintendent in 2010, though he has been entrenched in the community for more than two decades. He said during an interview after the meeting he plans to be back for the school year beginning this September, and the following year, but at the moment his plan is to retire in August 2019. His contract, which was approved Feb. 6, will see him earn just over $216,000 in 2017-18, a 2 percent raise over his current salary for this school year. The passage of the resolution was met with applause from the board and community members in attendance.

“Pope Francis said at some talk I heard him give, and I love the expression he used, that the shepherd has to smell like the sheep.”

— Joe Rella

“I’m always ambivalent about it,” Rella said about the decision to remain at the helm of the district. “I’ll be 68 years old in 2019 — leave while you’re having fun. I love this place and you’ve got to know when to go. I’ve had a good run here and I’m happy, and I’m happy I’m here. But it’s time — I feel it.”

Rella began in the district as a music teacher 23 years ago, then spent eight years as principal of the high school. Next year will be his eighth as superintendent. He moved into the community — down the block from the high school — 20 years ago, he said.

“You’ve got to be close to the people and you’ve got to be close to the kids,” he said about the decision to move into the district where he works. “Pope Francis said at some talk I heard him give, and I love the expression he used, that the shepherd has to smell like the sheep. You can’t do it from down the block, you can’t phone it in and that means you got to be close to the people you work with. It’s an ideal setup.”

He estimated about half of the students at the high school have his cellphone number.

Rella used the word “love” repeatedly in describing his relationship with the people of the district. In August, his wife Jackie passed away, and he said the outpouring of support he received from the community was overwhelming.

“This community just put their arms around me and my family,” he said. “They were wonderful — so kind and caring. I had more food come to my house than I could possibly eat. One of my sons was actually driving it down to the soup kitchen because we had no place to put it. They just went wild. That’s the way they are here.”

Beyond the feelings of home and family, Rella associates with the district. He said he’s sticking around to see a couple of big projects to completion.

The district submitted an application to be accredited by the Middle States Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools, a regional membership association that gives its stamp of approval to districts based on their rigorous standards. Several schools on Long Island have received the distinction, though if accredited Comsewogue would be the only full district of public schools on Long Island recognized by the commission. Results of the application are expected this spring.

Comsewogue also participated in a pilot consortium program where two ninth-grade classes were exposed to a project- and inquiry-based curriculum, alternative to typical Regents classes, as a means to create a deeper understanding for several subjects, which Rella said the district plans to expand on next year.

“I can be myself. I’m too old to be anything else at this point. It’s been like that since I got here.”

— Joe Rella

“There’s a lot of really exciting things happening, and that’s what keeps me coming back every day,” Rella said. “Plus it’s a wonderful community. The kids are super, the faculty is super, the administrators.”

The superintendent joked the three stoplights between his home and his office can turn his five-minute ride into 10 some mornings, though he knows no one wants to hear that complaint.

Rella attributed much of his success and comfort in the district to his relationship with his assistant superintendents Jennifer Quinn, who handles curriculum and instruction, and Susan Casali, who is in charge of business.

“Jennifer is a wizard at curriculum and literacy — Susan is a wizard at finance,” he said, adding that the trio has a great working relationship based on mutual trust. “[An idea] still counts if I didn’t think of it, and I don’t know how to do it any other way.”

Rella’s duties are not limited to the job description of a traditional superintendent. He will be playing the piano in the high school drama club’s productions of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” Feb. 10 and 11. He also accompanies students trying out for the New York State School Music Association. Performances require accompaniment by a pianist, which can be expensive for rehearsals and would deter some students from applying. So the superintendent lends his time on nights and Saturdays to get students up to speed.

Rella said the combination of his involvement in student activities, living in the community and sending two of his kids through the district has made Comsewogue a perfect fit.

“It gives you some credibility,” he said. “I’m not making decisions for other people’s kids that I wouldn’t make for my kids. Plus, you go to the same barbershop; you go to the same supermarket … I can be myself. I’m too old to be anything else at this point. It’s been like that since I got here.”

Rella admitted it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but most days, it is.

“From the day I got here, there have been tough days, but never a day I said to myself, ‘I’m packing it in,’” he said. “There have been days I’ve said to myself, ‘If they find out I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, this is going to be a problem.’ They’re very honest people. They’ll tell you what’s on their mind. I’m not made of china; I’m not going to break.”

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Rella speaks out against standardized testing in 2015. File photo

A community and school district stalwart will be returning to his position for at least one more year, following a unanimous school board vote to extend his contract.

“I know where I’m going next year now, thank you,” Superintendent Joe Rella said to applause when the board vote to extend his contract passed at Monday’s board of education meeting. “Nowhere.”

Rella has opposed extending his contract any further than the 2016-17 school year, according to Susan Casali, the district’s assistant superintendent for business.

The extension came with a 2 percent pay raise, bringing Rella’s salary to $212,160 for the next school year. His health care contributions are remaining the same, with him kicking in 17 percent to his premiums.

Many Comsewogue residents as well as those within the greater Long Island and New York State areas know Rella for his vocal opposition to state testing and the Common Core Learning Standards. He has hosted or attended numerous protests and forums on the topics, and spoken against the standardized testing practices that he says are harmful to children.

The superintendent started working in Warriors country as a music teacher at John F. Kennedy Middle School. Before becoming a district administrator, he served as the Comsewogue High School principal.