The Day – Norwich school board starts budget process without business administrator

Norwich — School budget committee meetings begin Wednesday, but the school district likely will not have a new business administrator for at least another month.

Former Business Administrator Athena Nagel resigned at the end of January, days after she was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow into undisclosed allegations.

The Board of Education met Tuesday for the first time since her departure and briefly discussed the position vacancy and plans to hire a new administrator. The board appointed Director of Student Services Jamie Bender as the new signor on food services financial documents to obtain funding reimbursements.

The board went into executive session for 90 minutes Tuesday to discuss attorney-client communications regarding a forensic audit ordered in December 2019 of the school district’s retiree insurance benefits program “to review financial issues related to participation and payments” after questions arose in those areas.

No information was available Tuesday night on whether Nagel’s departure is related to the forensic audit on the retiree insurance benefits.

In a prepared statement issued following the December 2019 meeting, Stringfellow said school officials “do not have reasons to believe at this time that any funds were misused.”

Stringfellow told the board the position was advertised Jan. 29, with applications due by Friday. First interviews with potential candidates are scheduled for Feb. 18, with city Comptroller Josh Pothier serving on the interview team. Stringfellow said she hopes to appoint “the successful candidate” at the March Board of Education meeting.

She told the board that several people have responded to the posting thus far.

The posting calls for candidates with a minimum of three years of experience — five years preferred — in public school business administration, a bachelor’s degree in administration, business or a related field, with a master’s degree preferred, and a school business administrator’s certificate.

The position requirements include: “Demonstrated knowledge, integrity and success in all fiscal services including financial planning and budgeting, accounting and reporting, purchasing, inventory and supply management.”

The posted annual salary range is $135,000 to $140,000.

The school board’s budget process gets underway Wednesday with a Budget Expenditure Committee web conference at 5:30 p.m. An ad hoc committee of Board of Education members, City Council members, school and city financial officials will start its budget discussions with a web conference at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 17.

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