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Baldwin: 'You're Paying for Proven Expertise'

Public relations consultant Ann Baldwin says she provides value to the district at a cost of $24,000 for the year.

Ann Baldwin first arrived on scene in Newtown in July when the school district was deep in the throes of the school bus contract debate.

A former Hartford area television news broadcaster who runs a public relations business, Baldwin works for the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education. She introduced herself during that July meeting to a few reporters as someone whom the district, through its membership in CABE, had asked for help in the field of communications.

"I was brought into the issue but not because of the issue," Baldwin said this week, adding her involvement extended beyond the school contract debate.

Several months after the awarding of the school bus contract, Baldwin remains a consultant for the district, which signed a so-called "letter of agreement" with CABE for her services for one year at $2,000 a month or $24,000 a year, according to officials and Baldwin. Those services can be terminated with a month's notice, she said.

During the school bus controversy, Baldwin helped the district plan a public access television show where Hart, business director Ron Bienkowski, parent Charles Hepp and a moderator talked about the district's school bus contract process – a show that some criticized as being one-sided though officials at the time said they had invited people with differing viewpoints who declined to attend.

Baldwin also helped the district videotape a , the company that ultimately won the contract, and post the video onto the district's website so that people who couldn't attend the presentation could watch it for themselves.

The consultant said she also plans on working with teachers on ways to showcase their work and that of their students to the public, as well as possibly assist high school students with putting on a regular public access television show.

The money to pay for Baldwin comes out of the district's professional services budget, which has been approved for $715,720 this year and could be used to pay for a litany of diverse services, such as out-of-district speech pathologists, if needed; and consultants to help teachers with professional development, the business office with ways to improve the budgeting process and in Baldwin's case, provide communications' advice to the superintendent and others.

Included in that expense category is $163,600 in professional services specially budgeted for the superintendent and central office use, according to the district's budget document.

Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson, who could not be reached for comment because she is traveling out of the country with other school officials, has discretion over what type of professional services that budgeted account can be used to pay, according to district officials.

Board of Education chairman Bill Hart said he was aware of Baldwin's involvement with the district, and understood why Robinson brought the consultant in, particularly because he and others have brought up the issue of better communication with the public.

"I have been pushing for her ever since I've been on the board to do a better job of communicating," he said of Robinson.

Ironically, while Hart and apparently others knew about Baldwin's involvement with the district to help improve communications, that hadn't been communicated to everyone on the education board.

"In 20/20 hindsight, it never hurts to communicate better," Hart said.

Baldwin said she wants to assist with communications in any way she can, a role that in some districts is filled by a full-time person.

"I know the price is very reasonable," she said of CABE's fees. "You're paying for proven expertise and track record and effectiveness."

Susan McGuinness Getzinger December 05, 2011 at 06:06 AM
I believe our Superintendent now gets 6 weeks paid vacation in her contract. Salary around $174k, $20k annuity, 6 or so, different fees paid annually, including sorority ($600.00/year for that one, I believe). In her contract, the Superintnedent's employment can be terminated due to incompetence and moral turpitude, among other reasons, and the same reasons for our Assitant Superintendent, who is also our 504 coordinator. Dir. of Pupil Services does not have a signed contract, but more of a teachers type contract, though under administration, if I am correct. LOTS of papers to go through, so I am as accurate as I remember, but paperwork not in front of me as I type this. see below...
Susan McGuinness Getzinger December 05, 2011 at 06:07 AM
...con't. from above: "Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson is set to receive a 2.5-percent increase in salary and an increase in retirement contributions while Assistant Superintendent Linda Gejda received a 2-percent increase and Business Director Ron Bienkowski received a 1-percent increase. All three also had their contracts extended to June 30, 2014. Debbie Leidlein was the only one to oppose Robinson's salary increase. All the other votes were unanimous. Board members declined to issue comments regarding their decision after the meeting....Robinson said it was her first salary raise in the three and a half years she has worked for the district. Last year she received an increase in vacation days and a return of furlough days that teachers also received.....During fiscal year 2010-11, Robinson earned a gross salary of $169,932, Bienkowski, $139,922, and Gejda, $145,364, according to the district's data....among 175 superintendents statewide, Robinson is the 39th highest paid superintendent, which places her in the top half of the salary range, according to state data." http://newtown.patch.com/articles/baldwin-you-re-paying-for-proven-expertise
Susan McGuinness Getzinger December 05, 2011 at 06:07 AM
sorry - this was link: http://newtown.patch.com/articles/newtown-school-officials-receive-raises
Susan McGuinness Getzinger December 05, 2011 at 06:16 AM
http://newtown.patch.com/articles/it-s-out-with-the-old-and-in-with-the-new
Susan McGuinness Getzinger December 05, 2011 at 06:20 AM
Thank you. If and When the new BoE finds cause to Vote/Remove Mr. Gaines from the BoE, will you kindly step aboard the new BoE, Mr. Paradis? Thank you for running this year.
Susan McGuinness Getzinger December 05, 2011 at 06:23 AM
Hoa, when you click on a person's name, The Patch directs you to the library of comments made by that individual. Whythen, when I click on Mr. Koczocik's name, does only a generic statement pop up, with no specific comments: "Recently Bill Koczocik left 3 comments on: Baldwin: 'You're Paying for Proven Expertise' Dec 2"? Thank you. http://newtown.patch.com/users/bill-koczocik
Emma December 05, 2011 at 03:20 PM
His comments were deleted, that is why they no longer appear under his name. However, quite a number of people have the comments via e-mail from the Patch...those can not be deleted.
Christine Sekelsky Hermes December 05, 2011 at 03:25 PM
Emma, I can still see Bill's comments above. Could the comments that were deleted have been from someone else?
Hoa Nguyen December 05, 2011 at 04:19 PM
I believe that when you leave multiple comments on an article consecutively, the system summarizes them into a generic entry rather than in detail.
Richard Hilton December 06, 2011 at 12:04 AM
today's newtown bee has another article more accurately describing the arrangement between newtown schools and CABE, who act as agents on behalf of ms. baldwin in this deal. i'm composing my thoughts on this, which i'll publish sometime soon.
Emma December 06, 2011 at 12:49 AM
So the plot thickens. How long and how much has the district really paid for Ann Baldwins services? Video services are "very expensive". How much $$ has been buried regarding Ms Baldwins services? Will all the info be given to the Bee from their FOI request? Interesting how the info and services of Ms Baldwin remain her property unless shared with the BOE.....what about Janet Robinson, is she privy to info the BOE is not? Additional info in the Bee. http://newtownbee.com/News/News/2011/12-December/2011-12-05__17-09-39/District+Media+Consultant%E2%80%99s+One-Year+Retainer+Cost%3A+%2428%2C800
Emma December 06, 2011 at 01:24 AM
And $42,000 to prevent a bus stop. What other consultants have been hired that BOE is not aware of. What other charges are "hidden" in the consultants budget? It needs to be scrutinized. If anyone believes the EA's were cut b/c the voters turned down the budget, I have a bridge for sale at very good price.......
Susan McGuinness Getzinger December 06, 2011 at 01:53 AM
Children. Children. Precious children. Not a peep about the chidren. The eye is definately off the ball, Ms. Baldwin. You, Ms. Baldwin, should gracefully bow out to save your own P.R.. This is all about the children. Small, vulnerable people, not billable hours. Learning and playing, not betraying and paying. Children. Look in the eyes of a child very soon. Look in their eyes. Justification of this alleged abuse will then be most difficult.
Mary Ann Jacob December 06, 2011 at 03:03 AM
Here are his comments... Comments On the article Baldwin: 'You're Paying for Proven Expertise' Bill Koczocik 1:32 pm on Friday, December 2, 2011 Here's another guy with too much time on his hands On the article Baldwin: 'You're Paying for Proven Expertise' Bill Koczocik 1:31 pm on Friday, December 2, 2011 Hey Sam, I am curious as to what valuable asset you are to mankind???? On the article Baldwin: 'You're Paying for Proven Expertise' Bill Koczocik 1:30 pm on Friday, December 2, 2011 Hey Ms. Hermes,This chick???? Really....do you even know Ms. Baldwin or anything about her....you people are a joke.....know your facts before you post this garbage
Terrance Oneil December 06, 2011 at 03:32 AM
I am very concerned about this entire issue. If the town does need a PR person why haven't we heard from them on this matter? I propose a legal collection to hire a strong law firm and take back our board of education by legal means. In all seriousness what would prevent the superintendent from traveling again, or holding classes at night, or turning off the heat, or teaching all classes in Chinese? I guess nothing at all. she runs the entire show.............................next thing you know she will be collecting every key in town and measuring out the strawberries trying to find the missing two quarts.
Karen Visca December 06, 2011 at 03:37 AM
We do not need a P/R person. They said it was $24,000 but it is $28,800 She should be able to communicate without the help of a P/R persoin, This is just a waste of our money in these economic times.
WaxyGordon December 06, 2011 at 03:00 PM
Maybe they had to go to China for some on the job training for their next careers........bussing tables at P.F. Changs.
LB December 08, 2011 at 09:08 PM
"Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson, who could not be reached for comment because she is traveling out of the country with other school officials"...well, the inability to communicate by email, text, or your PR rep says something, doesn't it?
Sam Mihailoff December 08, 2011 at 11:22 PM
http://newtownbee.com/Opinions/Editorials_and_Commentary/2011/12-December/2011-12-08__15-03-19/Editorial+Ink+Drops%3A+A+Lesson+In+Communication
Alex Tytler December 09, 2011 at 12:12 AM
The Bee is as liberal a rag as they come, and they have turned. No where to hide JR.
Swami December 09, 2011 at 12:26 AM
Just curious Eric, which are the first rate newspapers that you read? Please, noSarah Palin answer.... " Palin's answer was revealed: "most of them," "all of 'em," and "any of 'em."
Emma December 09, 2011 at 12:49 AM
The Bee liberal!? That's a first.
Stephanie Martinez December 13, 2011 at 03:39 PM
Unfortunately most of the comments I am reading are not very helpful. It is unfortunate that this flame war is allowed to continue. I would like to know the reasons why Dr. Robinson felt compelled to spend taxpayer dollars to hire a PR consultant. I would also like to know why, in the age of social media, where consistent communication with your constituent base is easier than ever before, why the Newtown School District struggles so much. Someone is not doing their job. Can we have an intelligent conversation about this? I am truly curious.
Sam Mihailoff December 13, 2011 at 05:11 PM
Stephanie...it is indeed frustrating. It comes down to a lack of communication. Our comments can only state frustration as well I agree, someone is not doing her job. That would be Janet Robinson PhD. She is a disgrace to the entire education profession. She is totally incompetent and void of the basic skill of communicating with the community, so she "alone" hired a public relations firm but nver even informed the Board of Education...so bottom line is... can't communicate...hired firm to communicate...failed to communicate that a firm was hired to communicate communication as in Cool Hand Luke "what we have here is a failure to communicate I sincerely hope I have been able to communicate this to you
MrLogical December 14, 2011 at 07:52 PM
This is yet another example of what's wrong with inept, unaccountable government - federal, state and local. Whenever you have elected and appointed officials with access to public, taxpayer funds, they will inevitably spend it - often imprudently - on things that the average taxpayer would never approve. The best illustration of this is Milton Friedman's classic tutorial "The Four Ways To Spend Money." Every taxpayer and public official - and especially Ms. Robinson, the BOE and their CABE colleages - should view this YouTube video clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RDMdc5r5z8&feature=youtube_gdata_player
MrLogical December 14, 2011 at 08:16 PM
2 questions: 1) When will Ms. Robinson be required to account for her misfeasance? 2) When will the BOE ask for her resignation?
Oh Henry December 17, 2011 at 10:36 PM
"A split procurement or purchase occurs when a Purchaser intentionally divides or appears to divide a single purchase requirement into two or more separate purchases to avoid exceeding the single transaction limit assigned to the Purchaser procurement ability" This is how the US government sees purchasing $2000 of services per month. They then go on to call it a CRIME and prosecute the employee. So if someone wanted to buy something real big like oh say public relations video and "coaching services" they would just "split the procurement" over many months and Vola there is you $40k purchase broken up into many little ones. No one is the wiser, heck you don't even need to tell anybody. Folks.......This is criminal behavior and it is only what we have discovered. I wonder what other "purchases" are being made
Emma December 17, 2011 at 10:52 PM
I can't see a way for Janet Robinson to prevent this indiscretion from becoming a scandal. Between her diversion of tax dollars to a service that is clearly outside the educational mission of Newtown's schools in an underhanded, calculated act of non-disclosure, The manner in which the expenditures were structured / divided in an embarrassing attempt to allow this obvious manipulation to fly under the radar and the six-month long complete lack of communication to other town officials, taxpayers and the rest of Bill Hart's BOE about this communication consultant's very presence? It may be necessary to propose charter amendments to prevent this kind of unilateral fiscal misappropriation, as well as limiting the powers of a lame duck, outgoing board. Like every taxpayer discovering this unethical plundering, I'm especially troubled by the incredibly poor judgement shown in expending taxpayer dollars to supposedly train / coach the three co-conspirators who were probably the only ones even aware of this charade: an outgoing BOE member, an on-his-way out BOE chair and a business manager passed off as a third BOE member.
MrLogical December 18, 2011 at 12:06 AM
This begs for an in-depth forensic accounting investigation led by the town attorney. The investigation should not be limited to Ms. Robinson's actions re: the Baldwin contract, nor necessarily those of the BOE, but the finances of the entire town. It is highly doubtful that this is the only such case of fiscal mismanagement, and it is further doubtful that Ms. Robinson conceived this scheme on her own; there is a distinct possibility that others are complicit. In the meantime, until the matter is cleared up to the satisfaction of the citizens and taxpayers of Newtown, Ms. Robinson and Mr. Hart should both step aside from their official responsibilities. In parallel, Ms. Baldwin's contract should be immediately revoked as per the terms and conditions specified in said contract.
Sam Mihailoff December 18, 2011 at 12:33 AM
***********IMMEDIATELY********************

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