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Wantagh BOE Addresses Contractual Agreement With Former Superintendent

Board of Education prepared a statement regarding legal matters with former Superintendent of Schools Phil D'Angelo.

Wantagh Board of Education President Michael Cucci addresed the current standing of former Superintendent of Schools Phil D'Angelo's contractual agreement four months after his departure from the district Thursday night.

D'Angelo was placed on leave by the Wantagh Board of Education on Sept. 14, less than three months into his role as superintendent, but it was revealed at the Dec. 13 board meeting that the district was continuing to pay D'Angelo's salary on top of Acting Superintendent Maureen Goldberg. He landed a new superintendent job with the Millbrook Central School District in Westchester County that began on Jan. 1. 

Cucci assured the community that both parties are working with their attorneys to sever the contractual relationship. 

"We've been working very hard and we've been working daily," said Cucci during the school board meeting held in the Wantagh High School Auditorium. "There is no resolution at this point but we're working very hard to achieve it."

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Wantagh resident Mike Polazzalo faced the board with a slew of concerns, like why payments were being made if the district was in the right and when they expect this all to end, but Cucci was unable to delve into details.

"We're frustrated just the same way you're feeling frustration," Cucci said. "We'd like to talk about it, but we're advised not to. Our attorney did say that once this is all a matter of record, he will be happy to be here and questions will be addressed then." 

Another resident questioned whether or not the district would be found in this predicament again and wondered what they are doing to prevent a similar situation in the future.

"If my husband left his job, he wouldn't be getting paid if he went to another job," she said. "Obviously legal missed something or he had a really good lawyer. You can see my concern."

Cucci said that the incident will definitely be taken into consideration while moving forward with a new superintendent and the district's legal team.

Mitch January 18, 2013 at 03:11 PM
Wantagh is like the New York Jets of School Districts. Let's go already, tighten it up and get on track.
Rob January 18, 2013 at 04:00 PM
I like the analogy - there's one major exception...the Jets were able to fire Mike Tannenbaum because his decisions helped drive them into the ground. We don't have that luxury. Mr. D'Angelo is not Mike Tannenbaum - he's more like Mark Sanchez. Someone we pay even though he probably won't be working very much for the Jets next year.
Chris Wendt January 18, 2013 at 05:02 PM
(The above two comments are precisely the reason that school district personnel matters are not discussed in public. Yes, the Jets analogy has a kind of resonance, but we are talking about the professional educational leadership position of our school district, and we are talking about the educational future of our children which hangs in the balance.) None of the individual situations in Wantagh, including DiAngelo, Marsh, or Begley, taken by themselves, are truly representative of the underlying problem; the fact that we have had so many, including an Assistant Superintendent, a Middle School Principal, an Athletic Director and two head coaches...those, collectively, are telling of an underlying problem which seriously needs to be fixed. That is no joking matter.
Rob January 18, 2013 at 05:26 PM
Chris, I'm fairly new to the boards but if you've read any of my posts you'd know I'm in agreement with you. It was a joke, perhaps the reason why the issues can't get resolved is because you try to overwhelm people with your facts, lengthy reports and wordy life experiences instead of just trying to have a little fun and relate to others, maybe bring us common folk into the mix. Perhaps if we could get the silent majority more involved the real issues could get resolved and we could implement some real change. Perhaps it's time to think outside of your box filled with reports and obscure quotes and try to bring the community together by another means. I have 2 very young children in the school system - I have invested heavily in the area when we moved here a year ago - there are few people as invested as I am in the future of the SD...I don't think it's a joking matter but sometimes it doesn't hurt to laugh a little.
ed January 18, 2013 at 06:10 PM
Cut their salaries by 3/4
A. Shaw January 18, 2013 at 06:32 PM
Cut whose salaries????
Chris Wendt January 18, 2013 at 07:00 PM
Okay, staying with the sports analogy and getting away from individual cases, I don't think Wantagh has much in common with either the 2012 or the 2013 NY Jets. Taking a long look back, I would like to think of Wantagh as being more the Yankees of LI school districts. You know, a well-established dynasty, but with the current "team" out of the playoffs early this past season, and a lot of personnel changes leading to a "rebuilding year" next year. I think the Yankees would do well to replace both Girardi and Cashman as part of their rebuilding year. Or maybe next year. Wantagh schools have so much good going for them...still. A dynasty.
Rob January 18, 2013 at 07:55 PM
See that - you can admit it - you enjoyed it, right? Unfortunately I think your perception of Wantagh being the Yankees of LI School Districts is not exactly accurate. Unfortunately, as a Mets fan I'd say it's more like to Mets from the 80's through today. A district that was really solid and at times great in the 80's and early 90's - but now has been reduced to a laughing stock...some poor financial decisions/investments, rotating leadership/ lack of vision, too many high-priced players that underperform and the same ownership decisions throughout the decline. But I agree - there's still definitely a chance for Wantagh to regain it's edge, there has to be! We need to get involved, ask questions (and get answers!), vote in the right leadership and cut the nonsense so that our kids get the best education and get the most for our school tax dollars.
Rob January 18, 2013 at 08:00 PM
By the way - interesting choice of words - dynasty...unfortunately Wantagh may be turning into a dynasty...just not the good kind: Definition of DYNASTY : a powerful group or family that maintains its position for a considerable time
Stacy January 18, 2013 at 08:03 PM
Rob - Couldn't agree with you more! There is tons that needs to be fixed in the school district and laughing about it now and again definitely helps!
Chris Wendt January 19, 2013 at 11:11 AM
We could go round for round over that definition (DYNASTY). Poor timing, though, even if the parapraxis was mine. That would be an appropriate May discussion topic. The leadership issue which you pointed to is critical. Of course, The Leader, the seat of Leadership is the Superintendent. In order for that to work correctly or even at all requires the policy board to allow their leader to lead the district. In order for that to happen requires two things: Thing #1...recognize that the Superintendent is the professional educational leader of the school district, and, Thing #2...accept that they, the members of the policy board themselves, are not little Superintendents (or BIG superintendents), and have no individual authority in the district, including over the Superintendent.
old miller January 19, 2013 at 03:31 PM
"Laughing stock" is a pretty strong term. Frankly, it is offensive to the teachers and coaches who have, and continue, to work tirelessly to ensure that Wantagh's track record of success, both academiclally and athletically, remains consistently strong, regardless of the rotating door in central administration and lack of resources. Wantagh's "numbers" are among the highest in Nassau County, year after year, and they have been so for well over a decade. The district is far stronger now than it was in the 80s and early 90s, when my siblings and I went through the system. Did you live in the district at that time, Rob?
Rob January 19, 2013 at 05:05 PM
Miller - to answer your last question - No I was not in the district in the 80s and 90's - I was in a neighboring district. Additionally, I thought about what you said - you're right, "laughing stock" is perhaps too strong a term - I was probably talking more about my feelings as a Mets fan. However, my comments were not at all directed at any teachers or coaches. In fact, I would say our athletic programs speak for themselves, and excellence is a term that comes to mind. Regarding the teachers and administration, my experience has been mixed. I'm speaking from a very limited experience as I have 2 young children. I've had the pleasure of meeting some exceptional teachers and administrators However I've also had mixed feelings on some others. One administrator I've met I would classify as excellent and i hope she continues to lead in our school. The other, not so much...in speaking to many parents who've been in the area for many years the phrase that I continue to hear is 'probably past his prime'. Granted, my experiences are limited but so far I can see room for improvement and perhaps some new blood, but I think the future can be very bright. My comments were more directed at some of the other issues I've been seeing - let me ask this question; how many districts on LI do not have full day Kindergarten? Additionally, how many districts have cycled through 5 Superintendents in the amount of time we have? Thats my frustration and I think many others.
Chris Wendt January 19, 2013 at 05:47 PM
Hey Rob, with your admitted limited experience, and actually no relevant experience with the people you are trashing, how about exercising some discretion with the rumor mongering. Focus on the future, Rob. The past is behind us already.
Rob January 19, 2013 at 06:16 PM
Mr. Wendt, all due respect - when was the last time you had children in the grammar school? I'd say my experience is very relevant as I'm in the midst of it right now and my future, and my children's future, is in this district. I guess I have to wait until I've been in the district for 20 years before I voice an opinion? My goal is not to trash anyone - I'm simply stating my experiences to date, not rumor mongering. My focus is the future and my fear is that if we don't acknowledge some of the missteps in the past we may continue to repeat them. Isn't it our responsibility as a community and taxpayers to ask questions about how are children are educated and how our tax dollars are being spent, or is that only for the veterans of Wantagh?
Lorraine DeVita January 19, 2013 at 07:47 PM
What many fail to realize is that the academic "successes" in any SD in the past did not face the financial challenges of today. SO Rob I agree with you , what exactly are we doing TODAY to meet those challenges and how will it effect education going forward. As Mr Wendt clearly states our mistakes are in the PASt we can not dwell on them. So Mr wendt I would claim are your successes. This is NOW . and quite frankly NOW has a lot more challenges than THEN..Rob and many parents are concerend about the NOW. Their concerns are valid as they are THEIR concerns and THEIR children. They need not look for relevance in the historical data of a SD they need to see results and sound leadership .TODAY...
old miller January 19, 2013 at 09:25 PM
Your concern about full-day kindergarten is very fair, Rob. Nearly all districts do provide that service. I also did not mean to imply that I am more entitled to an opinion on the current state of affairs in WUFSD because my family, both immediate and now extended, has lived in Wantagh and attended its schools, both public and parochial, since 1971. I do believe, however, that comments about the history of the district should be reserved for those who have lived it. I also think, have said, and will repeat that the "5 superintendents in 1 year" slogan is misleading and damaging to the integrity of the district. There have been 3 superintendents since September of 2011: Lydia Begley, Phil D'Angelo, and Maureen Goldberg. Richard Marsh and Carl Bonuso were interim superintendents. It may seem like I am splitting hairs, but that is the fact. Really, it all comes down to this: two men left on unceremonious terms over the course of 12 months. Of course, that bears investigation and reflection. Of course, I am concerned that we cannot retain leaders, regardless of their past records of success, who have been hired from outside of the district. Of course, it leads me to question "What is the Wantagh way?" But I do think that we have to be responsible, when we characterize our district publicly, to avoid conjecture and stick to the facts.
old miller January 19, 2013 at 09:37 PM
Lorraine, you have, once again, entered an active discussion without any apparent understanding of how it began. The most recent contributions to this thread do not center on what is more important, the past, present, or future. We all agree that we need to look at the challenges ahead. Instead, we have been discussing the need to accurately portray Wantagh's dynasty (Mr. Wendt's word) or legacy (my word) of success as we move forward. There is no need to "throw the baby out with the bathwater." We need to build on what has been, and continues to be, a very solid educational foundation.
Chris Wendt January 20, 2013 at 01:06 AM
Your stating that you heard someone say that the (one and only male principal in the district) is past his prime was trash talk. The promotion of Don Sternberg to Principal and his long service to the children of Wantagh ever since, including my own three, has proven to have been invaluable to Wantagh. Do you expect or are you suggesting that there should be some test for principals to remain in their "prime", or get out, at some mandatory retirement age? Or are you okay with people deciding for themselves when to retire? Seriously, you should find something else to worry about. Full-day Kindergarten was front & center between August and December and the recommendation from the Declining Enrollment & Full-day Kindergarten Committee chaired by Acting Superintendent Goldberg was to include it in the budget and see if it can be successfully worked into the financial picture, meaning within the tax cap and other priorities. We don't have that financial picture yet, because the Governor has not provided his State Aid recommendations. Not having full-day kindergarten was not a mis-step, but a step not taken. It is time to take that step. Next year, perhaps? You are certainly welcomed to ask questions. Asking them directly to the administration would be the best way to get your questions answered. You can write to me at chriswendt117@gmail.com if you wish, but I will ask your real name. I tend to be nicer 1:1, and when I knew with whom I am conversing.
Jasper Jenkins January 20, 2013 at 02:37 AM
You must question the stability of the BOE given the erratic leadership changes in Wantagh in the past 5 years. A stable BOE equals a stable school district, less than that gets less than that. Certainly Mr. Wendt (for all of his bloviating) understands that, as do all thinking people. The focus of any district is academics, when that focus strays,then this instability takes hold. Only a BOE that has the interests of ALL students takes the reins will stability return. In the interim our district continues to tarnish.
Lorraine DeVita January 20, 2013 at 04:18 AM
i am just agreeing with Rob. and the problem with that is? are people not allowed to agree with someone elses comment or point of view?You are taking umbrage with what exactly ? ..Wantagh has a fairly good SD, with a few obvious issues that need to be addressed. From what i gathered is Rob is saying learn from the issues so you dont make the same mistakes twice and perhpas it will make Wantagh an even better district. Rob has kids in school so therefore I would also venture as he stated he has a bigger vested interest in wanting the SD to improve in certain areas..asking for things to be better does not reflect poorly on the past accomplishments . to improve you need to identify areas of weakness and from what i can gather Rob wants to insure you learn from past mistakes not ignor them so there are future,even better and brighter accomplishments to come.
Rob January 20, 2013 at 05:38 AM
One more comment... Chris, in regards to Full Day K being a step not taken comment, I have to disagree with you on that point. A step not taken, to me, would imply that no decision was made or available to them - although I would argue it has been made over and over again. I know I'm not supposed to comment on history having not lived through it here in Wantagh but...The decision of the BOE and the administration has been that it, Full Day K, is not worth it...I would call that a mis-step. Hopefully it will be rectified in the upcoming year, although too late for too many of us and more importantly, our kids.
Chris Wendt January 20, 2013 at 10:46 AM
The Wantagh BoE had already built the classrooms necessary to expand kindergarten to full-day, and had been using them until recently to accommodate a student population bubble that has now passed through the elementary schools. In the wake of that bubble we now find ourselves in the midst of what appears to be a protracted declining enrollment situation. Notwithstanding the prior space issue, money, meaning the economy and taxes, has remained an issue throughout. Were you here the last time the Wantagh budget failed, the district went on austerity, and the community raised $675,000 to run the sports program that had been cut as a result? One of your highest concerns as a parent should be that the budget passes each year. That concern must include due caution that the budget can be passed by virtue of both what it contains and how much it will cost the community at-large. Most years Wantagh's budget passes. But not every year. Your disagreeing about the kindergarten step not taken and your arguing the mis-step (your words), while they generated a reaction from me, did not add much to the discourse. I am a vocal proponent of having full-day kindergarten now, and I lived through the decision making previously. Keep your eye on the District website for the Full-day Kindergarten Report. In the meanwhile, you may be able to get more up-to-date on this topic by reading: http://wantaghsd.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=general&action=display&thread=543
old miller January 20, 2013 at 12:34 PM
Lorraine, you are so invested in "choosing sides" that you fail to realize that we all want Wantagh to build on its proven track record of success, both academically as well as athletically. We want Wantagh to have the best, brightest, most accomplished SD there can be, given the socio-economic make up of the community. So, it is a moot point to "wave the flag" in favor of one contributor's comments, in this case, over another's.
old miller January 20, 2013 at 12:44 PM
Again, Rob, comment away. I just took exception to your statement about Wantagh being a better school district in the 80s and early 90s. That was clearly not the case for those of us who lived here and attended school back then. The Wantagh SD that we know today, the one that our kids attend (I have one in the MS and one in the HS), is far better than it was 20 to 30 years ago. I'm not saying that we do not have problems that need to be addressed, but someone posted earlier on this thread that we need to "laugh a little," Oh, that was you. I think we also need to smile a little, Rob. Smile at what we have got and stop buying into the histrionics of those who act as if Wantagh has become a dumping ground.
old miller January 20, 2013 at 12:49 PM
Problems also arise when BOE, or any governing body for that matter, is too stable, a true dynasty (Mr. Wendt's word). The BOE in Wantagh is certainly "a powerful group or family that maintains its position for a considerable time" (the definition contributed by Rob). Perhaps that is where the change is first needed?
Lorraine DeVita January 20, 2013 at 03:57 PM
Times have changed and SD's need to change with them parents of younger children want what best for their kids. Ironicaly Old miller We all agree. whether you see it or not . Wantagh has a good rep .. many parents want it to continue to have a good rep. and are just pointing out areas that need to be addressed for it to continue to grow and improve.
RyGuy February 15, 2013 at 02:02 PM
What a bunch of sausages

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