Smithfield School board, superintendent at odds over new hire

Smithfield School board, superintendent at odds over new hire

SMITHFIELD - School Supt. Robert M. O'Brien will recommend the hiring of a new building and grounds director at the next School Committee meeting, Nov. 4, he told The Valley Breeze & Observer this week.

Salary has been set at $73,000 to $80,000 depending on experience.

The school board, meanwhile, is following a different path. The committee formally voted to research options - other than hiring a full-time director - to replace John Obiurka, who left about three weeks ago to take a similar job for the Ponaganset schools in Glocester and Foster, where he lives.

Options the school board has mentioned include outsourcing building and grounds work to a private company, or consolidating services by creating a shared position with the town of Smithfield or other towns.

If a long-term solution is chosen, committee members at the Oct. 21 meeting discussed a possible one-year contract for a full-time director rather than the usual three-year pact, but O'Brien disagreed. He suggested that "it is very difficult to get anyone for one year. There's no way to get anyone with any significant experience.

"I feel strongly that to get somebody with the experience and qualifications I think we need, we'd have to offer a three-year contract," O'Brien said, stressing that he is looking for someone to provide 24/7 coverage. He mentioned two false alarms this month in the middle of the night that buildings and grounds personnel responded to.

Al Costantino, a local businessman in the construction field, sharply disagreed. It should be "very easy" to get someone for 12 months, Costantino said, citing construction management layoffs and the availability of retirees with years of experience. He publicly announced that O'Brien would begin interviewing candidates to replace Obiurka the next day, Oct. 22, which O'Brien confirmed.

"He's rushing into it," Costantino said.

O'Brien told The Valley Breeze & Observer this week that he had a special screening panel of 11 members to conduct the interviews, which included teachers, principals and industry experts, so he is prepared to make a recommendation regarding the hiring of a director of facilities management on Nov. 4.