September 30, 2005

A Letter About Begina

By Sharon Bass

On Sept. 22, the Hamden Daily News sent a Freedom of Information query to assistant superintendent Hamlet Hernandez to find out if there is indeed a school super in the house. Early this past summer, Hamden Superintendent Alida Begina announced she'd be leaving her post in October to take over the Syracuse, N.Y., school system. But that deal ultimately fell through (the reason is unclear).

Since then, her attendance at 60 Putnam Ave. has been reportedly spotty, making parents and other residents curious about her employment status and who's running the show.

According to this Sept. 27, 2005, written reply from Hernandez, Begina is onboard full time. (The queries inside quotes are ones posed by the HDN.)

Dear Ms. Bass:

We hereby provide the following response to your request under the Freedom of Information Act sent electronically on September 22, 2005. Your requests and our responses follow:

1. "Alida Begina's attendance record since June 1, 2005, up to the current date."

Dr. Begina's attendance record is attached.

2. "How many sick days she had accrued? How many she has left?"

We have enclosed our records that show that Dr. Begina had 140.5 sick days accrued as of July 1, 2005. You may compare that number with the attendance record attached under request number one to determine how many sick days Dr. Begina still has.

3. "The person(s) in charge of the BOE during her absence."

Mr. Hul is the Chairperson of the Board of Education. By statute, Dr. Begina is the Chief Executive Officer of the Board of Education. There has been no change in Dr. Begina's status as Superintendent of Schools.

4. "What her plans are to resume work. When? At what frequency? Full time? Part time?"

Dr. Begina works full time.

5. "An explanation of why, when I asked, I was not allowed to attend Mary Marrandino's retirement party when other reporters were given permission to cover the event. Documents on how this party was paid for. Were any tax dollars used?"

There are no documents regarding your invitation to this event. When asked, Mr. Pesce (school finance director) informed you the day prior to Ms. Marrandino's retirement party that there was a cost to attend and that he was not aware of how the function was coordinated and whether or not the press was invited. To the best of my knowledge you did not contact anyone else in central office to find out more information about attending the event.

No public funds were expended for this event. Customarily, retirement parties include a small amount of the proceeds collected to be designated as a gift for the retiree. In Ms. Marrandino's case she indicated she did not want a gift. Instead, she requested that the funds be used to purchase books for the media centers in all Hamden Public Schools.


Hamlet Hernandez, Assistant Superintendent

Cc: Alida D. Begina, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools

When contacted last month, Tom Pesce said he would find out if the media were allowed at Marrandino's party and would get back to the HDN. He did not. However, reporters were invited. A story on the event ran on the cover of the following issue of the Hamden Journal.

Also, the attached document Hernandez referred to in his response itemizes the vacation, sick and personal days Begina took from June 22, 2005, to July 15, 2005. It is coded and difficult to accurately interpret.

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