New Milford's Board of Education has approved the start of negotiations on a new three-year contract with Superintendent of Schools JeanAnn Paddyfote.

The board met Tuesday during a two-hour executive session, and voices were often raised. Chairwoman Wendy Faulenbach said upon exiting that the lengthy session merely gave the chance for all eight other board members to "ask questions and express their views."

"The Board of Education decided unanimously on negotiating a new three-year contract for Dr. Paddyfote," Faulenbach said. "I am delighted. She is an asset to the district."

Paddyfote was diplomatic about criticisms presented by some board members and said she "look(ed) forward to continuing to serve with the board."

"I always learn from the evaluations and take recommendations to heart," Paddyfote said. "Improvements can always be made."

In all, written reviews of Paddyfote's competency by the board members "substantially exceeds standards" as the predominant ranking for: fiscal management; planning; personal/professional qualities; and educational leadership.

However, Bill Wellman faulted Paddyfote's fiscal management performance and response to new state set mandates.

Wellman opposes the state mandates on teacher evaluations and believes Paddyfote "should be defending her existing practices" rather than "kowtowing" to state demands.

"In respect to fiscal management ... (in budgeting) forecasts of the factors the system must expect to deal with have been lacking," he wrote.

Paddyfote has a long track record in the district. She came to the district in 1981 as the head of special services. In 2002, she became interim superintendent of schools and in 2005 became superintendent.

Her current salary is $196,124. She said Tuesday that retirement is not in the cards for her.

"I still enjoy it, still have the passion to work with a great staff to see our students succeed," she said. "I enjoy working with all of them."

The current school year has taken some problematic turns. Athletic director Lance Pliego resigned in March following an arrest at an athletic conference in Rocky Hill.

The charge was second-degree breach of peace after a reported drunken fight with a female athletic director. Court documents cite the two as a "dating couple."

Board member David Lawson, in his review of Paddyfote this year, called for her to "consider more thorough review of references" in hiring staff and to "be sure annual performance reviews are on time and properly done."; 860-355-7322