Monday, February 22, 2010

Problems Leading Up to the EASD's Proposed 11.85% Tax Hike: Part I - The Vulcanos

From right: Michele Vulcano, (daughter of) School Board Member Pat Vulcano, and City Councilwoman Sandra Vulcano

Posted by: Noel Jones

As we try to unravel the mystery of how the Easton Area School Board can have the gall to propose an 11.85% tax hike on residents, it is important to get to know all the players. Some are relatively new, asking the right questions, and in need of our support at school board meetings as this process unwinds over the next few months. Others have been in the game of Easton politics for a long time. Take, for instance, The Vulcanos.

Pat Vulcano, a long time member of the board, is married to longtime City Councilwoman, Sandra Vulcano. Their daughter is Michele Vulcano, who year before last, was awarded an emergency certificate over 17 other applicants so that she could teach without having finished

her certificate. She then had a year to finish three credits, which she did not. When the board refused to let her teach the following year, she decided to sue the EASD, with the support of her parents, who are elected officials that are supposed to be looking out for the concerns of voting taxpayers. Guess who will pick up the tab for the legal fees to fight that suit? That's right--taxpayers.  I am still trying to find out precisely how much has been set aside in the budget (to be covered by a 11.85% tax hike) for estimated legal fees, and when I find out, I will post it. 

For now, here's a little history of this scandal that I have come across recently--note how complicit the rest of the board has been along the way--that is why it is so important to understand who is new, and who is not, on the School Board--is it just me, or does this read a little like something out of The Sopranos? And I love how the board scolds Vulcano. I can just imagine Jon Stuart on The Daily Show wiggling his fingers in the air and saying in a high voice, "oh noooo--don't scold me!"

Sources: Vulcano made threats, faces demotion Board V.P. denies allegations.
Vulcano says he wasn't told of possible actions. Sources say daughter trying for unemployment. Pat Vulcano says he's not aware of daughter's plans. Vote could come as soon as Sept. 17 meeting.
By Colin McEvoy The Express-Times
September 7, 2009
School board Vice President Pat Vulcano Jr. made verbal threats to the Easton Area School District superintendent and other administrators, claiming he would "have their jobs" if they didn't allow his daughter to retain her teaching job, multiple sources said.
After the board decided not to keep Michele Vulcano, 26, as a fifth-grade teacher, Pat Vulcano promised administrators he would "raise hell" in the district by supporting secretaries in their strike and causing other general disruptions, said district officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Now the Easton Area School Board may take punitive measures against Vulcano because of his behavior, sources said. The board expects to strip Vulcano of his vice president position and revoke other responsibilities, the sources said.
Michele Vulcano was hired last year as a fifth-grade teacher on an emergency certification because she was still working toward her full teaching certification.
Last month, the board voted not to retain her because she had still not obtained that certification.
"This shows he only cares about his daughter and he'll use and abuse whatever he can to help his daughter," a source said. "That's a slap in the face of the people who voted for him. He's not there for them. He's there for himself."
Vulcano denied making any threats and acting against the district. He said he had not brought up his daughter's name since she was let go.
"This is totally hogwash," Vulcano said.
Vulcano said he has not been informed of any plans to strip him of his position nor has anyone discussed any accusations of inappropriate behavior.
"If they feel that's the case, then let them fill out an ethics complaint against me that specifically states what I'm doing or not doing," he said.
The board has discussed removing Vulcano altogether but was advised by legal counsel his actions do not reach the ethical threshold for removing a sitting board member, said sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matters have been discussed in confidential meetings.
According to sources, Vulcano has made repeated verbal threats to Superintendent Susan McGinley, Business Manager Marie Guidry and Human Resources Director John Castrovinci.
Sources said Michele Vulcano is seeking unemployment compensation benefits for losing her teaching position and Pat Vulcano has demanded help from the school district in securing it.
Sources said Vulcano has repeatedly interrupted administration meetings demanding to speak with them about his daughter.
According to a source, Vulcano said to McGinley, "I can make life terrible for you" and "Wait until you see what I can do."
"He's going to do whatever he can to get what he wants," a source said. "He's going after everybody, anybody he can because she lost her job."
McGinley and Guidry did not respond to inquiries for comment.
Castrovinci declined to comment on questions about Pat Vulcano but said the state decides whether an applicant receives unemployment, not the district.
Castrovinci said the district may challenge an application if it believes the applicant does not qualify for benefits. He did not comment on whether Michele Vulcano has filed an application or whether the district would challenge it.
Vulcano said he did not know whether his daughter was seeking unemployment benefits.
"That's her business," he said.
Previously, Vulcano said his daughter has threatened legal action against the school district if not allowed to retain her job.
Vulcano said he was not directly involved in those actions, but previously said he had not ruled out joining her in filing the suit in the future.
Last month, Vulcano joined school district secretaries on the picket lines in support of their strike.
Sources said Vulcano never voiced support for the secretaries during closed-door board discussions, but joined them to cause a disruption in retaliation for his daughter.
School board President Patricia Fisher asked Vulcano not to come to a closed-door board meeting Aug. 31 regarding negotiation strategies because she felt he was "interfering with the strike."
The school board plans to call a vote removing Vulcano from his vice president position, sources said, possibly as early as the Sept. 17 board meeting.
The board may also remove him from the Easton Area Public Library board and is looking into whether he can be removed from the Career Institute of Technology operating committee and the Northampton Community College advisory committee. Vulcano serves as the school district's representative on both.
Vulcano said he has no plans to resign from the school board. He and board member Tim Reilly are running unopposed for two Region II seats in November.
Fisher and Alan McFall, the school district solicitor, declined to comment for this report.
Reporter Colin McEvoy can be reached at 610-258-7171 or by e-mail at

School district accused of bias. MICHELE VULCANO, DAUGHTER OF EASTON SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER, files discrimination complaint.
By Colin McEvoy The Express-Times
September 17, 2009
The daughter of the Easton Area School Board vice president has filed a discrimination complaint against the district for not allowing her to retain her job as a teacher.
Michele Vulcano, daughter of Pat Vulcano Jr., filed the complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is the first step in a potential lawsuit, school district solicitor Alan McFall said.
Vulcano, 26, was hired last year as a fifth-grade teacher on an emergency certification because she was still working toward her full teaching certification.
The board voted in July not to retain her because she still had not obtained certification.
Vulcano declined to comment through her attorney, Anne Felker.
"Her goal all along has just been to get this matter resolved," Felker said. "She doesn't need or want any attention from the press."
Pat Vulcano Jr. previously said his daughter was considering legal action because the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to offer a "reasonable accommodation" to employees with disabilities.
Jr., who did not respond to a phone message for comment Wednesday, previously said his daughter has a disability that falls under that law. He declined to identify it except to say it is not a physical disability.
John Freund, special counsel for the district, said the EEOC notified the district about the complaint, but did not provide specific details.
It was filed late last month, although McFall said the district only learned about it Monday.
The EEOC will consider the discrimination claim and issue a right-to-sue notice if the commission finds it has merit, McFall said. If the notice is issued, Vulcano could pursue litigation.
McFall said it could take several months before the EEOC makes a determination.
James Ryan, EEOC spokesman, said he could not confirm or deny if a claim has been made.
Reporter Colin McEvoy can be reached at 610-258-7171 or by e-mail at

School board colleagues scold Vulcano. PAT VULCANO JR. REBUKED, while his daughter, Michele Vulcano, gets substitute teaching post.
By Colin McEvoy The Express-Times
September 18, 2009
FORKS TWP. | Easton Area School Board Vice President Pat Jr. has harassed administrators, treated board members disrespectfully and acted in his own self-interests rather than those of the district, the board said Thursday.
Although the school board approved a resolution formally chastising Vulcano for those actions, board President Patricia Fisher said they will take no further punitive actions against him.
"This was just basically to bring out his behavior that was detrimental to the board, and to the community, and to the central administration," Fisher said. "It stops here. It's finished."
At the same meeting, the board voted to hire Vulcano’s daughter as a substitute teacher, only weeks after she filed a discrimination complaint against the district.
Michele Vulcano was hired last year as a fifth-grade teacher on an emergency certification because she was still working toward her full teaching certification.
The board voted in July not to retain her because she still had not obtained certification.
That decision prompted her to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming she has an unspecified disability and they failed to properly accommodate her for it.
District solicitor Alan McFall said that litigation was a separate matter from the substitute teacher position, and the board could not consider it in their decision.
"The district disagrees with Ms. Vulcano with respect to her position that she held last year under an emergency certification," McFall said. "But that's not what's going to be before the board this evening."
Although lacking her full teaching certification, Michele Vulcano holds proper qualifications to work as a substitute teacher, McFall said.
"She is qualified for this position," McFall said. "The board does not have a legal basis to exclude her, and there's no reason to exclude her."
The board voted 8-0 in favor of the hire without discussion. Board member Pam Millen-Eustis was absent.
The resolution condemning Pat Vulcano Jr. said he harassed members of central administration and disrupted their work with personal requests.
"Dr. Vulcano has used his position as a school director to pursue matters in his own self-interest, rather than working toward the interests of the students and school community we serve," the resolution states.
Vulcano said he did not agree with the resolution, but he would not fight it.
"This is in the eyes of the beholder," he said. "(But) I do want to bring everything to a point of peace and harmony, so I'm not going to object to it, even though there are things in here I wouldn't agree with."
The board previously discussed removing Vulcano from his vice president position and taking other punitive measures, sources previously said.
But board members Thursday said they believed the resolution was punishment enough.
Fisher declined to comment on Vulcano’s specific actions. Sources previously told the Express-Times he told administrators he would "raise hell" and "have their jobs" if Michele Vulcano did not retain her full-time teacher position.
Sources said Pat Vulcano promised to cause disruptions among the school district in retaliation, including publicly voicing support for the secretaries during their strike last month.
Reporter Colin McEvoy can be reached at 610-258-7171 or by e-mail at


Tim Pickel said...

The bottom line here is that the Vulcanos view politics as a way of life, not a servitude to the people they represent. Pat has been involved in politics for so long he simply doesn't know any other way of life.

Saying that, it isn't wrong to stay involved in politics a long time if you are being productive. Unfortunately both of the Vulcanos are long past being effective. I believe both of their seats would be put to better use by other people.

Politics in Easton go very deep. The Vulcanos are elected by friends and friends of those friends. With little or no debate before elections, it is virtually impossible to elect good candidates with fresh ideas.

Dennis R. Lieb said...

I don't know what the resolution of these claims by Michele Vulcano have come to. Did she drop her suit or is it still working through the court? Was the part-time position accepted or did she end up in P'Burg, where I thought I read she was interviewing for a job? Did the EASD back off challenging her unemployment claim in exchange for avoiding the discrimination suit? Did Pat accept - in a backhanded kind of way - his rebuke by the board rather than risk being permanently stripped of his authority? What kind of non-physical (i.e. mental/emotional?)disability, which the Vulcano's won't reveal, would be covered under ADA but still allow someone to adequately teach full-time in a public elementary school? I think these are all reasonable questions to be asked by the public that foots the bill for such lunacy.

I know two things for sure:

First, Tim Pickel is absolutely right.

Second, how you come down on these issues has everything to do with credibility and that can only be determined by personal experience with those involved. My most telling experience with Pat Vulcano was his economic "consulting " work for imfamous LV real estate developer Abe Atiyeh...a frequent campaign contributor. Pat spoke at a zoning planning commission meeting in support of Atiyeh's request for the former Marquis theater to sell off part of the parking lot and place new handicapped parking spaces in front of the building, between the facade and the sidewalk.

His reasoning for this deviation from sound practice was that downtown theaters were now magically obsolete. That all future movies would be shown only in suburbia and that, in any event, Easton didn't want more people coming downtown to the theater because it would just mean more cars taking up our parking spaces and more people throwing trash in our gutters.

I kid you not...I was there and heard these words come out of his mouth.

I broke out in such hilarious laughter from my seat that the commission chair asked me to leave the meeting. I said I'd be happy to oblige and that I was the lucky one...they had to stay and listen to this nonsense. A few months later they were back to ask for a parking variance for the spaces they were allowed to sell off. Why? They wanted to rent the building out to someone who wanted to show MOVIES!

You can't make it up.


noel jones said...

I have learned that Michele Vulcano is currently waiting for a "right to sue" letter from the State--it is usually about a one-year process, and although she doesn't have to wait for it to sue us, she will have a stronger legal leg to stand on if she does.

As for why Pat Vulcano is no longer VP--he didn't show up for the meeting when the appointment was to take place (this is covered in the articles in this post)--he was not stripped of anything as threatened, and in fact, beyond a "rebuke" the board was complicit.

The voters were as well, as no one did the work to find a candidate to run against him, and so he was re-elected with no contest.

If we want things to change around here, we have got to start looking NOW for good candidates to run for political offices, no matter how far off they are--it takes time to do it successfully.

Anonymous said...

Many people dont run because they dont want the association. People who do run then get scared off because of the vindictive behaviors as described.

noel jones said...

Anon 8:54--true, but we have to get over it as a community, otherwise those benefitting from the status quo will take us farther and farther down the drain. They can only get away with it as long as we as citizens let them get away with it. There are many more of us than there are of them, but everyone has to wake up at the same time, shake off the apathy and cynicism, and take it back.

There are some newer members on the board who are asking the right questions, doing the right research, and proposing good cuts. It's important to remember that elected board members don't get paid a dime (the administrators, however, get paid quite well) so these newer people are taking a lot of grief for the things the longtime members have and haven't done. Those that accepted the challenge to run for office in this mess need our support at these meetings.

And we need to start looking NOW for good candidates to run in 2011--it takes time to find the right people and convince them to run.

Please, everyone, start thinking now about who you know that might be great candidates (plural) and offer to help them--whether Democrat or Republican--our local government could be turned around in a few short years if we make a concentrated effort as a community.

Anonymous said...

The apathy of this community astounds me. I find it hard to believe that A.) he ran unopposed, and B.) The board took no real action other than a slap on the wrist.
People need to attend these school board meetings and let these folks know we care and that there are consequences.

noel jones said...

Anon 10:27--Amen! But the tide is starting to change...

I hope that everyone will stay in touch with this blog for the next time that a board meeting with regard to this tax hike is announced, so that we can show up in numbers. We had some residents come out and speak up in defense of taxpayers, but taxpayers need to come out and speak up for themselves. Or if a person is not confident speaking up, it's also great just to have people show up to be counted. We've had a couple of residents do this too, and it's great for the people speaking up to have the support of those residents behind them, listening.

Anonymous said...

As a long-time Italian-American resident of the West Ward I find your comparison to the Sopranos quite hurtful and downright unethical. Would you make the same statement about a black-american? A spanish-american? What about the Russian mob?

You constantly speak of affection for the West Ward. Well here's a history lesson. There is good reason why St. Anthony's Church is in the West Ward. Most Italian-American families lived here and many still do like myself.

I am tired of individuals like you who continue to stereotype Italian-Americans -- that's right. As an IA I have never watched that show because of what it stands for. My family and every person in Easton I know of Italian descent have no connections to that group. Anmd by the way, total numbers invoved in that group is less tha 1% of all Italian Americans.

You are disparaging the Vulcano family so you are disparaging me because when they ran for seats that included the West Ward I voted for them. How easy it is for people to sit back and cast the stones. Are you running for the School Board? You want to look for someone. Why not yourself? Why don't you suggest cuts to the budget. If you cut the band you have more than 500 angry parents down your throat. Cut the football team and you have 150 parents down your throat.

In Easton we forget that we have an excellent school district academically, athletically, musically and in many ways. We have a school district that by fifth grade every single student goes to the same school.

The problems in Easton are no different than the problems in many areas. Oh, except the City of Easton where our "recycled" Italian-American Mayor made cuts rather than raise taxes. Maybe we should petition the state to let the mayor oversee the school district like the big cities.

All in all, I do agree with many of the comments you all have made about the school board but remember, Pat Vulcano is one individual and there are 9 votes. And one last item, we are a very small town, people know everyone and most are either related or in some way know the person applying dfor a position. Should we hire all outsiders to teach our children? Judge the individual not their relations.

darkesthour said...

Anon 8:45 you prove the point with your reference to "outsiders." Yes, we should hire outsiders if they are excellent and will be moving here to take their new jobs. What on earth is wrong with that? Its what Easton's administrations, from one decade to the next, have said is their hearts keenest desire: good families to move here. Time to put the money where the mouth is dont you think?

noel jones said...

darkesthour--thanks for addressing the "outsider" comment.

Anon 8:45, i take several issues with your comment:

1. i know many talian-americans in this city that are disgusted with the nepotism and croneyism that plagues our local political scene, and they do not take a reference to the Sopranos as a reference to themselves. the fact that you do, and defend your desire to keep voting them in, is telling. interesting that you find my comparison to the Sopranos "unethical" rather than finding the behavior of Pat Vulcano unethical, in supporting pulling an emergency certificate with his daughter and then reportedly making threats to school district employees for not wanting to re-hire her when she still failed to finish her certification. why are you defending that kind of behavior, and vilifying those who want to clean it up?

2. you say, "In Easton we forget that we have an excellent school district academically..." how is that possible when our high school is in Corrective Action II for its THIRD year, Easton middle school is in Corrective Action I, and Shawnee middle school is in Corrective Action II (1st year)?

3. in answer to your question, i and other residents HAVE been suggesting cuts, not only on this blog, but in person at the school board meetings, and in resident meetings with board members. the first excuse is always that parents will get mad, but what the board forgets is that those parents are also taxpayers--many of whom have taken pay cuts or lost there jobs altogether, so the idea that parents will unilaterally oppose cuts that will stop a tax hike is unrealistic.

4. you say, "we are a very small town, people know everyone and most are either related or in some way know the person applying dfor a position. Should we hire all outsiders to teach our children? Judge the individual not their relations." nepotism and croneyism are the opposite of "judge the individual, not their relations." nepotism is hiring one person over other applicants because they are in your family, not because they are the most qualified applicant. and croneyism is basically looking at anyone who is not in your family or your circle of friends or business partners as "an outsider" when they may well be more qualified for the job.

this is what amazes me about Easton--that the nepotism and croneyism is so entrenched that the politicians involved and the residents that support them don't even have the good sense to PRETEND that they don't support it, they actually DEFEND it. amazing. you need to know that the rest of the civilized world, i.e., "outsiders" finds this shocking when they arrive here, and it's up to the old-timers that are fed-up with it, and the new-comers who are shocked by it, to do what needs to be done to clean this city up and get it running in a fair and ethical way again.

Carinne Buzzuto said...

I feel strongly that “anonymous Italian American West Ward resident” illustrates how out of focus so many people are when it comes to the problems of our town, the state, or the country. With so many obvious issues to focus on I can not believe you would start with, and go on about, a pop culture reference about a HBO story. Since you did, there are a few statements I would like to post in response. I too am Italian American living in the West Ward, as was my father, as was my grandfather. I love having conversations about this fact, not because I think it makes me in any way more important than any of my neighbors, simply because it’s interesting, maybe a bit unique. Since those facts do seem to matter to you, keep them in mind. I too would say “this Volcano story reads a bit like something out of Sopranos”. Also, when a drive by shooting occurred in front of my home I said “I feel like I am in the movie “Menace to Society”, which by the way I was watching at the time. If you know of some awesome Russian Mob shows or movies I should check out, let me know.
I agree with Noel’s response, and 4 major points.
Noel obviously does an amazing job of finding facts, sharing facts, then including her well thought out opinions. I would love to hear facts from anyone else that would prove Volcano's kid was better qualified than the 17 other individuals, etc.. We as a community are fortunate to have a neighbor like Noel with strong advocacy and leadership skills. Although, it’s “Jon Stewart” not “Jon Stuart”. I hope this misspelling is not a statement about Noel’s feelings towards the Jewish American population….
(ps that's a joke for readers who don't already know)