CHELMSFORD -- Town Manager Paul Cohen has for at least the third straight year received an overall rating from a majority of the Board of Selectmen of consistently exceeding expectations, the highest-ranking category.
In the previous two years, that sentiment has been unanimous. This year, two selectmen who don't always see eye-to-eye with Cohen, Janet Askenburg and Bob Joyce, rated the manager as meeting the expected level of performance, a category lower.
In another meeting this week, the School Committee voted to give Superintendent Frank Tiano a $5,000 performance bonus after his annual review. He was rated as proficient in all four areas scored by the committee, which voted 4-1, with Nicholas DeSilvio against, to award him the bonus.
In a meeting of selectmen last week, Askenburg and Joyce did not give specific criticisms of Cohen's performance. But the two officials have battled to keep spending down and battled with Cohen this spring over his plan to have an unbalanced budget to account for employee retirement costs, with the gap covered later in the year.
Cohen's proposal ultimately passed at Town Meeting.
The three other selectmen -- Chairwoman Pat Wojtas, George Dixon and Matt Hanson -- all rated Cohen, the town manager since 2006, as consistently exceeding expectations.
"There's a level of respect that goes both ways with Paul," Wojtas said, adding that she always gets good feedback on Cohen from department heads when she's in Town Hall.
"He's there every day," Dixon said, mentioning how Cohen recently reached bargaining agreements with unions, improved the town's bond rating and worked with the Legislature to get proposed funding to demolish vacant buildings at what is known as the UMass Lowell west campus.
"He gets the job done," Dixon said.
The board set a series of goals for Cohen for the coming year: to monitor and report on major projects; oversee new grinder pump regulations; explore regional and consolidation initiatives; and implement recommendations on financial offices from the state Department of Revenue.
The board met in a closed-door session with Cohen last week to review his fiscal 2015 compensation, which is dependent on his performance review by the board. The results of that proceeding were not immediately available late Wednesday.
Cohen, who last fall signed a contract extension through June 2017, is paid a salary of $155,215.
Tiano's contract pays him $155,000, with an eligibility of a $5,000 bonus, depending on his review.
The superintendent was lauded for communication, student performance and other areas, but given some criticism for the school district not yet implementing full-day kindergarten.
Board member Barbara Skaar told Tiano she gave him the highest marks for how he handled hazing allegations against some members of the football team last fall.
"You could not have handled that better," she said. "There was no misunderstanding where our school district stood."
"Look around the district, and the only real shortcoming is the shape of some facilities," DeSilvio said. "That's a reflection of the chief executive officer of the company," he said, referring to Tiano.
DeSilvio was the lone School Committee member, however, to vote against giving Tiano the full $5,000 bonus for which he was eligible, because a main goal of instituting full-day kindergarten was not put in place.
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