Robert R. Spillane, who will become the $90,000-a-year superintendent of Fairfax County schools July 1, is being paid $15,000 in consulting fees by the county while he continues as head of Boston's school system.
News of the consulting contract, approved without fanfare by the Fairfax School Board last month, came as a surprise to members of the Boston School Committee, the equivalent of a school board there. Of three members contacted by a reporter last night, one questioned the propriety of the contract, one said he had no objection and a third declined comment until he spoke to Spillane about it.
Spillane will succeed William J. Burkholder, who was offered a $157,000-a-year pay package in an effort to persuade him to postpone retirement plans. Burkholder decided to go ahead and retire amid a public outcry over the amount of that package.
Spillane, 51, was hired by the Fairfax board in February for $90,000 a year and about $20,000 in benefits. Board Chairman Mary E. Collier said Spillane will spend two or three days a week in the county this month and next month, as well as most of June under what she described as a "transitional contract" that will pay him $15,000 for acting as a consultant.
She said the contract, approved unanimously by the board in March, "is in the best interests of Fairfax." But she said Spillane is "working extremely hard in Boston too" and not neglecting his duties there.
Robert E. Frye, another School Board member, said past Fairfax County school superintendents have held consulting jobs on the side and the School Board has hired other consultants who themselves were employed by other school systems.
Spillane, reached by telephone at his home in Boston, said his contract with the county calls for him to consult on employment in key positions -- there are two deputy superintendent jobs vacant, among others -- and "on all major matters between now and July 1."
He said he is using weekends and vacation days, and doing consulting work by telephone with Fairfax County, but still is available at his Boston office and is in "constant contact" with city officials.
He said his contract with Boston allows him to do consulting, writing and lecturing "at my discretion," and Boston School Committee members "haven't read my contract if they're surprised" by his arrangement with Fairfax County. Spillane said he had not told Boston School Committee members about the consulting contract because "there would be no reason for them to know."
Daniel R. Burke, a member of the Boston School Committee, questioned what he described as the "private deal." "I'm hopeful what he's doing is legal," Burke said in a telephone interview. "I question his divided loyalties at this point."
Burke said he is concerned that Spillane is visiting Fairfax during school budget negotiations in Boston, "the most crucial time of the year." He said, "I just want to make sure the kids in Boston has the advantage of his expertise."
The chairman of the Boston School Committee, John Nucci, said he could not comment on the consulting contract until he speaks with Spillane about it.
Kevin A. McCluskey, a Boston School Committee member who described himself as a fan of Spillane's, said it would be "somewhat naive to think that the transition in Fairfax is going to be made between June 30 and July 1." He said he assumed Spillane would spend some time in Fairfax County, and has enough vacation time to do it.