Request for heat irked Schenectady School District officials

Tuesday, August 2, 2011
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— Steven Raucci appeared offended. Teacher Edward Pfeifer just wanted heat for his classroom. And Superintendent Eric Ely eventually grew tired of Pfeifer’s “spewing.”

It was all included in a series of emails concerning heating problems at the Career Center at Steinmetz from December 2007 and January 2008.

The email exchange marks another example of heating problems involving former school district Facilities Manager Raucci, but also shows an uncharacteristically strong response from the teacher trying to get heat.

Raucci, 62, was convicted in April 2010 of first-degree arson and 17 other counts, accused of retaliating against those who crossed him.

The exchange began Dec. 14, 2007, with Pfeifer writing six administrators, including Ely, but not Raucci, about the temperature in his room at Steinmetz being 62 degrees that morning at 7:40.

The temperature also hadn’t been over 62 degrees since Thanksgiving, more than two weeks earlier, he said. Administrators and maintenance staff had toured the building, but none had been to Pfeifer’s room to check there, he wrote.

“One question — how hard would it be for someone from maintenance to actually come to this room and adjust, correct or fix the thermostat?” Pfeifer wrote, “If that’s the problem — who knows — no one from maintenance has ever checked it.”

Pfeifer added he had ailments that he believed were affected by the chill.

That afternoon, Raucci responded to the group in his own email, addressing Steinmetz Principal Gregory Fields.

“If there was such a thing as an out of body experience, then I am experiencing it right now,” Raucci wrote.

Raucci wrote he was continually amazed that such problems never get sent to the people who could solved them, his office. “Allow me to respond for the first time,” he wrote.

If the temperature had been what Pfeifer said, Raucci wrote, “shame on Mr. Pfeifer for not contacting the building principal immediately.”

“As for Mr. Pfeifer’s email regarding his illnesses,” Raucci wrote, “I’m no doctor, but I do know that ailments that he describes are all virus related. You can’t get sick from a room temperature, but I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinion even if it’s incorrect.”

Raucci sent that email just after 3 p.m. that Friday. Pfeifer apparently didn’t get it until Monday, responding just after noon.

Pfeifer’s response, sent to the same group that included Ely, got right to the point. The teacher also called Raucci out for the email, and for not simply just fixing the problem.

“Is this reply personal ?” Pfeifer wrote. “Why not just send someone over to fix the heat ? Why send an email of this tone ?”

Pfeifer then told of going through the chain of command with his problem, because that was what he had been told in his 32 years in the district.

Also, Pfeifer wrote, he had emails with that chain of command going back to before Thanksgiving and he had been told Raucci was made aware of the problem.

If there were maintenance crews there to fix the heat, then they should have asked where the problems were, Pfeifer wrote to Raucci.

Regarding the illnesses, Pfeifer clarified.

“Perhaps you should read my email more closely — I never said I got sick — due to lack of heat — but the cold certainly added to my discomfort to say nothing of the students that have been sitting in the cold for over 6 weeks.”

But, just over a month later, on Jan. 25, Pfeifer writes the same group of administrators again, without Raucci.

The heating problems at Steinmetz had not been completely resolved. Classroom heat had improved, but it was still cold in the morning. It was 60 to 63 degrees in his room at 7:30 a.m. He’d also been reporting temperatures to the office for two months.

He also wrote about a lack of shades for windows, screens and bird droppings covering the windows.

Ely responds, not to Pfeifer, but to Fields and Gary Comley, and copying assistant superintendent Michael San Angelo and Raucci. Ely also apparently took Pfeifer’s letter to reference union involvement.

“I am not interested in Mr. Pfeifer’s spewing anymore … this situation has been and will continue to be addressed by the facilities department. I don’t see this as a union issue.”

Raucci responded commending Ely for a “nice straight forward answer.”

“For the record I am finished with my email correspondence regarding this matter,” Raucci wrote. “Should anyone from here on have a problem with this issue, I am ready to take whatever steps necessary in the direction they proceed in.”

The school district is making Raucci’s e-mails available under the terms of an out-of-court settlement with The Daily Gazette and the Times Union. The public is not allowed direct access to the documents, but reporters are allowed to make copies with handheld scanners for three months. There are more than 11,000 pages.

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August 2, 2011
8:20 a.m.
justapto says...

Our hard earned tax dollars at work protecting and teaching our children.
And for all this great professionalism from the school administration: our taxes go up and the ratings go down.
Fire every one involved with Raucci!

August 2, 2011
9:47 a.m.
fjcjr says...

Clearly our Board President and Eric Ely were lying when they said they had no knowledge of what Raucci was doing, as evidenced by all the emails. Raucci is in jail where he belongs, but what about the the other players? In the end, they can go on with their lives, and the Schenectady taxpayers will be left to pay for all of their misdeeds. I'm surprised that these two can't be charged with some crime.

August 2, 2011
10:44 p.m.
msmanna says...

i will help scan them...i am from massachusetts and live in the district that ely now works...residents in this town need to know what this man is all about...tell me when and I will make it a point to come to Schenectady to help with the scanning! BTW...I just subscribed to the paper today after a concerned citizen has forwarded me many articles on Ely over the last year...I am so glad I did as was able to see with my own eyes the emails and read other articles.


August 2, 2011
10:51 p.m.
msmanna says...

oops...missed the part where you have to be a reporter to scan them in...

I will say this, I am very concerned about my district after reading the many articles and some of the emails. Our district is on probation, and I do not see Ely getting us out of it either...we will go backwards. I have also started hearing stories from people around town...not good.

I am happy for all of you that you are on the road to recovery though. I read an article about the school is amazing what happens when you get honest people working for the citizens...

August 5, 2011
3:11 p.m.
robbump says...

msmanna: so glad that someone in the area where that sob now got a job is on top of this. He should never have gotten another job in school administration.

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