School Superintendent Pay Cap Bill on Gov.’s Desk

first_img“Based on the data we received, it’s questionable if the cap was saving money. But you really don’t knowbecause of the add-ons.” But some local legislators believe that tactic only made the situation less transparent. William O. George, Middletown Township Public Schools superintendent, distributed a set of qualitative and quantitative district goals for the 2018-19 session. Quantitative goals included expense reduction and revenue generation, student growth objectives and personalized student learning initiatives. O’Scanlon was a “yes”vote in the Senate to lift thecap, where the bill passedby a 28-7 margin with fiveabstentions. A bill on Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk could lift the $191,584 cap on superintendent salaries first instituted in 2011 by former Gov. Chris Christie. “We were seeing a lot of qualified candidates going to New York and Pennsylvania, especially if they were already vested in New Jersey’s pension system. They can go out of state and make more money,” DiMaso said in a July 8 interview. “If you’re the superintendent of Jersey City overseeing 30 schools, compared to the superintendent of Brielle who has one, it’s not the same. And that’s a challenge of having one category of superintendent.” Qualitative goals included increased communication and transparency with community members, as well as a commitment to create a personalized learning environment for every student. State Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R-13) serves on the state education committee and said research the committee received depicted northern New Jersey school districts paying between $500 and $750 a day for interim superintendents, in addition to paying search firms to find and vet potential candidates to fill positions. One of those measures includes increased county superintendent powers to nix a contract if a superintendent’s compensation fails to align with districts in the region of a similar size and scope. Sen. Vin Gopal (D-11), who voted “no” in the senate, said those may be issues worth looking into, but lifting the salary cap at this time provides poor optics. “Districts have compensated in other ways,” state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R- 13) said, adding that additional perks like vehicle allowances, top-rate health benefits and merit bonuses are unseen and do not factor into base salary. “North Jersey may havetheir challenges, but liftingthe cap doesn’t send a greatmessage when schools areundergoing funding cuts. Idon’t buy the argument,”Gopal said. Though some state legislators fear lifting the cap could lead to mass renegotiations of superintendent contracts, new restrictions included in the bill aim to keep any potential negotiations in check. DiMaso noted that the school budgets will still be capped at an annual increase of 2 percent, and she urges residents to let their voices be heard. Of the 581 public school superintendents in New Jersey, George is one of 35 who earned a salary exceeding $200,000 this past school year, and is the third-highest paid public school superintendent in Monmouth County behind Long Branch City’s Michael Salvatore and Freehold Regional School District’s Charles Sampson. Under the amended law, bonuses for qualitative goals may not exceed 2.5 percent, while those earned for quantitative goals may not exceed 3.33 percent. Other notable regulations include limits on severance pay and restrictions on merit bonuses for qualitative and quantitative goals met. DiMaso, who was a “yes” in the Assembly vote, said the research also pointed to school principals standing pat rather than seeking an executive position, because it made more financial sense for them to stay in the principal role. The amended bill also intends to limit perks by prohibiting contracts from including provisions or reimbursements that would compensate superintendents for their legally mandated tax, health care, pension and life insurance payments. At the time, it was a measure taken to stem the rising tide of superintendent salaries and generous perks. The state Assembly voted to remove the cap 48-21 and sent it to Murphy for approval. If signed, the bill would deter the state Department of Education from establishing a maximum salary for superintendents, among other directives. Current law includes salary cap exemptions for superintendents of charter schools, districts with career and technical schools, institutes for special education students and those with special needs, as well as districts with enrollment exceeding 10,000 students. Gopal said another option would be to explore a salary system based on district size, which he noted the bill does not do. “If a taxpayer thinks a superintendent is being paid too much, they have an opportunity each year to vote in members of the board of education that will be able represent those concerns.”last_img

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