Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Buyer beware: Superintendent salary caps are a bad a idea.

Hey, I thought Republicans were supposed to be about less government intrusion into our lives! Why on earth does Governor Christie think he knows better than the residents of Ridgewood what goals we expect our superintendent of schools to achieve, and how we should compensate our superintendent for his achievement of those goals? I'm joining a growing number of New Jerseyans in saying, "Back off, big guy."

Superintendent Salary Caps 101. What are they?
Governor Christie has proposed establishing caps on the salaries paid to school superintendents. Seventy percent of superintendents in New Jersey are currently earning more than the proposed caps. In Bergen County 62 superintendents’ salaries exceed the proposed caps.

Christie's capped salaries would be set based on district enrollment. In addition, superintendents could receive non-pensionable merit pay -- as much as 15% of salary -- if he/she achieves goals. This would be a one year increase to the salary. In addition if the district has a high school, the superintendent would receive an additional stipend of $2,500.

The proposed salary caps are:
Student Enrollment..........Maximum Salary
0 – 250 students..........$125,000
251 – 750..........$135,000
751 – 1,500..........$145,000
1,501 – 3,000..........$155,000
3,001 – 6,500..........$165,000
6,501 – 10,000..........$175,000*

*The Commissioner, could also approve, on a case by case basis, a waiver of the maximum salary amount for districts with a total enrollment of 10,000 or more.

Superintendents could also earn $10,000 more for each additional district they supervise.

School boards would not be permitted to increase a superintendent's base pay (for example, with longevity increases) beyond these salary caps. Additionally, no superintendent contract that includes a compensation package above these salary caps could be extended; at its expiration, the new compensation package of the superintendent would need to conform to this new policy.

Click here to view the contract for Ridgewood superintendent Dan Fishbein, which is approx. $40,000 over the cap. Dr. Fishbein has declined his salary increase for the past two years.

Strangely, Governor Christie has stated that this proposal does not need legislative or NJ State Board of Education approval and that it can simply be added to regulations. It would become effective February 7. Wow...if it's that simple, why doesn't he just rewrite all the laws and do away with that pesky representative legislature...or state Board of Education. That would sure streamline things!

What's wrong?
As a taxpayer, I do understand the wish to deal with our state's high property taxes. Really, I do. But as a school board member who has been elected to provide leadership to our school system, I have real concerns about this plan. Here are a few:

1. Some of New Jersey’s most experienced superintendents will choose to resign or retire rather than continue to work at the same job with the same responsibilities for less money. This state is going to experience an exodus of qualified superintendents (and it's already hard enough for districts to fill superintendent positions). As the chairman of one nationwide search firm told the Star-Ledger, "The fact of the matter is the pool of really good superintendents is smaller than the 17,000 school districts across the country. If you want mediocrity, they are out there and will continue to be. But if you want people who will really make a difference, this [caps] will hurt."

2. Some of New Jersey’s superintendents will choose to leave New Jersey, and commute relatively easily to jobs in New York, Connecticut or Pennsylvania. This drain on leadership will have negative consequences for our schools.

3. In some districts, high school principals and district administrators will have higher salaries than superintendents.

4. Why is he only focusing on public school superintendents? What about charter school superintendents? What about private special ed school directors? They both are paid with taxpayer dollars?

5. Over the past few years, superintendents have found their jobs further and further complicated, thanks to dwindling resources, reduced state aid, tax and spending limits, and more. In some, smaller districts, superintendents serve multiple roles, such as principal or special education director. Christie's proposed salaries do not seem to reflect the realities of the job.

6. Minnesota tried capping superintendent salaries to a level that could not exceed that of the governor. After 10 years, leadership had deteriorated so much, the state legislature abolished the law.

6. If you look at the actual list of things for which a Board of Education is statutorily responsible, it's not that long. One of the most important items on the list is hiring, setting goals for, evaluating the performance of, and negotiating compensation for a superintendent. This responsibility should remain in our community, undertaken by members of the community who are elected to do so.

Share your thoughts.
Several people have asked me how they can comment on the proposal to cap superintendent salaries. If you're interested, you can comment in person or in writing:

In-Person Testimony:
Monday, November 29, 2010
6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M.
North Warren Regional High School auditorium, 10 Noe Road, Blairstown, NJ 07825

Thursday, December 2, 2010
6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M.
Cumberland County College Conference and Events Center
3322 College Drive, Vineland, NJ 08362

Tuesday, December 7, 2010
6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M.
Burlington County Institute of Technology
Westampton Campus auditorium
695 Woodlane Road, Westampton, NJ 08060

Written comments by December 31, 2010 to:
Eric Taylor, Director
Office of Statute and Code Review
New Jersey Department of Education
River View Executive Plaza
Building 100, P.O. Box 500
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0500


Anonymous said...

Why not salary caps? The whole system is a government run socialized monopoly. I would think these wage guidelines would be welcome by the PC police. After all, capitalism is bad, and God forbid we actually had a free market in education. That would be ruinous to the Democrat Party and their masters, the teachers' union.

So, yea, I favor wage controls for government employees.

Anonymous said...

If Ridgewood wants to cap a salary, that's their prerogative. To have the governor (political position) inject himself in a BOE matter (non-political body) via the county executive superintendents (political appointments) is just plain wrong. If the Ridgewood's own Village Council voted to cap salaries of BOE employees, it would be illegal.

The reason the governor is going after the supers is because they are not tenured. Notice he isn't going after tenured employees and capping THIER salaries.

Mr. Governor, don't be penny wise and pound foolish. Go after the political appointees who have been given crony appointments that let them score huge pensions for these "jobs".