SCI is wrong about school leaders' pay Compensation must attract quality superintendents to jobs without tenure, and it is decided in public. No one is "hiding."

Posted: March 29, 2006

New Jersey got an A in 2004 from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education for preparing students for postsecondary education.

"Over the past decade, New Jersey has improved on its already excellent performance in preparing students to succeed in college," the center said in its report, "Measuring Up 2004: The State Report Card on Higher Education."

Unfortunately, this month's State Commission of Investigation report that is critical of school administrators ignores the achievements of educational leaders in New Jersey.

The report targets salaries and benefits of school administrators, which were negotiated and approved by public boards of education.

It ignores the fact that since tenure for superintendents was eliminated in 1991, the superintendency in New Jersey has destabilized, with frequent turnover the result.

To attract and retain high-quality and effective school leaders in this uncertain environment, school boards have negotiated and approved increased compensation and incentives. In the resulting free-market economy, administrators' salaries are based on what the individual communities can afford.

The state report creates the appearance that school administrations are misleading the public when, in fact, superintendents' contracts have been reviewed, analyzed and compared by all of the state news organizations for at least the last six years. Consider:

The salary and benefits of every school administrator are set forth in the contract of employment between the board of education and the superintendent.

School-administrator contracts are reviewed by board attorneys and board members. Each contract is voted on by the board at a public meeting.

Administrator contracts are public documents that by law are made available upon request to anyone who wishes to see them. Therefore, criticism that administrators "hide" their benefits or receive these benefits in "secret" is unfounded.

Salaries of school administrators are reported in the Fall Report to the state Department of Education in the same format as the salaries of all other certificated school district employees. Each district is required to provide demographic and salary data for every certified staff member. There is no merit to the allegation that administrators withhold this information from the Department of Education.

Many employees of school districts receive benefits packages that are not reported to the Department of Education in the Fall Report. For example, custodians receive overtime pay, teachers receive stipends to be coaches or activity advisers, and other district employees receive payment for unused sick and vacation leave. Therefore, the compensation provided to school administrators is reflective of compensation provided across a school district.

The daily life of the school superintendent includes myriad, complex challenges that would test any executive.

Superintendents manage multimillion-dollar organizations and are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Nothing is more important to administrators than the education and safety of the children entrusted to them.

It is for these reasons that every school board desires to have the most qualified administrator at the helm of its district.

The school district is the focal point of the community and reflects the community's characteristics and values.

New Jersey's public education system has demonstrated that it possesses the leadership to maintain excellence. It also recognizes that we cannot compromise on the quality or efficiency of the individuals charged with leading the system.

The problem in New Jersey is school district governance, not superintendents.

Superintendents welcome the opportunity to work with our elected officials to be part of the solution.

Anne H. Gallagher is director of communications for the New Jersey Association of School Administrators.

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