BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - In a 6-2 vote, the Berkeley Heights Board of Education, on Thursday night, voted to send the state written opposition to the school superintendent salary cap proposed by Governor Chris Christie. The document, proposed by Board Member Mary Ann Walsh, and compiled largely from other boards’ letters on the same issue, stems from a July 15, 2010 announcement by Gov. Christie, of a reform proposal to cap school superintendents’ base pay. The cap would be based on a sliding scale determined by the state with the maximum based on the number of students enrolled in the district. The state would also define the quantitative and qualitative merit criteria used in evaluating a superintendent’s performance.
“These limits are based simply on enrollment, and I could not allow political decisions in Trenton to determine what we spend in our district,” Walsh said.
“It’s asking our superintendent never ever to get a raise, because it’s a cap,” said Board Member Helen Kirsch.
Not all members were in such favor of the opposition. Doug Reinstein agreed with it in principle, but expressed his concern over some of the wording. One line stated that Gov. Christie’s proposal “arbitrarily compared and set the compensation of career educators to that of his [Christie’s] statutory elected official’s salary.”
“I’m uncomfortable with that statement,” Reinstein said, “because I believe it’s less factual than the others. I don’t know that he said that,”
Board President Paul Beisser expressed outright disapproval of the opposition and was joined in offering a dissenting vote by member Denis Smalley.
“The Governor is taking a stab at reducing taxes across the state, and I agree with the Governor,” Beisser said. “Pay should be tied to the number of students in the district and a state-approved list of performance criteria.”
The board considered taking time between the evening’s meeting and one scheduled for early December to change the document’s contentious wording, but it was decided to make changes during the meeting when Board Members explained the importance of getting the letter in sooner rather than later.
“It does for the most part state what I want it to state,” Walsh said. “If we get it out there with a few changes made, it’s better to have it out there when people are looking at it.”
Reinstein agreed. “I could probably support it if some of those items were removed,” he said.
The few changes the board made during the meeting to the document’s wording were enough to make it acceptable to most. The Board approved the resolution and it will now be sent to Trenton.