CHATHAM, NJ - In a 4-2 vote the Chatham Board of Education approved a resolution on Monday night to oppose New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's proposal to cap the salaries of public school superintendents. All board members except for Alan Routh and Al Burgunder voted in favor of the resolution.
Christie's proposal would limit the amount of salary a superintendent can earn based on the size of the district in which they work. However, at Monday's Board of Education meeting, many board members and Superintendent of the School District of the Chathams, Jim O'Neill, said that they were opposed to Christie's proposal because they believe superintendents should be offered high, competitive salaries to provide the best quality of education for their specific district.
In fact, many districts around the state have passed similar resolutions based on that reasoning. "Many towns are saying that the superintendent's contract should be between their board of education and their superintendent. The state should not supersede this," O'Neill said.
Board member Routh said that the resolution does not recognize the difficult budget constraints that the state is going through and will continue to face in years to come. "New Jersey...is unsustainable. It has the highest taxes in the United States," Routh said. "The biggest part of the state budget is education...and something has to be done to bring the taxes down." He also mentioned that salary raises, including those of a superintendent, must be kept under control.
Although the board plans to draft a letter, based on its passage of the resolution, and send it to Christie's office, some members questioned whether it will make a difference in the governor's decisionmaking process regarding mandating a cap on superintendent salaries. Routh and Burgunder also said that the resolution, as drafted, was not direct and strong enough to get the attention of those in Trenton. "As it is written now, this will go straight to the trash bin," Routh said.
Routh even offered to draft a new resolution with more succinct and detailed language so that the board does not waste time in sending its current resolution to the Governor. However, since the majority of the board voted in favor of the resolution, the draft, as currently written, will be sent to Christie's office as is.
Before the discussion ended board member Richard Connor said that Chatham was making a statement by sending this resolution, regardless of whether it will be ignored or not. He said that this issue was about the district standing up against a proposal with which it does not agree. "You don't take a position just because you're going to win...[you do it because] you think that's what's right" Connor said.