FLEMINGTON, NJ - The Flemington-Raritan Regional School District (FRSD) will retain two of its top administrators for another year after their current employment contracts expire June 30.
Assistant Superintendent Daniel Bland and School Business Administrator Stephanie Voorhees, tenured employees who have been with the district for more than a decade, had new one-year contracts officially approved at the June 8 board of education meeting.
Two board members, Chris Walker and Dr. Marianne Kenny, voted in opposition to the contract offered to Voorhees. The contract given to Bland received only consenting votes.
The employment contracts include information on salary, term length, responsibilities, sick leave, vacation, health insurance contributions and insurance protection.
It was about three years ago that the board had discussions about possibly eliminating the assistant superintendent position, held by Bland at the time, and transferring his responsibilities to the assistant principals of each of the district's schools.
At this most recent meeting though, the board didn’t have any public discussions prior to the majority approving the two contracts for Bland and Voorhees, who will be receiving annual salaries of $186,560 and $183,448, respectively, from July 1, 2020, until June 30, 2021.
“It gives me great honor to brag about two fabulous employees,” said Superintendent Dr. Kari McGann in a separate email, in which she proceeded to detail the importance of each of her fellow administrators. “Mrs. Voorhees and Mr. Bland have each served the district for many years. Mr. Bland has served the district since 2006, almost 14 years. Mrs. Voorhees has been with the district since 2003, close to 17 years. Both of these senior-level administrators are key to the success of the Flemington-Raritan Regional School District.”
The board approved Bland’s contract in an 8–0 vote, but Voorhees’ contract received two votes in opposition from board members, Walker and Kenny, both representatives of Raritan Township. Despite their opposition, the business administrator’s contract passed 6-2.
Per district policy, individual board members are not generally authorized to speak on behalf of the board without first collaborating with board leadership.
A board statement was requested from leadership on the contracts of Bland and Voorhees.
“Individual board of education members are fully entitled to their personal votes,” board president Tim Bart and vice president Jessica Abbott said in a statement. “The majority vote, however, becomes the will of the board. The board of education hires only one employee, the superintendent. The superintendent administers the district and is responsible for recommending all other staffing decisions. Our board supports the decision of the superintendent to renew contracts for both Mr. Bland and Mrs. Voorhees.”
McGann could not provide explanation for the personal votes of Walker and Kenny.
“I cannot answer as to why Mr. Walker nor Mrs. Kenny did not vote for the contract of Mrs. Voorhees,” she wrote in an email. “The board of education members are fully entitled to their individual votes. The majority vote, however, becomes the will of the board.”
A request for comment was made to Walker and Kenny through district leadership, per policy, and according to McGann, neither were willing to provide a comment about their vote.
The new contracts are available for viewing on the district website.
Like the previous contracts, these new contracts will renew for another year, unless an alternative contract is offered on Feb. 1, 2021 and discussed prior to Feb. 15, 2021, or, McGann notifies the administrators no later than Feb. 1, 2021, that they will not be offered employment for the succeeding school year.
“It is the practice of most boards to memorialize the terms and conditions of employment for unaffiliated staff on a year-to-year basis,” McGann said. “We often refer to these as renewals even though it is not technically a renewal in the same sense as a non-tenured employee.”
Asked what happens if the majority of the board were to vote down one of these contracts, McGann said, “It’s my understanding that if the majority of the board votes against the annual contract of a tenured employee, the employee would remain in their current position, but their prior contract would control in terms of salary, etc. If a case like this was to happen I would need to consult with legal counsel.”
The administrators cannot terminate their contracts unless they give at least 60 days notice of the intention to resign.
Each administrator received salary bumps in accordance with the board's regular payroll schedule. In their previous contracts, both in effect from July 1, 2019 until June 30, 2020, Bland and Voorhees received annual salaries of $182,901 and $179,851, respectively.
Administration salaries and benefits have risen in costs to the district per capita over the last several years. In the 2017-2018 budget, the costs were $1,586 per student, as opposed to $1,712 per student in the recently approved school year 2020-2021 budget, which doesn’t presently factor in the hikes to these two administrators’ salaries in these newly approved contracts.
As business administrator, Voorhees is a leader in the preparation of the annual school budget, according to McGann.
“As a school district that lost over $356,000 in state aid for 2018-2019 year, and over $230,000 in the 2019-2020 school year, Mrs. Voorhees has provided excellent support,” McGann said. “During the 2018-2019 school year, Mrs. Voorhees made the recommendation to quickly transfer the amount of unassigned general fund surplus budgeted to address the emergent condition of needing to offset the reduction to the 2018-2019 state aid to maintain a thorough and efficient education. Her knowledge of general fund tax levy and experience in using unassigned general fund surplus to maintain budgeted appropriations supported the district exceptionally.”
McGann also described the value of Voorhees during the summer of 2018 when the district “was faced with a dilemma that could have become quite a nightmare.”
“The quick thinking of Mrs. Voorhees to declare an emergency with our facilities allowed the district to move quickly to address indoor air qualities in a building,” McGann said. “For three weeks, Mrs. Voorhees worked collaboratively with me to address indoor air qualities in all six buildings in our district so that all schools could be successfully reopened to staff and students. Mrs. Voorhees' financial leadership allowed us to make no financial cuts to staffing or programs and to deal effectively with the challenges. Due to her diligence, we were able to recover over $600,000 through insurance.”
With challenges revolving around indoor air quality, McGann added that Voorhees assisted her to successfully pass a $42 million referendum to address safety and security and structural improvements, and install HVAC in the district buildings.
As assistant superintendent, Bland provides leadership for all of the district's instructional programs and school services, McGann noted.
“He is second in command when I am off-campus,” she said. “He develops our multi-year plan for curriculum development, materials adoption and professional learning that takes place so that Flemington-Raritan Regional School District aligns with all state and federal regulations. Mr. Bland's experience in curriculum and instruction is second to none. He is a vault of knowledge about all that involves teaching and learning. He participates in the selection and recommendation of all instructional materials. He is responsible for collaborating with all of our principals to ensure consistency and equity in student scheduling and the allocation of instructional time.”
“Most recently, Mr. Bland helped to lead the district's Equity Committee, which focused on equality, opportunity and equal access for all students,” McGann said. “He provides updates to the board of education on enrollment and capacity, which serve to support the critical decisions for our yearly budget.”
She added that “this email fails to recognize the curriculum budget, curriculum day planning, the Gifted and Talented program, Intervention program, Honors eighth grade ELA program, Gifted & Talented math programs, along with a host of others that I haven’t even mentioned. There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not assisted by the leadership Mr. Bland provides the district.”