The salary cap imposed by Gov. Chris Christie on New Jersey school district superintendent salaries has come to an end, and South Orange-Maplewood could be among hundreds of districts statewide that reconsider their superintendents’ salary package as a result.
As reported by NJSpotlight and other media, the New Jersey Department of Education released new regulations last fall that included “vanquishing” the superintendent salary cap of $175,000 imposed by Gov. Chris Christie in 2011.
According to NJ Spotlight, “Now, most districts — those with 3,000 or more students — will be able to go as high as $191,000, not including extra bonuses for merit and other considerations that could put pay over $200,000.”
Many in the state are excited about this change. It was widely argued that the cap created an “exodus” of superintendent talent, as numerous New Jersey superintendents left the state for more lucrative jobs in neighboring states such as New York and Pennsylvania. A survey by the NJ School Board’s Association in 2014 found that “nearly 100 New Jersey superintendents who had left their jobs as of February 2014 cited the salary cap as a factor.” This included superintendents from South Orange-Maplewood and Millburn. (Former SOMSD Superintendent Brian Osborne told the Wall Street Journal that the cap was a major factor in his decision to leave for a new position — and substantial salary increase — in New Rochelle, NY.)
Earlier this month, the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education met in closed session for its annual evaluation of the superintendent. According to District Director of Strategic Communications Suzanne Turner, all discussions about salary in the district are confidential. “Negotiations are done in executive session,” reported Turner, regarding Superintendent Dr. John Ramos’s salary.
However Turner noted that, “If the Board and the Superintendent negotiate changes to his contract, changes could not go into effect until voted on in an open Board of Education meeting.” Turner also noted that “the contract itself is a public document, once finalized.” Turner also reported that, “As far as I know, the Board is not currently scheduled to vote on any changes at the April Board meeting.”
To be clear, Turner noted that although the Board would not discuss Ramos’s salary in open session, “if there were a new salary, it would be known before the Board voted.” A newly negotiated salary or contract would be placed on the Board meeting agenda as a resolution — so the public would be notified about any such change before it was voted upon.
Ramos started work with the South Orange-Maplewood School District on August 1, 2015, entering a 4-year, 11-month contract (end date: June 30, 2020) which stipulates an annual salary of $177,500 per annum, with the opportunity to earn merit bonuses. See Ramos’ contract here.
(Editor’s Note: As of publication of this story, no agenda has been posted for the regular meeting of the Board of Education on April 24.)