Remember the Lightbulb Jokes?

There’s no dearth of ink for the ongoing roiling over school superintendent caps in New Jersey. Every paper is featuring it, and now the Wall Street Journal is chiming in. While the case of Superintendent Lee Seitz of Parsippany-Troy Hills is getting all the attention ( 7,200 kids in the district and a $234K salary for Seitz), the Journal also includes a small chart which details some other salaries including:

Maybe the problem is not egregious salaries, nor the rush of school districts to finalize contract extensions before the new caps go into effect on February 7th. (Though on Monday Rochelle Hendricks, Acting Commissioner, sent out a memo to all Executive County Superintendents forbidding them from approving any new contracts over the cap.)

After all, how many superintendents does it take to run a state school system? With a total enrollment of 1,370,000 kids and 591 districts, that’s 2,318 kids per superintendent. Of course it doesn’t work out that neatly. Example: Stockton Boro Public School District, with one K-6 school and a total enrollment of 36 kids, is carefully supervised by a Business Administrator, a Child Study Team Coordinator, and a Superintendent who makes $104,535. This superintendent no doubt works her butt off – she’s also a curriculum coordinator, principal, and building supervisor – but all for 36 kids? How about Beach Haven Boro in Ocean County, with 74 kids and a superintendent who makes $174,645? Or Mendham Boro with 603 kids and a superintendent who makes $198,499?

Our problem isn’t an overpaid superintendent here or there. Our problem is rampant inefficiency due to a disproportionate number of superintendents across the state. Perhaps Gov. Christie believes that the salary caps, and the ensuing shrinkage of competent school leaders (see the last graf of this piece from The Record) will finally force districts to seriously consider consolidation. Sort of a circuitous strategy in a state that seems bent on defending its home rule to the death, but still…

How many superintendents does it take to run New Jersey’s public school system? Many fewer than we have, but the citizenry has to want to change.

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