His objective in promoting service sharing, Sweeney has told the unions, is not to trim the ranks of ordinary municipal workers, but to eliminate surplus administrators — police chiefs, police captains, department directors — who draw the big salaries and benefits…I know I’m being edu-centric here, but Sweeney’s sentiments share a certain similarity with those of Camden Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard. (Check out my column today at WHYY on what Newark could learn from Camden.)
If all else fails, Sweeney said, he has another plan in reserve. He’ll push to lower the 2 percent cap on annual property tax increases to zero. Exceptions still would be allowed for emergencies. He regrets not taking that route when the Legislature and Christie enacted the 2 percent limit.
“How much quicker would we be seeing towns share services, if we had put the cap at zero,” he once told me. “They would have to conform. I thought at the time, ‘You have to be fair and reasonable,’ but now I see towns still refusing to share, or even to look.“I don’t have enough money to run my own government, let alone subsidize government that’s inefficient.”
Like Sweeney, Rouhanifard is focused on surplus administrators who drain disproportionate resources from the fiscally-strapped district. In the “Camden Commitment,” Rouhanifard's proposal for restructuring the system, he remarks that the district's “wasteful spending” is in large part a product of "underutilized schools, overstaffed schools, and disproportionate levels of administrative and support services."
In other words, it’s not just municipalities with “surplus administrators” but also a few school districts.
The State DOE measures ratios of administrators to students. According to the most recent School Performance Reports (just out this week), there are 120 students to every Camden Public Schools administrator. For comparison’s sake, let’s look at Trenton, another Abbott district with a similar enrollment and number of school buildings (and its own set of problems). In Trenton there are 324 students for each administrator.
There are lots of variables in determining the necessary corps of principals, supervisors, directors, and other administrators within a district and, certainly, tenure rules play a part. But shouldn’t this be less arbitrary? Is it one kids per administrator? 300? Is Trenton understaffed? Is Camden overstaffed? There's no formula but you'd think we could come up with some general guidelines.