Club of $200,000-plus earners growing

Club of $200,000-plus earners growing

June 3, 2010  Asbury Park Press

The number of public school administrators paid $200,000 or more increased nearly eight-fold in the last five years, according to new payroll numbers released by the state Department of Education.

As of October, 91 administrators were in the $200,000 club — all higher than the governor's salary of $175,000. The number is up from 12 five years ago.

Most were school superintendents, assistant superintendents and business administrators, according to an Asbury Park Press review of the five years worth of school salary data from the 2005-06 to 2009-10 school years.

While the number of public school administrators and supervisors has held relatively steady over five years, their salaries have increased 13 percent to $1.1 billion, according to a review of the latest state employment data.

That's an average increase of 2.5 percent a year since 2005. Average pay for administrators was $116,800. Teachers had an average pay of $65,600 last year and saw an average 3 percent raise a year.

Toms River resident Victor Antonelli, 70, said such salary increases are too high, especially compared with the salary freezes and incremental increases that have become the norm in the private sector.

"We are in a tough economic environment," Antonelli said. "You can't keep negotiating these types of contracts with 3 percent and 4 percent raises, and expect the taxpayer to pick up the bill. Schools and government have to be run like businesses."

Representatives from the New Jersey Principal and Supervisors Association, and the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Richard G. Bozza, executive director of the school administrators association, said in a blog Thursday on the Newark Star-Ledger's website that "all aspects of local spending need to be evaluated to stem New Jersey's financial crisis, and school administrators' salaries are certainly not off the table."

But he said that "as a percentage of education spending, New Jersey administrative costs are less than those in 41 other states, according to the National Center for Education Statistics."

Superintendents are not tenured, he said, and a board of education can always opt not to renew a contract if they feel the chief school administrator is performing poorly.

The most recent salary list was released this week and shows school titles, salaries and education levels as of Oct. 15, 2009.

Visit, the Press' interactive public records site, and look under "What's New" for the link.

Six of the top salaries were in Monmouth County and one was in Ocean County. The highest paid in the region was Long Branch Superintendent Joseph M. Ferraina at $242,550. Long Branch had 4,890 pupils in 2008-09 school year.

Toms River Regional Superintendent Michael J. Ritacco was paid $231,000. His district had 17,169 pupils in 2008-09.

The highest-paid public school official was Cherry Hill Superintendent David Campbell at $277,392 last year, who oversees 11,470 students.

Beth Auerswald, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education, said the state has not yet looked closely at the issue of school administrator contracts because officials have been focused on the budget, the state's "Race to the Top" application
for federal funds and other issues.

"However, we will get back to looking at the many ways we can control costs," Auerswald said.

She said the department gives guidance to school boards for negotiating administrator contracts. Executive county superintendents must review and authorize all contracts for superintendents and other ranking administrators before they are approved by boards of education.

Other facts from the 2009 data released by the state Department of Education this week, as it compares with five years ago:

9,061 administrators and supervisors were paid a total of $1.1 billion. Their ranks were up 1 percent but their salaries rose 13 percent. Their average pay last year was $116,800.

134,961 nonsupervisory teachers were paid a total of $8.9 billion. Their ranks increased by 4 percent and their collective pay rose 16 percent. Their average salary last year was $65,600.

The average salaries for administrators and supervisors in Monmouth and Ocean counties rose 12 percent and 11 percent, respectively. The average in Monmouth was $117,000 and the average in Ocean was $115,700.

The average teacher pay in Monmouth was $63,800 last year, up 13 percent. The average in Ocean was $59,600, up 13 percent from five years ago.

Essex County has the highest increase in the state, 14 percent, in the number of supervisors. There were 995 last year.

Hudson County handed out the biggest raises to administrators and supervisors. While the number of administrators dropped 16 percent, the average salary rose 19 percent to $131,000, the highest in the state.

Gov. Chris Christie has clashed repeatedly with the New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, calling on teachers to take voluntary
pay freezes. The NJEA has criticized Christie for cutting $800 million in state aid for New Jersey's schools, but Christie has said the cuts are needed to keep the state from going broke.

So far, about 164 out of 600 school districts have accepted pay freezes for the next budget year, which starts July 1, according to the education department.

The salary information showed that 310 administrators make as much — or more than — the governor's $175,000 annual salary. Five years ago, there were 101 who made as much or more than the governor.

Bozza, of the administrators association, said in his column that while many superintendents do make more than Christie, "we concede that the governor is

Assemblyman David Rible, R-Monmouth, introduced legislation in March that would cap the compensation of school administrators at $5,000 less than the salary of the state education commissioner. Commissioner Bret Schundler is paid $141,000 a year, so the top administrator's salary would be $136,000 if the cap were in place today.

The bill is before the Assembly Education Committee.


Below is a list of public school employees in Monmouth and Ocean counties who were paid $200,000 or more last year. All seven are school superintendents. The salaries do not reflect benefits and perks, such as car allowances.

1) $242,550, Joseph M. Ferraina, Long Branch District. Pupils: 4,890.
2) $231,000, Michael J. Ritacco, Toms River Regional District. Pupils: 17,169.
3) $215,000, H. James Wasser, Freehold Regional High School District. Pupils: 11,557.
4) $212,556, Barbara Duncan, Holmdel District. Pupils: 3,339.
5) $210,014, Timothy Nogueira, Monmouth-Ocean Educational Services Commission (special education). Pupils: 85.
6) $207,873, James F. Habel, Wall District. Pupils: 4,273.
7) $200,550, Leonard G. Schnappauf, Shore Regional High School District. Pupils: 706.

Sources: New Jersey Department of Education 2009-2010 salary survey; 2008-09 student enrollments.

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