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Karcher/Turner Bill To Require Public Notice Of School Administrator Contracts Passes Committee

TRENTON – Proposed legislation sponsored by Senator Ellen Karcher and Shirley Turner that would require a 30 day public notice before any action could be taken on the contract of a school district administrator was passed by the Senate Education Committee today.

“As New Jersey grapples with perennial budget shortfalls and local property taxes soar through the roof, we need to have public transparency over all government expenses, including school administrator compensation,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “In NJ, we need to ensure that all contract negotiations happen in the light of public scrutiny, and that we negotiate the best deals for taxpayers.”

The bill, S-1876, would prohibit a board of education approving an initial employment contract or renegotiating, extending, amending, or otherwise altering the terms of a contract with a superintendent of schools, assistant superintendent of schools, or school business administrator, unless notice is provided to the public at least 30 days prior to the scheduled action by the board.

“Highly qualified school administrators play a critical role in making our schools the best they can be and they deserve to be fairly compensated for their expertise and time,” added Senator Turner, D-Mercer and Chair of the Committee. “Right now, school boards can be very secretive with these contracts, adding them at the last minute to personnel meetings that are closed to the public. Contracts can be approved before the public even knew they were being considered.”

Prior to the scheduled action, the board would be required to disclose the terms of the proposed employment contract, including the duration of the contract and all forms of compensation provided for under the contract, the annualized cost of all benefits provided, and any benefits provided for in the proposed employment contract which are to be conferred after or upon the official’s separation from the school district.

Additionally, any amendment or extension of the terms of a contract with a superintendent of schools, assistant superintendent of schools, or school business administrator would require a public hearing with at least ten days notice in addition to the 30 days notice before action is taken.

“Too often school boards approve these contracts without public input or even public knowledge,” explained Senator Turner. “There needs to be more public scrutiny of these contracts. There needs to be more accountability of board members.”

The Committee also heard testimony on S-1878, sponsored by Senators Karcher and Turner. The bill would establish standards for School Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, and Business Administrator contracts that would outline expected job responsibilities, reasonable compensation and benefits rates, and guidelines for acceptable reimbursements for job-related expenses. The standards would be developed by the NJ Department of Education in consultation with the NJ Association of School Administrators, the NJ Association of School Business Officials, and the NJ School Boards Association. Additionally, the bill would require all school districts to submit future administrator employment contracts to the NJ DOE for a compliance check with those standards.