Today’s Star-Ledger reports that the Superintendent of West Winsor/Plainsboro Public Schools (Mercer County), Victoria Kniewel, is leaving in order to avoid a salary cut. Her contract, which sets her salary at $192.6K, expires in two years. Under NJ’s superintendent salary cap, Kniewel would could earn no more than $175K under a new contract. Princeton’s superintendent, Judith Wilson, is also leaving; she makes over $220K, and the salary cap would lop $57K off her annual earnings. (Caps are linked to total enrollment; the more students, the higher the cap.)
The West Windsor School Board president comments that the salary cap interferes with districts’ ability to “attract quality candidates” because other states don’t enforce salary caps. That’s true. But other states don’t have as many school districts as we do; one could argue that NJ’s abundance of central offices — superintendents, business administrators, personnel directors, etc. — leads to redundancy and inefficiency. We can’t pay our superintendents as much as other states because each one is responsible for far fewer students.
It might be interesting to look at the ratio of superintendents to students in other states with high quality schools. Here’s one example: New Jersey has 591 operating districts with a total enrollment of 1.35 million kids. Massachusetts’ highly-regarded school system, by way of comparison, has 244 school districts which educate about 957,000 kids, a far lower ratio.