DOE Issues New Guidance on Content of Administrator Contracts
In its Broadcast email of February 5, 2013, the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) released a new “Q and A” document which “includes frequently-asked questions about the development, review and approval of administrator contracts pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:7-8(j) and the Department’s regulations at N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-3.1.” In addition to a new “Q and A,” the DOE released several other documents related to administrator contracts. All of these documents are to be used as guidance when undertaking the process for review and approval of contracts for superintendents, deputy superintendents, assistant superintendents, and school business administrators.
Included among the documents released is a “Merit Goal Submission Form” for use in having merit bonus criteria approved by the Executive County Superintendent (ECS). Included in this form is a statement as to what evidence will be used as proof of completion of the goal. Also included in the release are “Sample Merit Goals for Superintendents” and “Sample Merit Goals for Business Administrators.” While a relatively large number of sample merit goals for superintendents have been circulated informally in the past, this document contains only three qualitative goals that it lists as “examples.” There is nothing in the document to indicate that these goals must be used.
However, the sample qualitative and quantitative merit goals for business administrators are new. While there is no statement in N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-3.1(e)10, 11 and 12 that limits the merit bonuses only to superintendents, there is also nothing in the regulations that places caps on the salaries of business administrators based on student enrollment. While the regulation likewise does not prevent assistant superintendents and deputy superintendents (who are also not subject to salary caps) from having merit goals, the DOE did not issue sample merit goals for them.
Upon review of the Q and A, administrators will note that much of its contents are similar to the prior Q and A, dated 7/2011. Some of the changes memorialize procedures that have evolved as the practice of various ECSs when approving administrator contracts, including the requirement that a board now provide a detailed statement that sets forth the total cost of an administrator contract for each year. However, there are some notable differences.
For the first time, the DOE has attempted to provide a standardized guidance on how it will address the comparability of salaries, benefits, and emoluments of contracts of administrators. Previously, while there was mention of comparability in the regulations, there was no standardized method for addressing this issue, and administrators found that how comparability was addressed varied by county. Under the current Q and A, ECSs should address comparability, and ensure that “contracts for each class of administrative position shall be comparable with salary, benefits, and other emoluments contained in the contracts of similarly credentialed and experienced administrators in the other districts in the region (region is defined as county) with similar enrollment, academic achievement levels, challenges and grade spans.” It is significant to note that this language is not an exact quote from N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-3.1(e)1, and nowhere in the regulation is “region” defined. While this definition of region has been followed informally in many counties throughout the state, this question memorializes that definition. In addition, it is now clear that it is up to the individual, who is seeking ECS approval for a contract, to supply documentation to determine comparability. It is the ECS’s role to validate the accuracy of the data.
Another new addition to this Q and A is a question addressing the payment to a superintendent who is mentoring an individual. The DOE notes: “[i]f mentoring is part of the superintendent’s duties in the district in which he/she is superintendent, payment can be provided and stated in the contract, as long as the amount of the payment does not impact the maximum salary amount.” The amount must be included in the cost statement provided to the ECS. The DOE further notes that the Board is permitted to pay for the mentor for a superintendent, deputy superintendent, assistant superintendent, or school business administrator. Based on the above, it would appear that a superintendent can be paid to mentor individuals who work in other school districts without limitation. However, when a superintendent is mentoring an individual within his/her own district, pay for that activity may be limited by the maximum salary amounts.The above is only a brief overview of the eight documents released in the DOE’s email of February 5, 2013. It is imperative that all administrators familiarize themselves with their contents.As always, any administrator with questions about the content of these documents, and how that content applies to his/her own circumstances, should contact the NJASA Legal Department, or his/her own attorney, for individualized assistance.
 DOE Weekly Broadcast email, February 5, 2013. The Q and A itself is dated “1/2013.”
 . Q and A, Question 5 (January 2013).
 Id. at question 18 (emphasis added).
 Id. at question 19.
 Id. at question 55 (emphasis added).
 Id. at question 56.