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Montgomery Township
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Monday March 19, 2018


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Residents Seek Rationale For Superintendent's Contract

The Montgomery Board of Education debated a proposed raise for Superintendent of Schools Nancy Gartenberg, the timing of an amendment to her contract, and the availability of information for parents and community members.

Gartenberg is currently under contract for three years, until the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Her annual pay at the time of hire in 2012-2013 and continuing to now is $167,500, including a $2,500 stipend and base salary of $165,000. The maximum allowable compensation for Gartenberg is $191,584 including a $5,000 stipend for districts that include a high school. In prior years the stipend for high schools was $2,500.

The school board weighed a change to the existing contract to increase base pay to $182,174, an increase of approximately 12%.

Board President Rick Cavalli presented a slideshow with explained a proposal of 15% of Gartenberg's pay due under an amended contract as "merit pay" bonus due if she meets the board's set goals for her. The Executive Somerset County superintendent would have to approve those goals and the completion of those goals before merit pay can be paid.

Of the merit pay amount, goals were broken into three quantitative goals for 3.3% each and two qualitative goals of 2.5% apiece.

"Nancy wants to align her interests to what the district wants to achieve," Cavalli said.

The superintendent is also subject to another 2% of their salary in annual performance incentives after their initial year in the district. Cavalli describes this as an amount the state allocated for increased cost of living over time.

If Gartenberg had received raises in each of her first few years in MTSD, her salary now would be $196,000. The proposed raise now was under that salary.

School board attorney Chris Fogarty said the school board undertook a comprehensive and possibly "exhaustive process" for amending Gartenberg's contract at a time when conditions within state law have changed the superintendent contract structure.

"The issue for us this evening is one of salary. There is a sunset provision in the fiscal accountability of salary restrictions that went into effect in 2011; it had a sunset provision for November 2016. Ultimately the State Commissioner of Education was delegated with the authority to amend those accountability regulations. Salaries and caps that were based on student enrollment and certain tiers will raise based on revisions implemented by the commissioner. Superintendents are free to approach their boards of education for an amendment to an existing contract or to tear that up, extend the term and give them a new contract," Fogarty said.

Parent Bindu Verma said performance is the key, and the district's spot in recent rankings are not up to the standards set in the early 2000's. Based on rankings Verma observes, the superintendent's not due a raise now.

"I Googled a bit and it appears the district ranking has fallen consistently over the last 5 years. As the layperson that's how I gauge performance, so I wonder what the school board did to gauge performance? The township has 40% a makeup of Asian and Indian ethnicities but in this room we do not have 40% representation. When Nancy first came here she started something to include these communities more, so what happened? Market analytics suggest each individual has a market worth, I still don't understand with the figures presented what she is walking away with and why we're giving her a raise. That raise should better be spread among our teachers. I know Montgomery lost some talented staff members because we didn't compensate them enough," she told the school board on November 7.

Alan Wirsul of Belle Mead pointed out in all, there were four missing board members of the nine total. He said "in the ultimate analysis, the new school board coming on in January are the people who should make the decision."

Jessica and Raman Kia of Belle Mead wanted to see more about the long-term school district planning prior to Gartenberg's contract being addressed or approved.
Raman Kia questioned investments in security lacking for Montgomery's Strategic Plan.
The Board's Operations, Facilities and Finance (OFF) Committee requested $95,000 upfront for a new districtwide phone system.

Later, Cavalli told residents he can think of nothing more in line with the democratic process than the public hearing on election night.

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