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Report: NJ Charter Schools Avoiding Salary Limits

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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — While New Jersey’s public schools are facing salary caps for their superintendents, charter schools don’t have the same restrictions.

According to a report in The Record Sunday, some heads of small charter schools earn far more than the limits proposed for public school administrators by Gov. Chris Christie.

For example, the director of Teaneck’s Community Charter School, which has about 300 students, made more than $200,000 in 2009-2010 when salary, bonuses and reimbursement of unused time are factored in.

That’s more than the town’s interim public schools superintendent receives for overseeing seven schools with about 4,500 students.

“It seems somewhat unfair that you’re asking charters and (traditional) publics to compete for the same funds, but the rules are different,” Ardie Walser, president of the township school board, told the newspaper.

Christie’s new formula caps salaries for heads of school districts with less than 250 students at $120,000. The scale increases with the number of students but is capped at $175,000 for superintendents with districts serving more than 3,000 students.

The governor declined to respond to questions from the newspaper about the difference in policy. Christie has indicated he favors the expansion of charter schools in the state. New Jersey currently has 73 charter schools and 23 more are scheduled to open.

Charter schools are publicly funded but operate independently of local school districts. Salary data for the 2009-2010 school year show that overall, charter school salaries are lower than at public schools, the Record reported. Charter school teachers made about 30 percent less than their public school counterparts.

Most administrators make less than $100,000, although 63 surpassed six figures.

Teaneck Community Charter School president Karla Foy said superintendent Rex Shaw’s salary was an anomaly due to the school’s transition to a new building.

“He went above and beyond what senior administrators do in most schools,” Foy told The Record. “Only with his career’s worth of experience would we have ended up where we did.”

Foy said the school’s current principal earns about $123,000.

At Englewood on the Palisades, school director Anthony Barckett testified at a court hearing that he earned over $152,000 in 2009-2010 for what amounted to part-time work.

Many charter school directors aren’t lavishly compensated and must wear many hats, according to Carlos Perez, executive director of the New Jersey Charter School Association. Vincent DeRosa, the founder and principal at the 109-student Classical Academy in Clifton, made $85,490 last year and, in addition to teaching, does minor repairs and other jobs.

“It’s a complex and difficult skill set,” Perez told the newspaper. “And a lot of time it’s personal. Vincent has poured his entire life into this school.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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