With her promotion last month to permanent school superintendent, Dr. Norma Fernandez has received a $60 thousand bump in pay.
Fernandez’s new salary of $245 thousand represents a near 32 percent pay increase over her previous salary of $185 thousand, which had carried over from her previous title of deputy superintendent.
In an email to the Jersey City Times, Board of Ed Co-Vice President Natalia Ioffe said the salary was justified. “While Jersey City is the second largest school district in NJ and the second largest city, the JCPS Superintendent is certainly not the highest paid, despite having stellar credentials and decades of experience and knowledge of the complexities of an urban school district.”
One board member and several members of the public, including former board president Mussab Ali, lamented the fact that the board had not undertaken a national search before giving Fernandez the job. Other speakers, including Jersey City Education Association President Ron Greco, enthusiastically supported her. In the end, the vote was 8-0 (with an abstention) in favor of her appointment.
Fernandez had been serving as acting superintendent since the January retirement of her predecessor, Franklin Walker. Walker was also paid $245 thousand.
Fernandez’s salary is fairly typical. While the average superintendent salary in New Jersey is $181 thousand, large districts are paid substantially more. Roger Leon, superintendent of the larger Newark Public Schools earns $290 thousand. Eileen Shafer of the smaller Paterson Public Schools earns $268 thousand.
Several superintendents of much smaller and more affluent districts earn as much as Fernandez. For instance, Superintendent David Miceli of New Providence Schools, which is comprised of 4 schools with fewer than three thousand total students, earns $248 thousand. Superintendent David Aderhold of West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District, with one third of Jersey City’s enrollment, earns $256 thousand.
Often, school Superintendents out-earn chief executives. Both Mayor Steven Fulop and Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise earn $176,127 but manage substantially smaller budgets than that of the Jersey City Schools.
Despite what appears to be a salary that is within a normal range, Fernandez’s compensation may give Fulop ammunition in his very public battle with the Board of Education over spending and tax increases.
In a recent letter to homeowners, Fulop cast the blame for recent tax increases squarely at the feet of the Board. “The Board of Education continues to rely on raising taxes rather than taking responsibility to fix their budget without impacting classrooms” he wrote.
In fact, increases in the school budget and property taxes have largely been driven by massive reductions in state aid and spending necessary to comply with the state’s mandate to provide an “adequate” education to students.
Ioffe makes no apologies. “As Dr. Norma Fernandez successfully met as well as exceeded expectations in all areas of the professional standards in the potential search criteria, I firmly stand by the board’s collaborative decision to appoint Dr. Norma Fernandez as the Superintendent of Jersey City Public Schools. It was a decision made with a careful consideration of time and budgetary constraints.”