Trzeszkowski contract on hold; NJ to look at contracts of other school superintendents

By Gregory J. VolpeGANNETT STATE BUREAU

As part of the fallout over the nearly $741,000 buyout package for one outgoing schools superintendent, the state Department of Education will review contracts for schools chiefs in the 31 Abbott districts and has rejected one recently signed in Plainfield, Gov. Corzine announced Wednesday.

Corzine requested a review of superintendents’ contracts after it was reported that outgoing Keansburg Schools Superintendent Barbara A. Trzeszkowski was to receive nearly $741,000 in severance and unused sick and vacation time.

Keansburg Board of Education members said at their meeting Tuesday that her contract is on hold until a compromise deal can be reached. The state is seeking a court injunction to stop the payments that Corzine has called “an outrageous abuse.” The injunction was not filed Wednesday.

Trzeszkowski is set to collect $556,290 in severance pay — calculated by multiplying her monthly salary by the number of years she has worked for the district — and another $184,586 for unused sick and vacation days.

Those payments do not include Trzeszkowski’s state pension pay of $115,600 a year that she earned in 38 years in Keansburg.

Corzine had authorized seeking the court injunction because, he said, the deal seemed inappropriate when dollars for schools are scarce.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Corzine said state Education Commissioner Lucille Davy will review superintendent contracts for the state’s 31 poorest districts, which include Keansburg.

One of those contracts, set to begin July 1, has already been rejected after Union County Superintendent Carmen M. Centuolo learned that Plainfield signed a four-year pact with a new superintendent, Steven Gallon III, without submitting it for review.

“They did not follow the proper procedure in terms of the contract process,” Department of Education spokeswoman Kathryn Forsyth said. “It wasn’t sent to the county superintendent. There was no review.”

State Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, on Wednesday accused Corzine of sleeping at the fiscal switch in overseeing the state’s Abbott districts.

Citing the State Commission of Investigation’s 2006 report “Questionable and Hidden Compensation for Public School Administrators,” Beck said Corzine had failed to take any corrective action since then, adopting, she says, a “hands off” policy.

“Governor Corzine’s shameless posturing in regards to the Keansburg School Superintendent severance package is outrageous,” Beck said in a prepared statement.

Corzine said he was “troubled” by the Plainfield contract, although it remained unclear Wednesday night what exactly was wrong with the contract. A statement from the governor’s office mentioned “questionable provisions” that included travel, meals and lodging, relocation expenses, life insurance and sick leave.

The only specific examples that Forsyth could provide were that the contract didn’t include a recently enacted $15,000 cap on sick leave and included a provision for the board to pay for Gallon’s medical exam even if he chose his own doctor.

Gallon, an educator from Miami whose contract will pay him $198,000 in the first year, said he was reworking the contract so it complies with state law. He said he wasn’t notified that it was rejected Wednesday.

“I’m working with the board to make sure that we’re in compliance with all the provisions of state statute,” Gallon said. “We want to do that so we can get about the business of educating and uplifting the children of Plainfield.”

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