Teaching Profession

Jumbo Payout Gets Fierce N.J. Backlash

By Mary C. Breaden — June 10, 2008 1 min read
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The retirement package was generous, to say the least: more than $500,000 to the longtime superintendent of a New Jersey school district that was deemed to have “special needs” by the state department of education because it has so many low-income students.

The repercussions continue, as state officials from Gov. Jon Corzine on down demand to know about the payout by the Keansburg school district—and to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen elsewhere.

At the center of the controversy is Barbara Trzeszkowski, who served for nearly 40 years as the head of the 1,800-student Keansburg district. When she leaves the four-school district June 30, Ms. Trzeszkowski is to receive a $556,000 severance package and an additional $185,000 for years of unused sick and vacation time under the terms of her contract. Her current salary is $173,000.

The package touched a nerve in New Jersey, where legislators last year passed a law setting limits on excessive spending.

Gov. Corzine, a Democrat, issued a statement condemning the bonus as “contrary to any reasonable public policy.”

Late last month, state Attorney General Ann Milgrim and Commissioner of Education Lucille Davy sued to void the severance package, though not the vacation or sick-leave time. Ms. Davy also vowed to review the contracts of all the state’s 560 district superintendents.

Neither Ms. Trzeszkowski nor Keansburg school officials responded to a request for comment from Education Week.

The New Jersey Department of Education already has been seeking greater accountability for what it sees as excessive spending, said Kathryn Forsyth, the department’s director of public information.

Commissioner Davy has asked the 6,500-student Plainfield district to rewrite the contract of its new superintendent, for example.

But Ms. Forsyth does not expect the statewide review to take very long or to turn up situations similar to Keansburg’s.

“That was the face of excessive spending and was not the norm,” she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the June 11, 2008 edition of Education Week

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