The school board increased superintendent Eileen Shafer’s base salary by 15 percent on Wednesday afternoon.
Board members voted 7-0 to amend Shafer’s contract to increase her base pay from $233,000 to $267,900.
Under the revised employment contract, which runs from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2022, the school board is eliminating Shafer’s merit pay. Under the old arrangement, Shafer had to meet all of the merit goals to earn the $35,000. The revised contract gives her that amount without her having to meet merit goals every year.
Shafer also receives a $1,200 transportation allowance under the revised contract.
“It’s really a pay cut,” said school board president Kenneth Simmons. The resolution making the changes to the contract states Shafer is forfeiting $50,000 in income over the next two years by giving up merit pay, longevity, and annual salary increases.
Simmons, Emanuel Capers, Oshin Castillo, Jonathan Hodges, Manny Martinez, Nakima Redmon, and Corey Teague voted in favor. Vincent Arrington abstained. Joel Ramirez was absent.
Hodges said he voted with “great reluctance.” He had voted against appointing Shafer as superintendent in 2018 because of the questionable search process that led to her selection.
Hodges and Capers said the Board of Education had agreed to make the public aware of all the changes in the revised contract.
“It had to come out before we voted. That has not taken place,” said Hodges.
Simmons explained why the finer details of the revisions were not made public.
“It was a legal concern because it was a personnel matter that actually had not been decided yet,” said Simmons. “If we had released anything it could have actually changed.”
Shafer took office after former state-appointed district superintendent Donnie Evans resigned in 2017. She had been Evans’ deputy. Her tenure as superintendent has been a rocky one. Graduation rates have dropped two years in a row. Academic improvements have been stagnant. And she has filed tenure charges against a popular gym teacher for, among other things, ostensible libel and slander.
The board’s amendment to the contract states the revisions are being made because of “significant progress” that the superintendent has made since taking the district’s top job.
Paterson remains academically one of the lowest performing districts in New Jersey.
The school district was also woefully unprepared when the coronavirus pandemic struck. Schools were closed for three months. Most students lacked computer devices to receive an online education.
Shafer distributed Chromebooks to high school students in late April. Thousands of elementary school students were without devices. The school district is hoping to get every student a device before the start of the new school year.
School board members rejected her request to extend the contract by another year, according to multiple sources.
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