About 29 percent of school districts statewide changed superintendents during the previous school year, according to a recent report published by the New Jersey Schools Boards Association (NJSBA).
The rate is considered to be the highest turnover in the decade that the NJSBA has been monitoring superintendent employment. A total of 589 school districts were tracked in the report.
According to the NJSBA, retirements accounted for 51 percent of the 170 instances when districts changed superintendents last year. In another 21 percent of the cases, the superintendent moved on to another district. Newly hired superintendents who replaced an interim superintendent accounted for 16 percent of the turnover. Other reasons cited by the report, included superintendents who resigned or died, or a school board agreeing to share superintendents with other districts.
Frank Belluscio, director of communications for the NJSBA, said that the fact that there are more vacancies does not necessarily translate into a "revolving door" with districts, but that there are new superintendents who are just starting out.
"You have to look at individual school districts separately and note the length of time that the chief administrator was in service," explained Belluscio. "There are more applicants seeking superintendent positions who may not have as much experience but are still just as qualified."
Belluscio also said many superintendents may have retired earlier than previously planned due to certain changes in benefits and pension law. New Jersey public employees are now required to pay a greater share toward their pension and health benefits. Another factor is the imposed caps on superintendent salaries by the Christie Administration. Superintendent contracts are capped at $120,000 for small districts under 250 students and go to $175,000 for up to 10,000 students. Salaries for larger districts would be subject to separate rules developed by the state Department of Education.