Blood gets merit raise, passes on it …

KEARNY —

Kearny’s top public schools’ administrator is now earning $196,584 for the 2017-2018 school year, as prescribed by a July 17 vote of the Board of Education.

But lest you wonder whether that represents a meteoric rise from the state mandated ceiling for superintendent salaries of Kearny’s size — $167,500 — think again.

First of all, the state legislature in April revised that cap for districts like Kearny to the current pay level now being collected by Schools Superintendent Patricia Blood.

Secondly, under the old state policy, Blood was entitled to a 15% merit pay increase if the board believed she had successfully achieved certain goals she set at the beginning of the school year.

And she was also eligible for annual 2% increases to her salary cap, if the board felt her deserving of that.

For the recently-concluded 2016-2017 school year, the board concluded that Blood managed to accomplish her goals and awarded her the merit pay, which entitled her to an additional $25,000, explained board counsel Ken Lindenfelser.

The merit “bonus” pay then brought Blood’s salary up to $192,500, Lindenfelser said.

So when the board voted July 17 to extend the superintendent’s employment contract, from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2019, her annual base pay has increased by just $4,000, he noted.

Given the district’s budget vulnerability, with the board having opted not to reappoint 12 non-tenured instructors, Blood has agreed with the board to forego the merit increase option along with the option to raise the cap for the 2017-2018 school year, he said.

What the board will do, if anything, for the 2018-2019 school year remains to be seen, Lindenfelser said.

Board member Mercedes Davidson helped assess the board’s position on extending the superintendent’s contract, saying that she and her colleagues were happy with Blood’s leadership and that if they did not renew her appointment, they could lose her to retirement or another district, forcing them to conduct a search for a replacement, ending up with someone new and possibly throwing the district into upheaval.

Thus, the best option for the board, Davidson reasoned, is to stay with the present superintendent.

In other business, the board voted to reappoint two non-tenured teachers, Ashley Sansone and Christine Taylor for their fourth and final renewal, thereby leading to tenure.

Now that the district has been assured of receiving an additional $2.19 million in state aid, it will be up to the board to decide whether to bring back the remaining non-tenured personnel whose contracts have not been renewed.

That decision is anticipated at the Aug. 28 board meeting.

The board, meanwhile, continues to negotiate with the district teachers’ union on a new contract.

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.