An Open Letter Regarding the Superintendent's Contract

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At its August 30 meeting, the Metuchen Board of Education approved a job description for the Superintendent search.  The document that was approved, known as Policy 1230, could commit our district to a path of low expectations.  This becomes clear after a review of the current Superintendent's contract. 

To paraphrase, on page 2, Article II, the contract says that the duties of the Superintendent shall be consistent with Board Policy 1230 and that any changes can only be made at the discretion of the Superintendent.  In other words, according to the present contract, if the duty is not in policy 1230--the job description--then the Board can't make the Superintendent do it.

The public has consistently asked that the job description include a track record of quantifiable measures of academic improvement.  When I ask for that, I specifically want to see improvement in generally accepted metrics from the New Jersey School Report Card, for example, the four-year college attendance rate of MHS graduates.  In 2010, Metuchen was the worst district of its kind in New Jersey at getting kids into four-year colleges--48th of 48 "I" Districts--so anyone who cares about getting their children into a four year college should be concerned.  And while our four-year attendance rate has historically fluctuated between 62-74 percent, we have never set a goal to achieve the average level of other I districts, which is 80%.

In response to an ongoing dialogue with the public at meetings, the Board has commendably acknowledged the importance of academic achievement being added to the job description.  But without specifying in the job description that candidates need to have demonstrated academic improvement according to accepted measures, they will not achieve the improvements in performance that are so needed.  As the legendary business writer Peter Drucker said, "What gets measured gets managed."

I am concerned that, with the approval of Policy 1230, the Board may fall into the same trap of giving the new Superintendent a contract that doesn't spell out our needs and leaves us exposed.  To correct this, I hope the Board will include in the Superintendent's contract specific measures used by the NJ Department of Education, including a requirement to improve four-year college attendance rates.  It would be awful to have wasted the taxpayers' money, and worse, left our kids at a disadvantage compared to students from our peer districts in the State.

David Liss

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