The Jersey City Board of Education has approved four changes to the contract offered to incoming schools superintendent Dr. Marcia Lyles, changes that were needed to win the support of four board members who refused to approve the contract on Aug. 15.
The school board still must officially ratify the full contract, which can only be done after Lyles and Hudson County education officials have approved the revised agreement.
The changes made at a special meeting of the board held on Aug. 22 included adding a termination of employment clause; revised dates for when the board will consider merit pay for Lyles; and clarification of language regarding performance criteria and when Lyles can make use of the school board attorney.
In addition, one aspect of Lyles’ job description which had to do with her ability to set certain policies was removed.
The resolution approving these changes passed the school board by a vote of 8-0. One seat on the nine member school board is currently vacant.
‘I hope to be able to put this on the agenda [this] week.’ – Suzanne Mack
“I hope to be able to put this on the agenda [this] week for our next board meeting,” said Board of Education Chairwoman Suzanne Mack. “If we can do that, then Dr. Lyles will start the day after Labor Day.”
The Board of Education’s next regularly scheduled monthly meeting is set for Thursday, Aug. 30 at 6 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. School, at 886 Bergen Ave. The 2012-2013 school year begins September 5.
“I am excited by the progress the board made in last night’s session,” said School Trustee Sangeeta Ranade the day after the board agreed on the revisions. “The resolution that passed unanimously demonstrates broad support for this contract from the board members. I hope this support translates into a unanimous vote to bring [Dr. Lyles] to Jersey City as our superintendent. It will show her that we value the experience she brings and show the special interests that there is a united front to focus on students.”
‘No fiscal impact’
Lyles had hoped to start her new job on Aug. 20. But two weeks ago, the eight current members of the school board failed to adopt the contract offered to Lyles by a split vote of 4-4.
The four board members who voted against the original contract – Marilyn Roman, Vidya Gangadin, Sterling Waterman, and Angel Valentin – questioned why the agreement did not include detailed “grounds for termination” and did not spell out goals and objectives the board expected Lyles to meet. At the time, these four board members also called language in the contract “vague.”
Some board members also questioned Lyles’ benefits package. Lyles is set to receive an annual salary of $231,000, and the contract allows for the possibility of merit pay on top of this base salary. This merit pay would be equal to “up to 14.99 percent of [Lyles’] annual base salary,” according to the contract. She will also have full-time access to a district-owned or leased car, which she can also access for personal use. The district is also giving her a $10,000 relocation allowance.
Mack told the Reporter that the revisions approved Aug. 22 “do not change the fiscal impact of the contract.”
Some parents last week said the revisions did not go far enough.
Saying that he was “disappointed” with the new contract for Lyles, parent and local activist Riaz Wahid said, “The board attorneys, paid by the taxpayers to protect the taxpayers, are not doing their job. The board should have negotiated a scalable package starting at $215,000, like they did in the Paterson school district, with a small bonus, not 14.99 percent…In this economy, it is a great burden to the taxpayers to pay this for Dr. Lyles, when we just paid a $455,000 total settlement to [previous superintendent] Dr. Charles Epps and continue to pay $680 per day to Highly Skilled Professional Cathy Coyle…What happened to the financial [management] skills the board members talked about during their campaigns?”
Lyles, who recently relocated to Jersey City, was the superintendent of the Christina School District in Delaware until July of this year.
Although she has not officially started her position, Lyles has already met with each member of the school board individually and has also met with several senior administrators individually as well.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.