Patch Poll Finds 62% Disapprove of Seitz Contract
In a poll of 50 residents, only seven say they support superintendent deal.
An informal poll conducted by Parsippany Patch revealed that 31 of 50 residents disagreed with the school board's controversial November vote to approve a five-year contract for Superintendent of Schools LeRoy Seitz.
Only seven of those polled agreed with the decision, while 12 said they didn't know enough about the issue to form an opinion.
Seitz's proposed contract, approved in November, would raise his salary from $212,000 $216,000 this year and $234,000 by 2015—despite a proposed cap from Gov. Chris Christie, who has lashed out at both Seitz and the board for the deal.
The board is still awaiting a state appellate court decision on its lawsuit filed last month, which contends that Morris County Superintendent Kathleen Serafino approved the contract via e-mail, although she never signed it. According to Serafino, without a signature, the contract is invalid.
Seitz has declined comment on the contract because of a lawsuit against the state.
In a Patch poll in Chatham, which also approved a superintendent contract that exceeded Christie's cap, more than half of those polled were against the contract in their town.
|Approve of Superintendent's Contract Renewal||Oppose Superintendent's Contract Renewal||Do Not Know|
Twenty out of 50 residents said they believed the contract for Chatham Superintendent Jim O'Neill should be approved as it is currently. Twenty-six said the contract should be rejected. Another four residents said they had no definite opinion.
The Chatham Board of Education approved a contract for O'Neill at the Dec. 13 meeting that exceeds Christie's proposed salary cap for school administrators. Under Christie's outlined caps, which would go into effect on Feb. 7, a superintendent for a district the size of the School District of the Chathams would earn $165,000 per year.
Under the three-year contract approved by the board, O'Neill would remain at his current salary of about $210,000 per year. He would also be given a wage increase of 1.95 percent the first year, 1.9 percent the second year and 1.85 percent the third year.
Parsippany Patch interviewed a range of residents in Lake Parsippany, Lake Hiawatha, Troy Hills, Mount Tabor, and others areas. They comprised a mix of people with children in the school system and those without.
Several residents said that no matter how much Seitz had improved the district since arriving here in 2006, his salary was too high in the midst of a recession.
They talked about budget cuts last year that affected staff and students, including teacher layoffs. They also talked about layoffs and salary cuts in their own lives.
"He should not be getting that much money. Everyone has to pitch in right now. I had to accept a pay freeze where I work. At least he still has a job,'' said Kathleen Walz, of Mount Tabor.
Roy Stark, who retired five years ago from the township police department, said that with police facing potential layoffs this year, it was wrong for a school official to earn in excess of $200,000.
"When you start putting the safety of residents in jeopardy, and he's getting that much money? No,'' said Stark, who lives in Lake Parsippany.
Marion Davis, of Mount Tabor, said it was wrong to single out public sector employees when corporate CEOs were often earning as much as Seitz, if not more.
"The CEO at my husband's job probably oversees as many people as our superintendent,'' Davis said. "If there was a 10 percent cut for the private sector, it would be fair. But to single one person out, to nickel and dime an administrator—you get what you pay for. If you're going to get someone to do the job well, it should be at a competitive level.''
Tom Cullen, of Lake Parsippany, said he wasn't thrilled with Seitz's salary hike, but now that the contract had been approved by the Board of Education, it shouldn't be recinded, as some board members had proposed.
Board of Education President Anthony Mancuso said he thinks residents are apt to respond emotionally to the issue without fully understanding the facts.
"The people I talk to who seem to be against it don't see the big picture,'' he said. "They don't understand that in a district this size, to find an administrator who does the kind of job he's able to do is not an easy thing. This salary was perfectly acceptable a year ago. People are hurting now because of the economy, and they need to take it out on someone.''
Mancuso and some of the four board members who voted in favor of the contract have pointed out that Seitz has saved the district hundreds of thousands of dollars by finding ways to save money—like lowering the per diem costs of substitute teachers and installing new windows in the schools, which saved the district a quarter-million dollars. They also have pointed out that he took a 7 percent cut in perks, like travel expenses.
But Board Member Michael Strumolo, who voted against the contract, said the Patch poll seemed to square with what he was hearing from many residents.
"I haven't heard one person say to me that they thought he was entitled to it,'' Strumolo said. "I've probably ended up talking to about 1,000 people since this started. I have to leave church early so people wouldn't come up to me and complain. People will come up to me in the grocery store and say, 'how did this happen?'"