Fine Print: “Alternate Route” for Superintendents

John Mooney | May 5, 2011 | Education
Changes in BOE administrative code would ease the way for school superintendents who do not have state certification

Summary: Proposed administrative code (Chapter 6A:9, Professional Licensure and Standards) that would permit the hiring in certain districts of school superintendents who do not have state certification.

Why it matters, short term: On the same day that Gov. Chris Christie announced a new superintendent for Newark public schools, the State Board of Education (BOE) held a public hearing on the code proposal that could ease the way for nominee Cami Anderson to take the job. A veteran New York City school administrator, Anderson is not certified in New Jersey, and while she may be able to met the requirements anyway, approval of the new code would make it a moot point. State officials said yesterday her credentials are under review.

Why it matters, long term: Opening up the school leadership jobs to non-educators is a controversial move. On one hand, the Christie administration says it would allow for a broader range of candidates to fill these critical jobs. A number of state and cities have alternative certification. On the other hand, critics have said there should be stronger requirements for at least some education background.

The key line: “The successful candidate must: possess a Bachelor’s or higher degree from a regionally accredited, four-year college or university; possess, in the (state) Commissioner’s view, sufficient management and executive leadership experience in a public or private organization to allow the candidate to successfully administer the state district; and pass a criminal history review prior to issuance of the certificate.”

*What’s required now:” A master’s or higher degree, at least 30 credits in school leadership, a separate 150-hour internship in school leadership, successful completion of a state-approved test, and five years of experience in a public or non-public school.

The state board says: The board must give final approval to all changes in administrative code, and it has already weighed in with some key alterations. It added that it will be a five-year pilot, the candidates will be judged on specific leadership criteria, and it will be opened up only to districts that are low-performing by federal standards. In addition, it added a mentorship requirement for the superintendent’s first year on the job. The board is expected to act on the proposal in the next two months.

The original “alternate route”: New Jersey was the first state in the country to open up teaching jobs to those without traditional education training and state certification. Instead, these candidates must take a year of classwork to go along with their first year on the job, as well as team with a mentor teacher for 200 hours. None of those specific requirements are included in the superintendent proposal.

Quiet hearing: Only one person testified in person at the public hearing before two members of the state board, Richard Bozza of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators. He said the association is not opposed to the concept of an “alternate route” for admninistrators, but does object to this proposal in its current form.