Against Backdrop of Contention, State Releases Anderson’s Bonus Payments

John Mooney | April 29, 2014 | Education
State-appointed superintendent of NJ's largest school district consistently hits majority of her targets

Credit: NJTV
Newark schools Superintendent Cami Anderson
Newark school Superintendent Cami Anderson may be a polarizing figure among community and political leaders, but as far as her contract with the Christie administration to head up the state-operated district is concerned, it’s so far, so good.

Anderson’s first three-year contract in the district — which earns her an annual base salary of $247,500 — is set to expire this summer. And according to details released this past week by the administration, she continues to hit a majority of performance goals that have gained her tens of thousands of dollars in additional pay.

The administration said that Anderson received an extra $32,992 last year after she attained five of seven targets agreed to by the administration for her second year at the helm. The targets included both qualitative and quantitative measures, from new evaluation systems for principals to test score gains in individual schools.

The two targets she missed were both quantitative. She failed to show the gains in test scores and graduation rates that were the goals of her most intensive reform efforts.

New performance goals for Anderson for the current 2013-2014 school year are close to final agreement, according to officials in both the district and state yesterday, but her bonuses will not be determined for several more months. The tentative goals released by the state include a similar mix of qualitative and quantitative markers.

The release of Anderson’s performance bonuses and goals comes as questions mount over her status in the third year, and pressure has escalated over her reform plans and drawn intense fire from the community and politicians.

In spite of this, Gov. Chris Christie and former state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf were steadfast last year in backing Anderson for renewal, but a great deal has happened since then and her fate these days isn’t quite so certain.

For one, Cerf is gone as commissioner and has been replaced by acting commissioner David Hespe, his former chief of staff. The new commissioner has done nothing to indicate that he won’t follow Cerf’s recommendation.

More importantly, Christie is not likely to change his stance.

But neither is deaf to the community outcry that has only intensified, and neither has publicly spoken to the situation in recent months. Yesterday, Hespe and his staff didn’t comment on the specifics of Anderson’s contract, only releasing the bonuses for last year and the criteria for this year.

Anderson’s office also would not comment further yesterday.

First penned after she was hired in 2011, Anderson’s initial contract included both the base $247,500 salary — consistent over three years – and provisions for merit bonuses of up to $50,000 in each of those years as performance targets were reached.

In each case, Anderson’s goals would be agreed upon on a yearly basis between the superintendent and the Christie administration that hired her.

In her first year, she hit six of seven performance targets, earning her over $41,000.

In documents released on Friday, a spokesman for the state Department of Education said Anderson’s second year saw five of seven targets reached. They were:

  • Each Newark district school would have “college-ready” targets established.
  • The new teacher contract, including its own performance bonuses, would be implemented in its first year.
  • Performance reports would be established for every district and charter school.
  • New principal evaluation tools would be in place.
  • One additional K-8 district school would meet district benchmarks for improvement, as established by test scores and progress.
  • Each of the qualitative measure goals earned Anderson an additional $6,187.50. The one quantitative measure earned her $8,242.

    The two targets not reached were:

  • The “renewal” schools that have seen Anderson’s most intensive focus for reforms outperforming the schools they replaced.
  • At least one of these schools showing significant growth in achievement.
  • The state also released the tentative performance goals set for Anderson’s third year for the current school year, but stressed that some of the details had yet to be wrapped up. They include:

  • Decrease the number of students who are chronically absent by 5 percent
  • Increase the high school graduation rate by 3 percent
  • Increase the percentage of 11th-graders meeting language arts and/or math college-ready benchmarks on standardized tests by 3 percent