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The average salary of New Jersey teachers, administrators and superintendents dropped slightly last year, largely due to the retirement of experienced educators who were replaced by younger staff at lower salaries, an analysis of state school-salary data shows.
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The average salary for administrators dropped by about the same amount, to $117,181.
Mirroring the salary drops were declines in the number of years the average teacher and administrator had worked — to 11.8 years for teachers and 17 years for administrators.
That appears to reflect, at least in part, a continuing trend of staff retirements due both to the aging of school staff and to the continual phasing-in of higher health-benefit contributions that teachers are required to make as a result of the contentious pension and health benefits reform law signed by Gov. Chris Christie with cooperation from Democratic leaders in both houses of the Legislature.
“Employee contributions to health coverage by the 2011 employee health benefit reform law have provided some relief to districts in the area of compensation,” said Frank Belluscio, spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association.
But it’s also likely due to continuing decreases in teacher salary settlements. According to the NJSBA, contractual agreements have included smaller raises for at least the last five years, from an average 4.23 percent in 2009-10 to 2.34 percent in 2012-13 and 2.29 percent last year.
While the average salary may be declining, starting pay for teachers with a bachelor’s degree has risen — from an average of $46,464 in 2009-10 to $49,908 last year. The average teacher’s salary, according to the database, also rose over that time period, but by 4 percent, compared to 7 percent for starting teachers.
Meanwhile, the average superintendent’s salary declined by a higher percentage than it has for teachers or other administrators — about $5,000 in just a year, to almost $151,000.
And, at 19.5 years, the typical chief school administrator had more than a full year’s less experience in 2013-14 than in 2012-13. Christie capped superintendent salaries at $175,000 in all but the largest districts beginning in 2011, which has led to retirements as school leaders’ contracts have come up for renewal.
Still, 39 superintendents were paid more than $200,000 last year, the highest-paid being Diana Lobosco, head of the Passaic County Vocational District, at $273,165, according to the database. The cap law is set to expire in two years. But some officials have complained about its effect, and legislation to eliminate the caps is moving through the state Legislature.
This data, derived from the New Jersey Department of Education’s Certificated Salaries database, covers only salary amounts. It does not necessarily represent total pay, which could include stipends for extra work, bonuses and compensation for unused sick days.
It represents the salary paid as of Oct. 15, 2013, so any raises given after that date, due to negotiated contracts, would not be included.
Reported by district officials, it also may be incomplete and contain some errors: More than a dozen districts did not include information about any administrators and there appeared to be some anomalies in teacher data for a few districts, as well. But it is the most complete picture of salaries, released annually by the DOE.
The data shows the highest average salary for teachers and other non-administrative professionals last year was nearly $90,000 in the Northern Valley Regional high school district in Bergen County. The lowest, excluding districts with some anomalous data, was likely tiny Stockton in Hunterdon County, with only four full-time and four part-time teachers who got an average salary of $34,346.