Proposed Assembly Bill Would Alter Teacher Compensation in Verona and Cedar Grove

Andrew Segedin | Verona-Cedar Grove Times

Just as Cedar Grove reached an agreement with district teachers and Verona prepares for negotiations of its own, a bill making its way through the state assembly may alter teacher compensation in a fairly dramatic way.

The "School Children First Act," sponsored by Assemblyman Jay Webber (R - Essex, Morris,Passaic), would eliminate years of experience as a primary determinant for an educator's compensation. Instead, according to the bill, annual evaluations, assignment to a failing school and teaching a difficult subject matter would serve as primary factors for compensation.

At present, both district's salary guides are based, in large part, on years served. At present, Verona educators do not receive additional compensation for teaching in a difficult subject matter, according to Superintendent Steven Forte. Cedar Grovedoes, however, Superintendent Dr. Gene Polles told the Times - with the difficult subject matters including physics, advanced placement and honors mathematics and the role of learning disability teacher consultant.

Both districts' most recently approved salary guides are also based off of degrees and educational credits earned. In Cedar Grove, compensation varies from bachelor to masters to doctorate with salary tacked on to every 15 credits earned beyond a bachelors and masters degrees - up to 30 credits.

Verona's salary guide is similar with the exception that additional compensation is added for every 15 credits beyond a bachelors degree up to 75 credits and for every 15 credits beyond a masters degree, up to 45.

As currently written, Webber's bill would require that additional degrees and credits earned must be in the subject area that the educator is currently teaching and be deemed to have a positive impact on student achievement by New Jersey Department of Education Commissioner Chris Cerf. In emails to the Times, both Forte and Polles indicated that the merit of additional education is currently determined by district officials.

Piggy-backing on Ruiz

In August, Senator Teresa Ruiz's (D - Essex) TEACHNJ Act was signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie. The legislation, to be enacted in full starting in the 2013-2014 school year, bases the tenure of district teachers and administrators on their performance in annual reviews which are to be based, in part, on quantifiable student achievement such as testing.

Webber's bill would not only base educator's compensation, in part, on these reviews, but would also require that all principal, assistant principal, vice principal and teacher evaluations be sent to Cerf.

Ruiz's bill did not stipulate that evaluations be submitted to a higher authority outside the district.

Believing that the bill could have major implications to Cedar Grove and surround districts, Polles discussed the bill at a recent board meeting. In an email to the Times, Polles withheld personal opinion on the bill until a final version is composed.

Forte told the Times that, while his is in favor of any legislation that would boost student achievement, he would need to conduct more research before determining whether Webber's bill will do that.

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