Worthy Superintendent

Aug 30, 2017

To the Editor:

Once again, I would like to respond to a letter from a member of the community. The letter itself is basically talking points, innuendo and outright lies that are being promulgated by the union of which I am a member. The one thing that was accurate was that Superintendent Chidiac has had his contract extended twice in four years.

Some background: When any superintendent’s contract is negotiated by a school board in New Jersey the contract must be between three and five years. Mr. Chidiac’s original contract was three years. After the first year, because the board was pleased with the direction of the district, we decided to give him a new contract. We recently saw fit to do the same thing again. Why? Because of his hard work and dedication to the district. Here are the facts.

Most importantly, over the last four years he has accelerated our students’ education. We now have a technology curriculum to prepare our students for the 21st century, including our STEAM labs, which other districts are now emulating. We have a new and rigorous writing curriculum. Safety officers are in our schools so parents have peace of mind. Most of all, there is the hard work that went into the passing of the referendum (approved by two-thirds of the community) that will modernize, make safer and bring our district into the 21st century.

I could go on and on, but don’t take my word for it. Recently, state Commissioner of Education Kimberly Harrington visited our district and praised the outstanding initiatives being implemented here. So I am very proud of the superintendent, the board and our teaching staff for all of their hard work and dedication.

As far as Mr. Chidiac’s contract, he has been one of the lowest paid superintendents over the past several years. Most superintendents in the state have been renegotiating their contracts due to the revised superintendent’s salary cap, which is based on student population in the district. The salary cap provides an opportunity to receive up to $25,000 in additional merit pay, which he does not receive. It is important to note that the New Jersey Department of Education has recognized that retaining superintendents in district is critical to provide consistency and effectiveness.

The claim that the budget has “doubled” is a flat-out lie. As a board we always, repeat always, attempt to minimize the budget’s impact on the taxpayer. Here are the facts: Over the past several years, the operating budget has increased approximately $3.5 million (excluding capital projects) since 2013, or 10.5 percent. Of that increase, approximately $2.2 million is related to increased property values in the town, and the remaining $1.3 million, or 3.8 percent, is due to tax rate increases approved by the board.

Finally, I want to address the situation with the teachers’ contract. There has been a memorandum of agreement between the board and the union since last October. Yes, that is correct. Last October the board and the union agreed on a new contract. We are in the process of working on salary guides, and once that is completed it will be up to the union to ratify it.

In the past few months the union has recruited known gadflies in the community (many of whom hide behind fake names) to say false, disparaging and downright disgusting things about board members on social media platforms. Members are mocked because of their age or because they, like millions of other Americans, like to shop in discount stores. I am sad to say that recently a board member was harassed while in public with family. Very sad.

I am very proud to serve on this board with so many fine and dedicated people. I am very proud of our superintendent. Most of all, I am very proud of our dedicated teachers and staff.

Mike Hemenway, president

Stafford Township Board of Education

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