HOBOKEN – After learning that the proposed contract for Dr. Mark Toback, the final candidate for the Hoboken Superintendent position, was rejected by a county-level official, it’s back to the negotiating table for the Hoboken Board of Education.
“We’re back to talking to Dr. Toback despite the way the Department of Education has dragged this thing out for six weeks,” said Vito Gagliardi, Hoboken Board of Education attorney. “He’s still interested in Hoboken and we’re interested in having him, even if the Department of Education keeps changing the rules.”
Gov. Christopher Christie has proposed a salary cap of $155,000 annually for municipal superintendent salaries, which would go into effect in early February. Gagliardi said since the contract did not fit the proposed regulations “in its terms and in its wording”, the contract was denied by Essex County Executive Superintendent Larry Feinsod. Even though Hoboken is in Hudson County, Feinsod made the decision because Dr. Timothy Brennan is the interim executive county superintendent in Hudson County, and it was decided that an interim superintendent should not make the decision.
Toback, is currently the Sussex County superintendent and a principal in that district.
“These regulations won’t be in place until February but Dr. Toback’s view is, let’s move forward and try to resolve this,” Gagliardi said.
The Board of Education voted 8-1 in November to pursue legal action against the state and county to receive an approval or denial of the contract. Before the vote, the state and county were not approving or denying any contracts. The dissenting voice to pursue legal action was Board of Education Member Maureen Sullivan.
“I didn’t see how a state official was going to go against the governor,” Sullivan said. “In the end I wasn’t really surprised [by the denial].”
Sullivan said she has “always supported the cap” because it is a way to “reign in the costs.”
Board of Education President Rose Marie Markle said she was not surprised by the rejection of the contract, but said she is disgusted.
“Why did it takes six weeks to get an answer?” Markle said. “Why did we have to go to court to get an answer?”
Markle has said the details of the proposed contract will not be released because the Board of Education is still in the negotiating process, but one source said the proposed contract was above the proposed cap.
“Dr. Feinsod got marching orders from someone who told him not to approve,” Markle said.
Ruth McAllister, a Board of Education member, worries the proposed caps will have a negative long term effect.
“I find it surprising that a Republican governor would be imposing more government and caps as opposed to what I would think would be a Republican ideologue position, which would be to allow us to do what we need to do with what the market would [suggest] to bring the best experience and talent to our district,” McAllister said. “What my fear is that we’ll constantly be looking for new superintendents because the cap is going to make it difficult for us to retain talent.”
“[The contract] was sent back with suggestions,” McAllister said. “That’s fine. Ideally it would have been nice if it was approved.”
After Jan. 31, 2011, when current Interim Superintendent Peter Carter’s contract will expire, Hoboken will most likely have a gap where no superintendent will be in place, since Toback must give his current district 60 days notice.
“Unfortunately I think that [will be] the case,” Gagliardi said. “This could have been avoided if the Department of Education gave us a prompt response.”
For now, it’s back to the negotiating table for the Hoboken Board of Education and Toback.
The next Board of Education meeting is on Jan. 11, at 7 p.m., at 1115 Clinton St. -- Ray Smith