The Hoboken Board of Education finally has their new superintendent of schools. Dr. Mark Toback will begin work after he provides 60 days’ notice to his current employers in the Sussex County school system.
The Hoboken board voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve Toback’s contract and pay the new superintendent an annual salary of $157,500, which includes a $2,500 stipend because the district has a high school. That is exactly the amount of the proposed superintendent’s salary cap soon to be imposed by the state for a district this size.
“The price of everything goes up. A superintendent’s salary will not.” – Rose Marie Markle, Board of Education President
The $157,500 salary is at the limit proposed by Gov. Christopher Christie for a district the size of Hoboken. Even though the law is not yet in place, the board still had to obey it. The county superintendent rejected their previous contract of $175,000, which irked members of the board.
Hiring complicated by cap
Board President Rose Marie Markle said the last few weeks have been so hectic that her children took her phone away from her at one point. In the end, the board came up with “a contract we can all be proud of,” according to Board Vice President Theresa Minutillo.
Markle said, “I don’t believe we should be placed in guidelines that aren’t in effect yet. I think it will hurt us in the future to keep someone. In everybody’s life, it’s about getting a raise. The price of everything goes up. A superintendent’s salary will not.”
Retention of talent is something that concerns board member Ruth McAllister.
“We will never be able to maintain a superintendent,” McAllister said. “In the end, it is about the money…we are always going to have to hire at the cap.”
In November, the Board of Education voted 8-1 to sue the state and county because the county superintendent was not providing feedback about the status of Toback’s contract. After going to court, the board first received a rejection because the proposed salary was over the impending cap.
Hoboken ultimately stayed within the state-imposed cap and hired Toback.
Board Member Maureen Sullivan agreed with the cap, saying it was a way to rein in spending. Even Markle agreed that in the past superintendents might have been paid too much, but she feels that now there is a problem because the board has no say in how much money is paid.
“How could you judge a district just on the number of students?” Markle said. Markle believes every district has its own unique set of problems, and the districts should not be categorized on the same pay grade just because of the number of students.
Transition to stability
The board hopes a permanent superintendent of schools will provide stability to a district in need of it.
“We haven’t had that in the last few years,” Markle said.
Although Toback’s current job as Sussex County Vocational District superintendent will not be capped by the state, Toback chose to come to Hoboken. In November, Toback said he was interested in coming to Hoboken because he felt the district is a good fit, and he sees the opportunity for “professional growth.”
“I’m excited for the students, the staff,” said Irene Sobolov, a board member. “I think it’s going to be terrific.”
“This contract process shows what a standup person Dr. Toback is,” said Leon Gold, another board member. “It shows we are so lucky to have him.”
Board members Maureen Sullivan and Frances Rhodes-Kearns voiced displeasure about the process not being transparent, but other members disagreed, saying the board did what they could to keep the public informed.
Toback must first give 60 days’ notice to his current district, and Markle said he intended to do that on Jan. 12. Walter Rusak, current assistant interim superintendent of schools, will be promoted to interim superintendent from Feb. 1, when Interim Superintendent Peter Carter leaves, until whenever Toback is able to begin work in Hoboken. Rusak will be paid $125 per day.
Carter moves on
Carter, attending his last board meeting on Tuesday, said goodbye.
“It has been my pleasure to provide the leadership deserved by the 2,500 boys and girls who attend the public schools, and the 400 adults who work here,” Carter said on Tuesday. “I shall long remember my long 12 months as your interim superintendent with positive thoughts.
Board members attested to the hard work of Carter on Tuesday before they prepared a vote to hire Toback, the current superintendent of Sussex County Vocational School District.
“You have set this district on the right course for the new superintendent to come in and focus on the students,” said Minutillo. “You will be sorely missed, Mr. Carter, but please stay in touch.”
Carter accepted a gift bag courtesy of the board members filled with Hoboken High School memorabilia.
Ray Smith may be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com