NJ Spotlight and the Philadelphia Inquirer report that the State Board of Education has appointed Peggy Nicolosi to be Interim Superintendent of Camden Public Schools. Nicolosi has been the Executive Superintendent of Camden County. She will replace Reuben Mills, who had been appointed, also on an interim basis, to replace Bessie LeFra Young, who left Camden in disgrace after she recorded 186 absences over a period of 18 months.
(Former Gov. Corzine’s administration created the post of Executive County Superintendent (ECS), one for each county, to oversee public schools. The ECS’s primary responsibility upon appointment was to recommend school district mergers. That didn’t work out so well: state regulations require that residents in affected districts approve the consolidation through a formal referendum. So not happening, mainly because some districts would see school tax increases. Those recommendations are duly filed somewhere in Trenton. In many ways the Christie Administration’s new Regional Achievement Centers supplant ECS functions and at least half of NJ’s counties have empty slots.)
Finding a new superintendent for Camden is expensive, at least in regards to fulfilling payroll requirements for the revolving door of the district’s top administrator. The School Board bought out Young’s contract for $62K. It will continue to pay Mills’ $187K salary and also pay Nicolosi $120K per year, the amount she receives as Executive Superintendent. (The Inquirer points out that she also takes home a monthly $7,200 pension.)The School Board’s pre-state-takover superintendent search, now moot, cost $20K. The State will now launch its own search. No reports on whether candidates will include the three finalists from the Board-directed selection process.
Mills has been highly regarded as a leader. Notably, last summer he signed off,on a clear-eyed critical analysis of the district’s failings. However, the State is clearly interested in a fresh set of eyes on the troubled school system. Also from the Inquirer: “[e]ffective Tuesday, various administrative positions such as assistant superintendents, director of human resources and business administrator will be abolished, according the state’s intervention plan. The employees in those positions will continue to work in those positions during the 60-day transition.”