The Brick Township Board of Education ratified a raise in salary for James Edwards, its business administrator, retroactive to July on Thursday night, prompting some to question the delay in finalizing the increase.
Edwards is the district’s highest-paid employee. The 2.25 percent raise increases his salary to $186,175 per year, not including benefits. The ratification measure passed by the board on Thursday night makes the salary retroactive to July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year for the school district.
“Why did it take so long to ratify this particular contract?” asked resident Walter Campbell, who also questioned new hires in the cash-strapped district. “He’s the highest paid district employee with the most staff – and that staff, prior to 2015, a lot of that responsibility was his. Now it belongs to other people who are making nice salaries in there.”
Benjamin Montenegro, the board attorney, was vague in his answer, citing concerns about divulging information on district personnel.
“There were new changes in the law and how that applied to a tenured administrator,” said Montenegro.
Edwards, though not a member of the teaching staff, holds a position of tenure, meaning that under state law, the employee “shall not be dismissed or suspended or reduced in compensation, except for neglect, misbehavior or other offense.”
“There were things that we had to work through to make sure we were applying the law consistently and appropriately,” said Montenegro. “That’s the long and short of it.”
Edwards, for his part, refrained from commenting during the discussion.
“We have been talking about this, as a board, in committee for a very long time,” said Board President Stephanie Wohlrab, indicating that her members were aware of the need to ratify the salary increase at a later date.
The business administrator receives an annual performance review from the superintendent. Edwards’ last review, for the 2018-19 school year, was written by former Superintendent Gerard Dalton.