After 38 ½ years of service, Barbara Trzeszkowski reported for her last day of work on Monday at the Keansburg Board of Education. If her contract with the district withstands a number of legal and governmental challenges, the superintendent will ease into retirement with a $740,876 severance package that the state’s top education official compared to the “golden parachute” awarded to retiring Fortune 500 executives.
That’s the first paragraph (emphasis added, in all of this post’s quotations) from a New York Times article about superintendent pay in New York. After hearing more about Trzeszkowski’s contract, according to the article, New York politicians were outraged at the taxpayer expense involved in such an enormous retirement package.
Trzeszkowski’s benefit package is plump, to say the least:
In the next few weeks, Ms. Trzeszkowski, 60, was scheduled to receive $14,449 for unused vacation days, the first third of the $170,137 she had amassed in unused sick days, and the first 20 percent of $556,290 in severance pay. This was in addition to the $103,889 annual pension she was to collect from the district for the rest of her life.
To put this into perspective, many Missouri contracts I’ve seen have caps on the number of unused vacation or sick days for which a superintendent can collect pay. But some don’t. Several Missouri superintendents earn more than the $170,137 Trzeszkowski collects. However, the factor sending her benefits sky-high is the 38 and a half years she spent with her district, about 10 of which were as superintendent, the others as a teacher.
What can I say? The numbers speak for themselves. She is set to receive a great deal of money for the rest of her life in exchange for working for a single school district for more than 38 years.
Is it a fair trade? After all, Trzeszkowski certainly was loyal to her district. Was it her job to draw attention to the size of her benefit package? Well, at the very least, her school district’s board of education should have known better when negotiating her contract. At least one of them didn’t, according to the article:
Although he seconded the motion to approve Ms. Trzeszkowski’s five-year contract in February 2004, James Cocuzza, a former board member who is now a borough councilman in Keansburg, said he did not remember it.
“For 15 years, I always fought for zero increases in taxes,” he said. “I don’t see myself giving away three quarters of a million dollars.”
While Mr. Cocuzza said he regrets not paying more attention, he added that he was probably not alone in allowing such contracts to slip through.
“Let’s be honest,” he said. “We’re not professionals. That’s what we have the attorneys and negotiators for. But wait until the state checks out all the other districts and sees the contracts that got through. I bet they all got nice packages.”