Lawrence school board revises superintendent’s contract

A new contract that grants a salary increase to Superintendent of Schools Ross Kasun has been approved by the Lawrence Township Public Schools Board of Education.

Kasun will earn $227,000 under the contract, which was approved by the school board at its Oct. 16 meeting. His base salary had been $196,584 plus merit bonuses totaling $29,468, which brought his salary to $226,052. He received the merit bonuses for meeting agreed-upon goals.

Kasun’s salary was limited by a state-imposed cap implemented by former Gov. Chris Christie, but school superintendents had been able to increase their compensation through merit bonuses approved by their district’s school board.

But now that state lawmakers have lifted the salary cap, Kasun was eligible for a salary increase at the discretion of the school board.

School board President Kevin Van Hise said the school board had agreed to reevaluate Kasun’s contract if there was a change in the cap on superintendents’ salaries. Kasun is in the second year of his four-year contract with the Lawrence Township Public Schools Board of Education.

Kasun’s contract was slated to expire June 30, 2023. The agreement approved by the school board extends his contract for one more year, ending June 30, 2024.

Kasun was hired to replace former Superintendent of Schools Crystal Edwards, who retired. She had served as the superintendent since 2011, and had previously been the assistant superintendent in the Lawrence Township school district.

The new agreement hammered out between the school board and Kasun grants him a salary increase, but no merit bonuses.

Kasun will be given a 2% salary increase each year. In 2020-21, his salary will increase from $227,000 to $231,540. By the end of the contract, he will be earning $245,712.

In addition to settling Kasun’s salary, the contract allows for 13 sick days, 25 vacation days and five personal days. Upon his retirement from the school district, Kasun may be paid up to $15,000 for unused sick days.

A clause in the contract allows for an automatic renewal for an additional four years to June 30, 2028 – unless the school board and the superintendent agree to a different term or that he is notified by the school board that it will not renew his contract.

The salary caps had been imposed by Christie in 2011 as a means to help school boards manage budget and property tax increases.

The initial salary cap set a superintendent’s maximum salary based on enrollment.

School districts with up to 250 students paid their superintendents up to $125,000. For a district will 251-750 students, the maximum salary was $135,000.

School districts that enrolled 751-1,500 students could pay its superintendent up to $145,000. A district that had 1,501-3,000 students could pay $155,000.

For a school district such as Lawrence Township, which enrolled more than 3,001 students but fewer than 6,500 students, the maximum salary was $165,000.

Districts that enrolled 6,501 students to 10,000 students, such as the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District, could pay a maximum salary of $175,000.

Superintendents also received an additional $2,500 if the district included a grades 9-12 high school.

In 2017, the salary cap was revised and the number of categories was reduced from six to three. Superintendents were also allowed a 2% salary increase. The additional compensation for having a high school in the district was doubled to $5,000.

The revised caps set the maximum salary at $147,794 for districts that enrolled fewer than 750 students. It increased to $169,689 for districts that enrolled from 751 students to 2,999 students.

For districts that enrolled more than 3,000 students, such as the Lawrence Township Public Schools, the superintendent could earn a base salary of $191,584.