new interim superintendent
Kendra Johnson laughs and jokes with parent Andrew Gideon after the Aug. 15 reception honoring her work as superintendent. Johnson is departing the Montclair schools to work in the Howard County School District in Maryland. Nathan Parker has been announced as Johnson’s interim replacement. ERIN ROLL/STAFF

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Dr. Nathan Parker, former superintendent of Summit School District, has been named as Montclair’s new interim superintendent.

Parker’s appointment was announced during a special board of education meeting at the George Inness Annex on Aug. 15. Parker will replace Kendra Johnson, who is departing the district for a new job in Maryland as of this Monday. He was not in attendance at the meeting.

Dr. Nathan Neely Parker

Johnson announced in July she was stepping down as superintendent, citing a need for personal wellness and better work-life balance, since her family lives outside of New Jersey. She will become the new Community Superintendent for the Howard County School District located just outside Baltimore, M.D.

Parker’s expected salary will be $191,984, with a rate of $921 a day. He will work four days a week.

Parker’s annual salary is $191,984, with a rate of $921 a day. He will work four days a week.

This will be Parker’s first time serving as an interim superintendent since retiring as superintendent of the Summit School District in 2015. He has also served as superintendent in the Orange school district from 2003 to 2008. Prior to that, he was the superintendent of schools in Upper Saddle River from 1991 to 2003.

Outside of his work as a school administrator, Parker is the founder of an educational non-profit From Dreams to Reality, which provides mentoring services to children from low-income families, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Parker is the third interim superintendent, and the fourth overall district leader since 2015.

Ronald Bolandi served as interim superintendent from 2015 to 2017. After Bolandi left the district, Barbara Pinsak took his place as interim until Kendra Johnson was appointed as superintendent in 2018.

Parker will be introduced to the community at the next BOE meeting on Aug. 19.

At the meeting, Johnson took a moment to thank the BOE and Montclair’s parents for their support.

“While my time has been short, it has been well-spent,” she said. “In education, it’s never goodbye, it’s see you again.” She urged the audience to speak up for what was right for Montclair’s children and the community. “If it means ruffle some feathers, let’s go ruffle some feathers.”

She called her time in Montclair challenging but said, “If it can be done anywhere, it can be done here.”

“I really appreciate all that I’ve learned from you, and all the time we’ve spent. And some of it was long into the night but it was time well spent,” said newly appointed board president Eve Robinson.

Johnson became superintendent after previously serving as Montclair’s assistant superintendent for equity, curriculum and instruction. She was the first African American woman to serve as the leader of Montclair’s schools.

The announcement of the new superintendent was followed by a reception honoring Johnson.

Parents came to the microphone to thank Johnson for her service, including her work in addressing equity, diversity and Montclair’s long-standing achievement gap.

MHS Principal Anthony Grosso thanked Johnson for all of her work with the high school during the 2018-19 school year, including the staircase collapse.

Joseph Graham, who was hired as student equity advocate during Johnson’s tenure, also thanked Johnson for her service.

INTERIM SUPERS AND THEIR PAY

A retired superintendent is allowed to collect their pension while serving as an interim in another district: a term described by some critics as “double-dipping.” However, other educational professionals, such as teachers, are not allowed to continue collecting their pensions if they go back to work.

According to state pension records, Parker receives a $121,517 annual pension. In the past, an interim superintendent could only be in a district for up to two years, but in recent years state statute was expanded to allow interims to serve beyond two years, with the approval of the state commissioner of education, said DOE spokesperson Mike Yaple.

During the Christie administration, a cap was put on superintendent salaries of school districts, restricting them to a certain amount based on student population size. For a district the size of Montclair, the salary was initially restricted to $177,500, but had risen to $191,584 as of July 2019. The salary cap caused an exodus of administrators to other higher paying states. In July, Gov. Phil Murphy eliminated the salary cap.

Interim superintendents are paid on a per day basis, and their exact schedule is determined by the local board of education, Yaple said.

Additionally, per diem employees may be eligible for health benefits after a certain number of hours are worked, also due to recent changes in state statute, Yaple said.

An interim superintendent’s pay may not exceed a school district’s maximum superintendent salary permitted under New Jersey state law. For an interim superintendent who is paid on a per day basis, their per diem pay may not exceed 1/260th of the maximum permitted salary for that district.

In all cases, whether for an interim superintendent or for a permanent one, the board of education votes on a superintendent’s contract, including their salary and their per day pay rate, The contract must then go to the executive county superintendent for approval, said Janet Bamford of the New Jersey School Boards Association.

Bolandi collected a $127,563 annual pension, while Pinsak collected an annual $133,998 pension while serving as Montclair’s interim superintendents.

In her final year with the Montclair district, Pinsak had a base annual salary of $196,583, according to her interim superintendent contract. During Bolandi’s last year with the district, his base annual salary was $177,499 due to adjustments in the cap.

Robinson said Parker may not necessarily be with the district for the entire school year, since the search for a permanent superintendent has started, and the district hopes to have someone selected before the end of the forthcoming school year.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated Kendra Johnson’s new title in the Howard County School District.