School administrative change aimed at improving accountability

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PETERSBURG – The Upper Township school board Monday approved a new position and a raise for assistant principal Jeff Samaniego and did away with the assistant principal position at the middle school.


The move is an attempt to keep up with changing state laws and regulations, an increasing need for accountability and a need to maintain state aid in a tough economic climate, said Superintendent Vincent Palmieri. 

The school board unanimously approved Samniego for the newly created position of Supervisor for Planning, Research and Evaluation effective Tuesday, Jan. 8 at a pro-rated annual salary of $88,000. 

Samaniego was earning about $81,000 as assistant principal. After his new position was approved, the board voted to eliminate the position of assistant principal. 

Palmieri said accountability has been an important topic for school districts over the past year. State laws require more accountability for both teachers and administrators, he said.

Testing is a critical part of that accountability, he said.

Before the move, the district had a superintendent, three building principals, a business administrator, a director of special education, a curriculum coordinator and an assistant principal at the middle school. 

“We have eight administrators,” Palmieri said. “I could easily justify adding a ninth administrator.”

Palmieri acknowledged that he would be hard-pressed to justify it, however, given the current economic strain the district is under. 

“There is no way I could ask the board for a ninth administrator,” he said.

Palmieri said he does not see the district’s economic woes improving. 

“I can assure you that everyone in this room will have more taxes and less disposable income, regardless of where you live,” he said.

When he arrived at the middle school to serve as principal many years ago, Palmieri said the building was bursting at the seams. Enrollment was peaking. 

Today, there are about 500 students, he said. While that still warrants employing two administrators, he said the building could function with one.

That is in large part due to the efforts that Principal Ken Barth and Samaniego have made to maintain a healthy climate in the school, said Palmieri.

“If there is any middle school in the country that can try this, it’s us,” he said. “Our students are well behaved. We have good products coming in.”

State aid is of utmost importance given economic conditions, Palmieri said. In order to continue to maximize state aid it was imperative that an administrator assume a role in making sure that both teachers and students are “best prepared,” he said.

The decision makes sense financially is “best for the kids,” Palmieri said.

Samaniego will work with the director of curriculum and instruction, Jennifer Baldwin. Baldwin will oversee teachers and Samaniego will be primarily responsible for student data, the at-risk population, the school climate and student needs, teacher needs and facility needs, Palmieri said.

Since Samaniego would be asked to assume more responsibility, in charge of one third of the district before and now assuming responsibility for the entire district, his salary is increasing about $7,000, Palmieri said.

The raise could be recouped by reducing a secretary position at the primary school from 12 months to 10 months, he said.

“We talked about a replacement for the front office at the primary school,” Palmieri said, as a secretary had retired. That position could be reduced from year-round with benefits to a 10-month position with no benefits, he said.

“We are restricting roles and responsibilities,” he said. “So the savings we will recoup will offset a nominal raise for Mr. Samaniego.”


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