Several school superintendents objected to our November editorial endorsing Gov. Chris Christie's proposed caps on superintendents' salaries. They especially objected to a line that said school superintendents have a largely administrative job that doesn't require any particular academic brilliance.
Well, sorry, but Christie - and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg - have just reiterated our point.
Bloomberg recently generated controversy when he appointed Hearst Magazines Chairwoman Cathie Black as chancellor of the city's school district. Black has had a long career in publishing and plenty of experience in the business world. But she has zero experience in education and needed a state waiver to serve as chancellor.
Black's business experience sounds exactly like what New York's schools - and New Jersey's school districts - can use in these difficult economic times.
And last week, Christie took steps to do the same thing in the Garden State.
The governor proposed that New Jersey ease its requirements for school superintendents in certain low-performing districts.
Christie's proposal would allow these districts to hire superintendents with no traditional academic background or experience. They would need only a bachelor's degree instead of a master's, and they would no longer be required to have a 150-hour graduate internship in educational leadership. Other current requirements would be eased as well.
The proposal is sure to raise alarms in the cloistered educational establishment. But a no-nonsense business person with experience managing large numbers of employees and balance sheets worth hundreds of millions of dollars is exactly what school districts need.
Other professionals can handle the instructional and academic issues. But Christie's proposal would put a money guy (or woman) in charge of the money, and that makes sense to us.
These alternate route superintendents would need the approval of the state education commissioner and would receive only a provisional license at first. Over the course of a year, they would be carefully monitored and evaluated by state-approved mentors. But they could go to work immediately in any of the 57 districts classified as "needing improvement" under the federal No Child Left Behind act, as well as in any state-run district or any district where at least 50 percent of fourth, eighth or 11th-grade students have failed state math or language-arts tests for the last two years.
Newark, Paterson and Jersey City are among the districts that could hire these new-style superintendents. The proposal could give Newark wide latitude as it searches for a new superintendent who will oversee Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million gift to the city's schools.
Our only problem with this proposal is that we can't see why it should apply only to low-performing districts. Let every district in New Jersey have the opportunity to hire school superintendents with real, private-sector financial and managerial experience.