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School Superintendent and Asst. To Retire

Goger to step down after 13 years as superintendent along with assistant superintendent Rudolph.

Saying "it seems like the right time to go," Bernards School Superintendent Valerie Goger announced at Monday's Board of Education meeting that she will retire at the end of this school year. Goger's last day with the district will be June 30, after holding the position since 1998.

Assistant Superintendent Regina Rudolph, hired by Goger 13 years ago, also will retire at that time, it was announced at the meeting.

Before looking outside the school system for replacements, the district will advertise within its current staff to see if there are any candidates seeking to fill Goger's position as top administrator in a district with more than 5,600 students, according to Susan Carlsson, school board president.

"The board hires the superintendent, the superintendent hires the assistant superintendent," she explained. The first step in the board's search for a new superintendent will be to post the position "in-house" for the next two weeks, Carlsson said on Monday.

As head of the board's personnel committee, Carlsson said she had known for about a month about the intended retirements.

But other board members had just learned of the announced retirements in a closed personnel session prior to Monday's public meeting at the William Annin Middle School, she said.

Goger had that would have carried her time in her position into 2014. Her salary for this year was just over $200,000, or more than $217,000 with almost $15,000 in "givebacks" on certain contractural items.

In a separate contract last year, Rudolph's salary was increased from $177,915 to $181,473 for this school year.

The announcement on Monday apparently came as a surprise for those members of the public in the audience.

"I am so shocked, I can't even say anything to Dr. Goger and Reggie," parent Michelle Coppola said. But later in the meeting, she said she was "devastated" to hear about the planned departure of the two administrators.

"I am not sure what we are going to do without you, and you too, Reggie," she said. "You do everything under the sun." Others, including Carlsson, also offered praise for the administrators.

Goger also had a surprise that night.

Her husband, Barry Vankat, presented her with roses during the public portion of the meeting. He described his wife's decision as "very difficult," but one that was "very informed" for the district, himself and his family. The couple lives in the township, he said.

Goger said she had come to the district as a business administrator in 1995. Following the meeting, Goger was asked what she felt was among her most memorable or significant accomplishments in her role as superintendent.

"My most difficult and rewarding day was Sept. 11, 2001," the superintendent said. Just last month, Goger spoke on video about the events of that day, which included the almost instant rallying of staff to deal with an unprecedented situation. A key part of the response was deciding how to properly inform and guarantee a safe trip home for children whose parents might have been working in New York City, in a community where about 20 residents lost their lives in that day's terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Click to read Superintendent Goger's

Click to read Assistant Superintendent Regina Rudolph's

 

TJ October 11, 2011 at 10:35 AM
n- what we need to do is find the best possible candidate who will move the district forward and pay them a competitive salary (and benefits). Don't be pennywise and pound foolish here. I don't disagree that the amounts you mention are more than fair and attractive. But you and I don't set the going rate out there. And frankly, this isn't a position where you take that risk. We have an amazing district and if our BOE does their job right then we should bring in highly attractive candidates. What I do think is that we should consider hiring a superintendent and then lose the assistant role. We can hire one if the district is rebulding, but Rudolph retiring is a blessing in that we free up that position which was becoming pointless given the budget.
Lisa Winter October 11, 2011 at 11:47 AM
Our district was lucky to have had both Valerie Goger and Reggie Rudolph for as long as we did. They have been primary forces for creating our high quality/low cost district. To think that, on top of all of the other honors our district has received in the last 10 years, Ridge High School was just ranked 2nd in the State for Math & Science - that's an amazing accomplishment, especially considering that we are a "below adequacy" district - i.e., we spend less on our schools than the state calculates is necessary to provide a basic education. I think we need to be careful about saying we don’t need this or that position in a school district. I happen to know that Reggie Rudolph was instrumental in insuring that only high quality teachers were hired in the district – and perhaps more importantly, in insuring that only high quality teachers remained in the district. The process of hiring and maintaining great teachers is SO CRITICAL in a school district, and requires high quality and vigilant administrators to monitor and review teacher performance on an ongoing basis. We have something like 400 teachers in the district…and our recent ranking as 2nd in NJ (behind only Princeton), 117th in the nation on Math and Science AP scores is such a testament to the high quality teaching and curriculum in this district. I give both Valerie and Reggie a great deal credit for that achievement. I am grateful that we were able to have such strong leaders for our district.
TJ October 11, 2011 at 12:42 PM
Lisa, The fact is that the budget is basically stagnant considering that any increase goes to salary increases and benefits for the most part. The assistant super role is not necessary right now. Ask highly qualified experienced professionals who have worked in school districts and they will agree that the assistant role could go at this rate and given the size of the district. If we need one in the future then fine. (It also doesn't mean that we didn't need one in the past -- we did. Just not for the upcoming school year or two.)
LisaB October 11, 2011 at 12:49 PM
We do need to recall, though, that the administration wanted to cut science positions at Ridge last year and eliminate extra lab periods. This would have occurred in tandem with a move to 8 periods and essentially have been the financial justification for that change. Our ranking in math and science is a direct testament to the abilities of some wonderful teachers at Ridge, many of whom have been veteran teachers who have taught in the district for a long time.
TJ October 11, 2011 at 03:59 PM
LIsa, I agree that the teachers deserve a world of credit. With our district performing so well it seems like there should truly be more kudos to go around. Personally, I am a "Goger fan". I am not happy to hear about her retirement, but hopefully we can recruit another successful person.
n October 12, 2011 at 02:02 PM
Being a former BOE member, you were one of the reasons that our school taxes are though the roof. You were always able to find a way to spend someone elses money. The position is not a teaching position and the kids wouldn't notice one bit, if she was to vanish w/o warning. You can pull out all the fake rankings that Bernards is on, but I'm sure the school that is #120 isn't any worst than we are or #110 is any better as well. These list are compiled to sell magazines, Realtors sell homes and make parents feel good(bragging rights). It will be a good day for the taxpayers when Groger leaves.
Lisa Winter October 12, 2011 at 07:33 PM
You know what, "n", you should take a close look at the data - school taxes increased because our district's enrollment increased - it tripled over 10 years. This town experienced a huge population growth - so many new houses were built, and those houses brought new childen. The budget did not increase because of over-spending - in fact, this district underspends in comparison to most other towns in NJ. Take a look at the NJ School Cost Comparison guide. Also take a look at Dr. Draper's latest demographic report for Bernards Twp, which shows that cost per pupil has been in line with inflation and enrollment growth. So our schools cost less than other comparible schools in NJ, and yet has comparible (or better) quality) - I think that shows good management. And I think it's unrealistic to think you can have 1,700 students & 400 teachers and no supervision, no attention given to quality of the teachers, to ensuring that the curriculum is adequately taught in the class room? Would you expect a business to run successfully without strong leadership and management? Just set 400 people off to do their own thing, don't worry if they go off in 400 different directions?
SZ October 13, 2011 at 12:58 AM
Lisa - the spending per pupil is low, but we should be comparing to same size comparable school districts due to economies of scale. I think our district manages to the "numbers", so whether it shows good management needs further review. I would never rely on average numbers and statistics without understanding what is beneath the numbers and what the calculation is based on. I agree with TJ and n that there is no need to fill the asst superintendent position. It is not a needed position and the HR responsibilities can be handled by someone at a far lower salary. I think it's time for a change in leadership to bring new ideas and a different perspective to the district. I would like to see someone with very strong leadership skills fill the position.
LisaB October 13, 2011 at 02:15 AM
For those who would like to see for themselves how our district compares to others in the state on a whole host of spending metrics, take a look at the "Taxpayers' Guide to Education Spending May 2011." The URL is http://www.nj.gov/education/guide/2011/ind01.shtml SZ, you can see Bernards' rank within the group of K-12 districts with 3500+ students. There are 105 such districts. Bernards' rank in this group on Budgetary Per Pupil Cost, 2010-2011, is 38, with 1=best and 105=worst. Bernards' per pupil cost is $12,411, compared to the median of $13,007 for this group. (The average for the group was not provided.) The average for all K-12 districts is $13,587, with the median being $12,963. Other nearby districts: Bridgewater-Raritan (3500+ students): $12,872 Somerset Hills Regional (1801-3500 students): $14,133 "n", rather than speaking so disrespectfully to Lisa Winter about her service on the board, you should be thanking her for her fiscal responsibility. But the cost is only one aspect. Some of us also care about how well our schools do at educating our students. Our school district is an incredibly strong one. We get an incredible bang for our buck. And "n", the methodology for the science and math rankings is published here: http://www.usnews.com/articles/education/high-schools/2011/09/27/methodology-best-high-schools-for-math-and-science.html It is an objective assessment of AP math and science performance and participation.
SZ October 13, 2011 at 11:24 AM
Thanks Lisa B - It is more realistic to compare based on number of students within a district, next step is to compare to those 3500+ schools within our socio economic group. While our school district is strong for a majority of students, it is not the "be all end all" and there is always room for improvement and change. The district does a great job of providing AP and autistic programs and that is where you get a bang for your buck. If your child falls outside of those lines, then there is not necessarily a bang for your buck. Lisa W. always had great ideas as a BOE member. She is obviously a staunch supporter of the district, but given her former position it might be more difficult for her to stand back and objectively look at potential changes/opportunities (ie eliminating the asst. superintendent position).
LisaB October 13, 2011 at 01:24 PM
SZ, I think you would be able to get the statistics for 3500+ schools in our socio-economic group from that web site, but you would need to process the numbers yourself, since they are not broken down that way. If you do this, it would be interesting to see what you come up with. I'd also be interested in the data you have seen that deal with students who are not special ed or AP students. I've wondered why we have a superintendent, an assistant superintendent, an overall curriculum supervisor, and subject area supervisors. It would be nice to know what each of these positions entails and what fraction of their time is spent in performing their various duties. It is difficult to say that this or that position should be eliminated or combined without understanding their purpose. I wonder if there is some way to get this information in some sort of depth. It would also be great to know how the districts we consider to be our peers are run. What are the generally assumed "best practices" for organizing an administration? I assume past and present board members are aware of these.
LCB@home October 13, 2011 at 03:47 PM
It seems that the Asst.'s job is very much like a Human Resources professional - hiring of staff, training on personnel topics like harassment, etc. I am sure that we can find a replacement for this position without having to spend $177k. As a matter of fact, half of that salary with the right professional, would do the job. And....they could have an assistant as well. School systems have to economize now.
TJ October 13, 2011 at 03:56 PM
LisaB -- I think you hit on something that I am concerned about when you said, "... I assume past and present board members are aware of these." I am assuming that they are not aware of this. These are community members voted into their roles and they don't necessarily have a background in education. I'm confident that they will work hard to make the best decisions, but with both Goger and the Asst. quiting, the BOE is in a tough position to figure it all out quickly. My hope is that our BOE begins a national search quickly to identify the best candidates.
BR Mom October 13, 2011 at 05:41 PM
Ms. Goger balanced the demands of her job well. Unlike many superintendents, she LISTENED to the community and responded appropriately with new proposals and balanced answers. There are many superintendents and BOEs that do not respond to the public. It is imperative that our new superintendent have an open mind as Ms. Goger has had. While she may have flip-flopped on proposals (like playing both sides of the 9 and 8 period day dillema), she played her cards and waited to see what the reaction of the public would be. Nothing was set in stone until the final vote. There's something to be said for that.

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