O'Neill Announces Retirement, Board Takes No Action as Superintendent's Legal Fight Continues
'I am disappointed that I am not retiring on the time schedule I would have chosen.'
Superintendent Jim O'Neill officially declared his retirement Monday night, but will continue his fight against Gov. Chris Christie's salary caps.
O'Neill gave the Board of Education a letter stating he will resign for the purpose of retirement. The board, however, took no action on his resignation, pending the outcome of O'Neill's lawsuit against the state Department of Education.
O'Neill's resignation would be effective when his current contract expires on June 30. If he had not given notice, O'Neill would have been contractually required to continue in his role. Due to a salary cap for school superintendents, O'Neill would have taken a paycut of $45,000 from his current salary of $210,000.
"I am disappointed that I am not retiring on the time schedule I would have chosen, and I am disappointed we do not have the opportunity to plan for a more orderly transition to a new superintendent,"O'Neill wrote in the letter to the board.
"I have few regrets, but revel in the many rewards that have come with leading such an excellent district and being part of a unique and special community."
While O'Neill did not officially reveal his plans until Monday night's meeting, he said over the weekend that if he did retire, he would seek an interim superintendent's position elsewhere.
O'Neill, along with another school administrator and the New Jersey Association of School Administrators (NJASA), is currently waiting to appear in court regarding a lawsuit filed against the state Department of Education and other parties, challenging the legality of the salary caps.
"I would still hope that there might be some possibility that legalities might allow this to take a different turn, but quite frankly I'm not optimistic about that," O'Neill said.
Former Board of Education member Rich Ford said of O'Neill's resignation that "Chatham's loss is going to be someone else's gain." He said that though Christie was doing some good things for New Jersey, imposing salary caps on school superintendents was not among them.
Tom Belding, the vice president of the board, noted the board's receipt of the letter but said they were "reluctant to take any action" at this time.
O'Neill first came to the district as the principal of Chatham High School on Dec. 16, 1996, and became superintendent of the district on July 1, 2003. He called his choice to come to Chatham "the best professional decision I could have made."