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NJ Charter School Chef’s $24K Raise Under Scrutiny

Questions are being raised about a $24,000 raise given to the executive chef at a southern New Jersey charter school who is also the live-in boyfriend of the school’s founder.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Michele Pastorello will make $95,000 this year for his work at the 1,000-student Camden LEAP Academy University Charter School. He got $71,000 last year, an amount analysts say is well above the going rate for the job.

People who hold a comparable position in school districts of a similar size are generally paid between $45,000 and $50,000, the report said. For example, the food-services director in Cherry Hill, a district with roughly 13,000 students makes about $50,000. The Pennsauken director is paid $76,206 to oversee meals in a 5,600-student district.

The newspaper also notes the charter school awarded its food contract to a new vendor this year, and the company was required to retain Pastorello and two other food service employees, both hourly workers who received relatively small raises.

School spokesman Adam Dvorin said Pastorello and school founder Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, are in a “committed relationship.” He said Bonilla-Santiago recused herself from votes dealing with the contract.

Dvorin said neither Bonilla-Santiago nor Pastorello were available for interviews.

The contract requirement that Pastorello be kept on and his relationship with the school’s leader raised concerns from an education activist.

“If the board put in place a bidding requirement in which the only way a bid is accepted is for you to hire someone who could be considered part of immediate family, (this) raises some very serious concerns under the state ethics code,” David Sciarra, executive director of the New Jersey Education Law Center, told the newspaper. The group advocates for students in poor districts, such as Camden

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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