Lakewood School Board Sues Fiscal Monitor

Department of Dysfunction: the Asbury Park Press reports that the Lakewood School Board is suing its fiscal monitor Michael Azzara because he vetoed a board vote to award a contract to Catapult Learning, a company that has long provided special education services to the 25,000 children in Lakewood who attend private Jewish day schools. Azzara vetoed the board vote because a district committee evaluated Catapult and two other vendors and determined that the other two were superior.

From the evaluation report on Catapult:
Failed to neither address general teaching supplies nor indicate that supplies would be marked as property of the local public district. Respondent failed to address quarterly progress monitoring. The respondent also failed to address the collection and analyzation of qualitative and quantitative data, and was silent as to providing appropriate documentation prior to the commencement of services. Vendor does not commit to providing substitutes (only as available) nor does it indicate that they will submit the required substitute documentation. Proposal does not provide specificity on how they will monitor student progress through data collection. Vendor fails to address providing services on Sundays if warranted. Proposal does not specify two years of experience for teaching staff nor does it address fingerprinting of substitutes. The vendor does not include that the supervisor will work a minimum of three hours per week.
The committee recommended that the Board award contracts to two other companies, Tree of Knowledge and Tender Touch. The Board, controlled by Orthodox Jewish community leaders, begged to differ.

In 2012, Dr. Michael Hoban, an experienced educator and administrator who works with LakewoodUNITE, a group of minority parents who represent the underserved Hispanic population who comprise most of Lakewood’s public enrollment, wrote an editorial in NJ Spotlight regarding an audit of  Lakewood’s lackadaisical budgeting:
“Auditor Dieter P. Lerch said he had never seen anything like this. Millions paid to a special education vendor with little documentation. Shoe boxes full of papers . . . although little substantiation can be found. Catapult Learning, a vendor that billed $20.9 million to the township school district in one year."
There’s no word yet on the status of the lawsuit.