Schools chief’s diploma fair game at meeting

Questions to the school board, and to Wasser himself if he chooses to answer them, are fair game.

By ALAN GUENTHER • STAFF WRITER • APP . September 5, 2008

ENGLISHTOWN — Taxpayers will be free to ask questions Monday night about what the school board intends to do about thousands of tax dollars spent on school superintendent H. James Wasser’s discredited doctoral degree from a so-called diploma mill.

On Aug. 25, school board members were told they couldn’t publicly discuss Wasser’s degree because he had not formally been notified that the issue would arise at the meeting.

Now, Wasser has been legally notified, said school board attorney Lawrence Schwartz. Questions to the school board, and to Wasser himself if he chooses to answer them, are fair game during the public portion of Monday’s special meeting, Schwartz said.

On Thursday, the Asbury Park Press reported that the state Commission on Higher Education had ordered Wasser to stop using “Dr.” and “Ed.D.” with his name because his degree came from Breyer State University — an unaccredited school that has been kicked out of Alabama, Idaho and the African nation of Liberia.

Although the state commission ordered Wasser to stop using the advanced title by Sept. 21, the school’s official Web site still referred to him as “Dr. James Wasser” on Thursday evening.

Wasser and Board of Education President Patricia Horvath could not be reached for comment.

Wasser has the right to have the diploma-mill issue discussed in public, but he has chosen to meet privately with the school board two hours prior to the public meeting, in a closed executive session, Schwartz said.

After investigating the diploma matter, the state education department issued a report that suggested, but did not require, that high school administrators earn college degrees from reputable, accredited schools.

The education department investigated three Freehold Regional administrators — Wasser, Assistant Superintendent Donna Evangelista and recently retired Assistant Superintendent Frank Tanzini. The school district paid $10,750 in taxpayer money to Breyer State for the three discredited doctoral degrees.

The school board also gave raises — $2,500 each per year — to the administrators as rewards for their new degrees.

State Senate President Richard J. Codey has said the school board should ask for the money back.

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