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Teachers lose diploma-mill pay bump
Had used same school as superintendent
By Joshua Riley • EDUCATION WRITER • December 10, 2008
The Freehold Regional High School District has cut back the salaries of two more staffers because they had received doctoral degrees from an unaccredited diploma mill.
Board Attorney Lawrence Schwartz announced that action during another tense public-comment session at a board meeting Monday in the Englishtown administration building.
English teacher Cheryl A. Lanza of Freehold and teacher consultant Lorraine Taddei-Graef of Lacey work at Freehold Township High School and had both received pay raises upon obtaining doctoral degrees from Breyer State University, the same school that issued degrees to Superintendent H. James Wasser, former Assistant Superintendent Frank J. Tanzini and current Assistant Superintendent Donna Evangelista.
Their salaries have since been reduced to a master’s degree level. Lanza was paid $58,385 with a master’s salary in 2007, nearly $5,000 less than she had earned with a doctorate this year, public records show.
Taddei-Graef was paid $66,530 with a doctorate degree in 2007 and was to be paid $73,620 during the 2008-09 school year.
Wasser had received a pay bump as well, but stopped receiving the extra stipend after the state ordered that he, Tanzini and Evangelista drop their doctoral titles in early September.
Lanza and Taddei-Graef were ordered to drop their titles in October.
Public outrage was sparked in July when the Asbury Park Press began reporting on Wasser’s degree.
Since then, the board has struggled to maintain decorum at its public meetings while a diminishing group of residents has strived to glean information. The discord continued during Monday night’s board meeting.
Jim Sage of Marlboro, a critic of the board and district administration, asked board President Patricia Horvath if Lanza and Taddei-Graef had ceased receiving the salary bump associated with the degree.
Horvath answered firmly but ambiguously: “The issue has been addressed and it has been taken care of.”
Sage said that was no answer, and Board Attorney Lawrence Schwartz returned Horvath’s answer, verbatim.
Agitated, Sage spoke louder, stating that the public has a right to know. Anger escalated as another attendee shouted that the teachers should be given formal notice before Sage gets a public answer. A security guard began to approach Sage.
Schwartz answered, quelling the fervor: the teachers’ salaries have been returned to a master’s degree scale, he said, adding that the teachers did nothing improper.
Some attendees posed questions about employee repayment for the tuition paid to Breyer State and received no answer. About 15 members of the public attended, though not all were critical of the board.
The board will meet Monday at Marlboro High School, 95 N. Main St. An executive session starts at 7 p.m., and the board expects to start the public meeting at 8 p.m.
Joshua Riley: (732) 308-7751 or firstname.lastname@example.org