Disgrace:FRHS Board rep steps down because of opposition to do what’s right

 

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HEY BOARD MEMBERS – IF YOURE AFRAID TO DO WHAT’S RIGHT, IT’S YOU THAT SHOULD STEP DOWN, NOT GOOD PEOPLE LIKE KATIE WHO WAS ALL ALONE TRYING TO DO THE RIGHT THING FOR US TAXPAYERS.

By Joshua Riley • EDUCATION WRITER • January 14, 2009                     

MANALAPAN — Marlboro’s representative on the Freehold Regional High School District Board of Education has resigned after serving for less than a year, saying the politics of some members and a too-powerful team of administrators were getting in the way of good decision-making.

Katie Goon, who was elected to a three-year term in April, read a prepared statement Monday night at the board meeting at Manalapan High School. Her resignation was immediate.

“In the past six months, I have been extremely perturbed by the issues and events that have transpired,” Goon said, referring to the controversy that began in July over five district employees’ receiving district money for obtaining bogus doctoral degrees.

Goon said she holds “sincere hope” that her successor will rise above the politics of the district.

Board President Patricia Horvath did not return calls requesting comment. (Gee I wonder why)

“I’m disappointed,” board member Joan Leimbach said in a telephone interview. “I thought she made a great contribution to the board. It will be a loss.”

Goon’s former seat holds the most voting power of any on the board. The Marlboro representative’s vote counts as 1.6 votes out of nine in the district’s system. In the seat’s vacancy, the board can cast only 7.4 total votes because it uses a weighted voting system.

After previous resignations, the board has announced a vacancy and accepted applications for the seat before appointing a temporary representative. The unexpired two-year term will be filled after the April election.

In August, Goon had asked for the resignation or removal of Superintendent H. James Wasser should he retain the title of “Dr.” or refuse to repay the district tuition and salary paid for his doctorate from a so-called diploma mill, Breyer State University.Wasser was ordered by state officials to relinquish his title. He cooperated. He stopped receiving higher pay when he dropped his title in September, yet he did not repay tuition payments or salary increases that the district had already paid. Wasser remains superintendent.

 

During a telephone interview Tuesday, Goon said other board members have feared for themselves and their family members in making decisions for the district. She declined to elaborate.
During a telephone interview, Goon said her voice was not enough to overcome the will of the administration.

As further disservice to district taxpayers, Goon said, two board members for whom a family member works in the district are excluded from representing their municipality on issues of employee contracts.

“There is a lot of power in the administration, and I don’t think the board members stand up to it,” she said.

At Monday’s meeting, Marlboro residents continued to criticize Wasser over the degree and chide the board for inaction.

Goon read her statement at the end of a 2‚1/2-hour meeting. She signed the statement, and the board accepted her resignation.

Freehold Regional HS District: Teachers pay increase rescinded due to “the diploma mill”

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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 jriley@app.com

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.