Lucille Davy: Who is she protecting, the school districts, or the taxpayers?

Great quote: It is wrong for people to use those diploma mill degrees to increase their salaries,” Education Commissioner Lucille Davy told the Asbury Park Press. “But I don’t have the authority to stop them.”


From our friends at Inthelobby:

If this story weren’t so sad, and so emblematic of what is wrong with New Jersey, this would actually be quite funny.

The case involves Breyer State University, an unaccredited, online school that used to be based in Alabama until that state investigated, called it a diploma-mill and then kicked the school out of their state.

At Breyer State, you could literally buy your degree for a minimal amount of work.

Now why should we care about this in New Jersey, you ask?

Because some of our enterprising school administrators got advanced degrees at Breyer State, according to the Asbury Park Press.  And those advanced degrees usually translated into big raises for school administrators.

And those big raises meant bigger pensions.

Pensions that we ultimately pay for.

And what does our state plan to do about this?


“It is wrong for people to use those diploma mill degrees to increase their salaries,” Education Commissioner Lucille Davy told the Asbury Park Press. “But I don’t have the authority to stop them.”

She doesn’t have the authority to stop them?

Oh please.

With the 19 gazillion regulations that our state pumps out on a daily basis, we never created a regulation that says school administrators must get degrees from accredited universities in order to have that degree recognized by the state, or to have it result in salary boosts from boards of education?

That’s like saying the state would have no choice but to accept teaching degrees from matchbook cover schools.

But, if amazingly, the state of New Jersey somehow never required that administrators gets degrees from accredited universities, what’s to stop Davy from requiring it now?

She can seek an executive order.  She can issue an administrative edict. Or, if need be, she can champion legislation.

But not our education commissioner. She apparently believes in talk, rather than action.

The issue arose in recent weeks from the case of Freehold Regional School District Superintendent H. James Wasser, and two other administrators at the school district, who got advanced degrees from Breyer State University.  When the Asbury Park Press reported that Alabama found Breyer State was a “diploma mill,” the state investigated.

And instead of issuing strict new guidelines, or tough standards, Davy and company punted, and offered “suggestions” to the school district. And, even more outrageously, let Wasser’s bonus – and tuition reimbursement — from his dubious degree stand.
If the school district was competent enough to act on suggestions alone, it wouldn’t’ have granted Wasser a $2,500 raise for his degree from his make-believe school. Or reimbursed him for the tuition.
But it did. Because, as we too often learn, this is New Jersey, where common sense – and good government — goes to die.

The Asbury Park Press had two experts from Boston College and Harvard Law School review Wasser’s doctoral thesis. Their conclusion: It didn’t meet their minimum standards for academic work, and would not pass at an accredited, doctorate-granting institution.

And here’s the thing.  You know this isn’t isolated with just Wasser and the Freehold Regional School District. You know that there are more cases of this throughout the state of New Jersey – and that it’s costing taxpayers money that they shouldn’t have to spend.
The irony, of course, is that the state of New Jersey has one of the highest per pupil spending ratios in the country.  We spend billions of dollars a year on education, and Gov. Corzine just pushed a bill through the Legislature authorizing us to spend hundreds of millions more.
Yet, with all this money, somehow our state has no problem with the fact that school districts are spending part of their tax dollars on raises and salary reimbursements for advanced degrees at unaccredited schools.  It’s perfectly fine with the fact that we the overtaxed citizens of New Jersey are paying for tuition reimbursements and salary increases based on dubious degrees from unaccredited schools.
And yet we wonder where the money goes.
How many other school administrators and/or teachers have received advanced degrees from unaccredited schools? How much money is that costing the state – and taxpayers — annually in salary increases and tuition reimbursements? Where is the statewide review of all school districts?  Where are the standards? Where is the outrage?

And how does any of this help the children?

We don’t know, because all Davy is willing to do is cluck that it’s wrong, but take no action.
Who is she protecting, the school districts, or the taxpayers?
As if we had to ask.
“I feel sorry for New Jersey. Here they had an opportunity to step up to the plate, and they opted not to,” former FBI agent Allen Ezell, who investigated diploma mill fraud for 11 years, told the Asbury Park Press. “I would have thought New Jersey would have had a little more brass than that.”

Yes, Agent Ezell, New Jersey has tons of brass. As long as they using it against the taxpayer.  When it comes to upsetting the bureaucracy, not so much.


Trzeszkowski contract on hold; NJ to look at contracts of other school superintendents


As part of the fallout over the nearly $741,000 buyout package for one outgoing schools superintendent, the state Department of Education will review contracts for schools chiefs in the 31 Abbott districts and has rejected one recently signed in Plainfield, Gov. Corzine announced Wednesday.

Corzine requested a review of superintendents’ contracts after it was reported that outgoing Keansburg Schools Superintendent Barbara A. Trzeszkowski was to receive nearly $741,000 in severance and unused sick and vacation time.

Keansburg Board of Education members said at their meeting Tuesday that her contract is on hold until a compromise deal can be reached. The state is seeking a court injunction to stop the payments that Corzine has called “an outrageous abuse.” The injunction was not filed Wednesday.

Trzeszkowski is set to collect $556,290 in severance pay — calculated by multiplying her monthly salary by the number of years she has worked for the district — and another $184,586 for unused sick and vacation days.

Those payments do not include Trzeszkowski’s state pension pay of $115,600 a year that she earned in 38 years in Keansburg.

Corzine had authorized seeking the court injunction because, he said, the deal seemed inappropriate when dollars for schools are scarce.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Corzine said state Education Commissioner Lucille Davy will review superintendent contracts for the state’s 31 poorest districts, which include Keansburg.

One of those contracts, set to begin July 1, has already been rejected after Union County Superintendent Carmen M. Centuolo learned that Plainfield signed a four-year pact with a new superintendent, Steven Gallon III, without submitting it for review.

“They did not follow the proper procedure in terms of the contract process,” Department of Education spokeswoman Kathryn Forsyth said. “It wasn’t sent to the county superintendent. There was no review.”

State Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, on Wednesday accused Corzine of sleeping at the fiscal switch in overseeing the state’s Abbott districts.

Citing the State Commission of Investigation’s 2006 report “Questionable and Hidden Compensation for Public School Administrators,” Beck said Corzine had failed to take any corrective action since then, adopting, she says, a “hands off” policy.

“Governor Corzine’s shameless posturing in regards to the Keansburg School Superintendent severance package is outrageous,” Beck said in a prepared statement.

Corzine said he was “troubled” by the Plainfield contract, although it remained unclear Wednesday night what exactly was wrong with the contract. A statement from the governor’s office mentioned “questionable provisions” that included travel, meals and lodging, relocation expenses, life insurance and sick leave.

The only specific examples that Forsyth could provide were that the contract didn’t include a recently enacted $15,000 cap on sick leave and included a provision for the board to pay for Gallon’s medical exam even if he chose his own doctor.

Gallon, an educator from Miami whose contract will pay him $198,000 in the first year, said he was reworking the contract so it complies with state law. He said he wasn’t notified that it was rejected Wednesday.

“I’m working with the board to make sure that we’re in compliance with all the provisions of state statute,” Gallon said. “We want to do that so we can get about the business of educating and uplifting the children of Plainfield.”

Corzine Orders School Chief Contract Review (yeah right)

From our friends at NJ101.5

The state has begun reviewing superintendent contracts in the state’s poorest school districts.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine says he has asked the state education commissioner to ensure the contracts comply with state law and efficiently spend taxpayer money.

The state’s 31 poorest districts receive heavy state funding (like 80% – shouldn’t that come with state oversight?)

Corzine’s move on Wednesday comes after outcry surrounding a $740,000 severance package for the Keansburg superintendent. Corzine has asked the state attorney general to seek an injunction preventing the money from being paid.

But the administration says it began reviewing some contracts in April as a result of new state fiscal regulations, even rejecting a new Plainfield superintendent contract for provisions that provided payments for travel, meals, lodging, life insurance and sick leave reimbursement.