UmbrageOctober 6, 2008
Break out the IncenseOctober 8, 2008
The reputation of local school boards and administrators in New Jersey is dappled with some fresh mud today. For starters, the National School Boards Association rescinded an invitation to James Wasser, the superintendent of Freehold Regional Schools who purchased his graduate degree from a diploma mill. He had been scheduled to speak at its convention in San Diego, but the NSBA’s verdict is that Wasser “would hamper the credibility of the presenters involved.”
Wasser’s stance has been adamantly unapologetic, but at last night’s Freehold school board meeting he issued a formal apology to the public. And the witless school board members who blithely approved Wasser’s raise and tuition reimbursement? While they slammed through a policy last night to limit payback to administrators who attend accredited institutions, a DOE spokewoman told the Asbury Park Press,
“(This policy) is absolutely not what the department of education wants to see,” department spokeswoman Kathryn Forsyth said during a telephone interview Monday afternoon.
It’s a regular slugfest out there. The DOE, understaffed and overwhelmed, finds itself in the center of a maelstrom of dissatisfied taxpayers, jilted unions, cash-sucking Abbot districts, and flat test scores. Its response is an odd sort of diarrhea of documents, saddling local school boards and administrators with an expulsion of QSAC reports and various instruments of accountability. Local school boards, caught in the flood, race to keep up.
Or they screw up.
The North Jersey Record reported today that a Bergen County grand jury indicted a Saddle Brook school board member on charges that she stole $6,000 from the local PTA.
It’s been a great couple of weeks for anyone invested in exposing the weaknesses of home rule and local governance. School boards are incompetent and administrators are nefarious: it’s an awesome place for advocates of standardization. The Courier News editorialized today regarding the Wasser/Freehold incident,
School boards either didn’t care or didn’t check to see if the degrees came from properly accredited schools. The employees themselves obviously understood they were gaming the system, since they did nothing to earn the degrees. The arrangement was at best careless and at worst a sort of wink-wink understanding that no one would ask questions about those degrees.
It’s a brilliantly choreographed set piece for proponents of consolidation.