By Grace Cangemi
While we await Asbury Park’s decision on topless sunbathing, I’m wondering about seeing the bottom of something in the City by the Sea – the bottom of the money pit that is the Asbury Park school system.
Today, as the ongoing saga of former Asbury Park superintendent continues to unfold, I decided to take a look back at the history of the Asbury Park BOE’s battle with Antonio Lewis and some of the decisions the BOE has made as the process has moved forward.
According to the APP, Lewis has been suspended twice in seven years. During these suspensions, he was still paid his $188,000 salary while acting superintendents filled in. His contract ran out in June 2009 and now Lewis is demanding a job based on tenure. Lewis won a $150,000 settlement after his first suspension. (Failure by Asbury Park to pay this in a timely fashion eventually lead to a $169,000 award to Lewis). After his second suspension, the BOE offered to buy out his contract for around $600,000. State education officials axed the plan, thankfully disallowing Asbury from using state funds for the buyout.
After his first suspension, Lewis was ordered reinstated by a judge due to procedural issues. The then-commissioner of education upheld the decision, but stated that nothing “precludes the Board, in its discretion, from filing new tenure charges.” Instead, it appears that Dr. Lewis went back to work until he was again suspended in 2007.
When Dr. Lewis was suspended in 2007, the BOE appointed James T. Parham as Acting Superintendent at a salary of $110,620. I can’t speak to Mr. Parham’s abilities, but his Masters of the Arts in Special Education, which he received in 2006 is from Almeda University (APP Aug. 17, 2008). Don’t know any Almeda grads? Me neither, so I googled Almeda U. They are an online “university” that offers master’s degrees for life experience and will (get ready) back date theses degrees up to 90 days if you so request. Maybe someone on the Asbury BOE should have taken a few seconds to do a google search.
The Asbury Park Board of Education has undergone may changes since the saga of Dr. Lewis began. Much of the personnel has changed. Realistically, though, the system remains terribly flawed and taxpayers from around the state are continually pumping money into a place where we have no say in what goes on and where a significant record of failure has done nothing but increase the amount of money we contribute.
Currently, reports show that Asbury Park spends (this is not a typo) over $37,000 per pupil. But hey, why not? It’s not Asbury Park’s money.
Has the money helped? Statewide, 85.6% of students passed the 8th Grade literacy exam. In Asbury Park, just over 31% managed to pass. (edlawcenter.org) Based on Asbury’s numbers, I could probably make an argument that dollars per student is inversely proportional to success.
I wonder how much history they teach in Asbury Park. Maybe they get the 31% of passably literate students to read the paper and just tell them that they don’t need to look at the past because in the Asbury Park school system, they don’t seem to be able to move beyond it.