School Choice Expanded – Catapult Monopoly Chopped

boe meeting first with new members 4-26-10The Lakewood BOE just met and voted to scale back Catapult’s control of the District’s nonpublic (mosdos) special education services. Three vendors were approved to provide Chapter 192 and Chapter 193 services, previously the exclusive domain of Catapult. 

This historic victory for school choice, for more competitive rates, and for better services did not come easily. It came over the subtle but strong opposition of Mr. Michael Inzelbuch, the Board attorney. And it happened only because the new team of Silver, Fink, Seitler, and Zlatkin were in the majority 4-to-3 during most of the meeting.  Board President Leonard Thomas left at the beginning of the public meeting, and Abe Ostreicher arrived towards the end.

Catapult now retains its monopoly in only two programs, both federal IDEA–funded: (1) administering 30 self-contained classes, and (2) managing the STARS program. Even for these programs the Board forced Catapult to reduce its price by $1.7 Million, from its initial bid of $5.8M to $4.1M, by bringing another vendor to the table, Tiny Tots.  So Catapult, which for many years had a monopoly on every District special education contract, is now reduced from 8 to 2. But BOE critics maintain that’s still two too many.  Parents, and education advocates, such as the Igud, say all District contracts should be awarded to multiple vendors as in New York City, and other communities. Lakewood’s recent experience, where the introduction of competition resulted in dramatic savings, bears out this position.

In other action the Board voted to defeat a move to bring the Tiny Tots preschool program in-house. With six out of six District school ranked as failing by the NJ Department of Education, most involved parents in the community saw no reason to put a failing district in charge of a well-run privately-administered program. Other concerns expressed throughout the kehilla were that this was a thinly-veiled attempt to scare away kehilla parents, by bringing it ‘in-house’, i.e., into the public school system. Parents of children in the program, some of whom addressed the Board passionately and eloquently, regard this vote as a win for all the parents who oppose moving a successful program with a proven track record into an unknown situation, risking the education of their special needs children during their most formative years.

Chapter 192 services include Reading/Math tutoring for non-classified students, ESL-English as Second Language, and home Instruction.  Chapter 193 services cover E&Cs-Evaluation & Classifications, in other words a determination of eligibility by a Child Study Team for special education and related services; tutoring for classified students; and Speech/Language (Evaluations and Therapy).

The three firms approved for Chapter 192 services are Tree of Knowledge (TOK), Educational Excellence, an affiliate of Tiny Tots, and Catapult. 

Chapter 193 services were split. For Supplemental Instruction (SI) and Speech—Educational Excellence, TOK, and Catapult were approved. For E&C—Psych Ed Services, and Catapult. 

“The evening’s deliberations were marked by an unmistakable tug of war and power play between the new Board members and the Board’s attorney, who was doing everything in his power to protect the status quo — Catapult”, says a meeting attendee. “The attorney just would not give-up, throwing one legalistic and technical monkey wrench after another”. “When he warned the Board that they were going against a technical provision in the Request For Proposals (RFP), and then ignored Chesky Seitler’s request to authorize waiver of such informalities, (as specifically allowed in the RFP and done in the past repeatedly), the exasperated Board members over-rode the attorney, voted to reject all Proposals, and proceeded to award contracts based on the merits, with the attorney’s begrudging advice and consent.”

Upon leaving the meeting, a prominent local African-American minister was overheard saying, ‘best circus I ever saw’. 

Certainly a night to remember.

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56 COMMENTS

  1. i would like to thank the board for coming to there senses in this matter u will be saving alot of yiddisha nishamos, and for ur great negotiation skills saving millions along the way!! its a win win situation…

  2. An outstanding job by our new team. Too bad the attorney is so conflicted he cannot see right from wrong. High time for a new attorney.

  3. Thank You!! Thank you !!! Thank You!!
    Lac board members “Silver, Fink, Seitler, and Zlatkin” that listened to the parents and did not let the district take Tiny Tots in house. The parents and kehila owe you a big yashkoach for looking out for the needs of all the special children of Lakewood. And also saving 1 million Tax dollars.

  4. Hoping the Catapult monolopy chop really works for the students. The article mentions the 6 failing (public) schools in the district, are not all of enrolled (public and non) students academic scores included in the district’s reporting status? Hence, not just 6 public schools are failing.

  5. I want to give a big yasher Koach to the new BOE members and Yoni Silver. You have stood through thick and thin, you have disregarded any personal Kovod and have done the right thing!

  6. There is an error in the article. While there were only 7 members, 5 not 4, were together on this. Besides for the 4 mentioned, Meir Grunhut was together with us. I want to clarify that Meir has been a strong friend and advocate for our community on all fronts.

  7. THANK YOU! Thank you board members for keeping Tiny Tots program as opposed to taking it ‘in house’. As a parent of a special needs child, I am very appreciative.

    THANKS!

  8. I was at the meeting and I do not recall any of the votes going 4-3
    Most were 5-2 or 6-1 on the tiny tots vote one of the lac candidates abstained.

  9. at the board meeting another interesting item was put on the table, giving benefits to the elected members, health benefits. C.Fink ran on a platform promising 0 increases, how could he ask for benefits and not expect to add to the $ spent already? Is he really being fiscally responsible?

  10. “…at the board meeting another interesting item was put on the table, giving benefits to the elected members…

    Why do they need any benefits at all??? They are elected and, if I remember correctly, are not paid. I believe they all have jobs and, therefore, do not need ANY benefits. I wonder if any of the members are self-employed and, if given health benefits paid for by the town, could drop the health coverage they presently have.

  11. Health benefits for the elected? RFP this, GET YOUR OWN HEALTH BENEFITS at $0 cost to Lakewood residents!!!! Shucks, your health benefits is not our problem. Matter of fact, dealing with the BOE past and present, old and new members causes us all to have our blood pressure checked more frequently than not, from the idiotic chaos and immoral motions and decisions they continue to make. Maybe we should sue the BOE for all the pain and suffering they have caused and unfortunately continue to do, to help pay for our health benefits.

  12. As a member of the non-jewish community I was insulted to hear an orthodox parent say how his child would be affected or should I say infected by mixing with the children in the public schools. If your religion is so trong, maybe it can help our children.

  13. Let us count the reasons, starting with…
    1) The children’s education SHOULD BE the first and foremost concern
    2) We can’t afford it!
    3) They all knew the position didn’t have benefits when they signed on
    4) All the all the agmas nefesh (aggravation) they put us thru.
    5) We can’t afford it!
    6) The school district in which they are responsible for is FAILING!!!
    7) Why reward bad behavior and irresponsbility?
    8) Did I mention, we can’t afford it!
    9) They want to put in less hours and receive health benefits?? Wow!
    10) If stats and facts coming through the Lakewood school district were above substandard, maybe we would consider, but.. they’re not and we won’t.
    11) WE SIMPLY CAN NOT AFFORD IT

  14. New Board Members,

    I read that you had a majority last night. You promised to reform the District. Why didn’t you get rid of the attorney? Or at the very least relieve him of his second district position, as recommended by the State Auditor?

    As to Meir Grunhut, as a public elected official he is accountable and has to stand or fall on his record. He engineered the reinstatement of the Board attorney to his second position, just 16 days after he was forced to resign. He is no friend of our children. He is a good friend only of the Board attorney.

    And while we are on the record, why did he for so many years consistently vote to give Catapult the monopoly that the new team is now working hard to dismantle? That will surely haunt him.

  15. Who you kiddin’?
    MG goes with the flow.

    When the flow went for Catapult, he went alongn that parade, for years.

    Had there been a majority the other way last night, he surely would have gone the other way. Proof is the past six years (more?).

    Gimme a break!

  16. It’s time for BOE leadership that will face the truth and tell the truth. Spin will no longer work. Not from Catapult. Not from the Board attorney. Not from anyone. Get Real.

  17. Mr. Seitler and Mr. Zlatkin, do you know that if you break the law you can go to jail? If you take health benifits for your position on the BOE that is breaking the law.

  18. I attended the meeting last night and thought the attorney was very fair and direct in his views. I disagree with negative comments towards the attorney.

  19. The failing public schools did not happen overnight. Review the past 1o years to see how Lakewood public schools went down hill. It’s amazing how selected few parents who are concerned come to each meeting and complain about the same thing. The bottom line is, Install a new board with new ideas and you will see change. Remember Yes we can

  20. To # 27
    No body is breaking the law! If you payed attention you would know that the motion of the board was only to look into the legalities of the issue.

  21. Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!

    Thank you for taking away the monopoly of Catapult. Now we will be able to get jobs from other vendors too, and we won’t have to rely on Catapult.

    Thank you!!!

    Catapult Teacher

  22. I didn’t say they broke the law. I am saying that if they break the law they will have to answer to the authorities.

  23. i dont understand how you saved money with stars?

    it is federal money and must be spent on special ed.

    what now happens with that money ?

    will more kids be serviced?

    will more services be available?

    will it go to the mosdos?

    someone please explain

  24. Forgive me for saying this, but you don’t know what the attorney was up to last night; the discussion at the BOE meeting went over your head.

    Mr. Inzelbuch tried very hard to protect his favored vendor – Catapult. He tried to eliminate its 2 main competitors, Tree of Knowledge and LearnIt, the 2 other firms which won the Title 1 contracts. Title 1 and Chapter 192 are linked. Disqualifying these firms from Ch. 192 work effectively eliminates them from the Title 1 competition. The new team on the Board saw through this, fought him tooth and nail – and won. Although they apparently could not block his efforts to eliminate LearnIt (WHY?), they were successful in blocking his efforts to disqualify Tree of Knowledge. Unless you are familiar with the minutiae of this issue, you will not comprehend this discussion either.

    But don’t feel badly, you’re in good company. Less than a handful of the Board members understood what really went on last night!!

  25. U people r missing the boat, the problem with the whole boe in lkwd is that the board and attorney have been busy for yrs figuring out the money and everyone forgot u need to have experienced and trained teachers to do the work, not every girl who graduated should be thinking she can help every special needs child and even in the piblic school obviousky the teachers are not great. Open up your minds boe look for people who have had succes and bring them into lakewood, yes you may have to pay more. Ut you will see succes, not children getting serviced for years and no change. Research find the proper help.

  26. At no time was Learnit ever disqualified! It is true that tree of knowledge filed their paperwork after the due date and procedurally it should not have been accepted. However the board rejected all the RFP applications and then proceeded to hand picked the ones they wanted. Learnit is actively negotiating an alliance with one of those RFP that were accepted. It is an erroneous statement to conclude “Although they apparently could not block his efforts to eliminate LearnIt” PLEASE GET YOUR FACTS!!

  27. The Board wants to create multiple vendors so there will be competion. Thats all swell, but as you are now well aware, Catapult runs The Stars program very well. We should therefore try to always keep it in Catapult’s hands. Secondly, creatrng multiple vendors only reduces the money the vendors recieve to run their programs and provide services to the children. It does not reduce the vendors’ profits. Now Stars and Tiny Tots have a substantially lower budget and have to figure out how to cut and ruin some vitals of their programs inorder to stay within the reduced budget. Therefore, all this competition justs creates lesser quality services for our children, because the vendors are forced to offer lower bids so they can retain or obtain new contracts. So with all the focus on cutting funding (and thankfully both these wonderful programs are still somewhat in tact), there will definately be serious downgrades in Stars and Tiny Tots. What a shame. The members of the board of education want to ruin education!

  28. All this was to keep the taxes status quo. Well our taxes were increased substantially this year! Many people in the frum community did not even benefit from the 0 % tax increase. If the overall tax money did not increase, but only select groups of people benefitted from this than what good is this proposal anyway. SO much upheaval for nothing!

  29. Was LearnIt selected? NO. Was it in direct competition with Catapult? YES.
    If not ‘blocked’ why was LearnIt NOT selected for 192/193? Forgotten?

    Are you also disputing the fact that for over an hour, by one transparent ploy after another, Mr Inzelbuch tried mightily to block Tree of Knowledge? is THAT fact also in dispute?

    May I suggest that YOU read the Minutes. Find out what happened.
    Get YOUR facts straight.

    Olilam is not Goilam.

  30. DEMOGRAPHICS has changed the Public Schools in Lakewood,

    Let’s take a look at the numbers in our faililng district, Possibly, mmmmmmmhow many are non speaking English students,?

    Remember the Lakewood School District, the Business Offices, well, does this ring a bell?

    Remember there is money to be made in Lakewood, and you can change the MAKE UP OF STUDENTS just by the changes in the rental properties, ( demographics) just by becoming an investor in rental properties,

    DOES THIS RING A BELL?

    WHAT HAPPENED TO LAKEWOOD,?

  31. Facts? Do tell me the facts.

    Is the BOE attorney in cahoots with Catapult, Yes or No?

    If Yes, why do you keep him in his job?
    If No, best you do a reality check on all your Facts.

    Everything else is diversionary tactics.

  32. please back up the stements that you stae as facts.

    you say catapult runs stars very well ?
    on what do you base that fact?

    on the fact that they hire every recent graduate who clept her way through RR ?
    or by the many employese who dont have a degree?
    how good can special ed faculty be getting paid those rates?

    and what makes you say it reduces the money and not profits?
    they have to deliver a certian amount of services. they must give them. it does reduce thier profits.

    ( although catapult is known to have methods , such as putting 5 children together when thier ISP calls for 1 on 1)

  33. You did not answer the simple question.

    When the BOE “handpicked” 192/193 vendors why was LearnIt eliminated?

    And while you’re answering that question, please explain why Catapult was the only one contacted by the LBOE of the 24 vendors who expressed an interest in Title 1 work in NYC? The LBOE had the list of the 24 months in advance.

    Time to expose. Time to save our children.

  34. The responsibility of the boe is to the students and the tax payers..not to ensure you are employed.Sorry about your job loss perhaps contact Tree of Knowledge or Educational Excellence

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