Michael Inzelbuch and I Have Another Email Exchange: A Lakewood Update.

On Friday I wrote a post that described Lakewood Board of Education’s July 1st meeting when the Board shut down the school district because the State Legislature eliminated Phil Murphy’s $30 million gift to Lakewood. Later that day the Board re-opened the schools upon news that Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet magically found $36 million in the DOE budget to make Lakewood whole. I also printed two emails between myself and Board attorney Michael Inzelbuch because he said at the meeting that I had been invited to Lakewood but never showed up and my inbox proved otherwise.

Yesterday  morning I received another email from Mr. Inzelbuch. Here it is. The top part of Inzelbuch’s note to me was cut off in Paint and I’m technologically-challenged so here’s that first part with the rest below:

Have spoken to Board President and Superintendent this evening 

We again invite you to meet .

How about Monday ,July 15,2019 -9  am ? Lakewood BOE Office 

Please leave hate @home

As you see, I’m leaving today for the Gates’ Networks for School Improvements conference and can’t make it to Lakewood. I hope we can settle on another date. I’m eager to hear the Board President, Superintendent, and Board attorney’s explanation for why 40% of the district’s $177 million budget is directed outside the district (almost a third — $49.15 million — in private school tuition) despite terrible outcomes for kids stuck inside.

But Inzelbuch didn’t leave it with a last-minute invitation. In the local Haredi paper called the Lakewood Scoop he continued his response to Friday’s post by punching back at my description of the dire outcomes for students trapped in Lakewood’s district schools. (I’m privileged to have good Lakewood friends who sent me this article; the paper has blocked me on Twitter so I don’t get its updates.)

In his article Inzelbuch informs the public that he has“permission” from Superintendent Laura Winters to “release” the DOE School Performance Reports and results of NJ’s accountability rubric for districts called QSAC. Note to Inzelbuch and his audience: All this information is already available on the DOE website; you don’t have to “release” anything.  Inzelbuch goes on to claim that that district schools are seeing an “upward trend” in student outcomes and that the Board is more in compliance with State regulations than it used to be. For example, he says (in a direct rebuttal to my post on Friday) that more students are passing AP tests than before and that students are achieving higher scores on PARCC and other assessments.

Great! Let’s look.

  • In 2015-16, Lakewood High School students taking the SAT got a 428 in reading and 437 in math.
  • In 2016-17, Lakewood High School students taking the SAT got a 448 in reading and 442 in math.
  • In 2017-18, Lakewood High School students taking the SAT got a 433 in reading and a 445 in math.

Hmm. A little better, although statistically insignificant — note that reading went up and then down again while math held its own (although 100 points below the state average).

Let’s look at math PARCC scores among Lakewood High School students.

  • In 2015-16, 7.1% of LHS students met expectations.
  • In 2016-17, 10.2% of LHS students met expectations.
  • In 2017-18, the state entered an asterisk. This means “Data is not displayed in order to protect student privacy.” In other words, the number of students who met expectations is so low that the state is afraid someone could figure out the name(s) of the student(s). 

Doesn’t seem like an “upward trend” to me.

Mr. Inzelbuch specifically calls out AP courses, both participation and passing the end-of course exams. LHS offers 7 AP courses. There’s no info on the DOE database for 2015-16.

  • In 2016-17, 183 students took the exams and 14 passed.
  • In 2017-18, 144 took the exams and 15 passed.

Mr. Inzelbuch, Dr. Winters, and Mr. Bender: Would you send your children to Lakewood High School?

Here’s the thing: Inzelbuch wants to blame the lack of progress on LHS students’ race and socio-economic status. In the article he says that “Lakewood has an urban population that is more than 90% minority and 100% free and reduced lunch,” as if poor kids of color can’t excel in school. He might want to take a look at Newark’s TEAM Academy, a KIPP charter school. TEAM is 100% minority and 90.2% of students qualify for free and reduced lunch. Last year 43.5% of KIPP students met state expectations in math on the PARCC test and 53.3% met expectations in reading, right about the state average. Re: AP courses, the average participation across the state is 34.9%. At KIPP 48.4% took AP courses and 34 students passed.

Here’s a few other Lakewood tidbits:

  • First, that $36 million from the DOE — in spite of nearby districts like Toms River and Jackson losing aid (and having their share of yeshiva students) — isn’t enough to support Lakewood’s profligacy. On top of the $36 million — Inzelbuch said at the July 1st Board meeting, “let’s have a hand for Governor Murphy!” — the district says it needs another $16 million just this year, on top of the $48 million it already owes the State. All that totals a tidy $100 million in loans that the district will never pay back.

To get that $16 million Lakewood filed suit against the State Legislature, the DOE, Senate President Steve Sweeney, and Assembly Leader Craig Loughlin. Inzelbuch makes $350/hour for this litigation, on top of his $600,000 contract. [CORRECTION: A kind reader just pointed me to Inzelbuch’s new contract with LPS. According to this, he “will be compensated at the hourly rate of $475 per hour for and litigation services and $75 per hour for paralegal services.” The contract notes that this is in addition to his $50,000 per month payment.]

“These claims by the Lakewood board have no merit in federal court, especially against the Legislature,” said David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center. “Just another example of the board wasting money on lawsuits, money that is desperately needed in classrooms.”

I’m delighted to have a chance to agree wholeheartedly with Education Law Center. 

  • According to the blog Hefkervelt, the Board is discussing a $6.1 million referendum for November 5th to pay for courtesy busing for public and yeshiva students next year. “[I]f the proposal is voted down by tax payers officials said that would leave 13,000 non-public and 2,965 public school students with no busing.” (Why only one-third of yeshiva students but one-half of public school students? Who knows.) Let’s just call it: The referendum will fail. In 2016 99% of  voters said “nay” to a $6.1 million referendum for courtesy busing.

Mr. Inzelbuch, you asked for my “ideas/innovations.” Let’s start with this: Trash your soft bigotry of low expectations and grasp the concept that students of color who are poor can excel academically. We see it all everywhere and not just in charter schools. The Lakewood Board is failing to uphold the Board Member Code of Ethics, which includes this: “I will make decisions in terms of the educational welfare of children and will seek to develop and maintain public schools that meet the individual needs of all children regardless of their ability, race, creed, sex, or social standing.”

But, then again, Lakewood is Lakewood, the district that spends 40% of its budget on students who don’t actually attend district schools and has the chutzpah to ask for more.

What do you think?

5 Comments

  1. Michael Inzelbuch

    Mrs Waters

    Good afternoon .

    Cmon .

    Let’s work together to help our future -the children .

    Lakewood public schools – which I am a graduate of -of course needs to further improve -but -once again innuendo and the like won’t help .

    Looking forward to meeting you at the Board office on Thursday .

    Michael Inzebuch

    • Laura Waters

      Good evening, Mr. Inzelbuch. Thursday would be great — just have to work out a mutually convenient time. How about 11? I could also do mid-late afternoon.
      There’s no innuendo in this post: just data collected by the DOE and my own observations about equity.

      • Michael Inzebuch

        Mrs Waters

        Sorry I couldn’t speak for long when you called this afternoon. Was in Meeting.

        Looking forward to meeting with you tomorrow at 1pm at the Board office ,Ramsey Avenue .

        Any reasonable accommodations ,please advise .

        Believe it or not -we have been accused of favoring your Blog over other media -so unless you have a “problem “ will invite ,again , Rise Up and the APP

        The district will have staff ,Superintendent,Building Administrators , etc available who will be presenting information .

        Give me a call later or email me if anything comes to mind so we can continue to work together .

        Be well

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