A Conversation With Lakewood Attorney Michael Inzelbuch

On June 12th Governor Phil Murphy announced that school districts could start providing in-person summer programming for students with disabilities — called Extended School Year, or ESY — on July 6th.

But two days earlier Lakewood Public Schools (LPS) announced that it will begin ESY on July 1st.

What’s up with that? I decided to ask Michael Inzelbuch (who serves as board attorney as well as de facto superintendent and school board president so maybe his $750K+ salary is a bargain).  [Update via email from Inzelbuch: “ESY will begin on July 6, 2020 and end on August 12, 2020.”]

As readers know, LPS has been doing in-person evaluations of students with disabilities since May 11th. NJEA, the state teacher union, sent the district this “cease and desist” letter for violating social-distancing rules and demanded that Inzelbuch “bring this reckless action to an immediate end.”  He didn’t and told me yesterday that district staff members — all there voluntarily, he said — have already completed 500 speech, occupational, psychological, physical, and learning evaluations. 


Inzelbuch also noted that LPS’s reopening plans have been approved by the Board of the Ocean County Health Department (Lakewood fan Senator Bob Singer is on the board) and the Lakewood police department. While he is “coordinating with the Governor’s Office,” the Governor’s date of July 6th is, he said, “arbitrary.” 

Currently 300 public schools students are ready to begin in-person ESY on July 1st with 150 staff members. “We’ve been working for months to reopen,” he said, and tomorrow bus companies will be asked to submit bids for transportation.  Today the district is beginning to evaluate English Language Learners, a big chunk of the district: At Lakewood Middle School, for example, the primary language for 81% of students is Spanish. 

I asked him why he is so opposed to remote instruction. “It doesn’t work,” he exclaimed. “No more zoom or gloom!” 

What about the 37,000 Lakewood non-public students who attend ultra-Orthodox Jewish day schools? They are already reopening, he said. What about students with disabilities who are placed out-of-district at public expense, per the federal law IDEA? (Currently Lakewood sends 200 students to the School for Children with Hidden Intelligence, a private special education school in Lakewood certified by the state at a current tuition rate of $127,446.90 per student. Last year LPS paid SCHI $24 million in tuition and other costs.) Inzelbuch professed ignorance about SCHI’s plans but said students there were welcome to participate in LPS’s Extended School Year program. Another private special education school popular among Lakewood’s ultra-Orthodox, the Special Children’s Center, is planning on reopening in July.

“I’m not letting students fail,” he said, “not on my watch.”

What do you think?

2 Comments

  1. Avatar Thomas Paine

    By the way, SCHI also has opened for in-person instruction and therapies for their most needy students who regressed tremendously because of the failure of remote virtual teaching and learning. In short, it was a disaster and a shame.

  2. Avatar Thomas Paine

    Please note these important facts to correct your articles here and for the future..

    1. The Special Children’s Center is NOT the NJ DoE Approved Private School for Students with Disabilities (or as you write..”private education school…”.

    2. The correct name for the school to which you are referring is The Center for Education (TCFE).

    3. Special Children’s Center is a not for profit agency under the auspices of the NJ Dept of Health, and is not affiliated at all with the Dept of Education.

    4. Neither TCFE nor SCHI (School for Children with Hidden Intelligence) discriminate in any manner, in any way in regards to accepting any child of any race, creed, or ethnic background. This is a personally known fact. To state or to write, to infer or to sway others into believing this is immoral, unfounded, biased, slanderous and libelous. It also adds to discriminatory attitudes that have created hateful speech and feelings.

    There is enough lack of commonsense among the vocal minority. Do not add to it.

    For your and your readers’ sake, research your facts and write them accordingly.

    Your discussions regarding the Lakewood schools and Mr. Inzelbuch and the Board and supetintendent are more spot on. The entire school system is dysfunctional and needs a 100% change in leadership at the board level. I have witnessed and been involved in many board meetings over many years. Lakewood’s meetings are at times a tragedy for the children and families of Lakewood. Mr. Inzelbuch’s self-aggrandizing rhetoric is truly appalling and his taking over of the Board meetings is against Robert’s Rules. Yet, no one calls him or the supetintendent or the Board out on it. Someone needs to rein in this Board.

    Finally, regarding Rabbi Eisrmann, the founder of SCHI..for a more balanced article regarding what really occurred to this man, read the entire transcript of the trial; read the comments made by the investigating officer, the NJDoE’s Elise Williams; the judge himself ….report those findings to your readers factually e I rd for word….and let your readers decide for themselves what really was taking place in the case against the rabbi.

    Otherwise, I do enjoy reading your articles.

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