The school district has agreed to pay $675,000 to settle a payment dispute with its former special education services provider.
School board members approved the settlement with Kid Clan Services last Wednesday.
“A settlement is a fair and reasonable compromise,” said Steven Menaker, attorney for Kid Clan Services, on Tuesday morning.
Kid Clan Services sought $738,149 in unpaid invoices from Sept. 2016 through Feb. 2017, according to court filings. However, Menaker last year offered to settle the case for $600,000. Both sides failed to strike a settlement late into the year. Last month, the school district offered to settle the case for $600,000.
Menaker was prepared to go to trial in early April, but both sides, at the last minute, before Passaic County Superior Court judge Bruno Mongiardo, struck a settlement.
Both sides could have settled the lawsuit in Jul. 2018.
“The district did not sit on it,” said school board vice president Nakima Redmon. “We had to go back to negotiate.”
The settlement offer was pulled by the vendor late last year after the district took too long to settle, according to court records.
Meanwhile, the district racked up legal bills. The district’s legal costs stood at $45,500 late last month, half of it accumulated after the July settlement offer by the vendor.
The lawsuit stemmed from the district’s failure to pay Kid Clan Services of Clifton for services rendered. The firm was contracted to provide speech, occupational, physical, and behavioral therapies to special education students at 54 schools for the 2016-17 school year.
785 students relied on services provided by the company, according to court documents. Hundreds of students were left without state mandated services after the district’s ill-conceived move to halt payments to Kid Clan Services.
The provider made repeated attempts for payments. After notifying the district, it was forced to halt services on Feb. 7, 2017.
Why did the district stop making payments?
Kid Clan Services was allegedly “juking up bills, inflating the bills,” said Cheryl Coy, head of special education at the Paterson school district, in a deposition. But the company has argued in court filings that the district made extraordinary demands that expanded scope of services.
For example, in an Aug. 30, 2016 meeting, the district indicated no direct services would be provided to high schools, but by the end of October, five high schools required coverage. Initially, speech therapists were not required to do case management for speech-only children, but were later required to do so.
The firm was told it would not be providing counseling, but was later required to do so.
“Not that I’m aware of,” said Redmon when asked if superintendent Eileen Shafer took any actions against employees for the failure.
Redmon pointed out the situation unfolded before Shafer became superintendent. She took over the district on Jul. 1, 2017.
“There’s not much she can do,” said school board president Oshin Castillo. “I think it was a poor decision on the part of the former superintendent and former business administrator.” Donnie Evans served as the district’s superintendent and Daisy Ayala as its business administrator at the time.
Shafer’s spokesman Paul Brubaker did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday morning.
The district did not address special education failures in the 2017-18 school year.
Late last year, Shafer said the district needed $1.5 million to get students caught up with services. She said the district hired 20 speech therapists and has put in place a Saturday program to get students caught up with services.