Update 1/29: Barista Kids has obtained a copy of the bill from Stuart Ball, LLC, Mr. Cummings attorney, to the Montclair Board of Education. Click link below to view.
Update: Barista Kids reached out to board President Robin Kulwin, as well as attorney Mark Tabakin, for comment on whether the Board is responsible for Mr. Cummings’s legal fees and if they intend to pay the $69,000 bill Cummings’s attorney billed them.
Kulwin stated, “Stuart Ball’s invoice was provided to the Board at last night’s meeting. The Board first must clarify whether Mr. Cummings is eligible for reimbursement. The Board then must address the reasonableness of the bill itself before making a decision one way of the other. The date of the public meeting when the matter will be addressed has yet to be determined.”
The Montclair Board of Education’s first meeting of the 2014 on January 27 stretched into way past midnight, with most time spent on the implementation of new curriculum standards, but the biggest news to come out was the cost of the investigation.
Mark Tabakin, Board attorney, shared that $60,000 in legal fees were billed from its legal counsel, Weiner, Lesniak LLP for the investigation of the 14 leaked assessments during the months of November and December. Weiner Lesniak charged the board $150 per hour.
In addition to those costs, Tabakin reported a bill of $69,000 from Board member David Cumming’s attorney Stuart Ball who is providing legal counsel for him after Cummings was served a subpoena in November to give testimony. Cummings would not cooperate with the board’s investigation by refusing to share the name(s) of the person(s) who contacted him with information about the assessments being available online.
Tabakin broke down some of the figures of the $60,000 bill. “The board’s efforts in dealing with Mr. Cummings on the subpoena totaled approximately $11,000, the ACLU litigation is approximately $10,800, and fees associated with the investigation dealing with network administration was roughly $4300. So about 44 percent of the total amount of legal fees associated with the investigation of the assessment is associated with those three matters,” he said.
Board president Robin Kulwin told Barista Kids that they anticipated the investigation to be about a three-week process, but when someone didn’t cooperate, it ran the expenses up.
The state’s Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance (OFAC) took over the investigation on Tuesday, January 7, 2014.
Bullock School Teacher’s Report
Teachers from the Charles Bullock School addressed the board regarding how the school year has gone since the new standards were first implemented, as the other schools were asked to at previous meetings.
Curriculum support director Susan Synnott said that a good deal was working at the school. “From our fabulous facility, to just the atmosphere that you feel when you come in the building, it’s filled with laughter and fun,” she said. “It’s just a great place to be.” She cited the installation of a dean of students who has been an asset to the teachers, as well as the hard work of the teaching staff and the student activities available.
Other Bullock teachers, addressing what was not working, noted that language arts had suffered and that professional development needed to further adjust to the quarterly assessments, which were a burden on the teachers’ efforts at teaching students.
The Bullock teachers called for the re-instatement of classroom aides and restoring pre-K to the school system.
“We need time to learn how to meet the demands of the new standards,” one teacher said.