Paterson NJ Board of Education pays in speech therapy contract dispute


PATERSON – The city school district has paid $675,000 to resolve a two-year contract dispute with Kid Clan of Clifton, a company that had provided more than 750 Paterson students with various special education services, including speech therapy sessions.

The district’s decision to terminate the Kid Clan contract in the middle of the 2016-17 school year helped create a massive backlog of therapy services owed to special education students, a problem that officials say remains unresolved.

The $675,000 payment settled a lawsuit filed by Kid Clan in which the company asserted it had not been paid by the district for services that already had been provided to Paterson students.

At the time the contract dispute first arose, Kid Clan claimed the district owed close to $1 million. Officials said the company reduced its claims to the $700,000 range during the litigation.

The Paterson Board of Education approved the settlement earlier this month. Board president Oshin Castillo called the contract dispute “complicated,” saying one of the issues in question was whether the company was providing group therapy in cases when it should have been providing individual sessions.

But Castillo said the district should have investigated the situation in more depth before it terminated the contract and stopped paying Kid Clan. “That’s not the right way to do business,” Castillo said of the district’s actions.

The decision to end the Kid Clan contract was made by then-superintendent Donnie Evans. Paterson’s current superintendent, Eileen Shafer, was Evans’ deputy at the time.

Kid Clan’s lawyer, Steven Menaker, said the company had to borrow money and tap into its savings to get through the difficulties caused by the Paterson district’s decision.

The company had retained “consultants” to provide the speech therapy, social work and child psychology services for Paterson students, Menaker sraid. Kid Clan already had paid those consultants for their work when the Paterson district refused to pay the fim, Menaker said.

“Paterson never ever contended there was a problem with the quality of services Kid Clan provided,” the company’s lawyer said. “Kid Clan dos good work.”

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Kid Clan continues to provide special education services for various school districts in Bergen, Essex and Passaic counties, Menaker said.

Emmauel Capers was the only member of the Paterson school board who voted against the settlement. Capers said the district wasted money by incurring extra legal fees when it opted not to accept a similar settlement offer a year earlier, Capers said.

“The number wasn’t going to get any lower,” Caper said. “This was an ‘I told you so’ moment.”

Capers said he wasn’t sure how much extra in legal fees the district spent by not taking the original settlement offer. A news story published by Paterson Times put the extra legal costs at about $22,500.

Meanwhile, Castillo said the district has tried to resolve the backlog of services it owes its special education students, but said Paterson Public Schools was still not up to date.

Documents released by the district last December showed that as of that date there were 1,600 Paterson students still owed 28,647 hours of speech therapy from the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years.

Email: editor@patersonpress.com

 



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