Lakewood: Protest Over Closure of Tiny Tots Program

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elmwood-village-lakewoodLast night, a protest formed in front of the home of one of the members of the Lakewood, NJ, Board of Education, as frustrated parents protested the closure of Lakewood’s largest out-of-district special-ed┬áprogram.

The township Board of Education has brought all preschool services in-house, severing longstanding and, at times, controversial ties with private special education providers just as the school year got underway yesterday.

Tiny Tots, the largest child care center in Lakewood for pre-school special education services, had lost its funding from the NJ State Department of Education after the Department said it would rescind $4 million of pre-school funding for the Lakewood School District if the contract with Tiny Tots was allowed to continue.

The Department of Education had said that the Tiny Tots program, both for special education and regular education, was not up to standards and was ineligible for any state funding. The Department of Education required the District to bring the entire program in-house. The state’s criticism centered on Tiny Tots specifically and the inefficiency of outside contracts in general, according to district officials.

“They (the state Department of Education) had some concerns about the curriculum and facility” at Tiny Tots, Leonard Thomas, school board president, told the Asbury Park Press. “I was told that basically it was implied that if we were to attempt to keep that program, we’d be in jeopardy of losing our preschool funding,” totaling, as mentioned, about $4 million.

Subsequent efforts by the School Board to have Tiny Tots reinstated by the state met with no success.

tova-drive-lakewoodOver the past few days, confusion reigned as rumors of the district and state going back and forth – approving and then rescinding funding – were rampant. The final decision was finally made yesterday to end all of out-of-district special education services.

What this means in practical terms is that those children who require therapy and other special-ed services will have the choice to attend a mirror program to the Tiny Tots program, in the public school system, with culturally sensitive teachers, in a separate fenced-in area made up of trailers.

District officials said that the move is an effort, two months in the making, to save money and streamline the preschool programs.

Tiny Tots announced later on Tuesday that it would be closing its doors completely, shutting its regular education program as well.

The new district-run pre-school system, or Early Childhood Center, will consist of 15 classes mixed with special and regular education students in two locations: Linden Avenue behind the Ella G. Clarke School and Somerset Avenue adjacent to the middle school.

The Linden Avenue site – which used to house Catapult Learning, one of the largest of the four contractors that have been dropped – will be the choice location for the students of the now defunct Tiny Tots program who wish to enroll in the in-district program.

The other two providers dropped by the district were Ready Set Grow and Macedonia Day Care Center, both in Lakewood. The Rev. Edward Harper, chairman of Macedonia, said he was shocked to receive a letter Monday that, without warning or explanation, notified the day care center of the abolished contract. Harper said he will lose four of his 20 students, meaning a shortfall of about $3,600 a month.

school-board-lakewoodReady Set Grow parents, as reported previously on, didn’t receive notice until last week that funding for the program had been cut, despite the fact that the funding had been terminated back in June.

Board Attorney Michael Inzelbuch says that the district could save more than $500,000 by bringing the pre-school services in-house. District officials said the recommendation to no longer outsource the programs had been discussed for months, with only a few board members resisting until this week, according to the Asbury Park Press.

Ready Set Grow, we are told, will continue to operate as a non-special-ed pre-school program.

Last night, parents who blame the closure of Tiny Tots on the School Board gathered in front of the home of school board member Chesky Seitler in the Elmwood Village Development. As people gathered on Tova Drive at about 11:30 p.m. and the crowd grew, various neighbors were awoken. Cars crowded the street and police arrived to quell the crowd. The Elmwood Village development became so congested, though, that even police vehicles had trouble exiting the area.

Shortly after midnight, a witness related, the crowd dispersed.

Tonight, at 8 p.m., the Lakewood Board of Education will hold an Open House for students who formerly attended an out-of-district program and would like to enroll in the new district-run Early Childhood Center program. The Open House will be held at the Linden Avenue site.

{ Newscenter-Lakewood/With reporting by E. G. and M. Friedman}


  1. I think it was a disgrace what the parents did last night. Perhaps if people weren’t so greedy tiny tots would still be around. It is about time that people stop taking advantage of the kehilla

  2. Not only will children lose out on needed services but TEACHERS will be out of work also.
    The paperwork, rules and regulations to run these programs are immense YET if they are not filed and adhered to properly….funding ceases to EXIST…

  3. These parents dont understand who to blame for the failure of the tiny tots program. Its time to wake up & relize things have to be done with yashrus. We cannot always get away with cutting corners.
    In the long run i think everyone will relize the boe members will do a lot of good for us.


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