Ridgewood School Board Grapples with Selection of Aftercare Provider Amid Public Scrutiny

In a recent heated meeting of the Ridgewood School Board, the primary focus was the contentious debate surrounding the selection of a vendor for their after-school program. The debate underscored divisions among the board members over how to evaluate the vendors and the consideration of factors like pricing, service quality, and financial viability.

At the crux of the discussion was a proposed resolution endorsing AlphaBest, a service provider lauded by board members Miss Brogan and Miss Clark. However, Mr. Donny and Mr. Lambo, the dissenting voices on the board, raised concerns about the timing of the resolution, citing the late delivery of an evaluation report.

The decision-making process provoked criticism, with social media complaints of AlphaBest’s persistent waitlists stirring skepticism about the vendor’s ability to meet demand. Moreover, concerns were raised over the adequacy of parent feedback during the vendor evaluation process. Mr. Donny challenged the scoring system, arguing that factors like pricing appeared to be inconsistently applied across vendors. Brogan countered that the committee considered an array of factors, from program pricing to services offered to parents, which naturally led to subjective evaluation.

The meeting also laid bare the clash between board members favoring financial metrics over curriculum considerations. One member argued the district’s needs were primarily about safety and completing homework, implying a preference for the more cost-effective option. In contrast, another member insisted that curriculum quality was also a key factor, denouncing one vendor’s proposal as an “embarrassment.”

Board members also questioned the fairness of the evaluation process, which disqualified one vendor due to a financial discrepancy and another for not having a New Jersey license. Not all board members had a chance to thoroughly review all proposals, exacerbating concerns about the decision-making process’s rapid pace. A consensus could not be reached, leading to an agreement to reconvene for further discussion.

The public also had their say in the debate, with a local parent criticizing the board for the delay in decision-making, which impacts families planning their children’s care. Charles Benigno, CFO of Ridgewood YMCA, expressed confusion about the low grading of their proposal, citing their longstanding community presence and financial viability.

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