Helen Tobia, a tenured supervisor and longtime employee of the Lakewood School District who faced a slew of charges following her suspension, was fired from the district, it was announced Monday morning.
Tobia, who has been serving in the district since 1995, has served in the capacity of assistant principal, supervisor of special education, and supervisor of social studies, among others. She became tenured in the district in 1998, and currently serves as Supervisor of Pupil Personnel Services, documents show. She was suspended in August, and in September she was charged with a slew of charges, including perjury and more.
The announcement about her firing came Monday in an approximately 150-page document from the arbitration.
Since 2006, Tobia’s responsibilities primarily involved oversight of the district’s special education program.
“During her [tenure as] deSupervisor of Pupil Personnel Services, Tobia has engaged in various actions, which among other things are illegal, and/or highly improper, fail to meet her performance responsibilities, place the district in a negative light, expose the district and its employees to significant legal and financial liability, and have the potential to negatively impact the educational program provided to the district’s special education students,” court documents read.
The charges were filed by State Monitor Michael Azzara, who stated, “I hereby charge Helen Tobia, a tenured supervisor employed by the board, with unbecoming conduct, inefficiency, and/or other just cause warranting dismissal.”
According to court documents, Tobia was charged with perjury, willfully violating various state and federal special education regulations, directing that a student be found ineligible for special education services even prior to the Child Study Team evaluation of the student, making unilateral student placement decisions, failing to work with district representatives and legal counsel, and violating district policies, among other charges.
In one particular incident, the charges allege, the parents of a student enlisted in the Special Children’s Center filed for a “stay put” order to maintain the child’s placement in the school, which Tobia allegedly opposed. In opposition to the petition for due process, Tobia provided false testimony in an affidavit, claiming the “SCC [Special Children’s Center] has religious symbols and icons present in and around the building.” The Board then prepared that affidavit based on her statements under oath.
During the court proceedings, the judge referenced the statement by Tobia that the school contained religious imagery, and questioned if the school is sectarian.
But later, Tobia admitted that she had never seen any religious images on the walls, and that she could not attest to the affidavit being true, according to the charges.
“By her actions, Tobia lied under oath in a litigation matter involving the school district, or, at best, misrepresented facts to the court while under oath, placed the district at risk of liability and misled Judge Kerins in her analysis of the issues related to M.W.’s request for emergent relief,” the documents stated.
These actions, the charges allege, “placed both the student and the district at risk, and undermined the district’s creditability and constitute gross misconduct, conduct unbecoming a teaching staff member, and/or other just cause requiring dismissal.”
A total of 18 charges were filed against Tobia, according to earlier documents, and the case went to an arbitrator who after testimony upheld the District’s suspension.
“The tenure charges brought by the Lakewood Township School District are sustained, with respondent terminated from her tenured position as supervisor of social studies, fine arts, and pupil personnel services,” court documents read.