As Lone Incumbent, Choffo Says His Experience Speaks for Itself
On Seitz contract: 'I believe the school board acted appropriately and fiscally responsibly.'
Editor's note: Over the next week, Patch will profile each of the candidates running for the Board of Education in next Wednesday's school elections. The series begins today with incumbent Andrew Choffo and continues tomorrow with Alison Cogan.
Andrew Choffo believes his experience, judgment and commitment to maximizing the quality of the Parsippany-Troy Hills schools, while keeping taxes reasonable should earn him another stint on the school board.
“I believe our futures rest with our kids,” he said. “I also think that at this point with the economy being in a severe state of recession it takes fiscal conservatives to make sure the money is spent well.”
Choffo decided to run for school board after a townwide schools referendum was proposed in 2004. Choffo felt that the referendum included too many non-essentials, including a new multi-million dollar building for school administrators.Choffo did not support the referendum, and worked to oppose it. The referendum failed.
A year later, another referendum came up for a public vote. This one cost about half what the first one did and included projects that would directly benefit students such as updating decades-old science labs. Choffo supported this referendum and worked to see it passed. It did.
That is an example of the kind of students-and-taxpayers first thinking that Choffo said he brings to the school board, coupled with years of experience that taught him how the system works.
Choffo supported the new contract for Superintendent LeRoy Seitz, even though critics and other candidates decried it. Choffo pointed out that lost in the noise over the contract issue is the fact that Seitz’s contract was about $15,000 less in total compensation than it had been the year before.
Also, Choffo said he recognizes the need to spend fair market money to get the best-qualified workers for crucial administrative positions.
“At the end of the day, I have to make sure we have appropriate educational leadership in the district,” Choffo said. “I believe the school board acted appropriately and fiscally responsibly.”
He noted that around the state superintendent searches have averaged around 18 months and the Wayne school district has been searching for a superintendent for more than two years.
Securing the best qualified people at fair salaries will continue to be a crucial issue for the members of the next school board because two other administrators, the director of curriculum and the business administrator, will retire in July. The director of personnel will retire in October.
“Of the five senior leadership positions, the district could potentially have four vacancies in them,” he said. “In the short term, that could have been very difficult.”
Choffo said he is pleased that even in these tough economic times the board this year was able to pass a budget that was less than 1 percent more than last year.
Choffo, 46, who works in human resources, has a son in the fourth grade at an elementary school in Parsippany as well as a daughter who is a freshman at the Morris County Academy of Technology. He moved to Boonton six years ago, he said.
Looking forward, Choffo said he would like to work to make sure Parsippany’s schools stay safe and that they offer more resources for outgoing seniors, such as SAT preparation courses.
According to Choffo, much of the criticism directed at the board in recent years, for example, that the board isn’t transparent, has been that of a small, but vocal minority that isn’t necessarily an accurate representation of the town as a whole, he said.
“If you sit at a school board and you look at the folks who attend the meetings on a regular basis, there are about 10 that attend regularly and of those there are about five or six vocal opponents to the board,” he said. “And it’s those five or six opinions that make it into the paper.”