School Board Prepares to Fill Vacant Seat
BOE attorney says Joanne Mancuso's decision not to take the seat she won in November puts the board in a most unusual situation.
The Parsippany Board of Education is supposed to be made up of nine members. But late last month, Joanne Mancuso, who won one of the three open slots in the Nov. 6 election, announced that she would not take the seat or be sworn in, leaving the board in unfamiliar waters.
At its Thursday reorganization meeting, the body announced that it will hold a special meeting at the administration building Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. to do the work involved in filling the seat.
The situation is an odd one for the district. When a sitting member vacates a seat, policy is clear: The remaining board members take resumes and applications for interested contenders and hold a special public meeting to interview the candidates, deliberate (which may be done in closed session) and make a decision.
Board Attorney Mark Tabakin said that what makes this case unusual is that while Mancuso won the election, she wasn't sworn in, which creates a question: Can she be considered a sitting member?
For the purpose of filling this seat, new board President Susy Golderer announced that the body will go forward with the aforementioned process.
"It's a vacancy," said Golderer. "The policy stands."
"We've had board members leave mid-term, but I don't think we've had a board member not be sworn in," resident Monica Sclafani told the body. "There is a fourth member who was duly elected, and they should be given the most consideration for this position."
Sclafani referred to Alison Cogan, who came in fourth in the election, behind James Carifi, Frank Calabria and Joanne Mancuso.
"Mrs. Cogan received 5,700 votes in the past election, placing fourth after Mrs. Mancuso," Sclafani told Patch. "I don't know why the board is even considering anyone else for the position."
Then she referenced outspoken board member Michael Strumolo.
"Mr. Strumolo has reminded us a number of times during his tenure on the board that he was 'duly elected.' [New board member James] Carifi reminded us this evening that he received some 8,000 votes in the past school board election. I would say that Alison Cogan, with her 5,700 votes, has now been 'duly elected' and should be given her place on the board."
The erstwhile also-ran could end up replacing Mancuso. Cogan is one of four people who already have put in their names for consideration. Also on that list are former school board Vice President Frank Neglia, who came in sixth place in the November election, and former candidate Anthony DeIntinis, who came in last place.
Next Thursday, the board will interview the four and any other applicants as part of a special public meeting. By the gathering's end, the body will choose Mancuso's successor.
That new member will have to start quickly: At the reorganization meeting, the board voted to table consideration of the superintendent's and secretary's reports to allow newly sworn members to get up to speed.