School Board Upholds Seitz Contract
Michael Strumolo says Gov. Christie to visit Parsippany on Friday.
The Parsippany Board of Education voted Wednesday night not to rescind the contract for Superintendent LeRoy Seitz after board attorney Mark A. Tabakin announced that the State Attorney General's Office had requested an extension to respond to the board's lawsuit.
Wednesday was the board's initial deadline to rescind the contract under orders from Morris County Superintendent Kathleen Serafino. She informed the board in a Nov. 22 letter that she had not authorized the contract, which the board approved on Nov. 9. Last week, the board filed suit against the state, challenging its authority to negate the contract, which exceeds Gov. Chris Christie's proposed salary cap of $175,000 for school administrators.
After the board's vote, BOE member Michael Strumolo announced that Christie, who has repeatedly denounced Seitz as a "poster boy for greed and arrogance,'' would visit the township Friday afternoon.
Strumolo, who has spoken out against the contract, but abstained from Wednesday night's vote, said he had invited Christie to Parsippany. Christie will come for a "town meeting'' style appearance at the Morris County Police and Fire Training Academy, according to Strumolo.
"I'm going to ask the governor, either personally or on the floor, 'Are you going to invoke executive privelege and freeze all these contracts?''' Strumolo told Patch Thursday morning, referring not only to Seitz's contract but to all recent school superintendent contracts that exceed Christie's cap proposal
Calls to Christie's office to confirm the visit where not immediately returned Thursday morning.
Strumolo said the best course for the the board right now will be to wait and see what the state—and possibly Christie's—response will be. "We're asking all parties to sit still,'' he said.
Two members who voted to rescind the contract Wednesday night were Robert Crawford, another vocal critic of Seitz's salary hike, and Fran Orthwein, who initially voted to approve the contract, but expressed concern at last week's board meeting that the state could withold funding if Parsippany defies Serafino's directive. Last week, she voted to rescind the contract, along with board members Louis Valori, Strumolo and Crawford.
Valori also abstained from Wednesday night's vote. Like Orthwein, he initially voted to approve the contract, but voiced questions last week about the risk of losing state aid and the decision to spend money on a lawsuit.
The controversial contract would raise Seitz's salary from $212,000 to $216,000 this year and $234,000 by 2015. According to the board, Serafino initially approved the contract in an e-mail but didn't sign it.
Serafino claimed in a Nov. 22 letter to the board that the contract was not officially approved. Crawford read the letter aloud at Wednesday night's meeting.
Other board members have defended their decision, citing Seitz's achievements in the district, such as higher standardized test scores and a dramatic upgrade of the district's technology. They also cited the 7 percent cut in overall compensation he accepted under the contract, including a reduction in what he pays for health insurance.
Board member Andrew Choffo, who has recused himself from all contract votes because his wife works for the schools, pointed out that under Christie's proposal, Seitz could be entitled to a merit pay hike of up to 15 percent of $175,000 and another 5 percent increase because the district has two high schools.
Given that, he claimed, Seitz's present salary of $216,000 puts him only one percent over the cap.