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Challenges Facing the Board of Education

Advice from a former school board member

I now feel fortunate to have not attended the Parsippany-Troy Hills Board of Education re-organization meeting held Jan. 3. However, from the numerous calls and emails I received afterward, it appears that 2013 is not shaping up to be the year we can expect this board to address the significant challenges that are in front of them. 

It appears, at least initially, that personal agendas and BIG egos will dominate this board for another year.  As a past Parsippany Board of Education member, let me reflect and share some insights that may help the board, in particular new member James Carifi, remain focused to do the work he was elected to do.

Reflecting back on six years of public service, I am extremely proud of countless accomplishments that the Board of Education undertook on behalf of the students, parents and residents of Parsippany: the referendum that allowed the district to expand and modernize many of our schools; enhancing technology in and out of the classroom; reducing the growth of the cost of employee health benefits; and advancing the educational goals of the district. 

It would be wonderful if I could end this account here, just focusing on the positive, but I must also admit to a couple of significant regrets.

First, I regret using personal character attacks to discredit a person and their point of view.  This was a small-minded tactic that was hurtful and caused unnecessary embarrassment to those involved and the reputation of the Board.  While I have apologized privately to those individuals, may they also accept this regret here.  The very hard lesson that I have learned is that it is important to stay focused on the issues, not the personalities.  My wish for this board is that they keep this in mind always.

The second regret I have is not listening to the “public.”  Somewhere along the line, I lost sight of the fact that the “public” are friends, neighbors and fellow residents of my town.  I lost sight of the fact that they elected me to represent their interests and desires as to what education in Parsippany should be, the services that they wanted and the cost they are willing to pay.  I insolated myself from their voice and acted against their wishes on a few key issues. 

My advice for each member of this board is this: Never lose sight of why you chose to serve and the numerous and varied constituents that you represent.  This is not easy, as the desires of one constituent group are often at odds with another constituent group.  Please remember to always be thoughtful, fair and balanced in your decision-making. 

At the end of the day, your service is not about YOU, it is about US.

I offer the above as the best advice I can think to give to this newly constituted board.  Many of the experienced board members already know this; however, Mr. Carifi needs to learn these lessons quickly.  His actions and statements have caused him to be the topic of discussion in town, and not in a positive way.  His actions have distracted the focus and attention of the board and the public from the BIG issues facing the district in 2013.  His statements have caused him to appear to be a pompous, self-serving and meanspirited individual. 

In today’s society, we are all too comfortable dismissing the contributions of an individual if they err. Second chances are not often given; mistakes are not tolerated.  I am willing to allow a second chance to Mr. Carifi.  I will carefully watch his actions and listen to his words, and hold him especially accountable for his actions given his unfortunate first performance as a school board member.  Please consider doing the same so this board can move forward and address the BIG problems they are confronted with and offer BIG ideas that will benefit our community.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Kevin Brancato January 10, 2013 at 08:56 PM
Well said Mr Choffo. I hope that all board members listen and act accordingly. Best wishes.
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