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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.

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 , 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.”

Hank Heller April 19, 2011 at 09:21 PM
Mr. Choffo Please tell us how the new, early Seitz contract affects Dr. Seitz's retirement fund compared to the contract that had not yet run it's term. If Dr. Seitz lives 20 years past his retirement, how will this new contract, that has been so unpopular with the citizens of Parsippany, really compare with the prior unexpired contract? And tell us again, please, if you think it was a good idea for Mancuso to order the Board Attorney to bring suit against the State Government on the taxpayers dime. What do you think the ultimate cost of that exercise will be? And one last time, can you tell us if you were aware that the law suit was being brought forth before it was done? And did you approve of the Board President not telling the rest of the Board about the Serafino/Wendolowski telephone conference call on the afternoon of 2/24, before a key vote? Since you are an incumbent, I assume you have answers for the people of Parsippany, so they can caste their vote on 4/27 based upon knowledge and conviction. By the way, you don't really believe this, do you? “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.” If you do, boy, are you out of touch! Hank Heller
Mismatch April 21, 2011 at 12:54 AM
His experience does speak for itself which is why so many are not voting for him. Bye bye.
Par4theCourse April 21, 2011 at 04:50 AM
Hank and Mis, As a fellow Par resident, you guys share my sentiments exactly. I'm fed up with the BOE's antics (Strumolo and Crawford aside). We can not embarrass ourselves to the rest of the state and let the current incumbents remain. Keep posting, get the word out to your neighbors, let's get some responsible representation from this election.
Kevin Brancato April 21, 2011 at 11:33 AM
Hey Andy, 5 or 6 of the 10 regulars speak out against the board. Guess what that's 50% to 60% that believe you should go. You just continue to prove your unbelievable arrogance. You can bet if that many of the regular attendees feel that way, those of us who are close to the board activities also feel that way. Thanks for your service but you need to find something else to do now.
Leo Ballard April 21, 2011 at 01:20 PM
Still waiting to hear an original thought from this guy. His comment at the end of the article leaves no doubt that there is only one way to get the point across, and that is to vote. Because even when people go to the meetings in droves to protest something, they still convince themselves they're in the right.
John M April 26, 2011 at 12:34 PM
Am I missing something here? He moved to Boonton 6 years ago, but has a son in the Parsippany school system. Aren't you suppose to attend the school system from where you reside? Also, why do we want someone who doesn't live in this town making decisions about our schools? He needs to go.
Parsippany Parent April 26, 2011 at 01:53 PM
If I'm not mistaken, anyone that works in the Parsippany school system is allowed to enroll their kids in Parsippany, it does not matter where they live. Since his wife works part time in a school here, I assume that is why. I will NOT vote for him, but the rule itself does make sense since we are able to recruit and retain teachers with school age children to come and work here.
Ellen April 26, 2011 at 02:07 PM
Choffo does not live in Boonton but has a Boonton mailing address like most of Lake Intervale. The same way Rainbow Lakes residents have a Denville address and Sedgefield has a Morris Plains address to name a few. He is a Parsippany resident, paying Parsippany taxes or would not be able to run.
Ellen April 26, 2011 at 02:08 PM
That is no longer an option. It was an old contract benefit for teachers and I believe admins but has been eliminated. His wife is a noontime aid so never qualified for that benefit but again, since he lives in Parsippany his children are honestly in their home schools
John M April 26, 2011 at 02:26 PM
Ellen, he said in the article above, he moved to Boonton 6 years ago. Seems wrong to me. First, why should we as taxpayers pay for someone who doesn't live in our town? Second, why should Choffo be making decisions that directly affect our taxes, but not him since he isn't a Parsippany resident? And third, how can he be objective when his wife is a part-time teacher in town?
John M April 26, 2011 at 02:39 PM
I have a Morris Plains mailing address, but I know I live in Parsippany. He said he moved to Boonton 6 years ago, his words. Doesn't he know where he lives?
Parsippany Parent April 26, 2011 at 02:40 PM
I guess a question would be why would he not just say he lives in Parsippany even if he is in a shared zip-code, I guess he feels it is "better" to live in Boonton?
Andrew Choffo April 26, 2011 at 02:51 PM
Let me take a moment to address an item that is not correct in the article above. I moved to PARSIPPANY 12 years ago, in May of 1999. I live in a section of PARSIPPANY that is serviced by the Boonton post office, hence the Boonton mailing address. Best regards, Andy Choffo VOTE LINE 5 www.choffo.com
Andrew Choffo April 26, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Let me also thank my Friends and Neighbors for considering me for a 3rd term on Board. I truly appreciate your support as we work together to make Parsippany "the place to be" with an exceptional school district. Parsippany, like all NJ school districts continue to face challenges. Unfunded Federal and state mandates; onerous administrative burdens; and over 9 million dollars of state funding that the state raided from you and I last year and took to Trenton all conspire to limit your rights to establish what kind of school district you want and how much you are willing to pay. In spite of these challenges, you still demand that the Board works to: • Ensure a safe school environment • Increase student achievement • Maintain current programs • Increase the use of technology • Reduce cost of public education, and • Reduce property taxes I have worked to achieve these results. None of the other candidates can match my 6 years of experience working for you. If re-elected, I will continue to exercise financial responsibility to ensure our district continues to provide an exceptional educational opportunity for our students. This is my commitment to you – the parents and taxpayers of Parsippany-Troy Hills. Thank you and please VOTE LINE 5 to re-elect me, Andy Choffo, on April 27. Best regards, Andy Choffo www.choffo.com
steve revette April 26, 2011 at 02:57 PM
Yes it is really not that odd. Remeber people who live in Powder Mill have a Morris Plains adress. I remember hearing a couple different times Mr. Choffo saying he lives in the Intervale section of Parsippany.
steve revette April 26, 2011 at 03:09 PM
Mr. Choffo all due respect the school district is not as good as you seem to think it is. As a former graduate I know exactly what the issues are in the schools. The reason why the school district seems to be so good in the board members eyes is because they do not know what really goes on. It is not the board members fault either. The fact of the matter is when you do something bad at work you do not want your boss to know about it. Now I know this from personal experiences.
Hank Heller April 26, 2011 at 07:09 PM
Mr. Choffo You have NOT exercised financial responsibility in at least two major and visible areas, that being the negotiation of the retroactive Wendolowski contract nor in the case of the earlier than necessary Seitz contract. Both of those contracts will cost the taxpayers of Parsippany hundreds of thousands of tax dollars that did not have to be spent or could have gone toward improving the students experience or in lowering our taxes. Additionally, you stood by while your leader, Mancuso, did all he could to shut off comment by disident Board Members and the public. There was much you could have done to help in this past years fiasco, but you did not do anything except to be Mancuso's speechmaker, ardent supporter and apologist. You've had your chance to use your experience to help Parsippany's students and taxpayers and you didn't use that chance or your experience. I wish you good luck in your future endeavors, but I wish for it to be outside our BOE. Hank Heller
John M April 26, 2011 at 07:18 PM
I'm with you Hank.
Ellen April 26, 2011 at 07:21 PM
"Hank" interesting you blame Choffo for the Seitz contract. If you really attend all the meeting as you claim, you would know Choffo has to recuse himself on that vote as his wife works a big 1 1/2 hours a day for some huge hourly rate (she as do all of noontime aids make a big $106.12 per week pre-tax and receive no benefits). The retroactive Wendolowski contract was also a legal issue, so it is nice we followed contract law and didn't open ourselves to a lawsuit
David Comora April 26, 2011 at 07:46 PM
Gosh, It sounds like we have our own birther group starting up in Parsippany! Thanks for clearing the air, Andy, don't be surprised if someone asks to see your original deed...not a copy! Good luck and thanks for putting up with all of the nonsense this past year. To all board members and candidates, thanks for volunteering to run for a position that at times can be thankless and may open you up for a barrage of thoughtless, politically motivated attacks on your personal character. I'm not sure why anyone would want to be a school board member, given the circus that evolved over the past year. I give you all a great deal of credit and thank you for the countless hours you all have spent in service to Parsippany's children.
Hank Heller April 26, 2011 at 08:34 PM
"Ellen" You are obviously trying to provoke me. I know that he recused himself upon advice of counsel. That has nothing to do with the fact that Choffo could have, if he had the students and taxpayers interests at heart, counciled his pal Mancuso, in his behavior toward the citizens and his negotiations with Seitz and Wendolowski. As it stands, Parsippany got taken to the "cleaners" by Seitz and Wendolowski. If Mancuso did not mean to give his close associates a wonderful gift at the taxpayers expense, he sure blew it! The Board Attorney either did a lousy job of advising his client or his client (Mancuso) had an agenda that was not in the best interests of the town and had the Board Attorney draw a contract up that took away all recourse from the town. You do remember the Board Attorney telling us that his client is the Board President don't you? "Ellen", please stop defending actions that are indefensible from a business point of view, a legal point of view and a moral point of view. The people of Parsippany got screwed and all who voted for that contract were complicit. Every single one of them! Seitz got everything that he wanted and we got Seitz, and at avery high price that most citizens would rather not to have paid. Choffo by his defense of Mancuso and Trapp would do it again. That is why they shouldn't be voted in. Hank Heller
Ellen April 26, 2011 at 08:42 PM
"Hank" Not trying to provoke at all, just looking to understand your viewpoint more as the more you write, the less logic you use. You say Board Members should be independent thinkers, yet you now blame Choffo for not counselling Mancuso better. Pick a side and standby it. You just prefer to put out as many "headline snipits" as you can to bias people. If you felt so strongly maybe we would have seen your name on the ballot. So easy just to keep pointing at all their faults
Hank Heller April 26, 2011 at 09:07 PM
"Ellen" Please re-read your post. Your comments are silly. Let's see how we all do tomorrow night. Hank Heller
Mismatch April 26, 2011 at 10:00 PM
Keep grasping at straws dude.
John M April 27, 2011 at 12:39 PM
Ellen, that's why we shouldn't have teachers or relatives of teachers as BOE members. They have to recuse themselves so they aren't very helpful in voting for things that are important issues. Mr. Calabria has 3 daughters and a daughter-in-law that are teachers. Has he recused himself everytime a vote came up concerning teachers? Ms. Trapp is a teacher, if she were to get in, she would have to recuse herself. We need to vote in taxpayers who are looking out for everyone in this town, not for a select few.
John M April 27, 2011 at 12:41 PM
Well everyone, the time has come to get out and vote today. There have been a lot of discussions, now we need to vote and see what happens. Don't miss your chance to make a difference.

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