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Neglia Appointed BOE's Lone VP

Having two co-vice presidents violated the school board's bylaws.

After eight months with two  co-vice presidents, there now stands only one: veteran board member Frank Neglia. At its meeting Thursday night, the school board tossed out its May 2011 vote result and elected Neglia over member Gary Martin by a 5-4 vote.

The controversy began last May 5, at the . When members voted for vice president that night, the vote split 4-4 between veteran Neglia and the newly elected Susy Golderer.

Board President Frank Calabria refused to break the tie. In a move he said was designed to promote unity between the board's perceived two factions—the old guard (Calabria, Neglia, Anthony Mancuso, Deborah Orme and Fran Orthwein) versus the rebel vet and (outspoken veteran Michael Strumolo, Golderer, Martin and Sharif Shamsudin)—he announced that the two candidates would serve as co-vice presidents.

That evening, according to Calabria, Board Attorney Mark Tabakin warned the president that district bylaws only permit one vice president. That same warning came during a break in the meeting from former President Vi Schicke, during a conversation with Calabria and Patch.

His response to both was the same: Co-vice presidents would stand until someone challenged the move.

That at the board's Feb. 9 meeting in the person of Deborah Orme, who spoke out against the bylaw violation.

According to Orme, she understood why Calabria installed two vice presidents, but she insisted the action was the wrong one to take.

"The board has an obligation to be in compliance with state regulations and our bylaws," she said. 

Calabria agreed with Orme on the spot and, in a rarely seen move, the president ruled his May 2011 action out of order.

"I overrule the chair," he said, referring to himself, "because he was wrong."

He remanded the issue to the BOE's Policy Committee to investigate, and Thursday, committee chair Fran Orthwein said that the panel had come to a conclusion.

While there was precedent for a New Jersey school board having a first vice president and a second vice president (the Maplewood and South Orange districts each have two), she said the committee believed that the best move for the Parsippany board was to vacate the May 2011 election (which was never truly finished, as Calabria did not cast a vote) and start over.

After Calabria stated that he still believed the board would benefit from having two vice presidents, Orthwein said the board could do that, but following that course of action would require a bylaw amendment. She said an election of a first and second vice president could be handled at the 2012 reorganization if the board so desired.

Golderer then read into the record an impassioned statement she said was composed at the time of the May reorganization. In it, she talked about how she was elected because the people demanded change. 

She made the point that because of her status as a newly elected board member, her vice-presidency answered the voters' call for the BOE to move into a new direction.

Apparently, the rest of the board did not agree.

After a motion was made to conduct a new vote for a single vice president, three people were nominated: Golderer, Martin and Neglia.

The voting fell along factional lines: Though Strumolo nominated Golderer, he cast his vote for Martin, who voted for himself. Shamsudin voted for Martin as well, and even Golderer chose the former Montville police officer. Neglia scored votes from himself, Mancuso, Orme and Orthwein.

Facing yet another tie, President Calabria quickly announced his vote for Neglia.

"The people wanted a decision, so we made one," he told Patch.

Strumolo said this decision is a loss for the Board of Education.

"Dr. Calabria is a great guy  and an important part of the community, but he is one of the good old boys. He's reluctant to change, and she probably represented change to him," Strumolo said. "There is no harder working board member than Susy. She is so passionate about making a difference and doing right by those kids.

"When we were voting, she leaned back and told me she was crushed by the way the vote was handled. She even asked me not to vote for her," he said. "It's a shame. In an age of transparency, Susy Golderer as vice president is what this board needs."

Orme offered the opposite opinion.

"Thursday night ... provided the opportunity [for us] to see how each of the nominees chose to conduct themselves and how they handled the challenge," she said. "Those moments spoke clearly about each individual, their priorities, their boardmanship abilities, and their capacity to serve in a leadership role.

"I have had the pleasure of serving with Frank Neglia for quite some time now and he is respectful and considerate of others, is an exemplary, hardworking board member who has and always will have the best interests of our children and school district as his number-one priority," Orme continued.

"His service to the board and the district as vice president is absolutely a gain."

Andrew Choffo February 24, 2012 at 09:00 PM
From the above Patch article: "Strumolo said this decision is a loss for the Board of Education. "Dr. Calabria is a great guy and an important part of the community, but he is one of the good old boys. He's reluctant to change." Let me get this straight! Mike Strumolo is calling someone else a "good old boy?" Mike has been wandering around Parsippany politics for so long that the skeletons in his closest have their own skeletons. He is a dinosaur and is the personification of what is wrong with politics in general.
Anya Sheiffele February 25, 2012 at 01:43 PM
With all due respect - all of you are way off the mark with what's wrong with this Board. I find it truly amazing that Debbie Orme would decide to choose this topic that needed to be "corrected" over the past year. This topic??? Are you kidding? Of all the issues that have been before the Board of Education and the difficulty of balancing what's best for the community and what's best for the children, you all pick this issue? Where were you when Dr. Seitz was getting paid his increase and NO ONE followed up on that? Shocking! And please do not patronize the public, Dr. Calabria. "The people" weren't truly asking for a decision, Debbie Orme was. Your original decision was much more in the spirit of what needs to happen in this district since transparency isn't a strength in this community (can anyone say, FOD?).....
Carol M. February 25, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Mrs Sheiffele just for information purposes, Mrs Golderer made a comment at the meeting that she has been asking Dr. Calabria about the VP situation since May and the article mentions former President Vi Schicke asked too so with courtesy to Dr. Calabria, his reference to” the people” could easily mean those people I would think.
Carol M. February 25, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Mrs Sheiffele I just had the chance to re read your post and can you please help me understand? You’re concerned that there has not been enough transparency regarding the school board and the FOD but you are upset that Mrs. Orme brought up an issue that the board has kept secret from the public for months? I get the impression that this particular issue doesn’t seem important from your point of view but shouldn’t we have a consistent expectation of transparency regarding all matters? I was upset about this VP thing as soon as I heard about it but what bothered me most was that no one mentioned a word about it to the public and that's a big problem for me.Where's the transparency in that?
Mike Kertesz February 25, 2012 at 10:48 PM
ok Frank, All we need now, I for you to NOT to cave in with everyone else, and play nice, most of you are dis-functional on the BOE
Mike Kertesz February 25, 2012 at 10:49 PM
the Boe needs to get a REAL lawyer Attorney Mark Tabakin in not doing that much for us, looser
Hank Heller February 26, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Andy, Why would you put yourself into this mess again? You’ve made clear your dislike for Strumolo but how can you say he is guilty of cronyism? We certainly CAN say that you have been guilty of “good old boy” politics. Remember, it was your pal, Anthony Mancuso who brought us the current mess we are in with Dr. Seitz and his illegal contract that was not approved by the County Commissioner fully 7 months before the old contract was to expire. And it was your pal, Mancuso, who allowed Seitz be paid a new and much higher amount before the new contract could be ratified (and supposedly without Board of Ed approval). That is the $38,000 overpayment that the BOE is now in litigation to get back. And it was you, Mancuso, Debbie Orme, Frank Neglia, Dr. Frank Calabria, Fran Othwein and Dr. Lou Valori who consistently voted down Bob Crawford and Mike Strumolo’s ardent efforts to recall that original contract. Thankfully Mrs. Orthwein and Dr. Valori finally decided that they could no longer support the Seitz contract. And, you were Mr. Mancuso’s primary mouthpiece during the last year of your Board tenure, assuring everyone that your group was doing the “right” thing for Parsippany, its students and taxpayers. And, Andy, it was you who the voters of Parsippany rejected by voting in 3 new Board Members, because it was the only way the people of Parsippany could be assured that Mr. Mancuso would not be able to continue as President of the Board of Education.
Hank Heller February 26, 2012 at 06:24 PM
#2 From Hank Heller So, if you want to accuse Mr. Strumolo of being “a good old boy” that is fine with me. What he has really been is a guy who was willing to stand up against Parsippany’s “good old boy” network that exists to this day on the Board of Ed. You, Mancuso, Orme, Neglia and current president Calabria took care of your buddy Seitz in June of 2010 and you stuffed it down the citizens of Parsippany’s throats then and since. Your payment for the “stuff job” is that you can now sit on the sidelines. So, feel free to make comments about those who really did act with integrity and responsibility. In this case, it was Crawford and Strumolo. By the way, since you brought up the subject of “good old boy” activities, it is clear that the network is still alive and well in Parsippany. Now “the good old boys” of the Board of Ed have joined with the “good old boys” of the Town Council and Mayor to bring us the Field of Dreams project. Anyone with any smarts would recognize that if the BOE gives up 51% of the control of the two high school fields FOREVER for the short term benefit of the Mayor and Town Council’s engineering, in my personal opinion, a heist of Parsippany’s Open Space Trust Fund to build two fields that can only be described as temporary (8-10 years usage before needing replacement) something is definitely wrong!
Hank Heller February 26, 2012 at 06:25 PM
#3 from Hank Heller ! If, after careful and impartial analysis, it was determined that putting down synthetic turf fields would be better than fixing the natural grass fields that we have, it is in the best interests of the Parsippany school system to have the Board of Ed fund those projects and NOT give up control of our High School fields to outside interests. These are parties that you won’t be able to control in the future because the BOE will no longer have ownership and their ideas might not be good for our students and homeowners. This seems to be another example of the “good old boy/girl” system at work in Parsippany. The only people I can see benefiting from such a bad deal is the current politicians on the BOE and the Township administration who clearly are looking to swap the gift of the Field of Dreams to the Recreation parents in exchange for the Recreation parents future support of their candidacies. And, of course it should be remembered that more than a few members of the BOE are lifelong members of the various Recreation parents groups. I would think that those BOE members would want to make sure that their loyalties to their respective Recreation groups would not co-opt the good business sense that they owe the Parsippany Board of Education for the long run.
Carol M. February 27, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Mr. Choffo forgive me my giddiness but I am in awe of the power of your pen; just a few simple strokes inspires such passion in others. That is a talent so rarely seen that if you don’t mind, even though it may be just a tad bit off topic, could you please say something (anything at all will probably do) about Marlene Wendolowski’s retroactive contract?
Rick February 27, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Perhaps it's just me but I for one felt that the call for not "retrofitting" the by-laws of the BOE to accommodate co-VP's was disingenuous. I recognize the BOE as a separate entity to the town but, politicking is politicking; and isn't "retrofitting" exactly what our town attorney is doing with the proposed rewriting of the ordinance governing the OSTF to pay for the FOD? Come on Parsippany... Let's adhere to a standard of high integrity and sound governing.
Carol M. February 27, 2012 at 05:12 PM
I apologize, I must be tired or my age is showing. Rick could you please clarify your post for me? You “felt that the call for NOT "retrofitting" the by-laws of the BOE to accommodate co-VP's was disingenuous (and) "retrofitting" (which is) exactly what our town attorney is doing with the proposed rewriting of the ordinance governing the OSTF”, is OK? So you are comfortable with amending bylaws, or “retrofitting” ordinances when the occasion arises? Or you don’t like either which is what I get from your last line.
Rick February 27, 2012 at 07:18 PM
I'm against both. My point was that a BOE member openly suggested that you can't retrofit a by-law while voicing her opposition to the current co-VP status and thereby advocating a vote for one VP (which is as the BOE by-laws read). Meanwhile, our town council, by recommendation of the town attorney, is going to try to retrofit an ordinance just to allow OSTF money to fund the FOD project. If BOE members are aware of this (and I believe many are), than its flat out hypocritical and seriously disingenuous. Don't you agree?
Carol M. February 27, 2012 at 10:38 PM
I absolutely agree that the BOE made the right decision not to change their bylaws to cover up the charade that’s been going on for the last 8 months. I’m not following how their vote to stand by their bylaws is hypocritical in relation to the town looking to change an ordinance since they are two separate bodies but I respect that there’s a connection for you. I don’t recall ever hearing of any comments from the BOE regarding township ordinances nor do I recall ever hearing of any comments from the Town Council about school policies so it seems pretty safe for me to say that they don’t appear to interfere with each other’s jobs but you may have information that I don’t have or, your memory may be better than mine so, I could be mistaking.
John M March 15, 2012 at 11:53 AM
This year Neglia, Calabria, and Orme are up for re-election. It is time to get rid of the people who created this Superintendant fiasco in this town. We got rid of Choffo last year and next year we need to get rid of Mancuso and Orthwein. They wouldn't listen to the majority of the residents and that's why we're in the mess we're in.
Kristen Ritter March 15, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Can anyone tell me what is required to be on the BoE? What qualifications does one need...what time commitment is required...and how would one go about getting their name into the ring?
Bob Crawford March 15, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Kristen Requirements/qualifications: Be able to read and write Be a U.S. Citizen Have at least one year of residency in the school district Be registered to vote If currently holding elective office understand that you can only hold one elective office at a time Not be disqualified from membership on the BOE due to conviction of certain crimes To get your name in the ring : Need to submit a nominating petition signed by at least 10 qualified voters who live in the school district Time commitment required: Varies by Board member's personal commitment but attendance at two BOE meetings per month and membership on three Board Committees which meet on an as needed basis is required. Prior to BOE meetings time is needed to prep for the BOE meetings. If you are someone else might be interested in running in November for one of the three available seats, I would be happy to talk to you and share my perspectives that were developed over the seven years I served as a Board Member. By the way, unlike positions on the Council which pay a salary and benefits coverage, BOE membership is totally voluntary
momo March 15, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Petitions are due by the June primary date, I believe the 5th. New board members will be seated in January. Further regualtions are coming out from the state. When?? who knows. Time commitment is always more than you think it will be - also must be willing to listen, learn and deal with crazy government regulations.
Bob Crawford March 15, 2012 at 10:00 PM
BOE elections were moved to November by the current BOE. Petitions from the BOE office should be available about a month before.
Monica Sclafani March 15, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Kristen - go to the district website: http://www.pthsd.k12.nj.us/ - click on "Board of Education" on the left hand side of the page - then click on "Become a School Board Member" on the bottom right hand side of the page (the April filing date is no longer valid). This should give you a broader sense of what it means to sit on the BoE. I would also speak to some of the longer sitting board members (Neglia, Calabria, Orme, Orthwein and Mancuso) if you want a well rounded perspective of a BoE member's time commitment.

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