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."