Parsippany's Board of Education is again a board of nine.
At a special meeting Thursday night to choose a candidate to fill its vacant seat, the board selected former police officer Anthony DeIntinis.
The board seat was supposed to go to Joanne Mancuso, who came in third behind James Carifi and Frank Calabria in the Nov. 6 election to win a spot on the panel. In late December, she said personal issues forced her to opt out of being sworn in and taking the position.
Though Mancuso was not a sworn member, new President Susy Golderer announced Jan. 3 that the board would follow the same procedures used to replace a sitting member who steps down mid-term.
The board heard from three applicants: Calabria's running mate Alison C. Cogan (who came in fourth in the November election), Carifi's ticketmate Anthony T. DeIntinis (who came in last) and retired U.S. Army Col. Richard Gaydo, a deacon at St. Christopher Church who said he has no current ties to the school district.
Cogan said the most important issues are children and their education. She spoke of her experience as a mother of five kids ranging from special needs to gifted, a certified public accountant and a volunteer in schools and youth sports. She also served as the owner/director of a child care center delivering "curriculum-driven education for children."
"In this role I worked with budgets and managed a staff of 15," she said. "Working there showed me the power of education on a daily basis."
And serving as a school volunteer, she said, taught her how schools operate and how the staff interacts.
DeIntinis came to the podium next and defined "the most important issue at hand" as school safety.
"School safety and security, training, every school district has unique needs," he said. "I want to make every child feel safe and supported."
DeIntinis spoke of his experience as a police officer, police union leader, school resource officer, wrestling coach, and field hockey booster club, and said his skills, including his experience working with budgets, would make him a valuable board member.
Gaydo, who talked about the importance of helping children get a quality education.
"It may not be true that it takes a village to raise a child, but it does take proactive participation of as many as possible in our town to successfully pass the test," he said.
He noted that he was not an expert in providing security—"I don't want to see schools become an armed camp," he said. He added that he wasn't an expert on education. But with any issue, he said his approach is to study the question "and come up with an answer that is "palatable to everyone."
"Any suggestion that has legs must be palatable in the community," Gaydo said, adding that humility is an important quality for a leader. "There must be a force of good in any kind of group setting, indivs can be heard freely, where opinions and comments meet open minds, no one should have to go away from any meeting feeling beaten up or dejected."
Members of the public then were given an opportunity to state their feelings about the candidates.
Most in the audience appeared to be present to support Cogan.
Former board member Deborah Orme said Cogan's more than 5,000 votes earned last November was as much as mandate as the about 3,000 votes Michael Strumolo received to win his board seat.
"Do not ignore the very constituents who gave you their confidence," she said pointedly to the BOE members. "The public was charged with choosing and that choice was taken from their hands and given to you. Don't disenfranchise the voters. This is a time to confirm to the public that you do listen. I implore the board to listen to the votes cast just 60 days ago."
George Blair agreed.
"These are three outstanding candidates, but it has to be Alison," he said. "She's always at meetings. I've barely seen [DeIntinis], and the colonel has a great resume, but I've never seen you at a meeting."
He turned to the board.
"Don't come back with a politicial vote," Blair intoned as many in the room applauded. "Don't do it! Do the right thing, and you know what it is."
Michael Espejo argued that attending meetings does not necessarily make someone the most qualified candidate.
"I would argue that an outsider with a lot of qualifications and who is well rounded is needed to bring new life into this board and this town," he said. "The colonel doesn't have a personal agenda, he's just for the betterment of the community.
"I'm impressed with all of them, but someone from the outside may be needed in this town."
Resident Linda Gom also praised all three candidates, but noted how good DeIntinis was with children of all ages.
Bob Venezia asked the board if the appointment was for a one-year unexpired term; President Golderer indicated yes.
"That makes a good case for the one who came in fourth, but we don't know where Mrs. Mancuso's votes would have gone," he said. "Vote who you think is best for this one-year period."
"Our priority has to be education, all else is secondary," insisted PTA mom Sandy Nussbaum Giercyk. "Character and past behavior of candidates are important. Make this board something we can be proud of. Make us role models for what we want our children to be. Pick a member who can advance education."
The board went into closed session to deliberate and returned to the meeting room about 45 minutes later.
In the end, the vote broke down along factional lines. Strumolo, Golderer, Shamsudin, Martin and Carifi voted for DeIntinis. Calabria, Mancuso and Orthwein supported Cogan.
About half of the audience walked out of the room just before the new board member was sworn in by Business Administrator Robin Tedesco.
"I'm excited," said a smiling DeIntinis. "I can't wait to get to work with the board to make sure our children get the best education and are safe in our schools."