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School Board Selects New Interim Superintendent

After Lee Seitz retires, John Fitzsimons becomes the number one interim among a team of interim administrators.

The Parsippany-Troy Hills school district has a new leader.

At Thursday's Board of Education meeting at the Parsippany Road administration building, the body approved the hiring of Dr. John T. Fitzsimons to become interim chief superintendent of schools.

The vote was not unanimous: Of the eight members present, President Susy Golderer, Gary Martin, Michael Strumolo, James Carifi and Anthony DeIntinis voted yes; Anthony Mancuso and Fran Orthwein voted no and Dr. Frank Calabria abstained.

According to the contract between the district and Fitzsimons, he will be paid $682 per day, or an annual base salary of $177,320, which complies with Gov. Christie's superintendent salary cap. However, should he leave his sick, personal and vacation allotments unused and attain certain undefined  "quantitative goals" and "qualitative goals," he could end up earning as much as $203,900 or more in 2013-14. 

During the meeting's public comment section, former BOE member Andrew Choffo presented his concerns about the selection of Fitzsimons.

He asked Golderer whether it was true, as stated on Fitzsimons' LinkedIn page, that he hasn't worked in New Jersey in 10 years and that he had not worked at all in two years. 

"Right," she said.

According to Fitzsimons' LinkedIn page, he has worked as a self-employed educational consultant for the past year and four months.

In all, he has worked in education for 48 years as a teacher and administrator. Over the last 26 years, he led school systems in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, the most recent superintendent post being from June 2002 through June 2011 in Lawrence, N.Y. 

His New Jersey experience includes stints as superintendent in the school districts of Princeton Junction, Tenafly and—in his last New Jersey job, from July 1998 to June 2003—West Windsor/Plainsboro.

The new interim superintendent, who received his doctorate from Fordham University in Language and Literacy, resides in Manhattan.

"It seems like a person out of education in New Jersey in the last 10 years perhaps isn't the most qualified," said Choffo, noting that "many, many changes" in education have occurred in the last decade in the Garden State. "I have a major concern that we're going to hire someone with no relevant experience to do the job that we're asking him to do."

He also questioned Fitzsimons' remuneration plan.

"He's destined to be one of the highest paid superintendents we've ever had as an interim," Choffo told the board members. "Many of you ran and committed during your campaigns that you would hire at a much lower cost better qualified superintendents."

Board attorney Mark Tabakin countered that merit incentives in the contract are discretionary and not guaranteed, and that the county or state could choose not to approve the bonus pay. 

The former member made mention of the forthcoming retirement of Superintendent of Schools LeRoy Seitz and delivered another message to the school board, some of whom used to be his colleagues.

"I don't want to say I told you so, but about three years ago I said that this board was leading us down a path to where we would have no administrative leadership," said Choffo. "And with Dr. Seitz retiring, we have no chief, we have no permanent superintendent, we have no business administrator—which Dr. Fitzsimons would have to lean on due to his lack of experience—and we have no permanent personnel director.

"I think this is unbelievable. I think you have left this district in a very precarious position.

"And i think that's disgraceful."

Interim Personnel Director Paul Saxton offered an alternate perspective on Fitzsimons.

He said the prospective superintendent had spent a "considerable amount" of time in New Jersey and had maintained his status and alliances with a variety of statewide educational groups.

"He is versed and stays in touch with what happens in New Jersey because many of his colleagues still work in New Jersey," said Saxton, calling Fitzsimons "the star of all the candidates."

"We needed a broader base of experience," he continued. "I think [Fitzsimons'] experiences and goals align with this district's mission statement.

"I think the board made an excellent selection."

"I hope you're right," Choffo said.

Fitzsimons begins his work with the district April 15 as a consultant. He serves as acting superintendent April 23 through May 15 and afterward becomes interim chief superintendent for the 2013-14 school year.

Seitz's official retirement date is May 15, but he will leave on April 23 to exhaust his unused leave.

Thursday's BOE meeting was Seitz's last in Parsippany. He was feted with a celebratory cake at the gathering.

In other school district employment news, Mark Resnick is back as interim business administrator, following the April 1 departure of Robin Tedesco.

And the board approved the July 1 resignation of Lake Hiawatha Elementary School Principal Thomas Nolan.

Concerned parent April 12, 2013 at 12:47 PM
Carol - you should try to divide those $180 savings out by the total number of households in town. I would love to see what my savings will be. This is why the Supt Salary Cap has to go. It harms local districts.
Wilnj April 12, 2013 at 01:16 PM
This is what happens when we have a population interested in cutting costs rather than delivering a high quality education. Towns like Westfield and Ridgewood have home values that are always high because the population values a high quality education. That doesn't mean that if you spend more, you get more but it would be refreshing to see leadership chasing value rather than purely lowest cost. It seems like the only time town leadership isn't chasing the lowest cost is when they're trying to steer work to friends.
Robyn M. April 12, 2013 at 01:34 PM
I agree. However, I also know from work experience that when you hire someone who is "a consultant" (unemployed) you generally have a high degree of leverage in salary negotiations. That being said.... Since so many of the School Board Members suffer from great denial over the actual (low) numbers consistently reported by the state regarding education, you would think their first choice would be internal - pick the best and brightest school principal, let Seitz take her/him under wing and see if we can promote from within, leverage their years of experience and let other employees know that hard work can help them achieve high positions. Win/win. On paper, hiring an unemployed, non-NJ resident, paid at peak salary sounds like a fool's move to me.
steve revette April 12, 2013 at 01:37 PM
Hypocrite? In addition the amount of money we spent on Dr. Seitz's pathetic lawsuit. Where is Dr. Serafino's letter of approval that the board said was coming? How come after 2 years The letter has never come? Only in Parsippany do we sue ourselves plus defend ourselves because our board of education did not care about the taxpayers. If it's 180 dollars or 10 dollars. BYE BYE Dr. Seitz.
Sick of the Bull April 12, 2013 at 02:53 PM
How about we try and make a go of it without a Super. I'll bet no one would know the difference. Let the BOE do the politicing.
friend of parsppany April 12, 2013 at 07:53 PM
Where is principal Nolan going?
friend of parsppany April 12, 2013 at 07:54 PM
The board really keeps looking bad meeting after meeting.
Kevin M April 12, 2013 at 08:41 PM
Agreed Robyn M. This school board is getting more laughable by the minute -- hiring an unemployed candidate instead of the best and brightest employed either hear or from a well respected district elsewhere in NJ. And to THINK Strumolo wants to serve on council after this bonehead hire.
Dan O'Dowd April 12, 2013 at 08:46 PM
You are right "friend of parsippany", I have lost faith in this school board -- seemingly lead by grease monkey Mike Strumolo. He should stick to running a gas station and stay out of local government. He is making some SAD human resources decisions that will cost our kids plenty for years to come.
Bob Crawford April 12, 2013 at 08:48 PM
The District Administration is so badly broken and the BOE is so badly divided that an independent group of concerned citizens may need to get involved in the leadership talent search and selection process to stop the downward spiral the District is experiencing. There is a reason why high potential administrative talent has avoided Parsippany and that is because the Parsippany brand has, over the past three years, been diminished by a band of bureacrats who have had neither the interest nor the energy to think and act in a creative and proactive manner. There has been no vision, no commitment to excellence and a lack of willingness to do anything other than to react to opportunities and challenges in a passive and self protective manner. The District schools are full of extraordinary teachers and students full of potential, but without a fully engaged Superintendent who is willing to lead and a BOE with a clear vision for the future, those teachers and students don't have a chance to do what they do best which is to teach and to learn. For the District to regain momentum and to begin to move forward the tenure of the interim leadership must be short. For that to happen top talent has to be identified and convinced to come to Parsippany. And for that to happen involved citizens with a stake in educational excellence need to demand that the BOE develop and implement a strategy to recruit top talent. Can the BOE rise to that challenge? We need to know now.
Alan Melek April 12, 2013 at 08:55 PM
Give us your weary, tired, incompetent, unemployed from out-of-state and Mike Strumolo and his peeps will hire them and not care one bit the devastating impact on this community. Time to clean house with this school board or move out!
Joseph Bertocchi April 12, 2013 at 09:02 PM
I did not think this board coulld have done any worse than the overpriced Seitz -- but Stumolo, Golderer and gang have sunk to a new low by hiring an overpriced, unemployed consultant whose being tutored by his in-state connections. REALLY?!?!?!
Vic April 12, 2013 at 09:03 PM
My four-year-old could have made a sounder hiring decision by chosing our dog to run the distict. These board members are idiots and not worthy of these positions.
friend of parsppany April 12, 2013 at 09:11 PM
Not only is there a lack of leadership with the board but it is also with many of the principals. They have hired many that can't make decisions.
Deb Ritter April 12, 2013 at 09:18 PM
All you Strumolo supporters should have listened to reason before you irresponsibly voted for the toxic wonderbug and his cohorts.
Alan C April 12, 2013 at 09:20 PM
Well Parsippany, better listen to the "I told you so's". It should teach this township not to vote for the likes of Strumolo to decide the fate of our students and now the fate of our town. Strumolo's plumber's crack, pajama-centric wardrobe and half-speed speech pattern should have raised that red flag and deterred the majority of you from giving him the school board job.
Kramit the Frog April 12, 2013 at 09:33 PM
Fredo, you're out. We're not going to vote for you again and if you think the BOE is going to let you have anything to do with this, you're just plain nuts.
Kramit the Frog April 12, 2013 at 09:37 PM
I hate to say it, Parsippany, but you were warned that this would happen if Carifi and DeIntinis wound up on the Board and gave Strumolo a majority he could control. I don't know where all you people complaining about Mikey were 6 months ago, but maybe if you had made your voices heard then, we wouldn't have this problem now. And if you think these types of shenanigans will stop when Strumolo leaves the BOE this fall, you've got another think coming.
Eyes on the Board April 12, 2013 at 10:09 PM
hmm... wondering if this is the same guy who was ranked 44th for the highest paid educator in NY State back in 2010.... #44 - Fitzsimons, John T Lawrence Union Free Schools 7/1/03 $268,909 - I can only assume he retred in NY and is collecting a pension off that Salary and now he is coming back to New Jersey to make even more money.. Wondering if NY got sick of his high salary and gave him the boot... http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?section=news/education&id=7778676
Kramit the Frog April 12, 2013 at 10:30 PM
"Strumolo's plumber's crack, pajama-centric wardrobe and half-speed speech pattern should have raised that red flag and deterred the majority of you from giving him the school board job." We don't need to go into personal attacks, Alan. Let his record, along with the fact that he can't seem to show up on time for or stay awake through a BOE meeting, speak for itself. Of course, that would require people actually paying attention for once, so there you go...
The All Seeing Eye April 12, 2013 at 11:45 PM
Kramit the Frog you have a lot of time on your hands to write so many letters are you employed if not why not get a job at Strumolo,s gas station. We had enough of your stupid remarks that make no sense.
Sal Morrison April 13, 2013 at 01:13 AM
That is right All Seeing Eye, we all had enough of Kramit's stupid remarks on every topic to which he comments. Strumolo's latest episode speaks for itself. So if it results in a personal attack or two, so be it. He reaps what he sows. Stumolo is an embarrassment to this community and the latest hire demonstrates this board's inability to make sound decisions. Parsippany is paying six figures to an unemployed out-of-state education "consultant" to lead our students. He is going to be our students' bridge to NOWHERE because he has been a directionless "consultant" for almost two years. Another bang up job by Plumber's crack Stumolo!! There Kramit, I am using the term that FITS Stumolo well!!!! You will just have to deal with this township sad Stumolo-led school board reality.
C Moratta April 13, 2013 at 01:21 AM
No wonder Governor Christie highlights Parsippany often in his speeches on how NOT to conduct business. This school board's latest stumble gives the Governor and the entire state more reason to question the integrity and intellect of the people pulling the school board reigns.
Kramit the Frog April 13, 2013 at 04:55 AM
Sorry, Sal. Forgive me if I wanted to take the level of discourse above that of an elementary school playground. If you want to sound like a 9 year old and go around calling people names and making personal attacks, be my guest. Just please don't do it in public, because I wouldn't want anyone who is on the fence about Strumolo to think that the people opposing him are worse than he is. If you actually want anyone to take you seriously, maybe try sticking to facts and relevant things like Mike's little off the record strategy sessions with other board members before meetings. My point is we don't need to sink to the level of your average tea party member or Ditto head, we have actual facts and verifiable poor conduct to show that this man is unworthy of holding public office. Sinking to his level only works in his favor, and none of us want that.
UnionGuy April 13, 2013 at 12:42 PM
You get what you pay for. First superintendent tenure was taken away, which opened a free market. Then the salary cap came. Right now there are principals and business administrators making more than than the person running the school district. Who's going to want to work in Parsippany with two high schools for that kind of money? Good luck finding that person.
Carol M. April 13, 2013 at 01:03 PM
I agree with you completely. I was simply using Mr Strumolo & Mrs Golderer's own words to point out the hypocrisy of this lame move. How many times have we heard them both profess to be fiscally responsible, or that they could find someone happy to come to Parsippany to lead our schools for less? I don't know why anyone would be surprised that they settled for a long retired consultant, traveling from Manhattan with some good NJ connections to fill the Super post; it's not like either one of them has ever put any value on education, it's always only about the taxpayers dollar! Don't forget that Mrs Golderer didn't bat an eye over sacrificing the entire MS reading & writing program, or the GRO program from the budget without even a shred of information about the potential impact that could have on student achievement. Sounds like she's using the Carifi playbook when it comes to decisions that affect children; don't worry about the harm 'cause I promised my vulnerable constituents that I'd make sure to look like cutting spending was my only priority. No, none of them care about education so in order to make the point that they are even ineffective at accomplishing their own misguided goals, I used the only speak that seems important to them and theirs
VietNam Vet April 15, 2013 at 08:18 AM
Carol is there anyone in this world that you like? I don't think that you even like yourself. Why don't you give someone a chance, he can't be any worse than this greedy poster boy.
VietNam Vet April 15, 2013 at 08:31 AM
If you think your dog could d so well then why wasn't he on the list? The demoncraps have been voting for dogs cat cows and every other barnyard animal for years now. So why didn't you put his name in to?
VietNam Vet April 15, 2013 at 08:42 AM
I guess you would rather have the other corrupt members in charge again so they can continue to rip off the taxpayers like they have been for years? This board has just taken over and you can't even give them a chance, they can't do any worse than the other greedy idiots. I would still like to know where the 5 million surplus from a couple of years ago went to. I know they said it never happened, sure I would say the same thing if I was trying to hide it. But yet they still keep looking for more money, stands to reason, if you have a surplus then next year you don't need another 2 million dollars increase, or don't you understand that kind of math?
Kramit the Frog April 15, 2013 at 12:41 PM
Wait, I'm not sure who I'm replying to here. Is this Paul Brown or Mike Strumolo? Because you sure sound like Mike Strumolo, deflecting attention from his shenanigans by going back to harping on his talking points from two years ago. You know, the give back that was settled in 2011: http://parsippany.patch.com/articles/boe-votes-to-give-125m-state-aid-windfall-back-to-the-taxpayers. Strange how you were the only member of the BOE thinking it was $5 million. Maybe you need to work on your math, Mikey. So, yeah, to answer your question: corruption is corruption is corruption. Whether it's Mancuso and his buddies or you and yours, it doesn't matter because the taxpayers are the ones who get screwed. The difference is, while Mancuso & Co. may have been shady, you and your pals are simply incompetent. You think you can't be worse than the "other greedy idiots?" Wanna bet?

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