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Superintendent Makes Case for Keeping Fields Options Open

School board meets for the second time this week to discuss how to proceed with high school athletic upgrades.

The fate of the most recent attempt to improve the athletic facilities at Parsippany and Parsippany Hills high schools will be decided by the Parsippany Board of Education Thursday night.

The school board is considering whether it wants to move forward with an effort to put the matter of funding improvements on a referendum that would take place in February 2013. 

In Thursday's meeting, in order to meet a DOE deadline, the board members must decide two major issues:

  1. Will it send a plan for upgrading, among other things, the schools' football fields, to the Department of Education for review (a preliminary step in the quest for a referendum)?
  2. What improvement options will be on the list sent to the DOE?

Superintendent of Schools LeRoy Seitz told Patch that as of right now, there is no plan, merely choices.

"What we have presented is a list of options," he said. "The board will have to make a decision of what items it will send for review by the DOE."

Seitz said the formal fields plan won't be set until November. Even if the board approved sending to the DOE every item on the options list, which has a collective value of $11.5 million, the plan could be amended.

"You can take things away after you've submitted a preliminary plan to the DOE, but you cannot add anything," the superintendent said. "If you only want to have X, Y and Z, all you have to do is notify them. They already have the specs for the review.

"It wouldn't be an issue."

The school board has the option of sending the entire list, any combination of the items--one example would be "turf fields, drainage, 6-lane track, bleachers"   --or none at all.

The Thursday meeting--the second BOE fields-related gathering this week--takes place at 7 p.m. at the administrative building, 292 Parsippany Road. 

Michael Pietrowicz, chair of the township's Fields of Dreams subcommittee, is beating the drum to get pro-FOD people to the school board meeting.

The following comes from an email he sent out far and wide Wednesday:

We are all aware of the terrible and embarrassing field conditions at our high schools. ... We are all probably tired of the long drawn out process, biased media coverage and small but vocal opposition. Please don’t get complacent or exhausted. Our kids now and in the future need our help. I hope as many people as possible can attend the BoE meeting tomorrow night. ... They need to hear our voices.

Pietrowicz is seen by many in Parsippany as the architect of the Fields of Dreams plan, which was backed by Mayor James Barberio. 

That plan, for an estimated $4.5 million, would have included turf fields for each high school, track refurbishments, modernized lighting and new fencing. The condition for this proposal was that the Board of Education would have to give up its control of the football fields, etc., in perpetuity.

That proved a breaking point for the board, which promptly rejected the Fields of Dreams and said it would find its own solution.

Dorothee Burchartz August 23, 2012 at 05:58 PM
My vote would be for new grass fields, ADA compliance, and fences/lights as necessary. They don’t need turf that is going to need replacing before it’s even paid for. Neither do they need to host state track meets (the reason given for the track expansion). I agree that athletics is an important component of school, and does benefit many students, but this $11.5 million plan, or even the $4.5 million plan, is out of proportion both with the priority and with the percentage of students benefitting. With regard to allowing more usage – my guess would be that while this is a good marketing point for now, once the fields are in, we would hear, “These fields cost a lot of money and we have to make them last as long as possible, so we can’t overuse them.” While this would be true and prudent, let’s be honest about this up front. And the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) that Mr. Seitz has been spreading, about needing to cut teachers in the future if we don’t do all this now because of the budget cap, just serves to emphasize the need for a hard look at priorities. He should leave the FUD to the politicians, and present some reasonable, fact-based options more befitting a highly paid Superintendent of Schools. . One other thought that comes to mind is the fact that the turf field at Veteran’s Memorial Park floated away during Irene a year ago, making that venue unusable for the entire soccer season. What if something bad happened to a HS turf field?
Beth Bluj August 23, 2012 at 07:16 PM
But as said at the meeting, every town in our division has turf (except Sparta) and playing games on turf is totally different than playing on grass; especially field hockey. It puts our athletes at a disadvantage. No matter how much someone wants to say that we need to focus on 'academics', athletics (as well as clubs) are an integral part of a school system and molding the well-rounded college applicant. Right now our kids are competitive academically and get into some of the top schools because a lot of $$ goes towards things such as honors classes, GRO programs, free SAT classes, beautiful computer labs, new science labs at our high schools, guidance counselors at each grade to help in the college process, and an entire software package geared toward getting ready for college. Is it so wrong to want to include some nice fields to help our athletes stay competitive as well? That's all we want: modern, well-maintained fields to complete the package. Unfortunately that is going to cost some money, but it will be money well spent. Not $11.5 million, but certainly enough to do what we have been asking for all along: turf, fences, tracks and lights. I know the lights are still a hot topic to those in the surrounding areas and I get it. But as I have always said, if the lighting is approached with open minds and compromises from both sides, it can work. It does in other towns. I also agree that these fields should be used for HS teams only.
Par70 August 23, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Beth -- don't think that I am stating it is wrong to put money/continue putting money towards the athletic program. Even so unless there are changes this referendum will fail. Please note that I just saw an article that there is discussion of building an entire new school in Jersey City for 50 million (which seems ridiculous), but we are stating that we should spend 11.5 million on Turf. Doesn't that even sound worse? They need to get the numbers into line (i.e. same or better than FOD) before I think anyone in Parsippany will sign off.
VietNam Vet August 26, 2012 at 05:27 AM
Bill, I so agree with you! If they put as much effort into teaching the kids as they do this stupid plan, the kids might be a little more prepared for the real world, but with seitz all they can think about is spending more money than what they have or what is coming in.
VietNam Vet August 26, 2012 at 05:29 AM
Bob, if they used the right grass seed mixture, they wouldn't have that problem. There are mixtures of seeds that will stand up to alot of abuse.

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