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Angry Teachers Walk Out of School Board Meeting

A town resident's criticism of teachers sparked the mass exodus.`

Many expected that some resolution of teacher contract talks would be announced Thursday at the Parsippany Board of Education meeting. About 150 members of the Parsippany-Troy Hills Education Association, the union that represents teachers, were on hand to show solidarity regarding the long-awaited pact. But there was no talk of a contract deal. Instead, there was drama of another kind.

The contracts—or the lack thereof—were at the center of the dispute.

The public comment portion of the meeting kicked off with PTHEA President Judy Mayer, who said teachers wanted the board to know that they were listening and paying attention to know what was going on, who said what, what was said and how it was said.

"We are the backbone of this district," Mayer said. "Without us, you would not be such a successful district. We want to be recognized for what we do. We want to be here to hear what you [board members] have to say.

"And we hope you will listen to what we have to say."

The teachers rewarded their leader with a huge round of applause.

Resident Pat Petaccia, during her turn at the microphone, chided the board for "bickering" and insisted that members learn to work together. She also referred to teacher contract negotiations, criticizing the board for not being able to compromise in an effort to resolve contract talks quickly and amicably.

However, Petaccia took her hardest line against the teachers.

"The teachers, in my opinion, have been treated very well," she said. "When is the last time we asked them not to take a raise? When is the last time they didn't get a raise? This town has passed almost every budget...

"We wish the teachers would understand the taxpayers and how they feel about this," Petaccia continued. "We are being overburdened. All we're asking for is some compromise."

She went on to say that Par-Troy teachers should be willing to forego raises on occasion for the good of the town. And she criticized teachers who, during a contract talks stalemate, encouraged other educators to refuse to volunteer to chaperone school events. 

(The 2012 holiday events ultimately found volunteers, however did not take place due to Superstorm Sandy.)

"If you're going to tell me that you don't have a contract, and the board is coming to you with what they believe is  in the children's and taxpayers' best interests, you should be compromising," Petaccia scolded. "For us to sit here for two years, waiting for a contract and getting blamed for it, and then having to go back and pay all that [retroactive pay] is getting quite ridiculous.

"Isn't there a termination period where we just give up... and let these teachers walk out?"

Some of the teachers in the audience laughed in apparent disbelief. Board President Susy Golderer had to use the gavel to restore order in the room.

With that, all but a handful of the teachers gathered their belongings and walked out of the meeting en masse.

Petaccia took the walkout personally.

"I found it to be very rude and obnoxious for those teachers to get up and leave during an opinion being given by a taxpayer," she said to the board from the microphone. "If they plan on attending Board of Ed meetings, I would suggest somebody talk to them and tell them that was rude."

Hank Heller January 27, 2013 at 07:40 PM
#1 Good morning, Monica. Let’s see if I can respond to your rather detailed comments. Sorry that you are not impressed with “this new board”. At the first meeting, Mr. Strumolo did recommend that we table the Superintendent’s rather voluminous Bulletin and Secretaries Report. And, that was probably because the Superintendent was continuing his old practice of making sure that those who might be in opposition to some part or piece of his recommendations, did not get the information in a timely manner. I was at that meeting and I do not think the discussion went on for more than 20-30 minutes. And if you think you, me or Mr. Carifi could have reviewed the entire packet in about 5 minutes you are being highly disingenuous. Carifi could have abstained, but that would not have gotten the message out to Dr. Seitz that ALL members of the BOE have to be given data in a timely manner. Additionally, I remember Mr. Strumolo asking the Mrs. Tedesco if there were any important ramifications to tabling the vote on the package. The answer was no. You can look up the minutes I am sure.
Hank Heller January 27, 2013 at 07:44 PM
#2 Regarding the appointment of Mr. DeIntinis, I am so glad that you brought that issue up, since it has been a point of much contention among the supporters of the prior majority and Dr. Seitz. So let’s get the entire issue out on the table, as much as non-BOE members can do, since neither you nor I are privy to the real commentary at the BOE non-public meetings. You and your pals can complain about “selective hearing” but here is the situation as I see it. Alison Cogan ran for the BOE and received the most votes among those who were not elected. Alison Cogan is a very nice lady but I believe that she made some huge mistakes in her run for office. Let me explain. The former majority lost their majority because the people of Parsippany voted them out. Andy Choffo lost last year, Frank Neglia lost this year and Debbie Orme wisely declined to run. So the people elected new representation. All during this past election season, the former majority did their best to keep their power to control the BOE. Joanne Mancuso ran and won but was not able to take her place due to family issues. I think that there was another reason she could not take her place besides her need to leave Parsippany. Dr. Calabria and his close friend and ally, Dr. Seitz, I have heard, had offered Mrs. Mancuso a very good job working for the Parsippany BOE at a very attractive pay rate.
Hank Heller January 27, 2013 at 07:48 PM
#3 I believe Mrs. Mancuso took that job and therefore, by law, could not be seated on the BOE. Now, you might think that Mrs. Mancuso getting a BOE job was just an accident, but I perceive that it was another game by foxy Calabria and Seitz to keep control for their majority, since they got Alison Cogan to run with their friend and supporter, Frank Neglia, along with Calabria. Alison had great appeal and great background, but surprise…she lost as did Neglia, probably because the people of Parsippany are sick and tired of the control game played by Seitz, Calabria, Mancuso, Orme, Neglia and pals. Now, the “new” majority had some say in what was to be done for the first time in MANY years. Again, foxy Calabria, Seitz and friends thought out a great new plan for the seat that Mrs. Mancuso could not fill. They put forth Cogan AND a new guy, who very few people knew. Cogan and Richard Gaydo (a retired military man who never attended a BOE meeting in the past and is also a deacon at the same church that Frank Calabria serves as deacon) were suggested to the BOE for consideration. This gave the old majority the ability to at least have TWO opportunities to gain another vote on the BOE. Now I am not saying that Cogan and/or Gaydo would have been an automatic vote for the old majority’s direction, but it sure would have helped, I think.
Hank Heller January 27, 2013 at 08:03 PM
#4 There is another important issue to me, and I believe to other Parsippany taxpayers. If I were a member of the BOE and I were voting for a new person to take a vacant seat I would definitely not have voted for Gaydo because I had already learned that he had an undisclosed relationship with Calabria and I certainly would not have voted for Cogan. Here is why…I hope you noticed that Alison Cogan was hugely supported by many teachers in attendance as well as the PTA at the BOE “selection” meeting. When the BOE must find ways to deal with the Teacher’s Union and other unions, sitting a new member who is so strongly supported by the teachers (and thereby their union) makes no sense at all. Alison Cogan might be a person of impeccable character, but it seems that she has great sympathy for and with the teachers and their causes. Additionally, remember that Alison has 5 children who would be under the education control of teachers and administrators. I would fear that Mrs. Cogan might be inclined to support contracts for teachers that Parsippany could not afford and might possibly be turned to the interests of the prior majority . Therefore, in my opinion, the decision to seat Mr. DeIntinis was the ONLY sound business option that the current BOE had available.
Hank Heller January 27, 2013 at 08:11 PM
#5 So, you might like to jibe about “selective hearing” but the facts remain that BOE members have a most senior responsibility to design good and affordable business plans for the education of our children. In the past, we have seen ample evidence that a prime reason for being a BOE member was to get re-elected. I think the current majority acted very responsibly, with great courage and in a way that the majority of the voters in Parsippany demanded. Time will tell if I am right or wrong. I thought that the discourse between Fran Orthwein and Mike Strumolo was ok! I had no problem with the strong emotion shown. Would I have communicated similarly, probably not, but I was not on the line. Regarding the loss of funds, $15-$30 K is important money, sure. But, it is much more important to know what we are doing, how, why and what benefit and problems might ensue. This BOE (with Seitz pulling the strings) has historically just done whatever was put before it. So, using the old Seitz method of stampeding the cattle into his corral might not be the best idea. Look, Seitz was pushing everyone for almost a year to go with his $7.7mm field program. It doesn’t look like that was the way to go. A few months of “lost” money might just be a savings a little further down the road
Hank Heller January 27, 2013 at 08:14 PM
#6 The reason that the refinance item was not on the agenda was that the Business Administrator forgot to include it. That’s why Strumolo got upset with Orthwein’s accusation, I believe. Much more important was the fact that Orthwein withdrew a motion when it was not supported with grace and Strumolo acted with grace when his motion was not supported. In fact, the problem was solved a little later with a more useful motion from Martin. Additionally, I saw for the first time in several years, Orthwein voting differently from Calabria and Mancuso. Congratulations, Fran. Lastly, Monica, I know you are a strong supporter of the prior majority. You have shown that proudly for years. I do not have a problem with that, but how about showing some fairness? I know you love the children. That is admirable. But sniping at all whom you have CHOSEN to be your enemy is not right and beneath your intellect.
Carol M. January 27, 2013 at 08:22 PM
Wow Mr Heller. That has to be the single most slanderous statement you've made yet and even beyond what most of us would imagine to come from you! I sure hope Mrs Mancuso, Dr Calabria and Dr Seitz get a look at this one. Mrs Mancuso gave up her job of many years checking the school fields to TAKE her position on the BOE and for you to put in writing that she did not take her seat ON the BOE by way of bribery is unbelievable, even for you!
Hank Heller January 27, 2013 at 08:37 PM
Carol M Wrong. I did not say anything about bribery or any other legal issue. If Mrs. Mancuso did accept a job at the Parsippany BOE, she broke no law because she did not accept the seat on the BOE. That is clear. If she did not accept a job at the Parsippany BOE, then I stand corrected and apologize for misunderstanding. I suspect that my understanding was not wrong.
Carol M. January 27, 2013 at 08:44 PM
Attempt to amend your statement all you like Mr Heller but you very clearly stated that Dr Calabria and Dr Seitz were in collusion to lure Mrs Mancuso away from her seat on the BOE by way of a BOE job with very lucrative pay and that she accepted. That is slander, no matter how you try and turn it around now
Hank Heller January 27, 2013 at 09:51 PM
Carol M or Debbie or whatever you real name is You can write and threaten all you want, but any fair reading of my comments will show that I clearly said, "I believe...I percieve" and other modifying words showing that I do not insist that I know for a fact, because I was not there and am not a sitting member of the BOE. I am saying that I expressed my opinion honestly and fairly and it is not slander at all.
Monica Sclafani January 27, 2013 at 09:54 PM
Hank - As was stated at the meeting, the reason the resolution was not in this Secretary's Report was because it needed to be re-worked, not because Ms. Tedesco forgot to put it there. Like any "re-fi" deal, the offer is only good for a certain period of time and once missed, the paperwork has to be resubmitted. This may end up costing us more money if we can't get the same interest rate. Maybe you should speak with Mr. Martin and Mr. Carifi, because they seemed to get it. As to the rest of your comments, I don't know what else to say. You used to take the high ground, Hank, and just argue the issues. Recently I've noticed that when the facts don't work in your favor, you need to resort to insults, slander and a distortion of the truth. I find it hard to have a meaningful discussion with someone of your character.
Natalie Davis (Editor) January 27, 2013 at 10:09 PM
For accuracy's sake: The "new" majority had/has the majority power in 2012 teacher contract negotiations, as Messrs. Calabria and Neglia recused themselves from those talks due to their family relationships within the district. So, in truth, Mr. Strumolo's faction certainly have/had a say there.
Hank Heller January 27, 2013 at 10:17 PM
So, Monica, why wasn't the "re-fi" reworked in time for the meeting? Whose fault was that? I'm sure you will say it was Strumolo's fault because he held it up at the prior meeting. But that is not true. Regarding high roads and low roads, I am comfortable with my path. I don't expect you to waver from yours. You seem to have too much invested to be inconvenienced with fairness. I'll work harder not to respond to you in the future. Good night.
Robyn M. January 27, 2013 at 11:00 PM
Are you kidding? I've gone years, in the private sector, without raises and, if I walked out, there would be 100 people waiting in line to sit behind my desk. I do not know 1 person in private industry who has ever gone on strike.
Robyn M. January 27, 2013 at 11:06 PM
Very true.
Robyn M. January 27, 2013 at 11:12 PM
Patrick -please cite some actual data/statistics where Parsippany excels. I'm curious - haven't seen any.
Robyn M. January 27, 2013 at 11:36 PM
Agreed. Taxpayers pay the bill for teacher's salaries. Taxpayers are therefore employing teachers. Walking out on a person who contributes to paying your salary is not acceptable behavior. As to setting an example for children - I agree, because actions speak louder than words and are indicative of character.
steve revette January 27, 2013 at 11:58 PM
Hey Natalie I know I deleted a couple of comments and Patch deleted some when the time is right I would like to know the reason those were deleted.
Robyn M. January 28, 2013 at 12:06 AM
No - very few people I know (my family included) has checks that have grown.In our case, social security went up and Obama-care has resulted in greater healthcare contributions. Raises have not kept up with increased costs, in the private sector (at least where it applies to my circumstances). We do not go back to our employers and ask for raises, because we are paying more for healthcare, because we know the increased costs are hitting them, too. And, increased taxes (social security) are not a cost we could discuss our employers compensating for us. Raises are based on company performance and merit, and performance, as with most industries is lagging.
Robyn M. January 28, 2013 at 12:12 AM
All industries have challenges, though. Working in a corporate level manufacturing position, when sales suffered or lagged, our raises were impacted. Companies, like taxpayers, cannot afford increases they themselves (the payer) have not received. My husband is in finance - he is not directly responsible for the performance of the products his company sells, nor is the receptionist for his company, but every person there has raises and bonuses tied to company performance first, then their own performance.
Natalie Davis (Editor) January 28, 2013 at 12:17 AM
To Steve Revette: I have already stated quite clearly that I removed nothing.
Robyn M. January 28, 2013 at 12:43 AM
Agreed. People go to CCM from all walks of life. They have articulation agreements, so that you take all of the same courses you would take at Drew, Fairleigh, East Stroudsburg U, etc., but save a ton of money. Likewise, they have a statewide transfer agreement where you can apply your associate's degree fully to a bachelor degree at any NJ public college or university. I worked while I went to CCM, finished with honors, received a big scholarship to a school with an articulation agreement and finished with 0 debt. Got a great job and my employer helped pay for grad school. The idea that CCM is for losers is perpetuated by those who haven't figured out it's actually one of the most cost-effective and realistic ways of graduating and not drowning in student loans.
steve revette January 28, 2013 at 03:56 AM
Oh I thought that was aimed only at Patrick I deeply apologize then. That's wierd. I wonder what happened then.
Carol M. January 28, 2013 at 12:10 PM
How many times do we have to revisit this childish behavior Mr Heller? Calling me names or playing games with names does not take away from what most of us would see as a lack of boundaries on your part. You are entitled to your opinion as we all are, and you are entitled to your bizarre theories which I'm sure in most part are schemed up amidst the exhaust and gas fumes of a local business but, you cross the line when you put accusations, such as bribery,in writing for all to see. You flower like minded with compliments and you attack the character of anyone who disagrees with you or points out your errors. You exhibit the inability to hear another perspective yet you demand that we all hear yours. You can call me Lizzie, Frankie or Sam but it doesn't change the fact that you slandered 3 people for no good reason other then because it's your opinion. If you find that acceptable and if this is the forum for us to share baseless accusations of wrongdoing about others then some of us might have opinions or theories about you to share. After all, by your standard what I believe or perceive is enough and the truth or facts need not be included
Rosemary January 28, 2013 at 09:03 PM
Caterpillar. Verizon, Walmart. Hostess, Healthbridge to name a few.
g January 30, 2013 at 03:43 PM
From the list of the 2012 Top High Schools Parsippany Hills from 50 in 2010 to 23 in 2012. Although Parsippany has shown great improved, how did this happen when Parsippany High School and 10 other schools—the district would not reveal which—failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks in Language Arts Literacy and Mathematics, according to Interim Curriculum and Instruction Director Ruth Anne Estler.? The answer is quite simple. You water down the Federal no child left beheind. The Obama administration announced that 10 states, including New Jersey, were granted waivers from having to adhere to federal No Child Left Behind standardized testing benchmarks. The waiver comes at a fortunate time for Parsippany. Eleven of the district's 14 schools did not meet federal Adequate Yearly Progress standards as of the end of the last school year. How do you get higher standing in the top schools in New Jersey? You water down the federal No Child Left Behind standardized testing benchmarks. It sure looks like manipulation, so that teachers to get raises while our students get the shaft. How can ;you possible say that teachers deserve more money when the test scores are being manipulated???
Me January 30, 2013 at 05:26 PM
I think the Democratic establishment in this state is so entrenched and used to getting things their way that anyone who isn't on their payroll has suffered misrepresentation for years. I think Christie has always been fair and reasonable, since day 1. It just doesn't seem that way to a lot of people who have gotten so used to the Democratic establishment taking care of its own in NJ that they can no longer perceive real fairness, and if anything doesn't go their way they cry and scream and think they're the ones being 'robbed' while in truth they should never - in fairness- have been getting what they have been all along.
VietNam Vet January 31, 2013 at 07:59 AM
That seems to be the best way Hank, just don't respond to this woman and her onesided views on things.
VietNam Vet January 31, 2013 at 08:02 AM
Me, you are so right, I couldn't have said it any better.
steve revette February 02, 2013 at 06:01 AM
I also agree. Great comment by Me. EVERYBODY should pay for their benefits.

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