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Contentious School Board Meeting Leaves Questions, Calls to 'Move Forward'

First meeting of school year

The first meeting since school began, and since the former disgraced superintendent was sentenced to more than 11 years in federal prison for corruption, saw the Toms River Regional school board and administration address heated public questions and pour out official responses to two years of scandal.

Addressing the scandal of former superintendent Michael Ritacco was often a topic of the school board meeting Tuesday night at Toms River North. Here is a synopsis of the meeting.

District Issues Official Statement on Ritacco Sentencing

An amended statement, similar to the one the district issued after Ritacco's guilty plea in April, was read publicly by board president Ed Gearity.

In addition to addressing the betrayal the school board felt from the scheming of the district's top administrator, the statement emphasized it was the actions of individuals that warranted punishment. The system of the district was still one of pride, said Gearity, and as this "painful chapter" in the district was closing it was time to move forward and maintain the educational success.

The statement also emphasized that the district would be going after the money lost due to inflated contracts Ritacco and former insurance broker Francis Gartland admitted to illegally producing via a system of kickbacks and bribes. A letter to federal judge Joel Pisano was also made public, itemizing the district's findings and requesting specific dollar amounts of restitution.

Public Demands Answers

Multiple members of the public came to the microphone during the public portions of the meeting to demand answers of the administration and school board as to how the scandal could have unfolded while they served.

Several board members responded to heated questions. Board member Jamie Jubert said the last two years were "hell" where she often asked herself how she and the board could have been so mislead by the superintendent. Board member Ed Gearity said that while the board was regularly assured by Ritacco that everything was fine, all the while the board was kept in the dark while the superintendent and insurance broker negotiated illegal "backroom deals" out of the board and public eye.

Business Administrator Bill Doering was called on by the board to speak to some of the new policies in place since 2010, such as formal bidding and other transparencies to improve the process.

Meanwhile board members Ben Giovine and Loreen Torrone called for more oversight from the board and community into administration decisions, hoping to create a committee where citizens could have more opportunity to comment on the school budget, or a personnel committee to help learn more about applicants and vacancies available in the district.

Comments from the public ranged from requests for any board member with a conflict of interest — that is, who has a relative working in the school district — to immediately resign from their position, to calls to move forward from the scandal and use the lessons of the debacle to create a stronger district.

 Wrestling Coach Honored

The meeting also swelled with pride for longtime Toms River High School East Wrestling Coach Warren Reid, who was recently inducted into a wrestling hall of fame.

Reid, surrounded by generations of family and former students, received multiple standing ovations amid heartfelt speeches from his son and former student, as well as comments from the board and superintendent Frank Roselli.

The longtime coach was praised for this athletic coaching successes as he was surrounded by former students such as MMA champion Frank Edgar, but also heavily praised for his mentorship and dedication to education and his commitment to leading a principled life of hard work and service to the community.

Personnel Committee Discussed

Superintendent Roselli also shared his thoughts on the possible creation of a personnel committee for the school district.

At the suggestion of school board member Giovine previously, a possible personnel committee would provide some insight into the process of hiring at Toms River Regional.

Roselli said he was confident in the current process, in which job candidates were vetted and suggested by administration and then submitted to the board for approval as part of the personnel agenda every month.

Roselli said he had faith that the assistant superintendents and administrators in the district were picking the best and brightest, and was concerned a personnel committee would alter the chain of command.

Later, Giovine explained that his vision for a personnel committee was not to usurp the administration and put intense oversight of hirings into a new committee, but that a personnel committee would instead help keep better track of what the district vacancies were, and what the list of employment opportunities were.

Roselli thanked Giovine for explaining his vision for the committee and said it could be considered.

High School South Left without Police Presence

One resident encouraged the district to replace a retiring police officer staffed at High School South, instead of leaving the position vacant.

The vacancy means High School South is the only high school in Toms River Regional without an onsite police officer during school hours.

The resident hoped the district would continue to work with the police department in hopes of hiring an officer for South.

Roselli said the district would continue to discuss the matter with police, and that the matter was one of finding the funding to hire an officer. Roselli said the funds to hire a police officer were just not readily available, but that the district was working well in cooperation with the police department to try and find solutions in hopes of staffing High School South.

New Student Representatives to the Board Begin Terms

The three high schools in the district each have the senior class president serving as non-voting members of the Toms River Regional school district. The three new representatives began their terms at Tuesday's meeting, introducing themselves and sharing news from their school as well as hopes for the year ahead.

The three representatives received applause from the audience as well as words of support from the school board. 

A host of student awards for atheltic, scholastic and civic achievement were also handed out at the school board meeting.

ikidunot September 19, 2012 at 09:17 PM
This is a $200 million per year corporation. It has a strangle hold on the entire region, not just Toms River. Does anyone really think for one minute that anything is going to change in its behavior? It's been loaded with corruption for decades and will be going forward.
Cardinal September 19, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Romney says Social Security & Medicare Recipients regard themselves as Victims. And he wants them off of social security & medicare.
Carol Aller September 19, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Mike L. There WERE people, GOOD people, concerned people, who tried to warn everyone for years but everyone refused to listen! Instead, these caring and concerned watchdogs who were trying to look out for us were ridiculed and attacked in the press and at BOE meetings. How dare anyone anyone cast dispersions against the All Mighty Ritacco, right? You may remember them....The Toms River Citizens Alert Committe. Live and learn.
iamdph September 19, 2012 at 10:27 PM
This is too true, just look at the directory. I had the opportunity to work in one of the top 5 schools in the state and it is in the top 100 schools in the country and business is not conducted like it is in TR. These schools in the top hire the best qualified people, Toms River hires the best connected people. Toms River is not a top quality district in the state, all these sheep need to realize it and right the ship rather than just believe the hype from the administration.
So Much to Say September 19, 2012 at 10:34 PM
This is not about Romney this is about Ritacco. If you want a quote....WE are all victims and in November we can change that by showing this slob Obama the door.
Ken September 19, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Toms River schools have more nepotism than any place else I have ever seen. It is so true, it is not how qualified you are, but who you know or are related to. That maybe why when you look at the school directory you will see so many with the same last name. I can think of two brothers who were coaches and even though they retired they are still coaching or I know they were at least last year. They have n more relatives of theirs working for the school that you would believe. They had one come in who did not even go to college to be a teacher, but they made her one and made up a position for her and while they were at it they made her a Varsity coach over others who actually had experience.
Ken September 19, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Gearity is one of the most arrogant people I have ever met in my life, it is time for him to go.
Ken September 19, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Everyone one of them needs to be voted out, but last I looked there were so many running against them I am afraid the votes will be so spread out amongst the new people trying to get in that the members will win again some how, plus voters are stupid for voting these same people on all the time anyway.
Ken September 19, 2012 at 11:07 PM
I would love to see that, plus anyone who was related to past members as well. Plus don't forget all that are related to the administration. Lastly don't forget all the contrators related.
Cardinal September 19, 2012 at 11:46 PM
Social Security is for victims per Romney.
chtulu2000 September 20, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Let's not let hatred limit the blame of the "Ritacco 6". In case anyone forgot, Loreen Torrone, a current BOE member was also a member starting in 2006 during Ritacco's years and during the time he admitted to his corruption of District funds. She did not vote no on many things brought before the BOE during that time period. So, if we are asking for people to resign, include her as well!
Cardinal September 20, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Republicans just killed veterans jobs bill! A disgrace, VOTE THEM OUT !
Project Bluebeam September 20, 2012 at 02:06 AM
WTF does that have to do with the TR BOE?
Tired of the status quo September 20, 2012 at 02:26 AM
chtulu2000:before you start to ask for people to be kicked off the board why don't you get ALL OF YOUR FACT STRAIGHT! Yes, Loreen Torrone was on the board when the self proclaimed "KING" was the Super and while he was stealing the money, but there is where you facts end. Mrs. Torrone was the ONLY MEMBER ON THE BOARD WHO VOTED AGAINST RITACCO'S CONTRACT, Torrone was the ONLY MEMBER TO QUESTION THE INSURANCE that the 'KING" brought into the district. When she questioned him about the insurance she was screamed at be Ritacco and told "Loreen you do not have to worry about this insurance. I have vetted it and it is in great financial shape." She, vote NO and the other 8 voted YES! Isn't that correct Mrs.Vasil, Mrs. Garvey, Mr. Jedzieniak? (You can OPRA this Mrs. Torrone was also screamed at by other board members that night over the insurance) But then again chtulu2000 if you went to the BOE meetings you would already know what I am saying is the truth. With the arrest and now the sentencing of MJR I see that nothing has changed with this board when it come to Loreen Torrone. Anytime that she makes a comment or a suggestion she is shouted down by either Gus Kakavas or our "wonderful Super Frank Roselli. So, where is the change? And, NO I AM NOT ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM RELATED TO ANYONE OF THE PEOPLE MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE!!! I am just a taxpayer who sits in the back of the auditorium at Toms River High School North and sees this happen month after month. to be continued
i don't get it?? September 20, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Umm...this stinks!!! Why are the staff and students at HS South once again being left without something??!!?? It starts with bathroom stalls with NO DOORS, or the locker rooms that have not been updated in 25-30 years, but seriously, the SAFETY of everyone working/attending the school...if it was Mike Ritaccos prized HS North, NOTHING would be left undone!! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!
Spock's Brain September 20, 2012 at 02:39 AM
What a load of BS. Loreen was the only board member I ever knew to stand up to Ritacco. She was the only one to vote against his $350,000 contract and to question him. That's why he completely shut her out of the process. The rest of the board ostracized her and ignored her. They refused to associate with her - probably under instruction from Ritacco. All you are is a Supporter of the Ritacco 6 that is trying to slander someone who had the guts to stand up to King Ritacco. Shame on you!
Tired of the status quo September 20, 2012 at 02:42 AM
Now, about the people who come up to the microphone every month and ask their questions. To me it seems that all that these people want from this board is the best learning environment for the students and to have their questions answered honestly. After all isn't that why you the board members are there ? But, it seems that everytime they ask a question they are shouted down by one or more of the members of the BOE, the administration or the teachers union rep. What is going on in the district that you people do not want the public to know? Are you embarrassed that they caught you with your pants down with Ritacco? From what I heard last night there was a woman who seemed to know an awful lot about the Ritacco case! Like I said just come and join me in the back of the auditorium at TRN. I am there every month. You can't miss me!
Tired of the status quo September 20, 2012 at 03:01 AM
I don't get it, did you attend the BOE meeting last night? If you did you would see that the were leaks all over Toms River North! We were sitting in the auditorium and behind the board members you could see the water coming out of the ceiling. Then you could see the water coming the wall and running down the floor. So, don't feel bad it isn't only South. And, the reason why the cops are not in the schools all the time is because they so not have enough cops on the force sue to all of the retirements that are taking place all at one time. It take a full year before they can out a new cop out on the road by his/herself. Perhaps if Beachwood, South Toms River and Pine Beach would spring loose with a cop one or two days a week to help out then you could have your cop back in the school.
Karen September 20, 2012 at 03:14 AM
Yes you are correct. Also I heard that Mr Kacavas whom is running again for re election was Ritaco;s school bus transportation director for 20 years in Toms River. Them became a BOE member during his reign. Look just vote these guys out in November simple.
teatleytea September 20, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Please everyone rememer that Jack Reuther is also up for reelection this coming November!!! We need to vote him off the board. He was also on the board during the Ritacco era. And, yes he was teacher in the district as was his wife. The voters of Toms River are able to vote Jack Reuther and Gus Kakavas off the board. The voters of South Toms River finally have someone who is willing to run against Jamie Ann Jubert!! Please to all voters in Toms River and South Toms River let's show this board that we are done with the Ritacco Era and that we (to use Mr. Roselli's words) want "TO MOVE FORWARD". VOTE THEM OUT!!!!!!
Told you so. September 20, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Your wrong, Spock's Brain. Kevin Root took Ritacco on long before Torrone.
chtulu2000 September 20, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Actually...the other 2 high schools DO have an officier in their halls the FULL day.
the phantom September 20, 2012 at 11:59 PM
T.R. Board of Education has been on the take for years. They knew everything that was going on. What pisses me off is they hired someone in house to replace MJR so they could continue to hire family and friends and receive all the other perks that come with the job. These scumbags better be voted out or it's all your own faults. The first thing the new board should do is clean out the administration and hire new people. I know they have contracts so buy the criminials out. Then fire all the teachers, custodians, etc who got there job through nepotism. I know that may be half the employees but there's enough people out there looking for jobs. This doesn't stop at MJR. This goes up much higher. Investigate our municipal goverment and the county goverment. Investigate the super MJR replaced. Investigate the county super of schools. NEPOTISM THE WAY TOMS RIVER AND OCEAN COUNTY LOVE IT!!! Let's get some balls voters and remove every last crook this November.
the phantom September 21, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Is Gilmore and Monahan still the lawyers for TR schools?? If they are this is another swift move by your Board of Ed. WTF?
the phantom September 21, 2012 at 12:12 AM
If you don't think any board members or any asst super's weren't getting a cut from MJR to keep quiet then you would believe George Gilmore shits in the woods!!!
the phantom September 21, 2012 at 12:17 AM
The super works for the board ! They should have access to everything period!!
Greg September 21, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Told you so, Yeah you are correct that Kevin Root was the first person to take Ritacco on. But, how about you tell the WHOLE story and not only part of the the story. Kevin Root NEVER ran for reelection but, he almost won reelection by write in votes. But, I digress on my comment, Kevin Root NEVER EVER opened his mouth after his stint on the board again because he sold his soul to the devil (Ritacco) and got jobs in the district for his kids! So, please do not sit there and tell us how wonderful Kevin Root was. Yes, he was a "Pit Bull" when he first came onto the board but, once he allowed Ritacco to buy his silence by giving his family members jobs in the district he lost all of the creditably that he had!
piney 53 September 21, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Yes remember how hard that Angelo Digiovanni and this group worked for years. They could never get anything solved. They fought nepotism.
Geena D October 03, 2012 at 02:09 PM
If MJR's former Board Members had ONE shred of decency, they would step down.
Cardinal October 03, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Ritacco's judge couldn't understand how a school board didn't suspect Ritacco's activities over the years. When a judge thinks that then that's eye brow raising.

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