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'Clean Slate' Challengers Oust Incumbents for Toms River School Board

Five-way race pitted two incumbents against three challengers

In a hotly contested race haunted by the Ritacco scandal, two Toms River Regional School Board incumbents fell to challengers campaigning as reformers under the "Clean Slate" banner.

Joseph Torrone and Ginny Rhine, who campaigned together as the "Clean Slate" team, had the most votes, defeating incumbents Jack Reuther and Gus Kakavas and challenger Charlotte Ford Spillane. Rhine and Torrone would serve three-year terms.

The unoffical results, with 96 percent of Toms River districts reporting:

  • Charlotte Ford Spillane, 7,820 votes, 18.48%
  • Gus Kakavas 8,840 votes, 20.89%
  • Ginny Rhine 9,918, 23.44%
  • Joseph G. Torrone 9,033, 21.35%
  • John Reuther 6,598, 15.59%
  • Write-In 104, 0.25%
  • Total: 42,313

South Toms River challenger wins

Longtime incumbent Jamie Jubert lost by 57 votes. Challenger Gidalty "Gigi" Esparza took the one seat representing South Toms River.

The school board, a regional one, has a seat for South Toms River, Pine Beach and Beachwood.

Gigi Esparza, 458 votes, 53.26 percent

Jamie Jubert, 401 votes, 46.63 percent

Write-in: 1 vote

860 votes total.

"Clean Slate" takes school board majority

With a victory of Torrone, Rhine and Esparza, the so-called "Clean Slate" team has a majority on the nine-member school board. Last year "Clean Slate" candidates Ben Giovine, Loreen Torrone and Alex Pavliv won.

The three are sometimes the lone dissenting votes on board matters, such as a vote on administrator contracts. But for 2013 the six board member will have a majority, leaving longtime incumbents Tom Baxter, Ed Gearity and Mike Jedzeniak as the minority.

Ritacco scandal remained an issue

The "Clean Slate" team of Torrone and Rhine campaigned strongly on "Ending the Ritacco Era," a message continued from a campaign last year that saw the election of current members Ben Giovine, Alex Pavliv and Lorreen Torrone.

Torrone and Rhine said many of the professionals and attitudes are still in place from the "Ritacco Era," referring to former superintendent Michael Ritacco, convicted of tax evasion relating to bribery in the school district for inflated insurance contracts and kickbacks.

Incumbents said the two years since Ritacco's arrest they have pushed for important reforms, such as ousting the old auditor and insurance broker. 

Challengers Torrone and Rhine pushed for stronger reforms and more transparency, hoping to televise or videotape school board meetings and create subcommittees along for more community and school board oversight.

Candidates focused on improving district in vardied ways

Spillane positioned herself as an experienced former administrator who worked with superintendents before Ritacco, and wanted to restore many programs since canceled, such as in-school suspension and a physical space for the Toms River Schools Hall of Fame.

Kakavas and Reuther said that they worked with Ritacco for a mere 10 months on the board and often disagreed with the man. Kakavas said it was unfair for challengers to say they were part of the "Ritacco Era."

Challenger Rhine, 32, said she ran because she saw an atmosphere of corruption that exited for years under Ritacco and continued today.

"I decided to run because I realized there were problems in our district.  But not until, I started running did I realize the extent of our problems.  I am shocked and appalled at the way our district has been managed both before Ritacco was indicted and since," said Rhine, who is a homemaker and former Advanced Placement teacher.

During the campaign, Reuther said he was apalled to find himself blasted as part of "The Ritacco Era," when he and Kakavas felt there pushed hard for reforms.

"It has been frustrating to be labeled the 'Ritacco Era' board member. Gus and I were on for 11 months when the FBI raided Superintendent Ritacco’s house," Reuther said.

Reuther ran for a second term because "There is still important work to be done. I have promised my wife that if I am re-elected I will serve 3 more years then pass the torch on to others."

Torrone, who is married to current board member Loreen Torrone, is a former superintendent of the Brielle district. He pledged to bring that experience to Toms River Regional, to both increase community participation in the district and also create better education, with a strong eye toward eliminating waste created in the "Ritacco Era."

First year of November elections

With longer voting hours and coupled with national race turnout, this was the first November voters saw a school board race on the ballot.

All Ocean County School Districts, with the exception of Lakewood, opted to move their School Board elections from April to November as a result of a bill signed into law by Governor Christie in January, which then Toms River Regional voted to move the election locally.

Usually polls in an April race opened later in the day, but moving the election to November also increased the number of polling hours.

It was the first year the Toms River Regional School District didn't have to work to ask voters to approve its school budget and tax levy.

JD November 07, 2012 at 05:37 AM
Looks like Clean Slate made a Clean Sweep..... Congrats... there is a lot of work to be done to get the TRRS back to where it was...
Mr. ? November 07, 2012 at 05:38 AM
Congratulations to the taxpayers, parents and children of the TR regional school district! You all just won big time! The final end to the Ritacco Era! Some one please call MJR... Just a little more house cleaning to come. Finally "moving forward"
jerseykris November 07, 2012 at 05:41 AM
Thank you Toms River voters for reaffirming my faith!!!! Best of luck to our newly elected school board members!!!
Mr. ? November 07, 2012 at 05:43 AM
...and almost forget. Mrs Spilane, congrats to you! You seem to be very well liked by the voters. I might hope you consider to run next year.
JD November 07, 2012 at 11:10 AM
Where is the teachers union president (aka.. pavlivdogs) and her 15 screen names!! 1st order of business.... Stop paying 50% of TRRS teachers union president salary so she can come here to blog during the workday.... I can't believe that is in the teachers contract.
Irina November 07, 2012 at 11:30 AM
Congrats to the Toms River taxpayers. So freaken happy to wake up and find the 2 last Ritacco cronies GONE... Good Riddance Kakavis and Reuther. A specail message to Kakavis.....Remember when I called to tell you the kids were in danger because of a junkie throwing bottles at the kindergarteners at their bus stop and you blew me off, told me it was a non-issue. Screw you!!!!!!!! I never forgot!!!!!!!
JD November 07, 2012 at 11:53 AM
Now you will see good employees replaced by contractors and our taxes go up to pay for it. Mark my words
JD November 07, 2012 at 12:09 PM
Gosh "pavlivdogs"... screen name #16... but you took my screen name... I'm the original "JD"... And nothing wrong with bringing in crontractors where it makes sense to lower costs and taxes...
Chuck Lada November 07, 2012 at 12:22 PM
Will they finally fire Tom Monahan, Ocean County Republican Chairman Gimlore's law partner and school board attorney? He can go along with the archetecht and all the other cronies of Ritacco/Gimore.
i don't get it?? November 07, 2012 at 01:14 PM
When the "Bubble" popped last week, it was a sign...congrats to us all, good luck to the new BOE members.
JD November 07, 2012 at 02:03 PM
You dont understand, contractors are there to make a profit. Look around to other Districts that have tried it. It always costs more money, always
JD November 07, 2012 at 02:11 PM
It costs "less" money to use contractors... ie. janitorial services, etc... Isn't it something... that it will cost less and the contractor can still make a profit... means inefficient, etc.. The primary reason is... no full benefits package and lower hourly rate... and they work harder... The "Original JD"
chtulu2000 November 07, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Actually JD (original)...even the Clean Slate (with the exception of Pavliv) have stated they are firmly against privatization because the studies show it always costs the districts more money. I have spoken to them numerous times during this campaign about this fact.
JD November 07, 2012 at 02:30 PM
chtulu... I think that was with regards to "transportation" or bussing... But there are other areas that contracting can be a good thing.. janitorial services, grass cutting, etc. I can assure you the buildings/grounds department is inefficient... it needs to be downsized (not eliminated) and contract out more jobs instead of doing it in-house.
JD November 07, 2012 at 03:41 PM
As a matter of fact, you will see after December, the cafeteria workers and custodians privatized. That is their plan as soon as they gain power. What a shame
JD November 07, 2012 at 03:47 PM
That will be a good thing... lower cost... those cafeteria workers and custodians will have the ability to be hired by the contractor... If you hadn't noticed... many people lost thier homes or/and have major remodeling to do that will not be covered by insurance... every dollar counts for them.. I can already see TR property owners on the barrier island not wanting to pay property taxes because they are unable to live in their home... "The Original JD"
mjmjr November 07, 2012 at 05:00 PM
the new candidate thats great,but the people in this town are still corrupt.
Ken November 07, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Glad to see some new people coming in ad getting rid of the old. Now we just have three more to get rid of in the next election. I hope now that the clean slate has the majority we will finally see some changes and they will keep their promises. If not they can be voted out just like Rittacco's puppets are now being voted out. So again congratulations, but we will be watching, so keep your promises. Make sure you STOP the nepotism in the school system already
Laci November 07, 2012 at 11:01 PM
Moving the election date from April to November was the ticket so I and others weren't limited to the voting hours.
JD November 07, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Giovine hasn't kept his promises... He will be a "1 and Done" if he doesn't change his voting... his votes don't match his rhetoric... he has done nothing to get rid of waste... he has voted Yes to the budgets without making cuts.... He says he favors a personel committee and is against nepotism... but he has voted Yes for everything on Roselli agenda... teachers, etc "the original JD"
Ken G November 08, 2012 at 02:31 AM
So the budget needs to be cut every year? No, Giovone and the rest of the clean slate team are what we need. It's better than buying new buildings, making lies, and helping a con man steal from students, and the public. I was not a fan of the old board of Ed, I like this new one.
GreatCthulhu November 08, 2012 at 03:59 AM
Nepotism like Mr. Torrone now joining his incumbent wife, Mrs, Torrone, on the school board?
TRman November 09, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Greatcthulhu. Is it Nepotism if they WON the office in a fair election for a non paying position? His wife didnt get him the job! Although it is odd to have a husband and wife on the board but not unprecedented. Good bye Jon and Gus its been real.
Robert Bressman November 09, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Now that the clean slate has the majority, I would hope they get rid of the $15,000 a year tax free annuity we pay our administrators, this is the biggest giveaway of taxpayer money and it's right in your face! They either accept a contract without out it or leave. This is just a start, but I'd like to see if the clean slate means business.

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