Ocean Gate Board of Education President Juan Alicia is now off the board because he failed to complete the fingerprint portion of the state-mandated criminal background checks for school officials.
Alicia was one of 186 school board members and charter school trustees statewide declared ineligible to serve because they did not complete the required criminal background investigation by Dec. 31.
He was the only school official on the state Department of Education's list from Ocean County.
Those on the list released by the DOE today must vacate their positions immediately, DOE spokesperson Allison Kobus said.
Ocean Gate schools Superintendent Frank Vanalesti is not happy with how the DOE handled the requirement since it went into effect earlier this year. School board members should have been given more time to complete the process, he said.
"The state really should have given them a year to complete the process," Vanalesti said.
Alicia — who has served on the Ocean Gate school board since 2009 — was instrumental in helping the school be declared a "Blue Ribbon School" by the federal Department of Education as in the top 1 percent in the nation, he said.
"These are volunteers," he said. "This guy's a fireman. He's a good man. He just hadn't been able to get around to it."
Alicia has a family to support and was working quite a bit to make ends meet, Vanalesti said.
He completed the first part of the background check, which was a questionnaire dealing with personal information. Board members had to pay $10 to fill out the questionnaire and a $1 "convenience fee," Vanalesti said.
"I don't know who its convenient for, but it's not board members," he said.
Then board members had to pay $70 to be fingerprinted by a private company. Prior to the new legislation, they could have background checks and be fingerprinted by their local police department.
"It's more money for this company and the state," he said. "It's a nightmare."
Alicia has a fingerprinting appointment slated for Jan. 18 in Toms River, one of only two locations in South Jersey where the procedure can be performed, he said.
"It's darn near impossible for any working person to find any appointments," Vanalesti said. "We found two days in January. There hasn't been enough time for these people."
Vanalesti said he plans to ask board members at next week's board meeting to allow him to write a letter to DOE Acting Commissioner Chris Cerf asking that some flexibility be given in Alicia's case.
Vanalesti said he has no argument with criminal background checks for school board members, just the way the state has handled the procedure.
Additional school board members or charter school trustees may yet have to forfeit their positions, according to Kobus. Some board members or trustees filled out the forms improperly or failed to pay the required fee, she said in a news release today.
The background checks were required by the New Jersey general Assembly in legislation passed last year to require school board members and charter school trustees to meet the same standards required of school teachers.
If disqualified board members or trustees show up for meetings, they could be charged with a fourth-degree crime.
New Jersey is apparently the only state to require the background examinations.