The scandal surrounding former Toms River Regional superintendent Michael J. Ritacco was one of the reasons the Seaside Heights Board of Education decided to go with Central Regional Superintendent Triantafillos Parlapanides instead, a board official said.
"Nobody wants to be associated with Toms River anymore, because of the whole Ritacco situation," Seaside Heights Board Vice President Todd Genty said this morning.
The five-member school board voted unanimously Monday night to name the popular Parlapanides as "shared superintendent" for the one-school district, he said.
"The last year has been very rocky because of the indictment of Michael Ritacco," Genty said. "It was time to part. We just want to get away from Toms River completely."
The switch will also translate into savings for the 120-student Seaside Heights Elementary School. The district was paying a Toms River principal $122,000 a year to oversee the small school, said Genty.
"It's a little school," he said. "I don't need a full-time principal for 120 kids."
The move will take place on July 1. Parlapanides will not receive any additional salary for taking over the Seaside district, Genty said.
The board plans to advertise for a new principal, but at a lower salary. The district will also share Central Regional Business Administrator Kevin O'Shea, which means more savings to put into student programs, Genty said.
"We will hire a principal at a lower rate," he said.
The move will also streamline the curriculum for Seaside Heights students, who eventually move onto Central Regional Middle School in seventh grade, Genty said.
"We might as well keep the kids in the same district," he said. "We don't go to Toms River."
Parlapanides last night commended Toms River Regional for "a job well done over the past several years."
"But you can't compare a K-6 curriculum to a K-12 curriculum which will identify weaknesses and then work to remediate those weaknesses," he said. "Everyone here at Central Regional is excited about working with Seaside Heights and are looking forward to a very bright future."
Central Regional has five sending towns — Berkeley, Seaside Heights, Seaside Park, Island Heights and Ocean Gate.
Parlapanides also wants to apply for the soon-to-be vacant superintendent position in the Berkeley Township school district.
Ritacco pleaded to mail fraud and conspiracy to impede the IRS — two of the 27 charges he was facing — on April 5. He admitted his role in years of corruption at the school district, where as much as $2.5 million in bribes were allegedly passed between Ritacco, insurance brokers and intermediaries.
Rob Glantz, IRS Crimininal Investigations spokesperson from New Jersey, confirmed that as part of the plea Ritacco will forfeit $1 million dollars, his 2010 Mercedes e550, and $8,960 from his Seaside Park home found as part of an FBI raid.
Ritacco is slated to be sentenced on July 12. He could face between 11 to 14 years in jail time, authorities have said.