Seaside Park Officials Have 'No Intention' of Pulling 9 Students Out of Toms River Regional
Eventually 'every Seaside Park child' will go to Toms River, not Central Regional, Martucci says
The nine Seaside Park students who are already attending Toms River schools won't be going back to the Central Regional school district, Borough Administrator Robert Martucci said today.
Martucci said the roughly $10,000 in tuition for each student will be paid to Toms River Regional in the fall.
The students had previously attended Toms River schools free of charge, under an arrangement made back when former Toms River schools superintendent Michael J. Ritacco was at the helm. Ritacco, who lives in Seaside Park, is awaiting trial for federal corruption charges. He resigned after his arrest in October.
The parents of the nine students requested that their children be allowed to attend Toms River schools, he said.
"Our children will continue to go to Toms River," Martucci said. "These children will get paid for. These children will have their tuition paid."
But Martucci declined to discuss just who or what entity would be picking up the tuition tab.
"Right now that's being discussed with our attorney...on how it can be done and it will be done," he said.
Toms River Regional schools Superintendent Frank Roselli informed Seaside Park officials on April 27 that the previous tuition-free arrangement would end. The district will have a new sending-receiving agreement with Seaside Park, Roselli said.
But Seaside Park has been a sending district of the Central Regional school district since Central Regional was formed back in 1954. Prior to that, Seaside Park students went to Toms River schools. But the Toms River district grew so quickly, there was no longer any room for Seaside Park students, so they ended up going to Central Regional.
Seaside Park paid Central Regional through the "turnstile" method, or per capita, until 1976, just like the other four towns in the district.
But things changed in 1976, after the state Legislature changed the tuition payment method for regional school districts from head counts to a formula based on an individual town's property values. The tuition payment change was gradually phased in over a five-period.
Seaside Park later filed suit against Central Regional in 2007, claiming that the tuition method was unconstitutional. But a judge later ruled against Seaside Park and dismissed the case. Thirteen individual Seaside Park residents appealed the ruling in October 2010. The matter is still pending.
Seaside Park has tried to discuss a "phase-out" of borough students from the Central Regional district for several years, he said.
"We have an obligation to our community to not allow them to overpay for education," Martucci said.
Seaside Park closed the Seaside Park Elementary School last year and now has a sending arrangement for K-6 students with Toms River Regional. Former County Schools Superintendent Bruce Greenfield recommended back in 2008 that Seaside Park align itself with a K-12 district. Central Regional accepts grades 7-12.
"If you are looking at education, you have to go to a K-12," Martucci said. "It has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with what's right and what's wrong. Eventually every Seaside Park child will be in Toms River."
The Berkeley Township Council passed a resolution at the Feb. 22 meeting authorizing special counsel to file an action before the New Jersey state Commissioner of Education against the Toms River Regional Board of Education, Ritacco, and the other constituent municipalities and boards of education of the Central Regional School District.
The Township Council is seeking an order from the DOE commissioner state to include Seaside Park students in grades 7 through 12 — who currently attend schools in the Toms River school district — in the count of students in the Application for State School Aid [ASSA] . The AASA is submitted each school year by the Central Regional School District to the state Department of Education.
Not including the nine students in Central's ASSA count would increase Central Regional's tax levy on the taxpayers of the four other sending towns by $421,00 beginning on July 1, Berkeley Township Council President Karen Davis has said.
Come back to Berkeley Patch on Friday for Seaside Park officials' take on the defeated Central Regional budget battle.