TOMS RIVER-In an article in today’s Asbury Park Press, Toms River Regional Schools board member Robert Onofrietti said enough is enough.
Onofrietti said he’s embarrassed to be a member of the Toms River school board after a tumultuous year where school board Democrats and Republicans have done battle against each other in public and now, apparently behind closed doors.
The latest flap is a result of an apparently floundering investigation to find out who leaked confidential records to the Asbury Park Press earlier this year. The investigation, being conducted by board Democrats has now cost the district $16,442. Sources within the district claimed Democrats had hoped to pin the leak on Republican school board member Christopher Raimann, but as the investigation drags on, without closure, it appears Democrats may not have enough information to pin Raimann as the source of the leak.
Republicans have been trying to thwart Healy’s contract extension which would block them from hiring their own superintendent to replace Healy should they win the board’s majority in next month’s election.
“I’ve been ashamed to be on the board,” Onofrietti said to the Asbury Park Press. “It’s taken away from what this job is supposed to be, but there are people playing games. … We are not in this together, that is honestly the crux of the problem. There are people who have their own agenda and unfortunately, we’re all guilty by association.”
Onofrietti, who is the lone board member caught in the middle of a power struggle between Toms River Democrats and Republicans said he called for an executive session meeting to review the investigation as a board, but according to the Asbury Park Press, the request has been ignored by board Democrats who currently hold the power on the nine-member board.
Onofrietti says he and other board members have been kept in the dark on board matters in the past year.
“If you have a subscription to the Asbury Park Press, you know more than I do,” Onofrietti said about the board in the Press article.
This year, Onofrietti is running for re-election, and although he is a registered Republican, he was shunned by the Toms River Republican Club for being an outsider to the close-knit political circle in Toms River. Instead, he decided to run for re-election on his own, without any financial backing from the major political parties in town. Republicans eventually chose three club insiders to run for office as they attempt to regain the power they had lost in the years following the Michael Ritacco scandal which rocked the district at its core. Ritacco was eventually sentenced to prison and Republicans lost their grip on education in Toms River.
Onofrietti has four daughters in the Toms River school system and is one of the most visible and active school board members at school functions and sporting events.
In response to being caught in the crossfire in this year’s election, Onofrietti’s slogan in his campaign is “Unbought and Unbossed”, a direct criticism of how Democrats and Republicans, for the first time in many years are engaging in school board politics in the open.
In past years, the two parties clashed privately, publicly veiling their support and backing for candidates in the non-partisan school board elections.