Dec. 17, 2020-- The subject of the $147 million dollar referendum—a signature moment of David Healy’s tenure—came up several times during the Dec. 16 board meeting, Healy’s last as superintendent of Toms River Regional Schools. But the meeting itself was a referendum on just how far the district has come under Healy’s leadership.
“We are in a much better place moving forward,” Board President Anna Polozzo said.
Healy announced his retirement Sept. 17, ending a successful seven-year run made more impressive considering it followed one of the most damaging and distressing periods in TRRS history. A district reeling from public scandal in 2010 and devastated by Superstorm Sandy in 2012 progressed all the way to "Distinguished Organization of the Year" in 2017, and consecutive "high-performing district" designations by 2020. The last board meeting of 2020 was a platform to acknowledge the sustainable progress made, and to express thanks.
“He helped us out of a hole,” said board member and past president Joseph Nardini.
“He’s the man,” Nardini added.
Polozzo joked how her relationship with the outgoing superintendent began in a somewhat adversarial context—“Dave Healy and I were not friends,” she said, with her facemask barely able to hide her smile—but evolved to a level of mutual respect and admiration, as she grew to understand that they held a common and sole motivation of serving students, and that he did so despite Polozzo not always being, she admitted, very “nice” about it. She recognized his significant accomplishments over his tenure, including a facilities-based referendum as well as the $17.8 million tax-neutral ESIP; full-day kindergarten; academic achievement and higher test scores, significant improvements in special education resources and equity, and a restoration of public trust.
“We have been able to do all of these things under Superintendent Healy’s leadership,” she said.
"He's the man." - Joseph Nardini
“Actions speak louder than words,” said outgoing board member Michael Horgan, commending Healy for a proactive style which honored his promises. “People can disagree with decisions,” Horgan added, “… [but] really, the effort that you’ve put into the district, I don’t think that can really be questioned.”
William Doering, the district’s longtime business administrator who has served with Healy throughout the superintendent's tenure, offered his sentiments as well.
“So much effort has gone into preserving and saving our district,” Doering said, referencing both the district’s emergence from the rubble of the early 2010s and its ongoing state aid battle. “Dave put himself out there … and he did that to save our district, and he did it with passion and conviction because it mattered to him.
“You have my gratitude,” Doering said, “and I believe the gratitude of our regional community. Our kids in the district are the beneficiaries of your leadership and effort for a long time to come.”
Those kids took a turn to say thank you as well. High School South student representative Susana Brown, after presenting an update on her school, said, “On behalf of everybody at High School South, I would like to congratulate Mr. Healy on his retirement. We appreciate all that you’ve done for us.”
Healy thanked the board and the community for the support he received throughout his time leading the district, and echoed Polozzo's statements regarding the remarkable quality of the district's teachers, staff members, and administrators. He acknowledged that the task before him was great, and could not have been accomplished without the backing of board members, colleagues, and families throughout the greater Toms River area.
"I took that responsibility ... incredibly seriously," Healy said before pausing to gather himself, clearly filled with emotion at the retrospective of his TRRS career.
Everyone agreed that the district will continue to head in the right direction with the incoming administrative and board leadership. Healy expressed great confidence in incoming Interim Superintendent Thomas Gialanella; thanked outgoing board members Horgan and Ginny Rhine for their contributions; and confirmed that he'd met with new board members Ashley Palmiere and Lisa Contessa, and was left very impressed.
"We're in good hands," he said.
As he embarks on his last few days with the district in advance of the holiday break, David Healy is sure to receive more tributes from colleagues and coworkers. His last official day is Dec. 31, 2020, with Gialanella talking the helm effective Jan. 1, 2021.