David Healy (Photo: TRRS)
David Healy (Photo: TRRS)

The leader of New Jersey’s largest suburban school district will retire at the end of the year, marking the end of his tenure steering the district through multiple crises, including the slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy, millions in state funding cuts and the hurdles of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It has been my sincere pleasure and distinct honor to lead what I consider to be the finest school district within the most child-centered school community in the state of New Jersey,” Healy said. “I have immense pride in what we’ve been able to accomplish, gratitude for the relationships and friendships that will last beyond my retirement, and confidence that Toms River Regional Schools is better positioned to confront the many challenges facing public school districts in New Jersey.”

The Toms River Board of Education was notified of Healy’s decision Thursday morning.

Heal was hired by the district in 2014. He said in a statement that he had strongly considered retiring at the end of the 2019-20 school year, especially after his longtime colleagues, assistant superintendents Marc Natanagara and Deb McKenna, retired from public education. But he felt there was unfinished business, particularly in the context of the ongoing state aid fight and the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on the end of last school year – Healy had promised in-person graduations for secondary schools, a promise kept – and the rollout of the 2020-21 school year.

Healy said that it is his goal that prior to his Jan. 1 departure, the district has returned to a blended-learning model or, ideally, full in-person instruction, a transition he’s committed to oversee and safely implement.

Both Healy and the Board of Education traded compliments in statements issued Thursday morning.

“I must express my appreciation for the Toms River School Board and the members who have served throughout my tenure,” said Healy. “They placed their trust and confidence in me and, throughout my time here, have provided the support necessary to achieve the many lofty goals we set for Toms River Schools.”

“It is my sincere hope that Mr. Healy is as proud of his accomplishments with our Toms River Regional School District as I am to have worked with him to facilitate our community’s collective goals,” said Board President Anna Polozzo. “As president of the Toms River [Regional] Board of Education, as a taxpayer, and a parent in our school district, I personally along with the entire Toms River Regional Schools Board of Education am very grateful for Superintendent David Healy’s efforts for our community.”

Healy was hired not long after the district was characterized by lingering mistrust from the scandals of former schools chief Michael Ritacco, the storm’s impact on the region, and just as the state was lining up its budget cuts that have led to a reduction in staff and still threaten the district from Trenton.

He listed his proudest accomplishments as the implementation of full-day kindergarten in 2015; Career Academies installed at each of the three high schools; a “high-performing district” designation by the New Jersey Department of Education in 2017 and 2020, earning the Certificate of Excellence for Financial Reporting six years straight, placement on the College Board’s 9th Annual AP Honor Roll, being recognized as the “Distinguished Organization of the Year” by the Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce in 2017, overseeing the procurement of more than $4 million in competitive grants (the district hired a full-time grant writer in 2016) and sponsorships, including naming rights for what is now RWJBarnabas Health Arena; and the implementation of the Energy Savings Improvement Program (ESIP) and passage of a bond referendum in 2019 which has led to more than $165 million in facilities improvements and upgrades throughout the district.

Superintendent David Healy speaks on school funding, June 21, 2017. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
Superintendent David Healy speaks on school funding, June 21, 2017. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

As for why Healy is retiring now?

“It just feels right,” Healy said, “and I have complete confidence in the team we have assembled to continue our mission and fulfill the ongoing vision of this district.”

“When you know, you know,” he said.