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Ocean Gate School Board Prez Disqualified Because Of Failure To Complete Criminal Background Check

Schools superintendent hoping to get Juan Alicia reinstated; calls state-mandated check procedure a 'nightmare'

Ocean Gate Board of Education President Juan Alicia is now off the board because he failed to complete the fingerprint portion of the state-mandated criminal background checks for school officials.

Alicia was one of 186 school board members and charter school trustees statewide declared ineligible to serve because they did not complete the required criminal background investigation by Dec. 31.

He was the only school official on the state Department of Education's list from Ocean County.

Those on the list released by the DOE today must vacate their positions immediately, DOE spokesperson Allison Kobus said.

Ocean Gate schools Superintendent Frank Vanalesti is not happy with how the DOE handled the requirement since it went into effect earlier this year. School board members should have been given more time to complete the process, he said.

"The state really should have given them a year to complete the process," Vanalesti said.

Alicia — who has served on the Ocean Gate school board since 2009 — was instrumental in helping the school be declared a "Blue Ribbon School" by the federal Department of Education as in the top 1 percent in the nation, he said.

"These are volunteers," he said. "This guy's a fireman. He's a good man. He just hadn't been able to get around to it."

Alicia has a family to support and was working quite a bit to make ends meet, Vanalesti said.

He completed the first part of the background check, which was a questionnaire dealing with personal information. Board members had to pay $10 to fill out the questionnaire and a $1 "convenience fee," Vanalesti said.

"I don't know who its convenient for, but it's not board members," he said.

Then board members had to pay $70 to be fingerprinted by a private company. Prior to the new legislation, they could have background checks and be fingerprinted by their local police department.

"It's more money for this company and the state," he said. "It's a nightmare."

Alicia has a fingerprinting appointment slated for Jan. 18 in Toms River, one of only two locations in South Jersey where the procedure can be performed, he said.

"It's darn near impossible for any working person to find any appointments," Vanalesti said. "We found two days in January. There hasn't been enough time for these people."

Vanalesti said he plans to ask board members at next week's board meeting to allow him to write a letter to DOE Acting Commissioner Chris Cerf asking that some flexibility be given in Alicia's case.

Vanalesti said he has no argument with criminal background checks for school board members, just the way the state has handled the procedure.

Additional school board members or charter school trustees may yet have to forfeit their positions, according to Kobus. Some board members or trustees filled out the forms improperly or failed to pay the required fee, she said in a news release today.

The background checks were required by the New Jersey general  Assembly in legislation passed last year to require school board members and charter school trustees to meet the same standards required of school teachers.

If disqualified board members or trustees show up for meetings, they could be charged with a fourth-degree crime.

New Jersey is apparently the only state to require the background examinations.

John Spotaforte March 05, 2012 at 10:30 PM
This is not the real end to the story. The fact is the Patch did not print the facts. Like other muck rakers it was turned into a slanted story so that they can sell there stories by peddling trash. The truth is, in these hard financial times, Mr. Alicia had to either feed his children and get them a Christmas gift or do the fingerprinting at Christmas time. There were 2 appointments for a man who does not get paid unless he works. In the end, Mr. Alicia was never taken off the Board, he volunteers his time for countless hours and the state of NJ extended the deadline for all counties. Oh and he passed the criminal history check with flying colors. Nice Job The Patch attempting to smear innocent people for no reason. You were wrong!
Patricia A. Miller March 05, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Dear John, Thanks for your comments. We will certainly do an update. The information in the story was supplied to us by the superintendent in January. As you can see, the superintendent was defending Mr. Alicia in the story. I can assure you there was no attempt by Patch to "smear" Mr. Alicia.
Andrea Sorrentino July 25, 2012 at 03:21 AM
Firemen should know the rules. But then again, Vanalesti & Ocean gate have their own rules.
Andrea Sorrentino July 25, 2012 at 03:31 AM
Now he's Bob Cratchett? Gimmee a break. He represents the citizens & their children. He was voted in. It was irresponsible. It should have been done. period.
Cookie September 12, 2012 at 02:46 AM
That story was riveting as is Frank Vanalesti.

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