Melham, Belleville council cite Tomko for his ‘dedication’ and ‘commitment’ to children

Tomko, left, with Councilman Vinnie Cozzarelli. In the background are Councilwoman Naomy DePena and Mayor Michael Melham.

Richard D. Tomko has been recognized by Belleville’s governing body for bringing financial stability to the school district while bolstering staffing and expanding facilities since stepping into the role of Superintendent of Schools in 2015.

The proclamation presented to Tomko at the March 28 council meeting noted his ascension through many educational positions in many school districts before coming to Belleville, where he has displayed “excellence and devotion” as school chief.

Further, the proclamation noted his display of “dedication, commitment and perseverance and through his efforts did an outstanding job.”

“I’m am very grateful to receive this recognition from the township,” Tomko said. “The mayor and council’s commitment to the children of Belleville strongly aligns with mine, and that creates fertile common ground for us to work together. One of the most visible examples of our collaboration is the winter festival, and there are many other special programs and events for the community.”

The presentation of the proclamation comes after Tomko was selected by a prominent national trade publication, Education Week, as one of “Eight Leaders to Learn From in 2023.”

The piece — which was also detailed in The Observer earlier this year — detailed the progress made by the Belleville school district since his arrival. Tomko was hired when the school district was under state oversight for long-term financial mismanagement, including the accruement of more than $4 million in debt.

Tomko made personal connections with district personnel, earned stakeholders’ trust and leveraged district resources — even reconfiguring the district’s grade levels to free up classroom space at the middle school and repurposing an old factory to create a new community-shared athletic center.

Within four years, the school district was back in the black.

“It’s very humbling that the writers and editors at Education Week chose to focus on me,” Tomko said. “But we couldn’t have made the strides that we’ve made in Belleville without the tireless work and deep dedication of our amazing administrators, teachers, staff members and Board of Education members. Each day we get the chance to make a better future for almost 5,000 children. That’s a tremendous responsibility, but I couldn’t ask for a better job.”

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.