Richard D. Tomko, Ph.D., M.J.
Superintendent of Schools
Dr. Richard Tomko has had numerous administrative responsibilities during his 21-year career in educational administration. He has been a building administrator at the middle and secondary levels and responsible for district-wide curriculum, assessment, innovative program initiatives, technology, and professional development while in central office positions. Prior to his arrival in the Belleville N.J. Public Schools District, Dr. Tomko was the Director of Athletics and an Assistant Principal for the Dunellen Public Schools. Several years later, he began his tenure with the Elmwood Park Public Schools District as middle school principal in 2002 and after one year, Dr. Tomko was appointed to the position of principal of the high school. He was instrumental in re-arranging the secondary curriculum, ensuring that courses were aligned with state assessments and college readiness standards. He also began to study the achievement gaps between learners and the transition of students from 8th to 9th grade, making changes to programs and personnel to help students be successful in their classes. After two years, Dr. Tomko then served as principal of both the middle and high schools to help improve the continuity of programs in district, 6-12. Soon after, Dr. Tomko was appointed Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction and on July 1, 2010 he began serving as Superintendent of Schools for the school district. Over the next four and one half years as the district’s Chief Education Officer, Dr. Tomko continued to raise student aptitude; challenged students with a more rigorous curriculum; introduced a 0% increase to the general budget tax levy; created the Academy of Mathematics and Medical Sciences; evaluated teachers and administrators more thoroughly; moved the district to common core alignment; and responded fiscally by making immediate cuts to help offset a $2.2 million deficit, working with the board of education on an action plan to restore financial stability to the district within several months. New programs implemented immediately after his appointment led to major increases in SAT and Advanced Placement scores, as well as increases in score assessments for the Special Education subgroup which helped narrow the achievement gap. Dr. Tomko enhanced district technology with the largest one-to-one student iPad2 initiative in the state of New Jersey and in January 2014 passed a $10 million school facilities referendum after obtaining 42% grant funding from the state department of education. That same year under his charge, Elmwood Park Public Schools attained the largest graduation increase in the state (11.8%) and 82% of graduates in the economically disadvantaged subgroup retained enrollment in 2 and 4-year colleges. Dr. Tomko has served in previous districts in additional administrative positions such as department supervisor, assistant principal, and assistant director of athletics. He began his career in education teaching high school science and middle and high school English in both private and public-school systems.
Dr. Tomko obtained his principal license and School Administrator certificate after earning his Master's Degree in Educational Administration (M.A.E.), and he has attained the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) with a concentration in Educational Leadership, Management, and Policy from Seton Hall University. Dr. Tomko has also earned a Master of Jurisprudence (M.J.) Degree in Children’s Law and Policy from Loyola University of Chicago School of Law; a Graduate Certificate in Community and Economic Development from The Pennsylvania State University; a certificate in Leadership for his professional studies at Harvard University; a Graduate Certificate in The Brain, Teaching, and Learning from The Johns Hopkins University; and an Executive Certificate in Transformational Non-Profit Leadership from the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business. He is presently enrolled in the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at The Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School and is earning a Certificate in Advanced Educational Leadership (CAEL) from Harvard University. Dr. Tomko currently serves as an adjunct professor in the Educational Leadership/School Building Leadership graduate programs at Manhattan College, Seton Hall University, Montclair State University, and Centenary University, and he mentors newly appointed administrators statewide for licensure through the New Jersey Department of Education. He was appointed by the Governor to serve as a Commissioner on the School Ethics Commission, sits as a member on the Sussex County Planning Board, and also serves as a Board Trustee on the New Jersey Educational Services Commission (NJESC).
Dr. Tomko continues to research the "expectations gap" and lack of articulation between secondary schools and institutions of higher education with the hope of improving student readiness for post-secondary instruction. Past formal research endeavors and publications have included student achievement gaps on statewide assessments; student safety; early childhood literacy; guidance and counseling influence on student application to post-secondary education; bullying; student perceptions of remedial English; and student readiness for college. Dr. Tomko is a 2012 cohort graduate of the National SUPES Academy and participated in the Harvard Graduate School of Education Leadership Institute for Superintendents: Systematic Reform in School Districts and Schools. Dr. Tomko is a change agent for creativity and problem solving and works with his administrative teams to decrease achievement gaps between demographic subgroups of learners. He has a proven record of effecting change in his current and past districts by involving families, stakeholders, and community groups in the restoration of student engagement leading to overall student success. Since his appointment to Superintendent of Schools in the Belleville N.J. Public Schools District, the Board and administration have successfully authored and implemented an action plan to remediate fiscal concerns and eliminate a $4.2 Million deficit, ending the 2014-2015 school year with a financially sound projection and budget that addressed the needs of the students. A district-wide 1:1 Chromebook initiative soon after ensued while new elementary, middle, and high school textbook series and e-texts were also adopted. Further, an administrative realignment for greater support and oversight was implemented, and Board policies were updated to enhance grade point average equity and district procedures. The current district curriculum team and high school administration have worked to create the Leadership Academy; Academy of Criminal Justice; and Ralph Vellon Academy of Engineering and Medical Sciences while partnering with Clara Maas Medical Center to reflect Academy STEM standards and surpass the expectations of the science core. In early 2018, Dr. Tomko spearheaded a campaign to promote and gained community support in passing a $48 Million construction referendum by a large margin. In working with the state, Dr. Tomko secured 50% funding for the taxpayers of the community through construction aid. A second project ($4 Million) to rebuild the athletic complex at Clearmon Field was also designed and approved to help improve athletic facilities for all students and members of the township. Content curriculums are continuously updated to enhance academic rigor, advanced exit skills have been infused to challenge students at every school level, and a district-wide effort to ensure equity in access was started to ensure learners from diverse backgrounds and with different needs are receiving specialized programs tailored to the demands of every learner. In 2019 and just 4 short years under Dr. Tomko’s leadership in district, the Belleville Public Schools District was recognized as a District of Distinction (DA) for its RISE and Shine program and a “High Performing District” by the New Jersey Department of Education for raising the percentages of the Quality Single Assurance Continuum (QSAC) by 53% in the Instruction and Program category and 54% in Fiscal Management. Dr. Tomko continues to work with his Board in monthly committees to lead the district mission and ensure that the vision of the district, where all students can learn, is being supported by all aspects of the school district.
Dr. Tomko was named Essex County Superintendent of the Year in 2020 for exhibiting leadership for learning, communication, professionalism, and active participation in community involvement with an understanding of regional, national, and international issues. He has been honored with receiving the New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Award and recognized by the United States Department of Defense through his receipt of the Patriot Award in 2018 and the Above and Beyond award in 2019. Dr. is married, has four children, and dedicates his spare time volunteering as a coach for local recreation sports teams and other non-profit organizations.