ABSECON — Absecon Board of Education President Thomas Grites was honored at the board’s final meeting of the year, Tuesday, Dec. 22, for his 38 years of service. Grites lost his bid for re-election in November’s election.
Absecon school Superintendent Daniel Dooley presented Grites with the Absecon School District's Community Service Award for his contribution to the district. “This is presented to demonstrate how much he meant to everyone in the community,” Dooley said. “He has a calm demeanor and presence that has kept everyone on the board focused, as well as the ability and knowledge to make good decisions.”
“It has been such a united board under his leadership. He always considered and respected everyone’s opinions and thoughts. He has been a colleague and mentor.”
Dooley explained why he thought Grites was unsuccessful in his re-election bid. “He never campaigned,” Dooley said. “The other candidates had signs and social media presence. There are also a lot of new people in the city who were unaware of what he has accomplished.”
“It was a bit of a surprise to lose the election,” Grites said. “But I had a nice long run.”
Grites was first elected to the board in 1982. “My son’s first grade teacher encouraged me to run,” he said. “She said she thought I would be a good board member.”
Grites said one of the most difficult issues the board met with during his tenure was the closing of the old H. Ashton Marsh School and the building of a replacement school. “The old school could not be renovated,” Grites said. “Parts of the building were strapped together to keep it from crumbling.”
“Two referendums were voted down, so we finally decided to enter into a lease-purchase plan to construct a new school, which opened in 1990.”
He said the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging. “I credit Superintendent Dr. Dooley and the custodial staff, who planned all summer to make the schools ready for this school year,” Grites said. “In addition to preparing the schools, community meetings were held to inform residents and committees were formed to assure that any issues were covered. We were able to conduct a hybrid learning experience into mid-December, when we had to switch to a full virtual schedule.”
“Parents were originally 40% against hybrid plans until our superintendent explained the plans. That number then dropped to about 25%. And it has worked really well.”
At his final meeting, Grites said that when he was first elected to the Board of Education, his focus was overcoming obstacles of budgets and the sending/receiving relationship between the Absecon and Pleasantville School Districts. These same issues were current focus points at his final meeting. “It has come full circle,” he said.
Grites retired July 20 after serving for 43 years as assistant provost for academic support at Stockton University. He was a founding member of the National Academic Advising Association and served as its president. He also serves as senior editor of the NACADA Journal.
Grites has written over 50 professional publications, delivered more than 120 presentations, and conducted academic advising workshops and program reviews on over 100 campuses.
He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Illinois State University and his doctorate from the University of Maryland. Both institutions have given him Distinguished Alumni Awards, and he was inducted into the ISU College of Education Hall of Fame in 2007. He was recognized as a transfer champion by the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students in 2015. Most recently, he will receive the 2021 NACADA Region 2 award for Outstanding Contribution to Scholarship. Additionally, this year Region 2 will award the Thomas J. Grites Service to Region 2 Award.
There will be a retirement party for Grites on May 11 at Villa Rifici Restaurant in Absecon. Contact Business Administrator Tina Maruca (firstname.lastname@example.org) for additional details. A duplicate of the plaque presented to him at the meeting will be hung outside the school library where the Board of Education meetings are held.