Managing growth effectively for both students and taxpayers is a key issue. After voters passed the referendum last fall, school construction projects began moving forward. But the new housing will be built according to market demand, and we have to not get ahead of ourselves with spending. WW-P should only hire more staff as needed, delaying until the housing is built and children have moved in.
Vaping, drug use and bullying are problems. The district has programs in place to address these issues, and parents can help educate their children to avoid drugs and be kind to others.
The level of teaching staff is appropriate. We have too many supervisors and administrative staff, and as WW-P grows, we have to guard against growing the bureaucracy.
Teenagers feel pressure from the need to graduate from high school, the desire to be accepted by colleges, too little time to complete homework, and social media. Motivation is positive, but some students who are over scheduled become overly stressed.
Students need to find the right mix of classes and drop or scale back an activity if they are under too much stress. For example, taking a regular class instead of an AP class in one subject can make the year go much more smoothly, with more sleep and less homework. My children dropped down to regular from honors classes at times, they learned the material and it helped reduce stress, but they still got into great colleges. Guidance counselors can help students find the right levels.
Students should limit their use of social media if that is adding to their stress. Home should be a haven where you can relax, be calm and go about your work peacefully.
The schools should teach relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and spending time outside.
WW-P administrators need to listen to students, who have ideas about how to improve their experience.
By law, public schools need to provide an appropriate education for every child. That includes offering programs for those with special needs. It should also include opportunities for advanced students who want to challenge themselves. WW-P is large enough to have a wide array of classes and extra-curricular activities so each student can find what is best for them.
The biggest challenge facing the school district is how to manage the impending growth in our school population. Expanding capacity through construction takes time. The pace of new development is never guaranteed, which makes it particularly difficult to match growth in the student population with school capacity. The voters of West Windsor-Plainsboro passed a $115 million referendum to provide improvements in our facilities. As we move forward, it is essential that the district manage these construction projects well.
Our district is known for its strong academic and extracurricular programs. We need to continue to find ways to maintain the quality of our programs and preserve class sizes, while managing the growth in our student population. At the same time, we need to be ever mindful about controlling expenses.
Another important challenge is to improve communication with the community. In addition to the traditional mechanisms, the District has begun using social media and school messenger to provide more timely information to the community. I would like to see the District continue to pursue ways to be more pro-active in communicating with our community.
I think the general staffing level is appropriate. The staffing level is set through the budgeting process. As an incumbent Board Member, I voted for our current budget.
Our administrative staffing is lean, compared to other Districts. There are a few areas (counselors and child study team) that our historic staffing levels are particularly low. This year, I voted for the budget which included adding two high school counselors.
For teachers, our district has a relatively high student to teacher ratio, which means that our typical class sizes are higher than for other Districts. Smaller class sizes are better for students, particularly in the elementary grades. But smaller class sizes means more classes, which means more teachers, which means higher costs, which means higher property taxes. We need to balance those competing objectives. Our current class size goals represent that balance. We do have lower class sizes in the elementary schools (vs. the high schools) because it matters more at the elementary level.
Students in our district, particularly at the high school and middle school levels, experience a lot of stress. There is stress about academic achievement and college admissions, as well as stress about other typical teenage issues, like peer pressure, or body image. While some stress is beneficial, too much stress can lead to dangerous outcomes. The district has embraced a number of initiatives to address stress, including measures to reduce stress, and measures to help parents and students identify and address excessive stress. In particular, the district’s initiative to bring in professional Rutgers UBHC clinicians is a big step in the right direction.
When students are supported and feel like part of a group, it helps them deal with the stresses in their life. Student activities, sports, and clubs help provide our students with a “home” while they are at school. For my kids, marching band was their “home” at high school, and provided them with a support network of friends that helped them through the stresses of high school. We need to continue and expand those opportunities for our students so more students will have that extra “home” at school.
The District needs to serve all of its students and families in a way that is reasonable, fair and consistent. As school board members, we represent the entire community. Many families in our district do not have school aged children; we represent them too. When you look at issues, you need to gather information, understand the policies/regulations and past practices, listen to those involved, understand the financial impacts, and make a determination of what is the right course to follow. Sometimes that involves balancing competing interests. And that’s our job.
The biggest challenges for the District stem from imminent residential growth. At the moment, parents and students across the district describe some of our schools as “bursting at the seams.” Estimated growth and the reality continue to fluctuate year after year as we attract more families to our town along with developers interested in helping us reach our housing obligations. The District must be able to sustain our reputation for quality education while managing the influx of students.
It is important to have an appropriate amount of space to support a safe and healthy learning environment. We must plan for enough resources to prevent overcrowding in our classrooms while making fiscally responsible decisions. I want to make sure children at all academic levels feel supported and I look forward to working with the District to address these challenges.
I think the level of staffing is appropriate. We have to balance a reasonable budget while ensuring our classrooms are not overcrowded.
The District recognizes there are pressures placed on students to perform academically and has tried to implement several practices to help alleviate stress. Of course, there is always room for improvement. In addition to trained staff who work with students directly, I support the Parent University programs offered throughout the year. I have attended several eye-opening sessions and walked away with practical advice that helps me understand what my children go through, recognize potential pitfalls and guide them in healthier directions.
Unfortunately, not all Parent University sessions are well attended. I would love to see the District come up with an improved marketing plan to fill these seats once they have a better grasp on why more people aren’t attending. For example, if it’s a babysitting issue, high schoolers could watch the younger kids in another room for community service credit, a win-win.
As a School Board, we represent all members of the community, whether they have children in the district or not. As issues arise, we need to gather data and consider all stakeholder perspectives to arrive at well-informed decisions. It is my responsibility as a Board Member to consult with anyone who may be affected by proposed policies and plans in order for the Board to choose the best path forward.