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VOTE411 Voter Guide

Princeton School Board {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

6 newcomers are vying for 3 seats on the 9 member Princeton Board of Education for three-year terms.The Board expresses its authority on issues through Resolutions adopted by vote at a Board meeting and functions to: sets policies, approve the Annual School Budget, represent the community's educational philosophy, and has the power to hire and evaluate the Superintendent of the Schools.
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    Beth A. Behrend (N) Corporate Attorney

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    Jessica Deutsch (N) Education Advisor

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    James Fields (N) Ministry Director of Undergraduate Studies at Princeton University (Christian Union)

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    Jennifer A. “Jenny” Ludmer (N) Former Scientific Analyst; Current Parent and Volunteer

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    Julie Ramirez (N) Project Manager, Goldman Sachs (18 yrs) & Princeton University Office of Finance & Treasury (1 yr)

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    Michele Tuck-Ponder (N) Business Owner

Change Candidates

Biographical Information

What personal and professional experiences have prepared you for serving on the Board? Describe your purpose or goals in wanting to join the Board.

What do you consider the most important challenges facing the Princeton Public Schools? How will you address them?

How would you encourage diversity in the School District?

Given the heated discussion about the charter school expansion and the strong opinions expressed by the community, the Superintendent, the Board, and Charter School Board, with the resulting litigation and cost, how do you think the Board should now proceed?

Superintendent Cochrane has suggested that increased enrollment may require more space, and various ideas, such as buying Westminster Choir College and swapping Monument Hall with the Town, have been proposed. What are your views on whether more space is needed, and what the Board should consider?

Is the Board of Education sufficiently transparent in its operation? If not, how would you encourage transparency?

A public school graduate, I have three children who have attended Princeton public schools. My husband Robert Eaton and I have lived in Princeton since 2001. I am an attorney with global experience advising Fortune 500 companies on financings, joint ventures, acquisitions, governance and regulatory matters. After nearly two decades of practice, I led the Riverside School PTO, raised over $50,000 to sustain local school gardens and now collaborate monthly with District leaders as a member of the PTO Council. I teach religious education at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton (UUCP) and have served on the boards of the Watershed Association, the NJ League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, the Princeton School Garden Cooperative and UUCP. I am committed to building on the excellence of Princeton public schools in a fiscally responsible manner that helps preserve the quality of life and economic diversity of our town. I want to make every dollar count for our kids.
Next year, the Board will make decisions about expanding and transforming our school facilities, potentially involving tens of millions of dollars of spending, that will impact the education of Princeton children and taxpayers for decades to come. At the same time, big changes are being made in how our schools are run in an effort to improve wellness, balance and equity. All this is happening at a time when voters are very concerned about high property taxes, and fixed costs like healthcare continue to rise.

We must: -->Prioritize long-term planning, transparency and communication, engaging with the municipality and community leaders, and honoring concerns about high taxes; -->Audit District administrative structure to align with current needs; -->Capture savings through energy audits, retrofits and green design, partnering the the town's Climate Action Plan; -->Unify our community to prepare kids to lead lives of joy, purpose, creativity and compassion; -->Welcome all children, regardless of background, color or ability; and -->Hold administrators accountable for improved wellness and balance metrics using data from evidence-based student surveys.

These are exciting times for education in Princeton - with lots of moving parts, complex issues and high stakes because, in the end, it’s all about our kids. I’d like to bring my passion for our schools, together with my business and financial expertise, to the School Board and help our community navigate these challenges.
Our schools must be welcoming to all – regardless of color, socio-economic background or ability. I support efforts to teach students, staff and families about racial literacy and the impact of implicit bias. We all need to learn to talk openly and honestly about race, without feeling unsafe. The District should sponsor speakers and workshops, working with local groups like Not In Our Town, helping our community move forward together. The books created by Princeton CHOOSE, with their personal stories about race, should be incorporated into K-12 curricula.

We should celebrate and view diversity as an asset, promoting policies to ensure that all children, regardless of difference, are seen as unique individuals and receive equal opportunities to learn and thrive in school and beyond. As a parent, I have witnessed how children at Riverside Elementary and John Witherspoon have welcomed classmates with autism and special needs, learning empathy and forging special friendships. Our efforts towards inclusion are one of the things that make Princeton schools special.

More improvement is needed, however, to support our diversity of learners. We focus disproportionately on our highest achievers at the expense of everyone else. Kids must have healthy self-esteem and feel successful, regardless of whether they take "accelerated" classes, win awards or make a sports team cut. We need to step back and remember to put our children – all of them - first.
The Board should do two things regarding the Princeton Charter School (“PCS”). First, initiate joint planning or a joint committee with the PCS Board to seek a common vision for the future of Princeton schools, while simultaneously working with PCS administrators to find ways to share costs, collaborate and reconnect our community. Second, as financial stewards with a duty to taxpayers, the Board is bound by that duty to continue the lawsuits in an effort to preserve funds to benefit all of the 3900+ kids in the District (including those at PCS).

As for joint planning, we must be proactive, rather than reactive, and develop a shared vision of what our schools should be and how we get there. State law has put us at odds over one pot of funds. All Princeton parents want their children to thrive. PCS serves several hundred satisfied families; almost all our kids come back together at PHS. The District needs to hear why some families choose PCS and learn from that conversation. Together we can think creatively and proactively about ways to educate all of our kids, making best use of our limited funds, in ways that meet everyone’s needs.

As for the requirements of fiscal stewardship, continuing the lawsuits makes sense, given the amount at stake – over $1.1 million dollars per year going forward indefinitely. Only about $15 million of the total District budget is available for “discretionary” spending on core programs like student services, curriculum development and instructional technologies. Fortunately, most of the legal expenses were incurred up front. Now it’s a matter of letting the courts decide.
There is no question that more space is needed. Anyone who has walked the hallways at PHS or JW during the school day can see that those facilities are full to capacity. The District has purchased trailer space at great expense to house teacher offices at PHS; class scheduling has become even more difficult given the bottleneck created by a shortage of dedicated science classrooms. The elementary schools are full – class sizes are rising in some buildings because there are no rooms left to add teachers.

The Board needs to address not just the space needed today, but also what our needs will be in the next 20 years. We need to engage in long-term strategic planning, in cooperation with the Municipality, calling upon experts in our community, to make careful decisions today – as a community - that will save us all money in the longer term. Where should we build, how do we incorporate flexibility to provide for future classroom needs, while incorporating green design, new materials and sustainability features that could save costs over time? What external grants, subsidies or other funding might be available from government or other organizations?

Decisions regarding where and how to expand must be taken with care and study, as the results need to last us and address our space needs for the next 20-30 years. Let’s consult experts in our community and learn from other districts who have faced similar issues.
Compared to when we first entered the District twelve years ago, transparency and communication has greatly improved. However, we still have a long way to go. Recent emails to parents about what happens in Board meetings are a great start. We need to upgrade the District website, making information easier to find. We need to be better at providing basic explanations to parents and voters on issues of concern, such as testing and line items within the school budget. In the case of testing, for example, public debate would be more productive if parents could go to the school website to see a simple explanation of which assessments are within District control, and which are required by state and federal law. Similarly, as part of annual budget discussions, voters should be made aware of Department of Education resources such as “user friendly budgets” and “CAFR” which provide detailed information on categories of spending and sources of funding.
Current Elected Position n/a
I decided to run for school board as an extension of the work and service that I have been involved with for many years. I am the founder of Princeton Balance, a social media group committed to student well being, and I have served on the boards of the 101 Fund, Hi Tops, and the Princeton Public Library. As a professional educational advisor and a parent of two college-aged children, I have developed a clear sense of the many complex issues and tensions facing our district and community. My own education in NJ public schools, and at Princeton, Harvard, and Rutgers, also prepares me to serve. I believe the school board is the best place for me to offer my expertise. I will help the board to uphold the district’s mission, contribute to decisions. that will shape our schools now and in the future. I believe in the district’s vision, understand the many important issues in education and student development. I have a strong sense of responsibility to our community. I am ready to serve.
1. Balancing the community’s expectations for the highest quality education for every student with concerns about affordability and the tax burden for the community.  Our schools have an exemplary reputation for quality. To maintain that standard as our population grows, the Board must be creative and rigorous to ensure every dollar is spent efficiently to meet the needs of all of our students.  2. Closing the opportunity gap. Every child in this district deserves the opportunity to be prepared for a life of joy and purpose. We need to close the gap now. We need to develop the policies to increase cultural responsiveness, engage families and community partners around verbal and mathematical literacy, hire teachers and administrators who reflect the diversity of our community, and communicate to students and parents a genuine concern for equity, 3. Supporting a culture of wellness so that students are thriving in, not just surviving their experience in PPS. The Challenge Success survey sounded an alarm bell about our students’ health and their engagement in learning. We have the will, the resources, and the creativity to shift the culture of our schools to be healthy and balanced, as well as excellent and innovative, so that we can be a leader in supporting authentic, healthy, vigorous learning.
Our diversity is our strength. We must continue to evolve as a community that embraces, celebrates, and respects diversity of all kinds, and ensures that our schools instill the value of diversity in preparing students to be “knowledgeable, creative and compassionate citizens of a global society.” The recruitment, retainment, and development of administration and faculty who reflect the community’s diversity -including people of color those for whom English is a second language— must be a priority. I support ongoing dialogue to help students develop self-awareness, understanding of implicit bias and racism, and appreciation of diversity as well as continuous review of the curriculum with respect to diversity in authorship, content, and forms. I would also support the partnership of the school district with community organizations to ensure that an education in PPS is enriched by the local resources that make our community unique and distinctive, including Princeton University, and all the history of our town, including the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood.
I opposed the expansion of the Charter School, and as a community member, I support the legal actions that have been taken. I believe these actions reflect the Board’s responsibility to serve the community’s best interest. The legal expenses have already been incurred .  I believe our energy should now go into focused, positive efforts to enhance our school district to meet every student’s needs. I think as a district we can grow from every opportunity to understand where we can improve. As an elected member, I would like the Board to explore building bridges with the Charter School in an effort to create a seamless educational experience for all of our children.
The demographic reports suggest that the census is rising across the district, and more space will be needed for the long term. I will look forward to studying and analyzing carefully all options, including opening a Grade 5-6 school at Valley Road, if that proves to be a viable option that is both financially responsible and educationally sound. I support the district seeking all reasonable and beneficial partnerships with local nonprofit organizations. I believe that there are many ways that our schools can draw upon and be enriched by the presence of the institutions that make our community unique and flowing with creativity and expertise. I look forward to exploring the options for creative, cost-effective partnerships as a board member.
My sense as a community member and candidate is that the BOE works hard to maintain transparency in its work and decisions. I believe that communication and technology must be harnessed to improve the way the community receives information about what is happening in our school district. Having the trust of the community will be essential to the Board's efforts on behalf of the district mission, so I would place a high premium on trust, transparency, and clear communication.
My educational & professional experiences have prepared me for serving on the Board. In 2004 & 2006, I received a Bachelor of Science (BS) & Master of Public Administrative degree from Central Michigan University. In 2010, I obtained a M.Div from Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY. While attending seminary, I served as the Martin Luther King Jr. Fellow and worked tirelessly for increased representation and engagement for people of color at Southern Seminary. My most valuable experience came while serving the local church. Under Rev. Bingham, a dynamic Pastor & Racial Reconciler. I served on his staff and was personally mentored by Rev. Bingham during the merger between his historically black church and a historically white congregation. This experience was instrumental in shaping my view of race relations. I also served as the Dean of Students at Montrose Christian School (K-12) in Rockville, MD. My purpose is simple: I want the Board to exemplify the diversity of our local community.
There are three major challenges facing the Princeton Public Schools:

1) The racial tension within our country is an ever-present reality for our children and its affects will not lesson but only deepen within this nation and in our community. Thus, I believe that one of the major challenges within PPS is addressing racial bias and inequality in our school system. As an inner-city resident from Detroit, Michigan, and the only African American male, I'm addressing this issue by running as a candidate for the Board of Education. It is my desire to help the Board of Education reflect the diverse community that encompass Princeton, NJ.

2) Our children are feeling the burden of being 'successful' earlier and earlier within life. Thus, another major challenge within the PPS is to address academic related stress and overall well-being of all our children within the district. According to the Stanford Survey, 6 65% of PHS students strongly supported changing the way their teachers assign homework (e.g. how many projects students have at one time) while 73% of PHS students strongly supported creating more time for students to work on homework/projects in school. I agree.

3) The achievement gap is another challenge for the Princeton Public Schools. We need to invest within every students' future success so I would like to consider implementing a program in PPS similar to the Kalamazoo Promise in Kalamazoo, MI
Princeton is a beautiful & diverse community. So, the primary way to encourage diversity is not to speak on behalf of those who are underrepresented; rather, we should seek to equip and empower underrepresented voices within our community. It is my belief that the issue of diversity and racial equality is one of the greatest, if not the greatest issue that is facing our school district, today—to encourage diversity, we must do three things. First, I believe that we’ll rightly promote diversity by creating space for diverse voices to be heard and electing diverse leaders to lead from strategic places of leadership. Second, another way to promote diversity is to create programs that support the educational advancements of teachers who already serve within our school district—this will not only support current teachers but it would also be a great way to recruit high quality ethnically diverse teachers into our district as well. Lastly, we should identify, recruit and empower High School students who have a passion for celebrating racial diversity and find ways to amplify their voice within our community. For example, the "The Classroom Index" curriculum. Furthermore, we should invest within our students by encouraging PHS students who have a desire to become teachers an incentive program to come back into our School District to teach upon their college graduation—specifically, I think we could utilize the newly formed PHS Alumni Association for this purpose.
I do not think that we should continue the current lawsuit against the Princeton Charter School because it is getting too expensive and the case since it is not addressing the real issue.

The main issue with Princeton Charter School is two-fold: 1) Princeton residents have taxation without representation. In other words, money is being taken without having proper representation and/or oversight on Princeton Charter School’s Board of Education as they are elected apart from a public election. How can tax-payers’ money be taken away and then used towards an institution that does not allow those citizens to provide financial, educational and administrative oversight over that institution?

2) While the State of New Jersey has mandated that Princeton Charter School should be funded by local property tax dollars and therefore it is taken away from the school district per pupil. Thus, when a student is selected to attend the Charter School and thereby leaves one of the Princeton Public Schools, in theory, a certain amount of leaves with that child to the Charter School. However, what happens, if a student leaves the Charter School and reenrolls into the Princeton Public School does the money return with that student or does it stay within the Charter School? So, the issue is money not being returned to Princeton Public School upon a student leaving the Charter School, period. Likewise, if a student leaves the Charter School and reenrolls into Princeton Public Schools, does the money return? If not, why not?

If this was the issue, I would pursue litigation. I think the Board needs to continue not only protect our most valuable possession, our children, but we need to take intentional steps to invest within our children by creating and implement a system to incentive on-going student enrollment within the Princeton Public School system such as the Kalamazoo Promise from Kalamazoo, MI.
My proposals for dealing with the school district’s overcrowding problems is simple: consider building a new Intermediate school for 5th & 6th graders to alleviate the growing numerical pressure among our local Elementary School as well as John Witherspoon Middle School. Although my proposal is simple, with such a decision, I think we would need to incorporate as many voices as possible to make sure that we are making the best financial decision possible. Thus, I want to partner with community volunteers such as, The Citizens Finance Advisory Committee (CFAC) to provide financial oversight. The CFAC is a voluntary group of Princeton financial consultants who provides financial advice to Princeton’s municipal counsel. Hence, I believe that more space is needed and/or required within our district. However, my main concern is not with expanding our infrastructure but rather, my concern is expanding without properly addressing the racial, cultural and socioeconomic barriers that exist among our students. If we do so, we'll only exasperate our current problems.

No organization is perfect and that includes the Board of Education. So while I do appreciate and affirm the many efforts that the Board of Education has made to make a concerted effort to encourage transparency, I think we still have a long way to go. Some of these efforts include but are not limited to: posting meetings on their website, attending PTO meetings at our various schools, hosting public forums and the newest edition: "Bagels with the Board". To encourage even more transparency I would model Mayor Liz Lampert's example and host public "office hours" at the Princeton Public Library where area residents are encouraged to come and discuss anything that is on their minds concerning the School Board and its governance.
As a proven school and community leader, as well as the parent of three public school students, I am eager to serve Princeton’s Board of Education. In the six years that I’ve had children in Littlebrook, I’ve organized the annual Science Expo, championed the garden, coordinated the Chess Club, and led the Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification. I also now handle communications for the JWMS PTO and serve as a member of Princeton’s Complete Streets Committee.

Working with administrators, teachers, parents and the community for numerous projects, both large and small, has made me well aware of the many strengths of the district, but also its challenges. As a passionate community school advocate, born of a public school system, I am eager to see our schools grow and strengthen so that we truly achieve our strategic goals to make every child known, incorporate wellness, close the achievement gap, improve care and communication, as well as innovate and experiment along the way.
The district faces numerous challenges and I’d like to highlight just seven of them. First, we need to address the stress facing our students by revising school schedules, carefully considering their homework load, and promoting counseling for class selection. Second, we must teach racial literacy to all of our students and our staff, as well as to analyze our hiring and student advancement practices. Third, we need to incorporate sustainability by surveying our energy use and ensure we build and maintain energy-efficient buildings. Fourth, we need to strengthen special education, by smoothing grade-to-grade transitions and providing differentiated instruction. Fifth, we need to promote and model empathy, an effective teamwork and leadership skill necessary in our world. Next, we need to organize our administration to improve its communication with parents and ensure proper oversight of our facilities. Finally, we need to plan prudently for growth and be responsible to our taxpayers. Above all, a measured approach and careful consideration of all expenses is necessary to ensure that the public’s tax dollars are well-spent and the community maximizes its financial investment in our schools.
There are three things we can do to promote diversity in our schools. First, we need to analyze our hiring practices. A recent report from the district made clear that the diversity of our teachers does not reflect the diversity of our students. Thus, it is imperative that the district make sustained efforts to recruit and retain talented teachers of color.

Second, we need to assess our student advancement practices. Recently released statistics show that our district disproportionately punishes students of color, while anecdotal reports indicate that latino and black students are underrepresented in accelerated courses. It is clear that much work needs to be done to level the playing field, much of which will begin in the elementary school, where the achievement gap begins.

Finally, we need to ensure all teachers undergo implicit bias and racial literacy training. Quite simply, we cannot begin to achieve our strategic goal of closing the achievement gap if we do not ensure every teacher is appropriately trained.
The lack of transparency in the charter school expansion process was troubling, and I, in particular, continue to be alarmed by the divisiveness it has caused in our community. I fully understand the community’s opposition to the charter expansion, as well as the initial response through litigation. However, while we wait for the court’s decision, we should begin to bring our divided community together.

The District has already taken one important step in this regard. Thanks to the hard work of the Student Achievement Committee, every parent of a student who leaves the Princeton Public Schools now receives an Exit Survey from their Principal. This data will be aggregated to determine how we can strengthen our community schools, so that every parent feels welcomed at our schools and that we are addressing the needs of all of our children.

Furthermore, we need to establish a long-overdue “bipartisan” commission. With both charter and PPS representatives, this commission could open a dialogue that is missing between the two schools and seek solutions for all types of students. With further consideration and analysis, I believe that not only can the two schools establish a working relationship that will reduce the divisiveness in our community, but also strengthen PPS.
There is no doubt that Princeton is experiencing growth at the present time. In recent years, a number of new housing developments, including Avalon Bay and Merwick-Stanworth, have been constructed. Thus, within three years, we have seen approximately 10 percent growth in students -- now nearing 3700 -- while several schools have exceeded capacity. Furthermore, the impending affordable housing settlement will likely lead to additional growth.

Moving forward, we must carefully analyze all options for handling our growth. At two acres, Monument Hall does not offer sufficient space for the district’s needs. And while conveniently-located, we now know that Westminster Choir College will likely be sold to a buyer that will keep this world-class gem in our neighborhood. Thus, at this stage, the most likely option is to restore or develop the 9-acre Valley Road property which is currently owned by the district and located near the library and other community resources.

Superintendent Cochrane has proposed that the Valley Road school become a Grade 5-6 school, which would lessen growth strains at both the elementary and the middle schools. At the same time, he has proposed that the high school will expand on its property to accommodate its growth. The district must proceed to accommodate student growth, and also ensure it chooses the most cost effective options for the taxpayers.
Yes, I believe the Board is sufficiently transparent. The Board releases a User-Friendly Budget each year and monthly Board Meetings are public, televised, and streamed on-line. In addition, most committee meetings are open to the public. (Exceptions include executive sessions to discuss personnel situations, land acquisitions, litigation issues, and private student matters.) Furthermore, “Bagels with the Board” was recently introduced as an opportunity for the public to informally meet with Board members, and “Board Highlights” are now released after monthly Board Meetings.

However, I still believe that the Board can do more in the area of transparency. We need to see stricter compliance with reporting requirements for executive sessions. Furthermore, a more organized website would give the public ready access to the Board Highlights, explain the RFP process, and improve communication with parents regarding curriculum and services. These steps would build trust with the community.
As a successful professional and a devoted mother of 4 PPS children aged 10 -17, I am confident that I have the experience, unique perspective, and tenacity to represent you and your children. Leadership: I have spent the last 20 years driving collaboration between diverse groups to make difficult and complex decisions within fixed budgetary constraints. Impact: As a seasoned project manager, I will ensure that initiatives can be effectively implemented with meaningful impact and measurable results. Compassion: Growing up with a severely disabled brother, I have a deep understanding of the challenges faced by the Special Ed children in our community and the importance of inclusion in education. Passion: I am eager to apply my professional experience to an area that I’m most passionate about - our schools. I will help create an environment where ALL of our children are engaged in classroom and extracurricular learning with the social and emotional confidence to reach their potential.
Preserving Excellence- Our district continues to face pressures from an expanding student population, limits on revenue, and diversion of scarce funds due to the charter school expansion. I will work to seek out creative ways to gain efficiencies and to control the school budget without impacting the quality of education that our schools deliver.

Inclusiveness- As Superintendent Steve Cochrane repeatedly states “they are all our children.” As such, none of them should feel lost, isolated, ignored, or left behind. I will work on your behalf to ensure that the school community is supportive and welcoming regardless of race, religion, educational attainment, income, special needs, or other characteristics.

Student Wellness- The PHS survey gave us a window into the problematic learning climate experienced by many of our high school students. However, a reactionary response to the challenges and pressures the high school students are experiencing can do more harm than good. My goal, and the goal of the Board, should be to examine the best way to nurture our children so that they are fully engaged in their learning, and able to thrive and reach their potential, in academics, the arts, athletics, and all other aspects of their busy lives.
I would ensure that the Board supports curricular and co-curricular programs which create a positive environment where students with different backgrounds and interests feel engaged, motivated, and integrated into the school community. After all, studies have shown and we could all imagine the strong link between a climate of inclusion and student success.

I would actively encourage administrators and teachers to continue their efforts to ensure that the curriculum for all levels of students are reflective of the student body our schools serve and to enable students to learn more about each through their academic studies. Positive changes are already underway where small things such as the summer reading list yield big results.

I also believe that school culture plays a significant role in this as it sets the overall tone of classroom and extracurricular learning. Many of our schools have built strong communities and have classrooms that feel like families. We should share best practices across the district and ensure that each school provides meaningful opportunities inside and outside of the classroom for students to learn more about each other and learn from each other. We need to promote innovative programs that break down the silos and promote dialogue and personal interaction in a climate that is open and supportive of differences in opinions and ideas.

I believe that the Board, in its role as fiduciary, is obligated to pursue what is best for the Princeton Public Schools and the taxpayers of Princeton. The cost of the current litigation is immaterial compared to the cost per year of expansion which will affect our Princeton Public School budget in perpetuity. We should let the courts determine if the expansion was conducted in an illegal manner.

It is regrettable that state’s charter school funding structure creates an oppositional climate where the expansion of one school is to the detriment of all of our public schools. This is inherently unfair and causes unnecessary divisiveness between students and families in Princeton. I am supportive of ways to bring the Charter School and PPS closer together to reduce the financial inefficiencies that our taxpayers bear as a result of having two independent school systems in our town. This might result in more cooperation, shared services, and possibly over time, we may see consolidation between the schools.
Based on the current state and future population forecasts, I believe more space is needed to best serve the growing student population in our schools. The Board should continue to look for creative and flexible ways to gain the necessary space that is needed to provide the proper learning environment while limiting the potential impact on taxpayers. All options should be explored before presenting a referendum to the voters. Given the long-term impact of any decision and the need to gain consensus for any proposal that is presented for a vote, it would benefit the Board to encourage more participation from the residents of the town and more discussions within the municipality to determine the best way to deploy the town's resources.
The Board is extremely transparent with respect to its formal board meetings. I have personally taken advantage of some of the tools that are in place to share information digitally. Notifications of meeting times/locations are posted, agendas, materials, and minutes available are available to all online, and highlights of the meetings are posted. Further, meetings are broadcasted on TV and YouTube so that they can be watched by those that cannot physically attend. That said, more can be done to with regard to transparency at the committee level to gain input from as many residents as possible before making decisions. Committee meetings should be more accessible to interested parents and residents except, of course when there are sensitive topics such as personnel. Technology can be better leveraged to reach out to the community for input on key issues via surveys and the like to ensure that more voices are heard for the critical discussions that take place at this level.
Current Elected Position None
Website none
I am well-qualified to serve on the Princeton School Board. I served for 6 years on the Princeton Township Committee, including 3 years as Mayor, served on numerous boards, including youth-serving organizations such as NJ After 3, the Girl Scouts of Delaware Raritan, and the Princeton YWCA. My children are Jamaica, a 2017 PHS Graduate and William, a 5th grader at Community Park School. I have been a class parent, presented classroom programs on Black History and served on the Superintendent’s “Athletics 2.0” Advisory Committee. I am running for the School Board because of my commitment to serving the community. My goals include: Engaging the entire community in creating a school system with high expectations for all students, by partnering with local institutions and organizations; Responding to the challenge of educating a growing school population through creative use of existing facilities; and Addressing racial disparities in the administration of discipline.
1) Addressing educational disparities amongst our students. I will seek to engage the entire community to work for the success of all students by understanding the academic social, cultural and health needs of our students. We should expect excellence from all our students. 2) Holding the line on budget while addressing the needs to bring our facilities to the level that will support the advancement of achievement for all students. As a former elected official, I have a particular interest in infrastructure and facilities. I presided over the feasibility study, design and financing process for the Princeton Municipal Complex, and was involved in the financing and construction of the public library building and am very interested in working on how to ensure that we have adequate and appropriate facilities to support our educational mission, without unduly burdening taxpayers. 3) Achieving a mutually satisfactory outcome to the ongoing conflict with Princeton Charter School by advocating with our legislators to address provisions in the existing law that cause conflict between Charter Schools and School districts throughout the state of NJ and significant budgetary challenges to the School District.
My son is in his 6th year as a student at Community Park School. In those 6 years he has never had a black teacher or administrator, and only had one Latina teacher for a half year in kindergarten. The district should, with intention and commitment, recruit, train and retain people of color as teachers and senior level administrators. This would not only benefit minority students, but majority students as well. Intention to recognize diversity as a strength that will enable our students to function more effectively as adults in the world, is critical. In regard to student diversity, the District has made some great strides toward increasing the number of underrepresented students in STEM curriculum. I would support expanding the two week summer immersion camp to include more students, and would encourage the summer program to be focused on transitioning students to enroll in STEM classes in High School and receive academic support to succeed in that discipline. Finally, more diversity in prep sports would be welcome as well. Field Hockey, Tennis, Golf and Lacrosse are PHS sports that rarely have participation from black or hispanic students. Part of the problem is the expense of the equipment and supplemental camps and private lessons that have become part of the landscape. The larger problem is the absence of cultural capacity in some of the sports. I would encourage outreach to diversify all our sports teams.
Commenting on pending litigation in which there is a chance I could be a party to the case in the near future is inadvisable, and as an attorney, I know better than to engage in that conversation. Other than that, I would like to see the district and PCS work toward achieving savings through shared services such as Human Resources and IT. The ongoing animosity between the two parties has torn at the fabric of the town, and as leaders we need to make every effort to tamp down the rhetoric on both sides.
In 2015-16 the District had about 3500 students and the average class size for all schools was 17-19 students. In 2016-17 the number grew to 3756 which probably resulted in larger class sizes. Princeton will also be required to build more affordable housing down the road. That pretty much guarantees that the district school population will grow. The question is, whether the District will be able to fulfill its educational mission with its current facilities and staff? The Board decision should be based on data provided by demographers, in consultation with the town and the local municipal bodies charged with overseeing land use--the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment. Any anticipated growth should be considered in the context of the municipality’s Master Plan which will also take into account residential density issues, as well as traffic and other environmental impacts.
As a public body with fiduciary responsibility, the more transparency the board demonstrates, the more confidence the community has in the actions of the body. I would encourage increased transparency through more effective and impactful communication to the community at large. The televising of school board meetings is not optimal since most of the time, there is no sound. One can stream the meeting over the computer, which is great---if you have a computer at home. This is also not effective for our non-English speaking population, which is significant. A monthly newsletter and more aggressive use of social media could significantly improve transparency, particularly considering the fiscal responsibility of the board and its impact on taxpayers and our children. I am encouraged by the appointment of a new communications officer at the District and hope that she is provided the resources to highlight board activities and the amazing accomplishments of our students. logo


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