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VOTE411 Voter Guide

West Windsor-Plainsboro BOE West Windsor {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

Members of the Board of Education are elected by voters in the communities of Plainsboro and West Windsor Townships. Members are elected to three-year terms, and usually three seats are up for election each year. The Board of Education is composed of four elected representatives from Plainsboro and five from West Windsor.
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    Rakesh Kak (N) Investment Banking

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    Dana Krug (N) Community Leader, Marketing Management Professional

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    Veronica Mehno (N) Business Owner

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    Helen Ming (N) Business Owner

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    Martin Whitfield (N) General Manager of the Princeton-Windsor Cultural Complex

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Biographical Information

What personal and professional experiences have prepared you for serving on the Board of Education?

What are your recommendations for handling growth of the school district?

What are your thoughts on No Homework Nights?

How would you address the issue of underfunding of the district's Fine and Performing Arts Program, as raised by the recent external and internal reviews of the program?

Career Currently Managing Partner at View Partners, an investment bank based in NYC focused of merger and acquisition advisory for technology companies. 23 years of investment banking experience with Citibank, UBS, Gruntal &Co, Kaufman Bros and View Partners. Also, 6 years technology consulting experience with HCL and Unisys Corp.
Education BE Electrical Engineering, from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), India. ~ ~ ~ MBA, Finance from Columbia Business School, New York
I would bring three different perspectives to the school board.

First, a perspective of a parent who has brought a child through the district from Kindergarten thru 12th grade — with one currently in the high school — and as a parent who deeply cares about his children’s education and their social development. As a board member, I would strive to maintain the level of excellence in education and human development achieved by the district in this challenging technology and social media driven environment.

Second, a perspective of a business and finance professional who has been working with people in team environments for the last 23 years going through budgets, financings, merger and acquisitions using analytical, financial, negotiation, and marketing skills. I will use my hard and soft skills to bring the various factions within our community together for a mutually respectful working environment.

Lastly, the perspective of a taxpayer and a homeowner in the township to ensure that our tax dollars are spent efficiently, and that all board decision are balanced and in the interests of all stakeholders.
An unknown that any school board must be ready to deal with is a potential sudden increase in the student population. West Windsor and Plainsboro have already approved several new housing unit, with some that are in the pipeline. It is still unclear what type of development will take place on the Howard Hughes’ property but any major residential development on that site poses significant challenge to future school boards. Given that the average yield of students per housing unit ranges between 0.5x to 1.0x, we could have another 2,000 to 4,000 students in our schools over the next several years. These new residential developments pose significant challenges for the future school boards.

The school board needs to keep a watchful eye on the population trends and should take proactive steps to build up staff and facility to match the enrollment projections. They need to work closely with the mayor and township council, and start preparations years ahead of any residential development going live. In addition, we must continually assess our facility utilization and make incremental changes to be equipped for any extraordinary increases.
While No-Homework Nights (NHN) are a rational idea to address the large problem of student stress, they often push this stress and tension off to more people and to later dates, compiling the problems in mental health and in learning. Teachers, who plan out year-long curriculum in the prior summer, are often left scrambling to compensate for the break in assignments, which forces them to pile on material later in the marking periods. Having a heavy load of course content and cumulative tests at once arguably causes more stress for students and teachers alike. To avoid this, teachers are often forced to “find a way around” the NHN, which nullify the point of the solution entirely

For the NHNs to have their intended effect, they should be placed at the beginning of marking periods. Often times, new marking periods mean the introduction of new units of material, and having these “nights” during this period will allow the students to enjoy the night off without the burden of involved material waiting for them the next day. Also, making parents more aware of the stresses and reaching out to them to provide a collective support can be a much more effective, consistent solution than NHN
I support the Fine and Performing Arts (FPA) programs in the schools - both my children have played violin from primary through high school. The FPA program in our district was rated “Very Good” in the recent external review done by New Jersey Arts Education Partnership. The review recommended to increase the budget in order to improve and increase space, add teaching staff, add art course variety and include weighted courses for FPA. The review also underlined the relative under-funding for FPA in our district as compared to our peer and neighboring districts.

While I would support accepting some of the recommendations, such as adding Dance and Theater courses and improving the space requirement, I believe the “per pupil” data that is being presented needs to be viewed at a granular level. WW-P is double or three times the size of some of the other districts mentioned, and is possibly reflecting the economies of scale. Similarly the addition of Dance and Theatre courses would not necessary result in cost additions but rather cost shifting as students taking those courses would not take other FPA courses.
Current Elected Position West Windsor-Plainsboro School Board Member
Career Marketing Manager, Dow Jones; Director of Marketing, New School University
Education MS in Nonprofit Management, New School University BA in International Comparative Studies (Russian and Latin American studies), Duke University
I have held a variety of leadership roles in organizations that promote the academic, social, emotional, and physical well-being of children and families in our community. My long-time volunteer commitment to the WW-P community, at the library, with youth athletic programs and in the district schools, coupled with my extensive school board experience uniquely positions me as a valuable contributor to the school board. The positive working relationships I have built with members of the school community and the WW-P community at large will be critical as WW-P embarks on a period of potential student enrollment growth. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in International Area Studies, focusing on Russian and Latin American studies, at Duke University. I also hold a Master of Science degree in Nonprofit Management from the New School University. I attended New Jersey public schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. Professionally, I have over 18 years of experience working in the education, marketing and management fields. In addition, my children’s attendance in our schools has given me a first-hand understanding of many issues that face the school board.
The district collaborates with officials from both townships to stay on top of the most current information regarding the plans for development. The district needs to proactively plan for the additional students that will come from these developments. Because of the necessary lead time for building, whether it be new construction or school expansion, it is critical to be prepared to act immediately, once development plans are approved by the townships.
No Homework Nights are a way to allow students to have a break from school work in order to spend time with their families or pursue other perhaps, non-academic activities. I think No Homework Nights are a positive step in giving students a break from the rigors of school work.
The district offers a wide array of fine and performing arts opportunities, more than most public schools in New Jersey. For example, from first through eighth grade WW-P students take general music education classes and can also take instrumental or vocal music classes and lessons. Since the Fine and Performing Arts Program Review was completed, the district has added several music teachers and added a theater and drama course at the high school level. In the near future, the district will look at adding a dance program.
Career Worked in Wall Street for 14 years as an Emerging Market Trader. In 2009 opened my business in Translation and Interpretation. My business is a three time winning award business
Education I have a BS in Economics from Universidad Catolica Argentina as I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I have an MBA with a major in Finance from Boston University.
I have a BS in Economics and a Boston University MBA with a Major in Finance. I worked on Wall Street for 14 years. Now I have established my own translation business. My three children are in elementary school, and I volunteer in the schools. For the last two years, I have attended Board of Education meetings. One of the biggest challenges that I see with the BOE is the budget. The administration has consistently increased the budget for the maximum allowed which is 2.33%. Given my strong financial background I will be able to ask all the tough questions such as “Why has the teachers’ classroom budget been reduced?” and “Why were the tiers of bussing reduced from three to two?” I know how to read a budget and I do believe that there is fat that can be trimmed; the Administration bulks things up on a line in the budget without providing too many specifics. I believe that my experience working on Wall Street as a trader will come in very handy for a position in the BOE.
I applaud the efforts the administration has made since January 2017 to educate the community regarding growth in the school district. Some small housing developments have been approved and they are coming. The Howard Hughes development in West Windsor is the big unknown right now. However, there are some factors that I am not clear about: Still there is no demography report or capacity report per school building, and I have requested the logic behind the number of classrooms being added to Maurice Hawk School, but the administration has failed to give me an answer. How do we know that we need to build 16 classrooms and not 10 or 24? The WWP website has a presentation stating that in Phase II the number of classrooms in MH could be up to 48. I believe that this number is being based on the amount of land that the school has. However, the key factors in this matter are the demography and capacity reports and still WWP does not have these reports.
No Homework Nights started under a very good philosophy, which is to have students spend more time with their families, especially during a long break like Thanksgiving or the Holidays in December. However, I have being talking to a lot of students, who are our biggest stakeholder in this matter, and they are not happy with this. They have stated that No Homework Nights get clouded by the teachers doubling the amount the following day. Therefore, they need to be up until the wee hours and that does not help them to reduce stress. Also, if the student takes a science subject that requires a hands on class in the lab, sometimes the teachers have to teach the practical side before teaching the theory first, which once again causes a lot of stress for the students and the teachers.
The external and internal reports state that WWP has a “good” Arts program, but to move it to a “very good” program more resources must be devoted. Comparing WWP to our peers in other J districts, we are not spending enough money in the Arts program. However, I strongly believe that devoting more resources to the Arts program must be done in a very thoughtful manner, given that we are facing challenging times at WWP with all these housing developments. It baffled me when I read in the minutes of February 2017 that the BOE voted to send $1.75MM to Capital Reserves. Why was the Arts program not a recipient of that surplus money? One thing I know for sure, I would not like to see the Administration using the need of more resources for the Arts program as an excuse to keep on raising our taxes. The Capital Reserves account has a balance of $32.9MM which is 19% of our school budget. A Rule of thumb states that 5% of the budget should be the amount held in Capital Reserves.
Career Business owner for eight years; Eight years of financial services industry experience, working for employers including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America.
Education Master of Public Affairs from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; Graduate-level Certificate in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University; MA in Economics from Wuhan University in China; BA in Economics from Wuhan University in China.
My Master's degree in Public Affairs from Princeton University and other educational background have prepared me well for analyzing and tackling the issues faced by West Windsor Board of Education.

My financial background and business experience have equipped me with the skill sets to handle the budget and management issues school board members face constantly.

I have been an active PTA member and parent volunteer in various Maurice Hawk school activities. I was Vice President of Advocacy for Maurice Hawk School PTA from 2016 to 2017. Through my PTA participation and parent volunteer activities, I have familiarized myself with school activities and issues parents and teachers care about.

I have also attended Board of Education meetings over the last two years.

I have been a Princeton University’s alumni college admissions interviewer for many years. I am familiar with the college admission process, and know thoroughly what colleges are looking for when admitting students.

I have lived in the West Windsor-Plainsboro-Princeton area since 1999. Our family settled down in West Windsor in 2008. I know the area very well and consider it the best place to raise my two children.
Our school district grows when new housing units come to the market. West Windsor should control the growth of the school district by controlling the growth of new housing units in town. Many residents have complained about the over-development in West Windsor in recent years.

It’s my understanding that our most recent school Capacity Report is outdated. We should make decisions on whether or to what extent we need to expand our schools based on a current school Capacity Report, and Demography Report.
I believe that students can benefit from occasional breaks from school assignments, including homework. However, the decision on when to have these breaks should be made between students and teachers, not from above. Detailed instructions from school administration, including instructions on specific dates of “No Homework Nights” will disrupt the teaching process and may cause scheduling issues to teachers and students alike.
I believe that the district’s Fine and Performing Arts Program should be properly funded. West Windsor has high average income and property values compared with national averages. Our schools are sufficiently funded. The Fine and Performing Arts Program is an important part of our kids’ education and should be sufficiently funded as well. When there is shortage of funds for our Fine and Performing Arts Program, in addition to approving more funds to the program, WW-P should take some creative steps such as reaching out to our alumni for donations.
Career Community & Cultural Complex, Marketing, Communications, Public Relations, Education.
Education Bachelor of Arts Degree in American Studies from the University of Texas - San Antonio.
My wife and I are the proud parents of 5 children. Our oldest graduated from WW-P South, and we currently have (1) at WW-P South, (1) at Grover Middle, (1) at Village School & (1) at Dutch Neck School. We absolutely value education and the development of children. I am a son of (2) retired teachers and am also a former Division 1 collegiate basketball player. Each day for nearly 4 years I have overseen and operated the Princeton-Windsor Cultural Complex serving 25,000 WW-P families annually with World Class educational, enrichment, sports programming, amenities, cultural events and community events. My position calls for me to extensively interact exclusively with our West Windsor-Plainsboro residents and deliver excellent programs to our local residents. This enables me to have an interpersonal look into their livelihood, goals and daily activities. In addition, countless conversations have enabled me a greater understanding of the direct needs of our residents and students. Essentially, the combination of my experience, expertise, daily perspective as the General Manager and as a proud parent of (4) kids in the district, is the exact perspective needed on our school board.
The best way to deal with the problem is for the district to closely monitor what is happening in both Townships, and at this stage, develop conceptual ideas on how existing facilities could accommodate the growth. The expansion proposed so far has been to add about 16 classrooms to Maurice Hawk. The decision to use reserve money already on hand allowed the district to have the new space available by Sept. 2019 when currently approved new developments are expected to begin sending students. Going to a bond referendum would have caused an unnecessary debt expense and would have delayed construction until the following year. We need to truly research, study, monitor and then utilize the very best, practical methods to ensure that all decisions not only benefit our students, but also benefit our families and local community.
No Homework Nights does not reduce the academic rigor of the complete school year for our students. Many of the students in the WW-P school district are well rounded and many students are registered for after school clubs and activities. No Homework Nights enables the kids to also spend more time with their families.
In comparison to most districts, West Windsor-Plainsboro school district does indeed provide a very dynamic and comprehensive Fine and Performing Arts Program. I truly believe in the ability for students to utilize their creativity, talents and gifts to the best of their abilities. As with any program, full research and monitoring should be taken into consideration when evaluating the necessary funding that is adequate and required for that specific program to be successful. logo


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