Princeton and Cranbury seal school agreement for another decade

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The send-receive relationship between the Cranbury and Princeton school districts was extended this week for 10 more years, as officials in both communities continue a relationship which allows Cranbury students to attend Princeton High School.

The Princeton Public Schools Board of Education acted first on June 12 by voting 7-1, with two members abstaining, for a contract that runs from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2030.

The Cranbury Board of Education followed suit by voting to approve the deal at its meeting on June 13.

Cranbury and Princeton, which have had a send-receive relationship since 1991, are in the midst of a contract that is due to expire at the end of June 2020.

Princeton school board President Patrick Sullivan said Princeton had to give Cranbury a two-year-notice, by June 30, of its intentions of whether to renew the agreement or not.

“I am happy to see we will be continuing a partnership that is beneficial to both districts on behalf of the students and communities we serve,” Cranbury school board President Karen Callahan said on June 13.

For Princeton officials, approving the deal allows them to ensure a revenue stream into their budget from the tuition Cranbury pays to send students to PHS — $4.8 million for the upcoming 2018-19 school year.

“If I’m looking at losing the net revenue from Cranbury, the cuts we would have to make to staff to balance that would be devastating,” Princeton Superintendent of Schools Stephen C. Cochrane said during the June 12 meeting. “And I say that honestly. I’m not trying to fear-monger here.”

Princeton school board member Greg Stankiewicz, who later voted for the deal, said Cranbury provides Princeton with 6 percent of its revenues for the school budget, which is the second largest source of revenue after property taxes.

“That would be devastating if we didn’t have the certainty for that,” he said.

Princeton officials also said approving the deal now allows them to concentrate on bigger issues facing their district, including a facilities bond referendum in the fall.

“It’s more important, for me, to clear the decks, move on, focus on this referendum and focus on the things that really matter to our kids,” Sullivan said.

Other Princeton school officials, however, wanted to take more time reviewing the contract.

“I don’t know anybody who signs a 10-year contract without careful review. I don’t,” said board member Michele Tuck-Ponder, who said officials only received the contract the day before the meeting.

She urged the board to table, or delay acting on, the contract; an option the board declined to take.

Board member Debbie Bronfeld said she preferred a shorter contract of five years rather than one for 10 years. Later, she expressed concern that Princeton officials are being made out to be the “bad guys.”

“We have been getting emails and emails and people talking, and it’s really hard,” she said. “Personally, I’m kind of confused where Cranbury has been in this whole thing. I feel like they haven’t been there to support us.”

Evelyn Spann, the Cranbury representative to the Princeton board, said Cranbury “is by all means trying to be respectful to Princeton and allow Princeton to do their work here.”

Tuck-Ponder and Dafna Kendal abstained from the vote to ratify the agreement, while Bronfeld was the only member to vote against it.

Sullivan, Stankiewicz and board members Betsy Baglio, Beth Behrend, Jess Deutsch, Bill Hare and Spann voted for the deal.

“I think it’s the right thing for Cranbury and for Princeton,” said Cranbury Township Committeeman Michael J. Ferrante, who attended the Princeton board meeting.