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Opinion: School board incumbents address what they deem to be misinformation circulating around Princeton

Princeton schools logo 6/11/15

As citizen volunteers elected to the Board of Education, it has been an honor to represent you in ensuring that our children receive an effective and equitable education, reflective of our community’s values.

We feel obliged, however, as the incumbents in a competitive election, to address misinformation about the board being circulated in the community. We write here in our capacity as private citizens, not as a slate, and not on behalf of the board. For the most objective source of information on candidate positions, visit the League of Women Voters website at www.VOTE411.org.

In addition, we note: No financial information was “withheld” from the public or other board members when the 2020-21 budget was approved on May 5. At the public hearing, the board discussed how COVID-related savings/costs were not yet known, the potential for future significant reductions in state aid and the necessity of submitting a budget by the May 8 statutory deadline based on the best available information at the time. Once the budget was submitted, the board was unable to “revise” tax levies. Our board is more “transparent” than most, with frequent public meetings that are recorded and available on the district website, open committee meetings and community forums on the budget, planning, and enrollment. All board members are encouraged to share their perspectives and most often do.

To learn more about the board and follow our work, please visit www.princetonk12.org/board.

There is no “gag order” on board member communication. Members are free to speak at board meetings and as private citizens elsewhere, subject to N.J.S.A. 18A, which requires all speech to be accurate and not contain confidential information or compromise the board.

The board has no plans to purchase the Westminster Choir College. The board has been clear that its top priority in dealing with rising enrollments is to maximize the use of existing facilities and to carefully evaluate the potential of all district properties.

The decision to purchase district-owned devices for every student is more cost-effective, equitable, and pedagogically-sound, than allowing some students to use personal devices. Devices were purchased with 5-year lease-financing at no additional cost to taxpayers. Private devices posed practical and cost issues with tech support, access to licensed software and privacy – and cannot be used for standardized testing. Cheaper devices were considered but did not match Apple in functionality, support or resale value. This initiative provides high-quality remote learning to all students and advances equity by leveling the technology playing field.

The board implemented construction of the voter-approved Princeton High School field restroom facility after extensive deliberation and public input. The facility is handicapped-accessible, supports our commitment to gender equity, includes secure, all-season storage and a small space for fundraising through concessions – and was approved by voters as the top athletic priority in the 2018 referendum.

The board’s essential role is student-centered: ensuring that all of our children receive an effective and equitable education that reflects the values of our community. We are committed to focusing our board service on better meeting the needs of all of our students, now and into the future.

Beth Behrend

Michele Tuck-Ponder 


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