It was a bittersweet moment for Jessica Deutsch, who wrapped up a three-year term on the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education at its last meeting of the year on Dec. 15.
Deutsch chose not to seek re-election to a second term in the Nov. 3 general election.
School board President Beth Behrend read a resolution acknowledging Deutsch’s contributions to the school board during her single term on it. She served on the school board’s equity committee, policy committee and student achievement committee.
One by one, several of Deutsch’s colleagues on the school board offered comments and praise for the outgoing school board member. A common theme running through their remarks was Deutsch’s compassionate nature for children and for others.
One of the nicest things about serving on the school board is the opportunity to get to know people that one might not otherwise have met, and Deutsch is one of those people, said school board member Dafna Kendal.
“I have learned over the years that Jess is incredibly intelligent, and her kindness and care for students permeates all of her thinking. She will be missed,” Kendal said.
School board vice president Michele Tuck Ponder said she became acquainted with Deutsch when their daughters played field hockey at Princeton High School.
“One of the things that I don’t think I really knew about Jess is the level and intensity of her compassion for other people. Jess is a person who not only cares about the outside, but she cares deeply about the inside (of a person),” Tuck Ponder said.
Deutsch was a “leading voice” in the push for a later starting time for school, and she would constantly remind her colleagues on the school board about the importance of wellness and how it contribute to academic achievement, Tuck Ponder said.
“Jess is always thoughtful and remembers to express gratitude to people and for the blessings that we have. Thank you, Jess, for that quality that you brought to the school board and thank you for being a terrific and valued colleague,” she said.
School board member Deb Bronfeld also thanked Deutsch for bringing the concept of gratitude to the board. She said she is looking forward to continuing the tradition of offering gratitude at each school board meeting.
It was Deutsch’s “steadfast focus on the experiences of our students – from ensuring equitable opportunities for kids, to a clear and lasting focus on student health and wellness” – that school board member Betsy Baglio said she admired most about Deutsch.
“I’m not sure you will miss us every Tuesday evening, but feel free to text us before a meeting and remind us that you have a free evening,” Baglio said, gently teasing Deutsch.
School board member Brian McDonald, who said he has known Deutsch for 15 years, said she has spent her career focusing on service to others, primarily in the field of education but also in social work.
“I’m not sure I met anyone who is more committed to the health and wellness of children than Jess,” McDonald said. She is also very compassionate, he added.
In response, Deutsch replied that no one ever said that serving on the school board would be easy.
“It isn’t, and it shouldn’t be. Often, you feel like you are stuck on ‘The Three Bears’ (children’s story) on repeat. You spent too much, you didn’t spend enough. You did it too early, you did it too late. You said too much, you didn’t say enough,” she said. “Very rarely do you get to the part where things are ‘just right.’ The struggle, if it focuses on what’s in the best interests of our kids and our community, is worthwhile and necessary.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this board. I wish for all of you – the board and the community – to stay in the struggle and focus on what matters,” Deutsch said.