Princeton hires new superintendent of schools

Dr. Carol Kelley, the new superintendent of the Princeton Public School DistrictPHOTO COURTESY OF PRINCETON PUBLIC SCHOOLS
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Dr. Carol Kelley, the new superintendent of the Princeton Public School DistrictPHOTO COURTESY OF PRINCETON PUBLIC SCHOOLS

A veteran educator who has ties to the Princeton area has been appointed to become the Princeton Public Schools’ new superintendent of schools, following a special school board meeting Feb. 18.

Carol Kelley, who is the superintendent of schools in the Oak Park Elementary School District 97 in Illinois, was chosen from among a field of 13 semifinalists. A nationwide search was launched to find a successor for former Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane, who retired in June 2020.

Barry Galasso, a retired superintendent of schools, has filled in as the interim superintendent of schools since July 1, 2020. He will stay on the job through June 30, 2021.

Kelley begins her new job July 1 and will earn $240,000 per year. With the Princeton Public Schools logo as a backdrop behind her on the Zoom call, a smiling and happy Kelley watched and listened as the school board approved a resolution to hire her.

Kelley thanked the school board for giving her the opportunity to lead the Princeton Public Schools. She said she is a “really strong advocate” for listening to the community. She said she was happy to return home to central New Jersey.

“I can’t wait to meet the students and the staff and to connect with the community,” Kelley said.

Kelley, who raised her two sons in neighboring Montgomery Township, is a former superintendent of schools in the Branchburg Township School District. She has been a classroom teacher, an assistant principal and K-12 supervisor of math in the Franklin Township School District.

She also served as the principal of an elementary school in the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District, and as the director of curriculum and instruction for Hunterdon Central Regional High School.

Education is a second career for Kelley, who earned a bachelor’s degree in systems science engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and a MBA degree from the University of Virginia. She earned a Ed.D. degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 2005.

She began her career working on cell phones and smart card technology for Bell Atlantic. She moved over to developing marketing strategy and packaging in the advanced care product division of Johnson & Johnson, before switching careers to become an educator.

School board President Beth Behrend said the school board is “delighted to have identified such a talented and accomplished educator to lead the Princeton Public Schools at this crucial time.

“We remain committed to the pursuit of equity and academic excellence in an environment that supports the success of all of our students,” Behrend said. “Dr. Kelley shares our vision and values. Her passion, intellect and experience will help us deliver on this commitment.”

School board members were unanimous in their praise for Kelley, pointing to her consensus-building skills and her comfort with using data analysis to guide decisions.

School board member Betsey Baglio said this was “an incredibly exciting evening.” One of the school board’s most important functions is to hire a superintendent of schools, she said.

“The hours we spent on this search were worth it. We found you,” Baglio told Kelley.

Peter Katz, the Cranbury School District’s school board representative to the Princeton school board, said Kelley is “the perfect fit at this time. She is the right person to lead the district. She had the best background of all the candidates.”

The Cranbury School District, which is a K-8 school district, sends its high school students to Princeton High School in a sending/receiving relationship between the two school districts.

The officers of the unions that represent teachers, administrators and support staff in the Princeton Public Schools also welcomed Kelley to the school district.

Renee Szporn, who is the co-president of the Princeton Regional Education Association, said the “minority community is ecstatic” at Kelley’s appointment.

Princeton resident Shirley Satterfield told Kelley that she is a sixth-generation Princetonian who attended public school in Princeton when the schools were segregated.

“How far we have come,” Satterfield said on Kelley’s appointment.