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Princeton school board candidates file petitions

A five-way race has shaped up for three open seats on the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education, following the July 26 deadline to file to run for the school board in the Nov. 2 general election.

The term is for three years.

Incumbent school board members Betsy Baglio and Brian McDonald are seeking re-election, but school board member Daniel Dart is not seeking another term.

Baglio and McDonald are being challenged by Adam Bierman, Mara Franceschi and Jeffrey Zhi Yang Liao.

Baglio, who has lived in Princeton since 2011, has two children. One child attends the Princeton Middle School and one attends Princeton High School.

As an educator by training who has worked as a public school teacher, K-12 educational consultant and professional developer, Baglio said she believes that her background brings a “unique and necessary perspective” to the school board.

Bierman grew up in Princeton and is a graduate of Princeton High School. He does not have children enrolled in the Princeton Public Schools.

Bierman is a teacher at the state Division of Children and Families, and works with at-risk students in Trenton.

“Our schools are profoundly important to our children, families and the town. I believe my background and experience can help prioritize spending on that which is most important for our students and the community,” he said.

Bierman said his policy goals are to return students to school full time and in person, with sports, clubs and extra-curricular activities. He supports educational programs to offset learning loss due to COVID-19.

He said he wants to develop affordable and cost-effective solutions for projected student enrollment growth, resulting from the town’s plans to build more housing to meet its need to provide its fair share of affordable housing.

Finally, Bierman said, he favors supporting the district’s diverse student body and community through anti-racism, equity and inclusion.

Franceschi has lived in Princeton for 11 years and all three of her children have attended the Princeton Public Schools. Her daughter attends Princeton Middle School and her son attends Princeton High School.

Franceschi has worked in the financial services and asset management fields for more than a decade. When the family moved to Princeton, she focused on her children and community service – including on the schools.

“With my years of experience volunteering in the schools and my background in finance, I believe I would bring a valuable perspective to the table,” she said. “I believe the continued focus on the care and upkeep of our facilities is vitally important to maintaining a clean and healthy school environment for all our children.”

Franceschi said she also would like to work with Superintendent of Schools Carol Kelley on initiatives with respect to equity and to improving on thoughtful and transparent communication with the community.

Liao moved to Princeton last year because of its excellent public schools. He has one child enrolled at the Littlebrook School and another child enrolled at the Princeton Middle School.

Liao, who grew up in East Brunswick, is an attorney. He said his background and experience as an attorney would be an asset to the school board in helping it to achieve its goals.

As a parent of children enrolled in the Princeton Public Schools and as a product of public education himself, Liao said, he understands the importance of high quality public education for students, parents and society as a whole – and that is one of the reasons for seeking a seat on the school board.

Liao noted the increase in physical violence and verbal abuse on the basis of race during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made it clear that anti-racism remains an urgent social issue. While it may be addressed through law enforcement, over the long term it must be addressed through the education of young Americans, he said.

The goal of anti-racism can – and should – be shared by all regardless of race, but it cannot be denied that the nature of the experience of racism differs among different races – including the Asian-American community, whose students account for more than 25% of the Princeton Public Schools student body, he said.

Liao said his service on the school board could facilitate communication and outreach between the school board and the Asian and Asian-American community, and “help to contribute to an overall sense of social inclusion and respect at a time of particular stress for our community.”

McDonald has lived in Princeton for 26 years, and his three children graduated from Princeton High School.

He is an artist and designer, and also donates some consulting time to local nonprofit groups that seek guidance in the areas of fundraising, board development, strategy and governance.

McDonald said he is running for re-election so he can continue to focus on the district’s finances, which have been significantly strengthened. The result is a reduction in the growth of the tax levy, he said.

He also wants to focus on the school district facilities, which he says are now being properly maintained but will require ongoing work to address capacity and other needs in the next 10 years.

“I believe the board has done excellent work over the past two-and-a-half years, and that my contributions as a board member have been positive,” he said.

McDonald said he would like to work with the superintendent and his school board colleagues to continue the work they have begun. This includes helping to close the “persistent opportunity gas” to ensure that all students can realize their full potential, he said.

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