A field of five candidates will run for three Princeton school board seats

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Five candidates, including two incumbent school board members, turned in nominating petitions to run for three open seats on the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education by the July 31 deadline.

Incumbent school board members Beth Behrend and Michele Tuck-Ponder are being challenged by Adam Bierman, Eleanor Hubbard and Rene Obregon Jr. School board member Jean Durbin is not seeking re-election in the Nov. 7 election.

The term is for three years.

Behrend is seeking her third term on the school board. She is a retired corporate attorney. The youngest of her three children will be a senior at Princeton High School.

She served as the school board president from 2019 to 2021. She is the co-chair of the school board’s Policy and Long-term Facilities Planning committees. She also serves on the Operations Committee.

Behrend said she is seeking a third term to ensure that the children continue to enjoy the benefits and opportunities offered by the Princeton Public Schools for years to come.

“Public education is essential to our democracy. Stewarding and improving our public schools to better serve every child’s needs is challenging but deeply rewarding work,” she said.

Behrend said that during her six years on the school board, she helped to recruit transformative educators, initiated free pre-Kindergarten and supported vulnerable learners.

She also focused on strengthening the budget, improving school facilities and planning for future enrollment, all while promoting academic excellence and opportunity for all students.

“I would like to build on this positive momentum to make our top-ranked public schools even better for our kids,” Behrend said.

Bierman is a social studies teacher at the state Division of Children and Families’ Mercer – Project TEACH, which is an alternative school for expectant teens. It provides them with specialized academic instruction, life and parenting skills and career guidance.

Bierman, who does not have children in the school district, is making his second run for school board. He said he placed fourth out of eight candidates in the 2020 school board election.

Bierman grew up in Princeton and graduated from Princeton High School. His mother taught in the then-Princeton Regional School District and his father served on the school board, including a stint as its president.

He said he is running for school board because while the administration has done some things well, such as the pre-Kindergarten and elementary school programs, he has questions and concerns about the current school board and administration.

Noting that he was involved in the latest strategic plan review, he questioned its relevance to concrete issues such as the status of the latest referendum to repair the school buildings.

Bierman also pointed to the recent firing of former Princeton High School Principal Frank Chmiel and how it was handled. The result is litigation and more educational distractions, he said.

Hubbard is a former Princeton University professor and also taught elementary school in the South Bronx, N.Y. She served as a trustee and board president of the University NOW nursery school, which is affiliated with Princeton University.

Hubbard’s three children are enrolled in the school district. Two children attend the Riverside School and one attends the Princeton Middle School.

Hubbard said she is running for the school board because “high quality public education is critical for the well-being and advancement of individual students and society at large.”

“I like to think that I would bring a few different, useful qualities to the table if I am elected. I am the only parent of younger children in the race, which gives me a unique perspective as well as ‘skin in the game,”’ Hubbard said.

Having taught and advised students at the college level has given her an understanding of what challenges Princeton High School students need to prepare for, Hubbard said.

She said she would like to promote effective and positive leadership, good governance and sound judgment in the district so that it can focus its limited resources on students’ diverse needs now and in the future.

Obregon is the CEO of Numis Securities, Inc., which is the U.S. arm of a United Kingdom bank in New York City.

His two sons – one a rising sophomore and the other a rising junior at Princeton High School – attended the Johnson Park School and the Princeton Middle School.

“I believe a strong education is vital for the future career development of all Princeton Public Schools graduates,” Obregon said. “Where achievement gaps exist, our focus should be on helping those students to bridge the gap.”

Obregon said prudent forecasting and planning is vital to ensure that the Princeton Public Schools is a good steward of property owners’ tax dollars as it manages the pulling forces of growing enrollment and maintaining its high educational standards.

“I have the background in finance, consensus-building and team-building and the desire to work constructively to move the school district forward,” he said.

Obregon pledged to listen and engage with all constituents and to be transparent on all issues. He said he is looking forward to engaging with the community to discuss and address the issues at hand.

Tuck-Ponder could not be reached for comment.