Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 14
 
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
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New Candidates for School Board Get Ready for April 17 Election

Matthew Hersh

Two new candidates for election to the Princeton Regional Board of Education and two sitting board members will have an opportunity to speak about their plans at a Candidates' Forum sponsored by the Special Education PTO on Tuesday, April 10, from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in the library of the John Witherspoon Middle School.

The new candidates — Dorothy L. Bedford and Naomi Perlman —will vie with incumbent JoAnn Cunningham for two three-year term seats in the Township in the annual School Election that is scheduled for Tuesday, April 17, this year's only contest.

Of the Township's two contested seats, one has been held by incumbent JoAnn Cunningham for four years and another is made vacant by former board president Charlotte Bialek's retirement from the board.

Armour Road resident Alan Hegedus will run uncontested for the Borough for a third three-year term. Former president of Phillips Electronics' lighting division, the retired businessman has two grandchildren in the district, both at Riverside Elementary School. He has served as vice president of the board for the last year and was chairman of the finance committee for the last four years.

Dorothy Bedford

Ms. Bedford of Prospect Avenue has lived in Princeton Township since 1993. Her three daughters all went to Riverside. Ms. Bedford has worked in international banking and is the former executive director for the Christine Todd Whitman Excellence and Public Service series, a leadership training program.

Ms. Bedford came to Princeton to work as executive director of the 250th Anniversary of Princeton University, celebrated in 1996-97, and continues to produce the University's annual reunions lawn concert and fireworks in June and chair the board of the Princeton University Store. She ran as a Republican for Princeton Township Committee in 1998 and in 1999.

As a result of her youngest child's bilateral hearing loss, Ms. Bedford has worked with the district's student services staff to bridge the knowledge gap about the educational impact of hearing loss. "Princeton is a magnet district for autism but not for hearing loss, so I took on the responsibility of educating the board on the issue," she said. Her research led to a 2005 proposal to the board to introduce sound-enhancement technology to general education classrooms for the benefit of teachers and students alike.

"Some people may see this as a special education issue but I believe it benefits all students," said Ms. Bedford, adding that since bringing the issue to the attention of the board, Superintendent of Schools Judith A. Wilson and Assistant Superintendent Jeffrey Grabar have been supportive of the project.

A 1978 graduate of Princeton University, where she majored in the Woodrow Wilson School, Ms. Bedford gained a postgraduate degree from Harvard Business School in 1982. An award-winning Girl Scout leader currently with Cadette Troop 185 at Riverside School, she co-led the re-introduction of scouting to the school in 1996. Since 2003, she has been a member of the Princeton Regional Special Education PTO and is an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and a member of Nassau Presbyterian.

"I appreciate what the board has been trying to do in terms of continuity and stewardship," said Ms. Bedford. "I support Judy Wilson in her introduction of new initiatives such as the languages arts and mathematics councils, which are rethinking how we teach these important core elements. As a parent of three daughters in the school district, I know how important these issues are for parents and I don't want the board to lose traction in these areas because of discussions about property taxes."

JoAnn Cunningham

Ms. Cunningham has served on the board for 4 years, a one-year appointment, followed by a three-year term. She is chair of the program committee, is a member of the personnel committee, and has served on the finance committee.

During her tenure, Ms. Cunningham formed an alliance with the Princeton Regional School District and the W.E.B. Dubois Summer Institute at Princeton University, which works to develop the academic and leadership abilities of students with high potential. Her areas of expertise are curriculum development and the study of international educational systems.

"I am an advocate for curriculum and pedagogy to meet the diverse needs of our student population," said Ms. Cunningham, who holds a master's degree in educational theory. She received her doctorate in the anthropology of education and her undergraduate degree in psychology at Rutgers University and is currently a cultural anthropologist in the Department of Anthropology at William Paterson University, where she was recently appointed to serve as the department liaison to the University's College of Education, teaching student teachers engaged in securing their certification.

If re-elected, Ms. Cunningham said that her focus over the next three years would be to "continue to advocate for curriculum and pedagogy that serve the needs of our student population; continue to advocate for programs already in place that have as their primary goal, the closing of the achievement gap; continue to strengthen and expand the alliance between the district and the W.E.B. Summer Institute; and to continue to advocate for pre-school programs that must continue and expand."

Naomi Perlman

Ms. Perlman of Meadowbrook Drive has lived in Princeton since 1998 and has two children attending Littlebrook School, in second grade and in kindergarten.

An attorney with government experience, Ms. Perlman has been an active advocate for families with children with special educational needs as the Mercer County Family Resource Specialist with SPAN (Statewide Parent Advocacy Network).

She served for two and a half years on the Princeton branch of the Mercer County Juvenile Conference Committee, which adjudicates cases of juveniles as an alternate to appearances before a judge.

Ms. Perlman is co-chair of fundraising for the board of Littlebrook, and chair of Youth and Family Programs at The Jewish Center of Princeton, where she also serves on the board of directors. She is a volunteer at the University Medical Center of Princeton.

If elected, Ms. Perlman hopes to bring to the board the perspective of families with young children — families who will have a vested interest in the district for the next decade and longer. She said that her goal is to uncover issues of concern to the families who elect the board and to bring those concerns to the board for discussion and resolution.

"I feel it is important to focus on long-range planning to help create realistic goals and solutions to our current and future fiscal problems," commented Ms. Perlman. "The increasing financial constraints are going to be a challenge and it is crucial to focus on the future as it will affect our children."

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