Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 35
 
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
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Superintendent Anticipates Busy School Year

Ellen Gilbert

While the first day of school for children in Princeton public schools is Thursday, September 4, the school system has been hard at work during the last two months. “We have been in full swing all summer with excellent programs for both teachers and students,” said Princeton Regional School Superintendent Judy Wilson recently.

PRS is off to a positive start with N.J. Monthly’s recent ranking of Princeton High School as the sixth highest-rated high school in the state, a jump from 13th place in 2006.

The list of programs and events she is looking forward to during the coming academic year is “long,” said Ms. Wilson. What excites her most, she commented, is finally having the opportunity to “focus” on the coming year, noting that “last August we still had contractors on site at PHS, two major labor contracts to negotiate, and we were in the throes of a defeated budget. Today, all of that is behind us; as an organization we have worked tirelessly in the last year to align positions, people and all efforts with our four Board goals, each critical to our continued progress and success.”

The PRS Board of Education’s Goals for the coming year include (1) To build a connected PK-12 curriculum that is standards-based, clearly articulated for implementation among all schools and across all grade levels, and providing for the academic growth of all students; (2) To develop a system to closely monitor individual student achievement in PK-12 via regular formative and standardized assessments in order to create specific learning profiles on which interventions, supports, and extended learning opportunities can be based; (3) To develop a comprehensive professional learning program connected to district, state, and national standards for all district employees, and framed six to 12 months in advance so as to fully impact student achievement; and (4) To increase achievement overall while narrowing the gaps among student groups, especially students of poverty and students of color.

A major change for PRS this fall is the shift to a full-day schedule for Pre-K programs. “I am thrilled that our Pre-K program for 4-year-olds has moved to a full day configuration,” Ms. Wilson said. “We have been able to reach more of our children with high socioeconomic need and I know that as a result they will be very well prepared for not only success in kindergarten, but success throughout their lives.”

Johnson Park Elementary School’s new climbing wall, donated by the school’s PTO, “puts an emphasis on 21st century physical education and fitness,” according to Ms. Wilson. Issuing a “heads-up” for changes in PRS’s K-5 technology program for all students in the coming year, she reported that for the first time this summer, John Witherspoon Middle School students went to Colorado to attend a national science competition and “did very well” She expects that this new endeavor will continue to evolve with Tim Anderson as its advisor.

In addition to noting changes in the technology curriculum for grades K-5, Ms. Wilson said that she is “very eager to observe the implementation of the new math resources” for that age group. “Teachers have been engaged in training programs since spring,” she added. “New materials have arrived in every classroom and I believe that the program supports our curriculum in a way that will enable us to make great strides in mathematics with every child.”

School-based gardens will continue to expand this fall. Parent and Princeton University student volunteers will start the year off by weeding the Witherspoon and PHS gardens on September 2.

“I always look forward to greeting staff, students, and families to a new academic year that is filled with possibilities and high expectations,” said Ms. Wilson. “Our goal is to carry that excitement for all we do throughout the full year. Princeton Regional Schools are extraordinary places in which to study and to teach. With all of our talent, energy and commitment, I know the very best is yet to come!”

The board of education’s first meeting of the new academic year was Tuesday evening, August 26 (after press time).

PRS’s website is at www.prs.k12.nj.us/.

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