Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 5
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
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“Flat Funding” May Be Best Case Scenario as District Awaits State Funding Formula

Ellen Gilbert

At its monthly meeting last week, Board of Education President Rebecca Cox and Finance Committee Chair Charles Kalmbach said that a recent public brainstorming session about budget concerns was very worthwhile. Superintendent Judy Wilson reported that the district would not know how much state funding it will receive until “a day or two” after the governor announces changes in the state funding formula late in February. The best case scenario, she suggested, may be flat funding.

While noting that “the budget gap remains at around $2 million,” Mr. Kalmbach expressed thanks for the excellent turnout at the meeting, which “generated two dozen ideas that we’ll be taking into account.”

There is still time to send suggestions for alternative revenue streams and other budget-enhancing ideas to budget@prs.k12.nj.us.

Both Ms. Cox and Ms. Wilson encouraged area residents to become familiar with pending legislation regarding the future of charter schools in the state. The text of Ms. Cox’s recent testimony at a related hearing will be posted on the school’s website, www.prs.k12.nj.us. She reported that among the changes under consideration is the of use local elections to decide whether or not charter schools can open in a given district. She expressed interest in “pursuing the idea,” but noted that “only time will tell.”

“Many parents are awakening to the true issues of the potential of charter schools and what they mean fiscally and socially” for communities, said Ms. Wilson. “There will be a lot of kicking and screaming and gnashing of teeth when this legislation, which does not take a broader view, is passed. Saying that the future of public education in Princeton is at risk is not an overstatement.” Ms. Wilson encouraged everyone to contact legislators, whose email links will also be posted at the website.

Ms. Wilson also reported that “the district is in preparation mode” for the first Tristate Team visit from February 22 to 24, when “a couple of dozen educators” from other school districts will be “looking at student writing, interviewing teachers, and examining curriculum.” She described the visitors as “critical friends” who will make recommendations. While their conclusions will not include ranking or grading, they will “be very important to us because of the quality of the questions being asked,” said Ms. Wilson.

The next program related to The Race to Nowhere, a documentary film that explores excessive stresses on today’s students, will be at the Princeton Public Library on Tuesday, February 8 at 7:30 p.m. “This is an important conversation for educators and parents, as we think about having balance in students’ lives,” Ms. Wilson observed.

Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, Public Information, and Community Relations Lew Goldstein introduced an update on mentoring practices in the district. He noted that with the expansion of the program from five to seven years, Princeton is the only school in the country with such an extensive mentoring program. The emphasis in upcoming mentoring will be on technology training, he said.

Facilities Committee Chair Dorothy Bedford reported that the committee had recently seen a presentation from the community group that is proposing to turn the Valley Road Building into a community center. No action was immediately taken.

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