Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 25
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
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Board of Education Ends School Year With Thanks, Farewells, New Programs

Ellen Gilbert

“June is a very busy time of the year,” observed President Rebecca Cox as she opened last week’s Board of Education meeting. She cited the administration and grading of exams, graduation, and the “bittersweet” departure of “so many colleagues.” Personnel Committee Chair Walter Bliss named and paid tribute to retiring faculty, who were also scheduled to be fêted at a June 22 event in Princeton High School’s (PHS) performance space.

“We’re sending 320 PHS graduates off into the world very, very well-prepared,” said Superintendent Judy Wilson, speaking of Wednesday’s graduation. Ms. Wilson noted that some of these students had entered the system’s pre-school program as early as age three.

Ms. Wilson thanked supporters of the “101:” foundation, a non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to “seeing PHS graduates attend the college of their choice.” Since 1970 the 101: fund has provided more than $1 million in aid to PHS seniors, based solely on need. “They make hopes and dreams come true,” said Ms. Wilson.

Another non-profit supporter, the Princeton Education Foundation (PEF), was also thanked by Ms. Wilson for “belief and support that go beyond what we’re able to do with our regular budget.” Two projects that will benefit from a recent $30,000 PEF gift include a $10,000 TV broadcast studio at John Witherspoon Middle School (JW), and $20,000 to support an after-school music program that would have otherwise ended as a result of recent budget cuts.

Approved agenda items at the meeting included the transfer of current year surplus money to reserves, and transportation bids, based on a zero rate increase, to the Dapper and Rick Bus companies.

A $9,500 fee for KSS Architects, “for space efficiency and rehabilitation work at the Valley Road Site,” was also approved. Facilities Chair Dorothy Bedford described the projects as heating, ventilating, and remodeling to create a “professional learning space that can be shared with other school districts.”

Ms. Wilson noted that money supporting capital projects is distinct from capital reserve, or “classroom dollars,” and that “even in times of fiscal crunch we need to make sure that buildings continue to be kept up. It’s always less than is needed, but it’s nevertheless important.”

The Board also authorized the establishment of a new preschool disabilities program at Littlebrook Elementary School; a new autism program at PHS; and a new behavioral disabilities program at PHS, all effective September, 2010. In each instance ARRA-IDEIA funds (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act/Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) will be used to finance program start-up costs.

“When will this period of uncertainty and keeping students in the dark end?” asked JW teacher Justin Matthews, referring to the selection of a new principal for the school. Mr. Matthews’s expression of support for the candidacy of JW’s current Assistant Principal, Lynn Harkness, drew applause from other teachers in the audience.

Ms. Cox noted that although the board was not permitted by law to comment on personnel actions, these and similar comments were being “taken to heart. “We’re not being mean.”

“It may seem like molasses in January,” added Ms. Wilson, “but we’re actually moving quickly.”

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