Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 18
 
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
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May 21 Deadline for Budget Review by Reorganized Board

Linda Arntzenius

At last week's meeting of the Princeton Regional Schools Board of Education, Tuesday, April 24, board secretary Stephanie Kennedy administered the oath of office to newly elected member for Princeton Township Dorothy Bedford and to returning members JoAnn Cunningham and Alan Hegedus, representing Princeton Township and Princeton Borough, respectively.

Board reorganization continued with the re-election of Michael Mostoller as board president. Mr. Mostoller was the sole nominee for the position. The vote for reinstalling him was carried by eight votes to one.

The single dissenting vote came from board member Joshua Leinsdorf, who voiced his view that the board was responsible for the recent defeat of the 2007-08 schools budget.

"Now that the building program is over, the board needs to focus on education," he said. To this end, he suggested that the chair of the finance committee should be someone other than the board president, pointing out that in recent years both responsibilities had been held by the same individual.

Mr. Leinsdorf put himself forward as candidate for chair of the finance committee.

While Mr. Mostoller had recommended that board committees continue to be chaired as last year — with newcomer Ms. Bedford taking up the duties of retiring board member Charlotte Bialek — in view of Mr. Leinsdorf's candidacy, the vote on committee assignments was tabled.

Before the board voted on the vice president's position, Mr. Leinsdorf suggested splitting the positions of board president and vice-president between the Township and the Borough rather than having both positions held by Borough representatives, as they have been and would be if the board voted to reinstate both Mr. Mostoller and Mr. Hegedus.

Mr. Leinsdorf went on to express his feeling that as board president Mr. Mostoller had failed to protect board members from ad hominem attacks, but on the contrary had encouraged them.

On resuming his seat at the head of the board, Mr. Mostoller quipped: "The seat is a little warmer this year than last."

There were two nominations for vice president: Mr. Hegedus and Jeffrey Spear. A ballot was taken and Mr. Hegedus won by a vote of five to four.

Superintendent's Report

In her monthly report to the board, Superintendent of Schools Judith A. Wilson addressed the issue of the defeated budget and the process mandated by the state of New Jersey.

The Princeton Regional Board of Education's budget was last rejected in 1991. A new budget must be submitted to the state by May 21.

"The new budget is being worked on by a committee, formed by both municipalities and the board, to determine how much can be raised by tax levy and how much must be cut," said Ms. Wilson.

While the review body has the right to leave the budget intact, she pointed out that this hardly ever happens.

If reductions are proposed, the district would be held to the dollar amount, but not to specific line item decreases.

A certified public accountant has been hired to review the budget and make recommendations on possible cuts. The review carries an $11,000 price tag, to be shared by the two municipalities.

According to the Princeton Regional Schools website, individuals wishing to voice their views on the school budget defeat are encouraged to write letters directly to town council members, rather than to mayors or clerks. Borough Council members are Roger Martindell, Wendy Benchley, David Goldfarb, Peggy Karcher, Andrew Koontz, and Barbara Trelstad. Township Council members are: Bernie Miller, Lance Liverman, Vicky Bergman, and Chad Goerner.

A 2007-2008 Planning Session will take place next Tuesday, May 8, in the faculty lounge of John Witherspoon Middle School. The board will meet in closed session from 6:30 p.m., followed by an open session workshop at 7:30 p.m.

The next board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 22 in the cafeteria of John Witherspoon Middle School, at 8 p.m.

Benchmark Schools

Ms. Wilson reported that John Witherspoon Middle School and Princeton High School have again been designated benchmark schools by the New Jersey Business Coalition for Educational Excellence.

PHS and JWMS are among 69 New Jersey schools recognized as 2006 Just for the Kids NJ Benchmark Schools on Wednesday April 25, at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.

Benchmark Schools are schools designated for high achievement with respect to student performance on state assessments. Results are posted each year to the Just for the Kids-New Jersey web site at www.just4kids.org.

According to its web site (www.bcee.org), the Business Coalition for Educational Excellence at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce is committed to ensuring that all students achieve at high levels, become productive citizens, and are well prepared to succeed in the workplace.

JWMS has been consistently designated a Benchmark School since 2003, said William Johnson, the school's principal, at the meeting, Tuesday.

"This designation follows an analysis of schools which closely resemble PRS in demographics and in terms of closing the opportunity gap," said Ms. Wilson. "This is truly a mark of excellence and not something to take for granted."

Other Business

The Board viewed presentations on the John Witherspoon Middle School's technology program by computer teacher Kelly Riely and on the JWMS athletics program by Athletic Director John Miranda.

An annual donation of $72,000 was received from the Princeton Theological Seminary, as was a donation of $2,643.55 from the Einstein Fund of Princeton of the Princeton Area Community Foundation in support of the Einstein Physics Project Room at the high school.

Princeton High School social studies teacher Ethel Wood, retiring after more than 23 years of service to the district, was commended. New staff members were welcomed: secretary Laura Hutchinson to Community Park School; special education aide Kristi Walker to Johnson Park School; and aide An Yank to Johnson Park School.

Ms. Wilson also announced Wednesday, June 20, as the last day of the 2006-07 school year. Princeton High School graduation will take place that day at 5 p.m.

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