Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 44
 
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
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Board of Education Eyes New Legislation Warily; Receives 12th “Unqualified” Rating on Audit

Ellen Gilbert

“This could open up a floodgate across the state and be a devastating blow to a lot of districts,” said Board of Education member Dan Haughton at last week’s meeting, reporting on an upcoming bill before the state legislature that would enable entities other than the State Department of Education to approve new charter schools. The Board’s newly-created Legislative Committee, he said, is working on “educating” state level officials about this and other local school district concerns.

Legislative Committee members have also met with representatives of Save Our Schools to discuss funding issues in the wake of Governor Chris Christie’s budget cuts to public schools, Mr. Haughton reported.

Fiscal Management

In financial news, the Princeton Regional School (PRS) District received the highest possible rating in its audit this year, reported Wiss & Co. representative Diana Miller. The designation “unqualified,” she explained, means that the process was “clean,” with “no major issues” noted, and “no significant deficiencies.” Noting that the process of auditing PRS’s books has been improving in recent years, Ms. Miller commended Business Administrator Stephanie Kennedy’s work. PRS is only one of two districts that has received an unqualified rating for 12 consecutive years. In response to a question about how easily that rating is obtained, Ms. Miller acknowledged that it is “pretty common,” but that it is “not issued lightly.”

Superintendent Judy Wilson encouraged parents and other members of the community to check the district’s newly reformatted website (www.prs.k12.nj.us) to view a “calendar full of special events” in the days leading up to the winter holidays.

“Security Drills”

In response to a mandate from the state, Ms. Wilson reported, a scheduling change during the current academic year would be the switch from two scheduled fire drills a month to one fire drill and a rotating series of “security drills,” including evacuation drill and lock down exercises. Although security drills are more time-consuming than ordinary fire drills, they will “ensure everyone’s safety in different circumstances.” Prior to the state requirement, which went into effect on November 1, the district was already holding security drills from time to time on its own initiative, she noted.

“Action items” of particular concern to the Minority Education Committee during the coming months, reported Dorothy Bedford, will be curriculum issues and examining the participation (or lack thereof) of ethnic constituents in the arts, an area in which they are historically under-represented.

Princeton Residents

Personnel Committee Chair Walter Bliss described the “heart-wrenching” business of dealing with students who are not domiciled in the district and the ensuing residency hearings. Ms. Wilson asked the community not to “put the Board in that position” by sending out-of-district students to Princeton schools.

In his role as liaison to the Special Education Parent Teachers Organization, Mr. Bliss encouraged interested people to attend the group’s December 2 meeting in the John Witherspoon Middle School library, when the guest speaker will be HiTOPS Executive Director Elizabeth Casparian. She will talk about what Mr. Bliss described as “the elephant in the room: sexual health and disabilities.”

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