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Vol. LXIV, No. 40
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
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Wilson Reports “An Extremely Great Opening”; Board Considers Challenges for Coming Year

Ellen Gilbert

The Princeton Regional Schools will come under particularly close scrutiny in the coming months as a result of both self-evaluation and participation in the tri-annual Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) state-monitoring process.

While the Board of Education determined that it had done, overall, a “commendable job” in the past year, according to President Rebecca Cox, who spoke at last week’s monthly meeting, they also identified a number of “challenges” as well as areas that need more attention in the near future.

At the top of the list of challenges for the coming year was, not surprisingly, budget concerns and the ability to “do more with less while maintaining excellence in the schools.” Other hurdles, Ms. Cox said, include dealing with a “non-supportive state government”; closing the achievement gap “wherever it exists”; revising “evaluations to promote learning”; attending to union negotiations; and monitoring charter school growth. On a budget-related note, it was reported later in the meeting that the district has already saved $300,000 by replacing full-time aides with part-time employees, and that the Finance Committee is looking into the possibility of holding public town hall-type meetings that would engage the greater Princeton community in conversations about district fiscal concerns preliminary to next year’s budget preparation, according to Chair Charles Kalmbach.

Areas that “need attention,” Ms. Cox reported, include greater community outreach; better financial management and understanding of the “budget gap”; “team building”; and “effective union bargaining.” The Personnel Committee has already begun addressing the question of community outreach, reported Chair Walter Bliss, by acknowledging the need to fill a part-time “communications” position, which would be paid for through private funding.

QSAC, which Mr. Bliss described as a “major undertaking” that will hopefully revert from every three years to every seventh year, includes reviews of personnel; fiscal/management operations; “construction and programs”; and “operations and governance.”

Community outreach was also on the minds of Minority Education Committee members, said Chair Dorothy Bedford. They plan to provide training that would provide minority students’ parents with the know-how to access online information, like homework assignments and grades.

The online environment and media use are also the subjects of a project being spearheaded by District Social Studies Supervisor Richard Miller, said Program Committee Chair Tim Quinn. In addition to learning how to better use media and internet resources, students will be taught how to evaluate the reliability of online resources. The Program Committee is also looking into offering voluntary cardiac screening for athletes at PHS, and raising parent awareness about concussions and other sports-related head injuries. 

“It’s been an extremely great opening of the academic year,” observed Ms. Wilson in her comments. While acknowledging that there are challenges, she also pointed out that “there’s so very much to applaud.”

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