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Princeton's New Super Named N.J.'s Superintendent of the Year

Candace Braun

Judith Wilson, recently hired as the new superintendent of Princeton Regional Schools, has been named New Jersey's superintendent of the year.

Currently working in the Woodbury Public School District, Ms. Wilson received the award from the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) last week at a fall workshop in Atlantic City. She will succeed Princeton's Dr. Claire Sheff Kohn, who left her post in July.

The new superintendent will assume the position on February 1, with an annual salary of $162,000.

Ms. Wilson was chosen from among a group of New Jersey nominees submitted to AASA which was stablished in 1988. Co-sponsored by ARAMARK Service Master Facility Services, the competition is open to all U.S. public school superintendents, superintendents of American schools abroad, and Department of Defense Education Activity school superintendents who plan to continue in the profession.

The selection qualifications for the state and national competition include meeting the needs of students; demonstrating communication strength; a commitment to professional development and growth; and significant community involvement.

"Judy is a remarkable educational leader with vision, imagination, and compassion for the students she serves," said James H. Murphy, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators (NJASA). "She is one of America's finest school superintendents."

After earning an undergraduate degree in English, library science, and education from West Virginia Wesleyan College, and a master's degree in reading education from Rowan University, Ms. Wilson began her 22-year professional career as a writing teacher in the Woodbury School District, climbing the administrative ladder until 1987, when she became assistant superintendent in the Southern Regional High School District in Manahawkin. For nine years she then served as superintendent in Woodbury, where she will remain through January.

Today Ms. Wilson is a mentor for aspiring superintendents with the Center for Educational Leadership at Seton Hall University, and a member of of the University of Pennsylvania's Study Council, as well as an advisory board member for the college's Center for Educational Leadership.

A Sunday School teacher who serves on the governing board of her church, she is also active in her children's PTA committees.

Residing in Haddon Heights throughout her life, Ms. Wilson attended the area's public schools, where she had "exceptional opportunities for studies and leadership."

She has been married 27 years to her husband, Douglas Wilson, the owner of a small business operated out of their home. Together they have two children: a daughter, Laura, 15-years-old, and son, Blair, 11-years-old.

When not at work, Ms. Wilson keeps busy with her children's activities, including scouts, soccer, tennis, and dance classes. The family also enjoys going to the beach whenever they have the chance, said Ms. Wilson: "Any time that our feet can be in the sand is precious."

When it comes to the big issues surrounding education in both New Jersey and nationally, Ms. Wilson is a firm believer in closing the minority achievement gap.

"We need to act more aggressively on the practices and research that we know will push a narrowing of achievement gaps among students of highly varied socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds," she said.

Schools should also realize that a good education comes from sharing practices that have proven to work well, said Ms. Wilson: "What is good for education in Princeton or Haddon Heights should be good for students everywhere, and yet the extremes in schools across our nation and state are overwhelming."

AASA will announce the National Superintendent of the Year in February at its annual conference and exposition in San Antonio. The recipient will receive a $10,000 college scholarship to be given to a student at the superintendent's high school alma mater.

Ms. Wilson will be recognized with her state award at NJASA's annual spring conference in May.

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