Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 36
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
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School Board Discusses Rising Costs, OK’s State Regulations

Ellen Gilbert

At its meeting last week, the Princeton Regional School Board anticipated some challenges during the coming school year, promised to address questions posed by the Minority Education Committee, and rubber-stamped a spate of new regulations required by the state government.

Finance Committee Chair Joshua Leinsdorf suggested that with prices “rising fast and fluctuating widely,” the district’s energy costs may be “problematic” during the coming year. He pointed to a recent “huge” sewer bill that PRS has received — triple the normal one — as evidence of what may be in store in the months to come.

Board member and Minority Education Committee liaison Tim Quinn distributed a list of questions developed by the committee in order to attain “a snapshot of where we’ve been and where we’re going.” Committee Chair Caroline L. Mitchell, who is also the director of the YWCA Princeton and Trenton Racial Justice Institute, was in the audience as Mr. Quinn reported the committee’s interest in “looking for data that show whether or not progress is being made” in closing the minority achievement gap in the district. The board agreed to respond to the committee’s questions at its October 20 meeting.

Personnel Committee Chair Walter Bliss reported the creation of the position of “teacher-dean of students” at the high school. A consolidation of several existing guidance and administrative lines, he said that this new person would be responsible for creating “a sense of connection among students,” fostering a readiness for them ‘to support each other.” The teacher-dean would also be charged with identifying and helping individual students who need particular support through personalized learning strategies. Working with parents and teachers, he/she would make “a proactive commitment to ensure that no child falls through the cracks in high school,” Mr. Bliss said. In response to board member Dorothy Bedford’s question about how one person could address the needs of the many students in the high school, Mr. Bliss reiterated the fact that the position subsumed several existing ones, and that it provided the answer to the question, “where do I go when my child is in trouble.”

The state-mandated regulations with which the Board must comply include a ban on the purchase of food for adults at school events, and limitations on the number of faculty and staff members who may attend conferences. Superintendent Judy Wilson found the latter particularly irksome with respect to representation at the Delaware Valley Minority Student Achievement Conferences in 2008-2009. Noting that membership in the Delaware consortium gives PRS access to rich programming it would not otherwise have, she expressed regret that only three people would now be able to attend workshops to which 14 usually went — at the same cost.

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