Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 38
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
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Minority Education Committee Meets to Help New Teachers and Children

Ellen Gilbert

At its monthly meeting this week, the Minority Education Committee (MEC) heard a report on a newly formed Community Resource Group’s efforts to engage new teachers in the Princeton Regional Schools; received a reminder about an upcoming youth conference at Mercer County Community College (MCCC); and revisited some of the committee’s goals.

According to MEC member Dewey Clark, the Community Resource Group was established about six months ago at the request of the district, which was facing a relatively high first-year attrition rate. Working with Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, Public Information, and Community Relations Lewis Goldstein, Mr. Dewey, along with MEC Chair Fran M. Spruill, Co-Chair Jim Floyd, and member Caroline Mitchell, prepared a program for the new teachers’ August orientation meeting to help them feel more at home. “It worked out extremely well,” said Mr. Clark, noting that discussions about resources available at the Historical Society of Princeton and the Princeton Public Library went over particularly well. Reverting to a small group format, he said, also helped “to make people feel more comfortable.”

The group agreed to follow up on the responses to a questionnaire circulated at the orientation asking new teachers about their specific interests. Mr. Clark said that at a meeting last week Mr. Goldstein indicated that he “is very pleased about the whole thing,” and is “looking forward to doing it again next year. It’s been a pleasure working with Lew,” he added.

Ms. Spruill emphasized that while the NUESTRO (“Nurturing, Understanding, Exploring, Self, Truths, Resources, Opportunities”) Youth Conference on Saturday, September 26, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at MCCC is being sponsored by the Latina Women’s Council of Mercer County, it is intended for all middle school and high school students; not just Latinos. The free program, entitled “Change: It Begins With Me” will include workshops on understanding gangs and violence, college-bound immigrants, financial issues, the job search, relationships, and culture. Those interested in attending may contact Ms. Spruill at (609) 497-7376.

The committee’s growing interest in engaging parents of school children was apparent in reports on a proposed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) parent committee, and a recent event on “parental/community involvement.” Ms. Spruill expressed disappointment that, despite having indicated earlier that they would attend, there were no parents at the Monday evening meeting to get the committee started. Charged by Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Bonnie Lehet to “find parents to join the committee,” Ms. Spruill noted that every effort would be made to accommodate the schedules of working parents in scheduling meetings.

About 30 parents did attend a recent meeting with Superintendent Judy Wilson on parental/community involvement, reported Mr. Floyd. He expressed pleasure at the “pointed questions” that came up, and at the quality of Ms. Wilson’s responses to them.

Citing a recent Princeton Magazine article in which Educational Testing Services (ETS) President Kurt Landgraf talked about closing the “achievement gap before students get to kindergarten,” Mr. Floyd suggested that a future collaboration between ETS and the MEC might be appropriate. Committee member Anne Reeves agreed that the committee should consider ways “to reach children at a younger age.”

Ms. Reeves described “the wonderful afternoons” enjoyed by youngsters who attended the “Red Umbrella” readings held during the summer in Mary Moss Park (also known as the John Street playground). Now in its third year, the program evolved out of the MEC’s interest in encouraging children to read. Supplied by the Bryn Mawr Book Sale with “gently used” books, readers included Township Committeeman Lance Liverman, neighborhood resident Veronica Olivares, and Princeton Public Library youth services librarian Pamela Groves. Ms. Reeves reported that it rained during just one Red Umbrella session, and that the group sought indoor accommodations at the Henry F. Pannell Learning Center, where they were charged $25.

Mr. Floyd pointed out that Mary Moss Park is among the Borough’s smallest and least noticed parks, and that an effort should be made to encourage Borough Council liaison Andrew Koontz to initiate some improvements there.

The Minority Education Committee is a community-based committee that is charged by the Board of Education to “promote and advance equity and success for all children, especially those historically under-represented or struggling in our educational system.” They meet on the third Monday of each month at 7:30 in the Valley Road building. The next meeting will be on October 19.

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