At a meeting of the Princeton Board of Education last Thursday, Judith A. Wilson announced her plans to retire as superintendent of Princeton Public Schools.
Ms. Wilson, who has been superintendent in Princeton since 2005, will continue through the end of this year and retire on December 31. Her retirement will bring to a close a 35-year career in various positions in public education. Before becoming superintendent, she was an English teacher, a reading specialist, a curriculum supervisor, and an assistant superintendent.
“This is a bittersweet moment for Princeton,” said Board President Timothy Quinn. “We’re very happy for Judy as she starts a new chapter of her life, but we will sorely miss her student-focused leadership, hard work, and dedication to public education. During Judy’s time here, an already well-regarded district became even better. There can be no greater testament to her tenure as our superintendent.”
Ms. Wilson’s nine years as superintendent marked a period of change for the school district. Princeton adopted a standards-based curriculum for pre-K through grade 12 that is used in all district schools. Superintendent Wilson led a district-wide effort to increase student achievement overall and particularly among economically disadvantaged students.
In addition, Princeton initiated a system to monitor individual student achievement through regular formative assessments and greatly expanded professional learning opportunities for teachers and administrators.
Ms. Wilson’s letter to the Board was a late addition to the evening’s agenda. In it she stated: “The Princeton Public School district is a very special community of leaders and learners in all positions: volunteers, teachers, support staff, administrators, parents and, especially, students. My life has been influenced in many positive ways and my thinking and learning have been strengthened by the work of leading this complex, dynamic and
successful district. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have worked with so many exceptional board members, educators and staff members over the years.”
At her request, the Board’s responses to her announcement were limited to remarks by the Board president. Mr. Quinn said that Ms. Wilson will remain fully engaged in the operations of the district for the next nine months and will work toward a smooth leadership transition.
As a member of the Board and earlier as a leader of the PTO, Mr. Quinn has observed Ms. Wilson at close hand. “Judy has led our district through an unprecedented time of growth against a backdrop of turbulence for public education nationally and in New Jersey,” he said. “She will be a tough act to follow.”
According to Mr. Quinn, the administration and the Board have been wading through “a deluge of reports and mandates coming from the state” concerning teacher and principal evaluation and school ratings.
He assured the Board and the public that there would be a “thorough and deliberate” search for Ms. Wilson’s replacement. Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, the firm used in the search that culminated in Ms. Wilson’s appointment in 2005, will conduct a national search for the new superintendent. It is thought likely that Princeton will attract a top candidate.
Asked earlier this week about the timing of her announcement, Ms. Wilson said that she had made her decision now so that the board would have “appropriate time for a thoughtful, thorough search and decision making process.”
Mr. Quinn said during the months to come there would be opportunity to celebrate Ms. Wilson’s accomplishments, including the Princeton Education Foundation gala on April 27. With that, he turned the meeting over to Ms. Wilson for a public discussion of the schools budget that this year falls within the demanded 2 percent cap and therefore requires no vote by the town’s citizens.
The day after her announcement, it was business as usual for Ms. Wilson as she focused on new state regulations, district goals, and the day to day running of Princeton schools. That will be her plan of action through the rest of the year, she said.
“This is an amazing district and a beautiful community where, together, people are truly devoted to our ‘Live to Learn, Learn to Live’ motto. There hasn’t been a day, even in the most challenging times, that I have not deeply appreciated the faculty, staff, students and families that make so much possible in the Princeton Public Schools,” said Ms. Wilson.