October 9, 2013

Princeton Has a New Schools Superintendent

A successor to Superintendent Judith A. Wilson who has led Princeton Public Schools (PPS) since 2005, was announced last night at a special meeting of the Princeton Board of Education.

When Ms. Wilson retires at the end of the year, she will be succeeded by Stephen C. Cochrane, currently an assistant superintendent in the Upper Freehold Regional School District. Mr. Cochrane will take up his post on January 1, 2014.

Mr. Cochrane, 53, is no stranger to Princeton. He lives in the town and is a graduate of Princeton University, where he gained a degree in English in 1981. After earning a master’s degree in education from Harvard University, he began his 23-year career in public education as an elementary school teacher in South Brunswick Public Schools. He has previously served as principal of Hopewell Elementary School and Timberlane Middle School in the Hopewell Valley Regional School District and as director of curriculum and instruction for Colts Neck Township Schools.

“The Board is pleased and excited that Mr. Cochrane will be the next superintendent of schools in Princeton,” said Board of Education President Timothy Quinn.

Mr. Cochrane was hired after a leadership profile was developed by the Board in a process that invited input from the Princeton community. “Mr. Cochrane possesses all of the attributes Princeton values,” said Mr. Quinn. “He is a student-centered collaborative leader with a strong curricular background and an unwavering commitment to open public education. He is skilled at communicating his vision for student achievement to the many stakeholder groups that form a school community. The board fully expects he will build on the excellence that has been the focus of Judy Wilson’s leadership.”

The new superintendent was identified via a national search conducted by Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates. Selected from more than 50 candidates, his contract with PPS is renewable after four and one-half years. His $167,500 per year salary is the maximum allowable under a state cap on superintendent compensation. He is, however, eligible for bonuses based on the achievement of goals agreed upon with the Board of Education.

“Our Board was presented with a slate of impressive educators, each of whom was qualified to be superintendent,” commented Board member Molly Chrein. “From this deep field, it became apparent that Mr. Cochrane was the clear choice.”

Citing Mr. Cochrane’s tenure as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction with the Upper Freehold Regional School District during “an unprecedented period of curricular growth and student achievement,” Mr. Quinn commended Mr. Cochrane for his role in conducting a comprehensive K-12 review of all curricula that resulted in the development of curriculum maps in all subject areas as well as for implementing new K-8 reading, writing, and mathematics programs in the district and working with teachers and administrators to expand electives in the middle school and to double the number of AP offerings at the high school.

Mr. Cochrane has been an assistant superintendent with the Upper Freehold District since 2007. During his tenure, the district’s Stone Bridge Middle School was selected as one of 10 schools worldwide to pilot the “Big History Project” funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; the percentages of students scoring at the proficient or advanced proficient levels on state tests increased significantly and professional development for teachers expanded. He introduced the Danielson Framework for Teaching in the district in 2009 and worked with teachers and administrators to fulfill current state teacher evaluation requirements.

As part of the selection process, members of the PPS Board of Education paid a visit to the Upper Freehold Regional School District. “It was clear from a visit by members of our board to Upper Freehold Regional that Mr. Cochrane is a transformational leader universally respected by all,” said Andrea Spalla, vice president of the Princeton Board of Education. “We heard from parents, teachers, and administrators about Steve’s passion for his work and his ability to motivate everyone to focus on positive outcomes for every student, every day. Just about everyone we spoke with said some variation of this statement: ‘Mr. Cochrane is the smartest guy in any room he’s in, but he is also the most humble.’ Students in Princeton can only benefit from such leadership.”

“Mr. Cochrane’s enthusiasm for educating young people is evident when you meet him, and based on our visit to Upper Freehold, it is contagious,” said Ms. Chrein.

As for the new Superintendent, he said that he was “both honored and overjoyed to have been selected to serve the children of Princeton. I look forward to collaborating with all those who care about our kids and to giving back to the community that has given so much to me.”

According to a PPS press release, Mr. Cochrane is a top ranked amateur bicycle racer at the state and national levels.