The Princeton Nursery School (PNS) at 78 Leigh Avenue is celebrating 85 years of taking care of and educating two-and-a-half- to five-year-olds in the heart of the Witherspoon/Jackson community.
To mark the occasion, members of the non-profit school’s board of trustees have organized a celebratory fundraiser with live music, cocktails, and hors d’oeuvres as well as live and silent auctions at the Bedens Brook Club on Saturday, April 26, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Profits from the sale of $100 tickets, $60 of which is tax deductible, will provide support for school programs and services offered to parents. It will also be used for much-needed tuition scholarships.
According to PNS Executive Director Wendy Cotton, “on average single females heads of households in Mercer County spend 42 percent of their income on childcare.”
This year, the school hopes to match or do better than the $22,000 in net profits brought in by a similar event last year. “Everything for the auctions has been donated and our board members have really embraced this event and worked hard to make it a success,” said Ms. Cotton.
Event committee co-chairs Sandra Allen and Amy Speirs have attended to every detail. Guests will be entertained by pianist Patrick Finn and a student’s group from the Lawrenceville School, who will perform the event theme song “Singin’ in the Rain,” under the direction of Choirmaster Robert Palmer.
Auction items range from unique experiences such as a dinner prepared by renowned chefs in one’s own home to vacation time in a privately owned beach house. A bike tour for ten, several spa experiences, wine baskets, and a trip to Los Angeles for the MTV Video Music Awards are also up for bid.
Jay McPhillips, fast becoming one of Princeton’s most prolific and well-known local artists, has donated his painting of the school’s cheerful yellow building. The painting was used to illustrate event invitations.
Ahead of Its Time
When it began, PNS was definitely ahead of its time. Founded by Margaret Matthews-Flinsch in 1929, its mission was to help working mothers who had to choose between earning desperately needed income and caring for their children at home during working hours.
For over eight decades, PNS has offered affordable child care as well as an excellent multicultural preschool experience to families in need. Accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, it has a sliding-scale tuition based on income and family size. As stated on its website, the school’s goal is to “ensure that children who attend PNS are on a level playing field with their peers when they enter elementary school.”
Ms. Cotton has been executive director of the school for six years. In 2009, she organized the first fundraising event in celebration of the school’s 80th anniversary. “For that we had a very special evening at Drumthwacket,” she recalled. “The school is very small, with only 48 children, of whom about one third come from the neighborhood. We are licensed for 54 students but we are content with the current balance of children and adult teachers. We have three lead teachers and three assistant teachers. All but one have college degrees,” said Ms. Cotton, who describes PNS as “a boutique nursery school,” which will remain small because there is nowhere for it to expand on Leigh Avenue.
The school has been in its current location since the 1930s and is fondly regarded in the neighborhood, where it was led for 30 years by Ms. Cotton’s predecessor, long-time school director Jean Riley. Ms. Cotton said that she often runs into 70-year-olds who remember their time as pupils there.
Besides the event honorees, Princeton University and Music Together, Princeton University student April Liang will be thanked at the event. Ms. Liang has become a champion for the school. Not only has she made generous financial donations, said Ms. Cotton, she has consistently volunteered her time. “We are very grateful for April’s leadership and for bringing in young energetic students from the University to assist our classroom teachers and provide enriching conversations for our children,” said Ms. Cotton.
According to Ms. Liang, the Friday afternoons have “been the most anticipated three hours of my week, because that’s when I volunteer at the Princeton Nursery School. A week of stress and fatigue just melts away when I see the sweet, smiling faces of all the students at PNS.” At PNS, said Ms. Liang, she can “be whoever I want without being judged; I can live as if the biggest problem in my life was whether or not Little Red Riding Hood survives her encounter with the Big Bad Wolf; I can let my inner child laugh freely, run freely, love freely. I am extremely grateful for the students and staff at Princeton Nursery School for not only this great honor, but also for the liberating experience every volunteering session has been.”
Because she is currently studying in Switzerland, Ms. Liang won’t be able to attend the event itself and has arranged for a classmate to receive her award.
“Singin’ in the Rain: A Celebration of Princeton Nursery School’s 85th Anniversary” is sponsored by PNC Bank; Mason, Griffin & Pierson, PC; Margie & Ravi Ravindranath; and TayganPoint Consulting Group, Primed Associates. It will take place at Bedens Brook Club, 240 Rolling Hill Road, Skillman, Saturday, April 26, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Reservations are requested by April 11. For more information, call (609) 921-8606, or visit: www.princetonnurseryschool.org.