Two Incumbents, One New Candidate So Far Will Compete for Three School Board Positions
By Donald Gilpin
Incumbents Debbie Bronfeld and Greg Stankiewicz and new candidate Susan Kanter are gearing up for this fall’s race for three available spots on the Princeton Public Schools (PPS) Board of Education (BOE). At press time Kanter had officially filed with the Mercer County clerk, while Bronfeld and Stankiewicz, whose terms end this year, were preparing to file by the 4 p.m. July 29 deadline.
Bill Hare, whose term also expires on January 1, 2020, was undecided, but “tending towards not filing” for re-election. The candidates will be competing for three-year terms on the 10-member Board.
Kanter, a Princeton resident for more than 20 years, has had three children in the PPS for the past 17 years, the third graduating from Princeton High School (PHS) this past June. “After more than 15 years of active volunteer work in the PPS, I would like to deepen my involvement by serving on the PPS Board,” she wrote in an email.
Kanter served as PHS PTO co-president for the past five years, and before that was treasurer of the John Witherspoon Middle School (JWMS) PTO for five years. “I have also been a member of the PTO President’s Committee for the past five years, highlighting and giving voice to issues at PHS, while staying current on issues at the elementary schools and JWMS,” she said. Currently a board member and treasurer of the 101 Scholarship Fund at PHS, Kanter also just joined the Princeton Children’s Fund board as treasurer.
Kanter worked for 23 years as vice president of operations of a large multi-national wholesale firm in New York City before retiring more than 10 years ago. She received her B.A. in economics from Duke University.
“I have witnessed firsthand how the issues of budget, referendum planning, equity, sustainability, and wellness can greatly impact our community,” she noted. “And through my volunteer work I have seen that the most impactful solutions are achieved when community and stakeholder input is solicited and is carefully considered. For example, as a parent representative on the PHS Bell Committee, which changed the start time and schedule at PHS to promote wellness, I saw the impact of creative, thoughtful change and the School Board’s important role in supporting that transformative process.”
She continued, “As an elected PPS Board member, I will use my skills, experience, and knowledge to ensure that all students, families, and employees of the district feel supported, welcomed, and heard, and that they all have an equal opportunity to achieve their goals.”
Bronfeld has been on the BOE for the past three years, serving on the Student Achievement and Finance and Equity committees, as chair of the Personnel Committee, and as an alternate for the Facilities Committee. She is also a member of the Green Team and the Princeton Charter School Shared Service Committee.
Bronfeld’s sons both attended PPS at Littlebrook, JWMS, and PHS, graduating in 2015 and 2018. “I look forward to continuing to support the students, staff, parents, and the community as I seek re-election,” she wrote in an email. “I have enjoyed my three years on the School Board, and know that I have made a difference in our district. I want to continue making a difference by interlacing health, wellness, and equity as cost effectively as we can.”
She continued, “My main goal has been to ensure that every student is educated in an environment that is conducive to their individual learning style, while continuing to support our strategic mission, and looking at cost savings across the whole district. I know there are great cost-saving ideas that staff, students, and the community have, and I have proposed the creation of an ad-hoc savings committee that will not only hear ideas, but investigate and implement those potential savings.”
In addition to her work on the BOE, Bronfeld volunteers weekly at a mobile food pantry in town, serving 40 families every week, and she has joined the nonprofit Housing Initiative of Princeton.
“People always say being on the School Board is a thankless job,” she said. “I did not run for School Board to be thanked. I ran and am seeking re-election to ensure every student in Princeton receives the education they deserve.”
Currently BOE vice president, Stankiewicz has served as chair of Facilities and Policy committees; liaison to the New Jersey School Board Association, Princeton Planning Board, and PHS PTO; and as a member of the Finance Committee. His daughter, who will be a PHS senior this year, attended Community Park and Princeton Charter School (PCS) for elementary school, then JWMS, and PHS.
In discussing his decision to run for re-election, Stankiewicz, in a telephone interview, said, “I feel very invested in PPS. I want to help the children in Princeton. It is so important. Having met so many wonderful students through my daughter Raisa and through my work on School Board makes it tangible for me. I want to continue to work with administration and teachers to provide the best education possible for all of them.”
He continued, “There are great opportunities and there is great work being done, and I want to highlight that work as well as tackle the challenges. I know much more than I did when I ran three years ago. I’d like to have three more years to push things forward.”
He cited significant budgetary challenges, pointing out that “the BOE has worked very hard with the administrators to be good stewards.” The BOE, he added, has pledged to do more advocacy at the state level, with budget challenges coming through rising enrollments, rising costs, and the expanding financial impact of the PCS.
Stankiewicz also mentioned societal challenges facing the district with competitive pressures and students sleeping less and feeling increasing stress. He noted the need to ensure that students “lead lives of joy and happiness.” “Student achievement improves when that happens,” he said. “I want to focus the attention of the community on the fact that our students are reporting much higher levels of stress than at any time in the past.”
Stankiewicz praised the “diverse array of opinions” on the Board. “We need to embrace our diversity,” he said, “and use that as a way of working through the obstacles that we face.” He noted that this is a “polarized time” in the country and he emphasized the importance of “bringing all of us together to tackle the issues that face our schools and our community.”
BOE candidates for the November 5 election must file a nominating petition with the county clerk by the 4 p.m. July 29 deadline. Prospective candidates can download information and a NJSBA School Board Candidate Kit from the New Jersey School Boards Association’s website at www.njsba.org.