October 7, 2020

Supporting BOE Candidates Davis and Tuck-Ponder For More Diversity, Equity

To the Editor:

At the very top of the list of things I consider most important in the upcoming BOE election is the ability for all candidates to grasp the fact that, along with many other integrated measures, the Board must work together to change the culture of not just the high school but the elementary schools as well.

The two candidates running independently that are most able to do that are Hendricks Davis and Michele Tuck-Ponder. More diversity on the Board will certainly add to the discussion on equity and create greater balance and insight when dealing with sensitive issues on race and race-related matters.

Who is not familiar with Michele Tuck-Ponder’s long list of achievements over many years of selfless public service to others, and currently as the BOE vice president and chair of the Equity Committee?  She has displayed independence, leadership, and a collaborative demeanor during her tenure. A former Princeton Township mayor and 30-year resident with two children that have gone through the PPS system, she sees problems not only as an administrator but also as a parent expanding her understanding of solutions.

Hendricks Davis is perhaps the most interesting of all candidates running, and unfortunately has gotten the least notice. Raised in D.C., he has been in the Princeton area since 1973 when he enrolled at the Princeton Seminary.  Hendricks is a creative visionary whose passion for giving back and making a difference in the lives of others has a long and unique historical path. As ED of the Princeton- Blairstown Summer Program he brought experiential programs in social, emotional, and character development to schools in Princeton, Trenton, and Newark. As the president and member of the board of Advocates for Children of New Jersey he led a strategic planning process which intensified focus on the development of high-quality early childhood education, child nutrition, school meals programs, and other important efforts in building equity.

Working alongside Principal Bill Johnson at the middle school and Linda Maisel, Corner House director, Hendricks helped to start a program entitled Academic Success Today.

Hendricks also understands that during a time of social upheaval, institutional racism, and structural inequities that a BOE can only be made stronger and more accountable with constant and consistent engagement with the community it serves. He is not a business as usual guy or it is what it is … he won’t acquiesce, succumb, or act sheepishly when it comes to making the right choices on behalf of the educational futures of all students in our schools, no matter where in town they leave from on their way to school in the morning. Hendricks understands, as hopefully all candidates do, that there is a real problem with the minority education achievement gap in our schools, but he is also acutely aware of the important distinction or difference between that gap and “rate of student growth,” which is a better and more accurate measurement of progress.

To have exceptional schools you must have an exceptional culture and environment for children to learn and for children to grow. Our BOE needs more diversity. PPS needs more diversity. Equity is not a buzz word, it must be backed up with action. Hendricks and Michele — a dynamic duo.

Leighton Newlin
Birch Avenue