October 7, 2020

Supporting Johnson, Lemon, Hare, Plus Bierman for Board of Education

To the Editor:

I am writing as a PPS parent and private citizen, and not on behalf of or authorized by the Board of Education, of which I am an elected member.

I believe that we have an excellent opportunity with the Board of Education (BOE) election to advance student achievement for all children, restore trust in the Board, and make Princeton affordable again. The diverse “slate” of Paul Johnson, Karen Lemon, and Bill Hare, plus Adam Bierman, are uniquely qualified to advance these important principles.

These four candidates have outstanding backgrounds to fulfill the policy, planning, and oversight role of the Board — in a fiscally responsible way. They will prioritize spending on that which is most important for the academic excellence and student experience that we desire for all our children. The “slate” and Adam Bierman will work to expand and improve existing facilities first rather than construct or purchase expensive new facilities such as Westminster Choir College.

School taxes continue to increase despite very large net savings from school closures, and the schools now represent 49 percent of our property tax bill. Highlighted below are BOE spending decisions that I believe make our diverse community increasingly unaffordable without advancing our student achievement goals:

Voting to hire Milone & MacBroom (M&M) to plan another facilities referendum and potentially purchase the Westminster Choir College property after laying off teachers and staff in the 2019-2020 budget.

Voting to hire EPIC as construction manager for the $27 million facilities plan while ignoring serious problems with a previous facilities referendum at PPS that was overseen by EPIC. The $27 million referendum projects are now significantly over budget with delays and problems in completing construction projects.

Voting to spend $530,000 to construct an outdoor concession stand/bathroom at PHS despite referendum projects over budget that now must draw upon capital reserves to complete. Also, failing to provide the community adequate time to develop a lower cost option for the bathrooms.

Voting to purchase iPads, Chromebooks, or expensive MacBook computers for all students rather than the economically disadvantaged students who needed a computer. (I reimbursed the school district for the cost of a MacBook given to my child with a gift to the Princeton Educational Foundation.)

Voting to waste taxpayer funds on lawyers to develop a new board communications policy, aka a “gag order,” to reduce transparency and community engagement by individual board members.

Voting to increase taxes twice (operating and capital budgets) this year while residents were suffering from the adverse economic and health effects of COVID-19. In contrast, the municipality amended its budget to eliminate a property tax increase.

I hope that you will consider Paul Johnson, Karen Lemon, and Bill Hare, the “slate,” and Adam Bierman to advance student achievement for all students, restore trust to the Board, and make Princeton affordable again. The new Board of Education will select a permanent superintendent and needs to engage the community about future spending decisions as previous referendum bonds are repaid on February 1, 2022 and 2023.

Daniel J. Dart
Farrand Road