October 14, 2020

BOE Incumbents Behrend and Tuck-Ponder are Committed to Meeting the Needs of All Students

To the Editor:

As citizen volunteers elected to the Board of Education, it has been an honor to represent you in ensuring that our children receive an effective and equitable education, reflective of our community’s values. 

We feel obliged, however, as the incumbents in a competitive election, to address misinformation about the Board being circulated in the community. We write here as private citizens, not as a slate, and not on behalf of the Board.  

For the most objective source of information on candidate positions, visit the League of Women Voters website at VOTE411.org. In addition, we note:

No financial information was “withheld” when the 2020-21 budget was approved on May 5. At the public hearing, the Board discussed (i) how COVID-related savings/costs were not yet known, (ii) the potential for future significant reductions in state aid, and (iii) the necessity of submitting a budget by the May 8 statutory deadline, based on the best available information at the time. Once the budget was submitted, the Board was unable to “revise” tax levies. 

Our Board is more “transparent” than most, with frequent public meetings (recorded and available on the district website), open committee meetings, and community forums on budget, planning, and enrollment. All Board members are encouraged to share their perspectives and most often do. To learn more about the Board’s work, please visit princetonk12.org/board.

There is no “gag order” on Board member communication. Members are free to speak at Board meetings and as private citizens elsewhere, subject to N.J.S.A. 18A, which requires all speech to be accurate and not contain confidential information or compromise the Board. 

The Board has no plans to purchase the Westminster Choir College. The Board has been clear that its top priority in dealing with rising enrollments is to maximize the use of existing facilities and to carefully evaluate the potential of all district properties.  

The decision to purchase district-owned devices for every student is more cost-effective, equitable, and pedagogically-sound than allowing some students to use personal devices. Devices were purchased with five-year lease-financing at no additional cost to taxpayers. Private devices posed practical and cost issues with tech support, access to licensed software, and privacy — and cannot be used for standardized testing. Cheaper devices were considered but did not match Apple in functionality, support, or resale value. This initiative provides high-quality remote learning to all students and advances equity by leveling the technology playing field.

The Board implemented construction of the voter-approved PHS field restroom facility after extensive deliberation, consideration of alternate designs, and public input. The facility is handicapped-accessible, supports our commitment to gender equity, includes secure, all-season storage, and a small space for fundraising through concessions — and was approved by voters as the top athletic priority in the 2018 referendum.

The Board’s essential role is student-centered. We are committed to focusing our board service on better meeting the needs of all of our students, now and into the future. 

Beth Behrend
Riverside Drive

Michele Tuck-Ponder
Laurel Circle