October 21, 2020

To the Editor:

The decade was the 1980s, the situation was the busing of children to schools, the outcome was the bonding of two boys from different communities in Princeton! Taylor “Todd” Marrow III and Jason Harding met when they were students at Littlebrook School, continued through John Witherspoon Middle School, and graduated from Princeton High School. Last Tuesday evening they reunited on a Zoom meeting fundraiser for the Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society (WJHCS). Their lasting friendship and respect for each other was evident as they shared their growing up days of childhood antics, confronting racial injustices, sharing the love and care from both families and their educational journeys to becoming history professors. 

Todd, an associate professor at Chemeketa College in Salem, Oregon, and Jason Harding, a professor at Pennington School, gave an entertaining hour-long talk  centering on a variety of topics influenced by race and history. Jason introduced Todd’s recently-released edited book, America Awakened by Ida B. Wells-Barnett. Both professors shared an evening of remembrances, history, and the joys and challenges of life.  more

To the Editor:

We are so excited that Jean Durbin is running for School Board. We first got to know Jean when our son Phillip was in Little League and Jim was a coach. I wasn’t usually able to sit with other parents at games because I was typically watching our oldest son Jimmy, who has autism and doesn’t like to sit for very long. 

Well one day at Farmview, Jean started talking with me near the bleachers. As I answered, Jimmy walked away and I said, “talk to you later.” And Jean just said, “I’ll walk with you.”

And we had that conversation as we followed Jimmy through Farmview. 

For the parents of a child with special needs, this seemingly small gesture meant so much. It said: “I’ll go there with you — I want to hear what you have to say — I’ll walk in your shoes.” We haven’t forgotten.

Since then we’ve seen Jean in action as president of the PCDO and know how hard she will work to fight for causes that make our community stronger and better together. We wholeheartedly endorse Jean for School Board this fall. 

Mary Phillipuk
Jim Christy
Leigh Avenue

To the Editor:

We recently opened our newly renovated childcare center, The Burke Foundation Early Childhood Center at YWCA Princeton. Our renovated program building has new classrooms, a lactation room, additional children’s bathroom, HVAC air filtration system, and — because of COVID-19 — comprehensive health, safety, and security protocols.

Each morning starts with temperature checks and symptom screenings. For the health and safety of our staff and the families we serve, only staff, children, and essential workers are allowed in the building. This new check-in process has given my staff and I the opportunity to interact with each family on a daily basis, and our teachers are in constant communication with parents via ClassDojo, classroom phones, or emails.

All staff wear masks and PPE, and children over the age of 2 are required and encouraged to wear masks each day. Children are resilient and have been quick to adapt to wearing masks once teachers explained it’s a way to keep each other safe.  more

To the Editor:

I am writing this letter in support of Bill Hare, Karen Lemon, and Paul Johnson’s candidacies for the Princeton Board of Education. Although I am a member of the Princeton Board of Education, I am writing in my private, individual capacity as a Princeton resident and parent of two children attending PPS, and not on behalf of the Board of Education.

I first met Bill Hare when he was first running for the Board in 2016, and subsequently served with him on the Board for two years. Bill was a terrific board member; he is smart, open-minded, and compassionate. A patent lawyer, Bill pays attention to the details and is not afraid to push for things he thinks makes sense. For example, during his time as Finance Committee Chair, Bill suggested ideas for cost saving measures related to health plans, which were implemented and yielded significant savings for the district. Bill decided not to run for re-election last year, in large part because he felt the weight of the red tape in our system and that change was not coming fast enough for our kids and our taxpayers. Being away from the Board has given Bill the time needed to reflect upon the experience. Rather than remain on the sidelines, Bill wants to jump in again to be part of the solution.  Bill is determined to ensure all students in Princeton are cared for, and that taxpayer dollars are well spent.

Bill decided to run for the Board with Paul Johnson and Karen Lemon and focus on issues of diversity, affordability, and trust. Paul, a father of three children who attend PPS, is passionate about excellent education for all children. A fourth generation Princetonian, he is well known in our community as a soccer coach and works with kids of all ages. Paul is eager to foster change, and his energy and passion will serve our community well on the Board of Education. more

To the Editor:

I support Jean Durbin for the Board of Education. Yes, Jean is a smart, compassionate, and thoughtful leader whose approach is collaborative not confrontational. Yes, she’s trained as a social worker and a lawyer. And this combination of empathetic listening and understanding the intricacies of contracts and regulations are necessary skills, but they are not sufficient. What the Board of Education needs are members who will work to build consensus and solve problems.

I met Jean when we were parent volunteers at Littlebrook School. She was a parent who cared deeply about other people’s children. She never maligned other parents or administrators and always worked to find solutions to problems, rather than looking for someone to blame when something needed fixing.

When we found ourselves volunteers with the PCDO, Jean was a measured and collaborative leader, who rose above personal disagreements to lead the organization forward with a common goal. The Board of Education needs adults like Jean Durbin. I hope she has your vote too.

Caroline A. Cleaves
Edgehill Street

To the Editor:

November’s coming, and again the only interesting local election is for Board of Education. I believe all candidates sincerely want to educate all our kids well and spend wisely, but some spending claims I’ve seen seem off base to me:

  • Opposition to the agreement to educate Cranbury kids at PHS. But on net it benefits PPS by $2-3 million/year (and can’t be revoked, anyway).
  • Opposition to the students’ new Macs as too costly. But they are more capable and better solve many issues such as in-class consistency, equity, testing, remote learning and security, while staying within the existing budget.
  • Objection to buying the Choir College. But no candidates favor that anyway.

 more

October 14, 2020

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.  more

To the Editor:

“How many Princetonians does it take to change a light bulb? 

Three. One to change the bulb and two to wax philosophically about how great the old one was.”

This was a joke told to us when we first moved to Princeton nine years ago. We’ve come to realize this sentiment is based on the careful and thoughtful consideration made to proposed changes in and about town. We appreciate Princeton’s Planning Board and their commitment to evaluate all regional planning, ensuring, “that all permitted development is designed so as to be as harmonious as possible with the surrounding neighborhood.” 

Residents of the Princeton Ridge have long appreciated the balance of nature, the unique geography and geology.  Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle here. This area has been a focus of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection and targeted in the Community Master Plan: “The preservation and protection of the natural environment must be an integral part of all plans and designs for improvements and changes in land use. Examples include rezoning of the Princeton Ridge.” more

To the Editor:

We want to express our sincere thanks to the Princeton Shopping Center and NRG Energy Inc. for their partnership in putting on a wonderful “Electric EVening at the Princeton Shopping Center,” an Electric Vehicle and E-bike Ride and Drive Event, last Friday evening. We were delighted that nearly 300 community members came out in masks to learn about the electric vehicle alternatives that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We also want to thank our many supporting collaborators without whom this event would not have been possible, including New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, Central Jersey Electric Auto Association, Apex Solar, Bryan Electric Co., the Princeton Health Department, Sourland Cycles, Princeton Bicycle Advisory Committee, Princeton Audi, Davis Hyundai, Scott Harvey Kia, and the Lawrence Township-Princeton Tesla.

Addressing climate change requires us all to act. At Sustainable Princeton, we are sincerely grateful for the support of these partners to help empower community members with the knowledge of how to reduce our collective impact on the planet.

Sustainable Princeton

To the Editor:

We are writing a letter of support to endorse Jean Durbin for election to the Princeton Board of Education. My husband and I have only been in Princeton for six years, and we don’t have children yet, but we understand the importance of this race. Good schools translate to good communities, and a School Board member has a direct role in shaping the future of what Princeton Public Schools and the municipality will look like. We strongly believe Jean Durbin has the vision to make our community a better place for everyone.

As members of the LGBTQ+ community, we look for someone that can speak on our behalf and look at issues through the lens of our community. I [Nick] see it first-hand as a fellow commissioner on Princeton’s Civil Rights Commission. I trust that if Jean has any questions or concerns on policy issues pertaining to LGBTQ+ youth, she will seek input from community members like ourselves.

As community volunteers, we know that Jean is well-prepared for the role. Jean is the type of person that you wish would run for office, and we were elated when we heard the announcement. We first met Jean when she was president of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO), and have since volunteered alongside her for campaigns for local representatives. Simply put, Jean shows up when help is needed, and this School Board race is a great example of her lending a hand to the community.  more

To the Editor:

This year, the School Board will face essential decisions for the future direction of our schools, most importantly the selection of our next superintendent. We are writing to support the re-election of Board President Beth Behrend and Vice President Michele Tuck-Ponder. Both have a proven record of working collaboratively with community partners to support our students, promoting equity while responsibly managing the finances of the district.   

The Board, under Beth and Michele’s leadership, has gone beyond rhetoric to implement programs that address equity. It has been proven that early intervention makes a difference in educational outcomes. Through partnership with the YWCA and grants from both the Burke Foundation and the state, free pre-K was expanded by 75 additional students with dual Spanish/English instruction.  

Remote learning was a challenge to many of our students who did not have home computers. Through the 1:1 Technology Initiative, funds were strategically redeployed from the existing district technology budget to ensure that all students have equal access to school programming in the pandemic. An anonymous grant of $250,000 funded the necessary broadband and hotspots necessary to deliver instruction. more

To the Editor:

Harrison Street becomes more unsightly week by week as more and more overhead power supply lines and telecom cables are installed, and the slightest burst of wind, rain, or snow causes power outages, sometimes lasting just a second (which is enough to disrupt computers, cable TV, and so on), but sometimes much longer. Something must be done, and here is an example of how New York City did it (The Atlantic, October 2020, page 68):

“In early 1889, telegraph, telephone, and utility companies were given 90 days to get rid of all their visible infrastructure. New York’s industrial forest of utility poles was cleared, allowing some residents to see the street outside their windows for the first time. Underground conduits proved cheaper to maintain, and they could fit more bandwidth, which ultimately meant more telephones and more electricity.”

That is the kind of firm action we need from our town government.

Avinash Dixit
Gordon Way

To the Editor:

On Sunday afternoon, October 4, I fell on Franklin Avenue. A young man approached and asked if I was OK. When he saw that I was not, he helped me to the nearest home and knocked on the door. The three residents came outside, gave me a chair, and then some paper towels to help with the bleeding. The young man, who I believe is a student at Princeton High, called an ambulance and all four good Samaritans stayed with me until it arrived. 

I want to thank everyone who very thoughtfully helped me that day. Please know how much I appreciate your kindness. My gratitude also extends to the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad and Princeton police officer Pinelli, who quickly arrived on the scene.  

I wish I remembered everyone’s name so I could thank them in person but, unfortunately, I do not. I hope they see this letter and know how extremely grateful I am for all of their help. I feel very blessed to live in such a caring community. 

Joan Levin
Witherspoon Street

To the Editor:

I would like to say a few words in response to Mr. Pyle’s recent letter regarding his problems with  mail-in voting [“Noting That Mail-In Voting Can Have Too Many Problems For Such a Crucial Process,” Mailbox, October 7]. I would like to point out that this manner of casting a ballot has been with us and used successfully for many elections. Only recently, and as part of a concerted disinformation campaign, has its efficacy been called into question. Mr. Pyle is mistaken on several of his points.

No. 1: If Mr. Pyle’s address has received a ballot for someone who does not reside there, it’s because that someone has neglected to inform the proper offices of her change of residence. As voters and citizens, it is up to us, not the government, to insure that our voter information is correct and up to date.

No. 2: It is also up to us as individual voters and citizens to insure that our signatures are up to date. This is a vital part of our voting profile, no matter how we cast out ballot. If there is any question, go to the town hall and update your signature!

No. 3:  It’s up to each and every one of us to “follow directions exactly”!  It’s not that difficult. more

To the Editor:

When our ballots arrived this week, we were excited to cast our votes for Beth Behrend, Jean Durbin, and Michele Tuck-Ponder for Princeton School Board, and hope you’ll do the same. We have worked closely with all three and know they will contribute thoughtful and inclusive leadership on behalf of our kids and our excellent public schools. 

As president and vice president of the School Board, Beth and Michele have led the Board with a focus on data-driven policymaking, fiscal prudence, and equity.  In addition, they are good listeners and experienced community leaders. Together, they have stabilized school finances, improved facilities, and developed equity initiatives to address the stubborn achievement and opportunity gaps. more

October 7, 2020

To the Editor:

We are reaching out to the greater Princeton community to help save the life of a community volunteer, father, grandfather, friend, and 40-year resident, Aiden Doyle. Aiden has been diagnosed with AML, Acute Myleoid Leukemia, a rare cancer of the blood which interferes with the production of essential blood cells and platelets.

Aiden is under the care of the staff at Memorial Sloan Kettering, Department of Leukemia, and they have informed Aiden that he could possibly be cured with a stem cell transfusion from a matching donor. The ideal donor is between the ages of 18–44 years old and of northern Europe descent.

We will be on Hinds Plaza, Wednesday, October 14, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. with Jair Thompson from the New York Blood Center and Bethematch.com, who has offered to provide up to 100 swab kits order to find a match. It is a self-administered COVID-safe cheek swab. You swab the left cheek in your mouth and then the right. It takes three minutes and is in a kit, so you can take the kit, walk to the side, take off your mask, and administer the kit, then put the swabs back in the kit and hand it in right on Hinds Plaza.

The Princeton community has a long history of helping those in need and Aiden, his friends, and family will be deeply grateful for your support.

Jack and Debbie Morrison
Colfax Road, Skillman

Emily and Johan Firmenich
Mountain View Road

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. more

To the Editor:

I want to thank every School Board candidate for the upcoming election. Princeton is blessed with an impressive pool of well-qualified residents stepping up for public service.

I am giving one of my three School Board votes to Adam Bierman — a candidate pledged to maintaining Princeton public education excellence who has the courage, honesty, and credentials in equal measures to do so.

Over 36 years of living in Princeton, every School Board candidate has pledged that achieving education excellence is their No. 1 goal.

Adam Bierman is no exception; in addition, he is the candidate resolutely bringing attention to the wider community issue of: what is the cost effectiveness of School Board votes so far in improving educational excellence?

One such contentious decision highlighted by Adam is the superintendent-led School Board vote in 2018 to allow Cranbury — a town 8 miles away — to send their students to Princeton High School until 2030. 

Superintendents leave Princeton as they all do and did for professional and personal reasons. They are not held accountable for the long-term fiscal consequences for residents who have made Princeton their hometown. What will happen to the Princeton property tax rate that is directly tied to the public school budget — approved by the School Board in April at $95.6 million for the 2020-21 school year for 3,758 students?  more

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. more

To the Editor:

We are writing to support the re-election of Beth Behrend to the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education. We have each gotten to know Beth, in part as past co-presidents of the parent teacher organization of several elementary schools in town, and have seen firsthand the dedication and aptitude Beth has for this role.

Beth came to every meeting of the Parent Teacher Organization Council we attended. We were always impressed by how genuinely open she was to input, how thoughtful her questions for all of us were, and how much she emphasized the need to hear from parents and teachers as part of School Board decisions, meetings, etc. She always clearly had the best interests of students and families in mind as she spoke and as she set priorities for her work and the Board’s agenda. more

To the Editor:

As a parent with children attending both Princeton Charter School and Princeton High School, I am writing this letter to support Jean Durbin (Column L) for the Board of Education.

Simply put, Jean Durbin represents everything that’s good about Princeton and you should vote for her.

I’ve known Jean for over a decade. Of course, Jean is highly intelligent and capable. She has the intellectual and emotional balance of someone possessing both social work and law degrees, and has generously volunteered her time and experience by serving as PTO co-president at Littlebrook, president of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization, on the Civil Rights Commission, as a fixture at Princeton Little League, and more.

But Jean actually has skin in the game because she has children attending Princeton Public Schools!  more

To the Editor:

In less than one month, the election of our lifetime — already underway — will conclude. On our ballot are decisions that will determine everything from the fate of our democracy to how equitable our schools will be in the coming years. Please make sure to vote, and to send your ballot in as early as possible so that any problems can be remedied before November 3.

The most secure way to vote is by using the drop-off box in the Princeton Municipal Building (400 Witherspoon Street), which is securely emptied every day. Voting at the polls on Election Day will be by provisional paper ballots, whereas mailed-in ballots will be counted starting on 10 days prior to November 3, so if you want your vote to be counted and tallied on November 3 — vote by mail and early.

Importantly, your ballot includes a ballot measure question — question 3 — regarding postponing redistricting by two years when census results arrive late. This year, due to COVID-19, the results will be delayed. However, the question is not asking you to decide what will happen this year, but rather, to amend the New Jersey constitution so that the effects of COVID-19 linger for generations.  more

To the Editor:

As I filled out my ballot this morning, I felt not only gratitude for being able to vote, as I always do, but I also felt special appreciation for those capable and dedicated members of our community who have done so much for our community already and who are willing to continue to work for all of us by running for office.

We are fortunate to live among such wonderful neighbors!

Francesca Benson
Bainbridge Street

To the Editor:

Princeton lost our leading sustainability and wellness champion when Stephanie Chorney passed away after a brave struggle with cancer.

An incredibly supportive role model for so many of us in her relentless efforts to make our school district a better place for our kids, teachers, and staff, Stephanie was leading the sustainability and wellness charge back in the day when those issues weren’t even on most people’s radars as important topics that needed to be addressed.  more

To the Editor:

Our excellent school district faces many challenges, today and in the future. Two of the biggest issues — fiscal responsibility and ensuring equity for all students — have been the hallmarks of Michele Tuck-Ponder’s tenure on Princeton’s Board of Education.  

During her three years on the Board, Michele has consistently and thoughtfully considered every budget and program decision through the eyes of the taxpayer and the impact on our children, particularly those children who are too often marginalized. As a 30-year Princeton resident, former mayor and member of town Council, current member of the Princeton Housing Authority, current chair of the School District Equity Committee, and mother of two children educated in PPS, Michele knows all too well these intersecting issues of fiscal responsibility and equity. She has brought this unparalleled experience to bear on our schools and their relationship to every aspect of our community.

Michele has demonstrated vigilant attention to responsible planning for our children’s futures. She had the courage to stand alone to vote against the $129M referendum because she believed there had not been sufficient investigation and consideration of the best possible utilization of existing space, expansion, and facility improvement. Ultimately setting aside this large referendum proved to be the wise path that allowed the district to focus on its absolute priorities with a smaller, successful referendum, while providing time to plan effectively and build the expertise to evaluate options regarding facilities improvements and needed expansions.   more