April 11, 2018

To the Editor:

We should all applaud the Princeton Board of Education’s decision to delay a vote on the proposed $137.1 million bond referendum. Now, we all must urge the Board to take the next difficult but important step: Declare a total moratorium on the bond issue for now.

Let’s be clear. This call for a moratorium is not a judgment on the Board’s stewardship of public education in Princeton. Most of us who live and pay taxes in Princeton are proud of our schools and the teachers and administrators who serve our kids.

But, we in New Jersey are in a financial crisis resulting from the Federal Income Tax Law of 2017. Until the legislature and governor can effect a workable and legal remedy, adding more bond debt is irresponsible. The 2017 Tax Law reduces the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT) to $10,000. For high tax states, like New Jersey, California, and New York, this is draconian and punishing – and may have been intentionally so – but it is the law.

Governor Murphy may join with other states to fight this law but that outcome remains to be seen. For now, adding anything to the tax impact on assessed homes should be declared a non-starter. If the Board cannot step outside its own thinking on this issue, then, regrettably, voters must reject the referendum on October 2.

The Princeton Board of Education is a non-partisan body and must stay out of politics. Instead, we citizens and voters must urge our state legislators and governor to come up with a reasonable solution that is sustainable in this new federal tax era and allows communities, like Princeton, to resume funding needed improvements.

David M. Goodman

Duffield Place

To the Editor:

The recently completed 87th annual Bryn Mawr-Wellesley Book Sale could not have been the resounding success it was without the help of over 100 volunteers and Princeton Day School. Our volunteers work throughout the year to collect and sort donated books, then expend a great deal of time and energy setting up and running the sale. Thank you for your dedication!

We are also grateful for the warm and professional collaboration we enjoy with the PDS staff during the event when we sell over 80,000 books in just five days. Together we raise college scholarship funds for Bryn Mawr and Wellesley students from throughout central New Jersey.

Elizabeth Romanaux

President, The Bryn Mawr Wellesley Book Sale

To the Editor:

By now, the debris from Hinds Plaza has been swept, the air above Nassau Street quieted, and our tears wiped from our faces. I have lived in Princeton for 22 years and nothing has made me prouder to call it home than seeing Witherspoon Street flooded with people of all walks of life at the March for Our Lives. Despite this tense and sobering reminder about how gun violence cannot simply be someone else’s problem, odds are many from the March will return to their lives around town, which can often be called “quaint,” “comfortable,” or “idyllic.” There will be a strong urge to return to normal.

There will also be a strong urge to say “what can I really do?” or “we can never really eliminate gun violence or even make a dent.” A lot of the measures being proposed in Congress and even in Florida won’t do much to curb gun violence as a whole. Not only is there a massive advocacy network with rock-solid financial backing in the firearms industry, but there are a lot of Americans, some of them our elected officials, who genuinely believe that guns not only make us safer, but are important cultural touchstones. Guns are durable, transportable goods; so here in Princeton, what good can we really do?

The only problem with that line of thinking is that every great accomplishment in history has been impossible until it wasn’t. I have met so many of the most impressive, courageous people in my life in Princeton who continue to inspire me to this day, and I’m sure there are just as many more that I haven’t had the good fortune of meeting. It would be an incredible shame if that ability and that skill set could not be channeled into collective action on problems as difficult and as urgent as gun violence, but also issues like mental health, race, and privilege.

Princeton has the opportunity to turn this energy into action. Imagine a community where things like violence, anxiety, masculinity, and their effects on people could be talked about in an open forum — students and adults alike. Imagine being an example for the rest of the country on how to make our schools safer not with guns or metal detectors, but teaching students how to be active and informed citizens.

Survival of our students is far too low a bar to clear for a community I have seen so much from. Our goal should be for every student to flourish not only in the classroom, but as a person. Let us take advantage of the opportunity for reflection and bring students and young people to the table and have a discussion.

Zack DiGregorio

William Livingston Court

To the Editor: 

The primary election to be held on June 5 for the two open Princeton Council seats will likely determine the ultimate winners in the November general election. Given that registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by five to one in Princeton, the Democratic Primary has produced the final general election outcome in recent council and mayoral elections.

In reflecting on recent elections, some voters have expressed that they don’t have a voice in our local government.

Many of the over 6,700 unaffiliated voters in Princeton may not realize that they can easily vote in the Democratic primary, either by changing their party affiliation prior to the election or by simply declaring that they would like to vote on the Democratic ticket at the polls on June 5. 

For Republicans who would like to participate in the Democratic primary, they can do so by submitting a political party declaration form by April 11. All voters can check their party affiliation on the website www.njelections.org, where they may also print the Political Party Affiliation Declaration forms. There is no limit to the number of times voters can change their political party affiliation.

Historically, voter participation for “off-year,” or non-presidential year, primary elections is very low, with fewer than 10 percent of registered voters turning out to the polls. The more voters participating and voting in the primary election, the better representation the election will have for the population at large.

Our Council is the main legislative body that makes important decisions affecting our community. With many critical issues facing us and two open seats to fill, this is a very important election.

I encourage everyone to vote in the primary. Let your voice be heard.

You can find out more about me and my platform at www.pironeforcouncil.com.

Michelle Pirone Lambros

Grover Avenue,

Candidate for Princeton Town Council

April 4, 2018

To the Editor:

The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area supports students in their March for Our Lives and urges those who can vote to become informed about their candidates and then vote. On May 1 at 7 p.m. in Witherspoon Hall, 400 Witherspoon Street, the Democratic candidates for Princeton Council will meet in a forum co-sponsored by the League and Princeton Community TV, which will videotape the forum. The video will be rebroadcast and posted on its website and on www.lwvprinceton.org.

Be sure you are registered with the party of your choice. If you are currently unaffiliated, you may declare your party at the polls on June 5. If you mistakenly registered as an Independent, you cannot vote in the primary since only Republicans and Democrats hold a primary election. The deadline for changing Party Affiliation for the June primary is April 11. Political Party Declaration forms are available at www.njelections.org and must be received at your county clerk’s office by April 11.

The deadline to register for the June primary is May 15; your voter registration form must be postmarked by that date. Applications for vote-by-mail ballots can be downloaded and must be received by your county clerk at least seven days before the election, May 29. All forms are available at www.njelections.org, where you will be directed to your county clerk.

Please attend or watch the forum and VOTE.

Chrystal Schivell

Voter Service chair,

League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area,

Monroe Lane

To the Editor:

The facilities referendum that calls for spending $137M on a new 5/6 school, PHS expansion, and various other upgrades will have a huge financial impact on our town decades after the current School Board members’ term expires. The need for this spending is driven by the projected increase in student enrollment. According to the third-party consultant retained by the district, enrollment is estimated to grow about 10 percent (with a 5 percent standard error) by 2022.

What if we have an opportunity to reduce that enrollment growth to only 3 percent (±5 percent) by 2022? Will that change the need, or at least the timing of the need to spend? $137M amounts to almost a year and half of the school district’s budget, definitely not a small number. For every year this $137M spending is postponed, the district would effectively put $5 million back into residents’ pocket.

Under the existing send-and-receive agreement, our district educates 280 high school students from Cranbury, or 18 percent of PHS enrollment. By terminating the agreement with Cranbury, the district can achieve an immediate 7 percent reduction in enrollment. This agreement is scheduled to expire in June 2020. The school district owes residents a detailed explanation as to why extending this agreement is still in our best interest. To justify an extension by only focusing on the $4.8 million we receive but not the corresponding costs of serving the Cranbury students makes no sense. It is disappointing that the district told us that any cost reduction from terminating the Cranbury agreement will be minimal because there are on average only 3-4 Cranbury students in each of the high school’s 85 classes. This picture of averaging is misleading and far from the reality. I urge our elected officials to make smart and pragmatic decisions on our behalf rather than take the path of least resistance.

Jian Chen

Ettl Farm

March 28, 2018

To the Editor:

Many residents live here because we value the ethnic and economic diversity of Princeton, not to mention the excellence of its schools. Now we have to absorb significant costs and potentially higher taxes for another expansion of our schools and the construction of potentially 753 affordable housing units. The exact number of units is unknown since discussions about the New Jersey Court ruling have been conducted in two closed Council meetings.

Princeton residents (and taxpayers) need to be included in the resolution of these issues. Creative solutions can then be sought from all, and not just implemented at will by our elected representatives, municipal staff, and the School Board. For example, Princeton has significant passive land resources that should be considered to reduce the cost impact of both these requirements. Remedial zoning could also contribute to the solution.

Simply increasing our taxes will only drive out the long-term residents who have contributed to the diversity of Princeton. Transparency is needed so we can all participate in the solution.

Peter Madison, Lorraine Skidmore

Snowden Lane

To the Editor:

Two-and-a-half months after the tragic December 27, 2017 fire at Griggs Farm, nearly all of the 34 displaced residents who needed to find temporary housing have secured affordable homes in the area, enabling them to maintain key community, school, and employment connections over the next 10-12 months while the building is being reconstructed. Princeton Community Housing (PCH), a nonprofit organization, and the Human Services Department (HSD) of the municipality of Princeton have been working closely with the residents throughout this time.

PCH greatly thanks all the donors who provided generous support to help the residents. Recent gifts have provided financial support to all the displaced residents, including instances where funds were needed for security deposits or to close the gap between the monthly rent for temporary affordable homes and the monthly rent a resident was paying at Griggs Farm (approximately 30 percent of their income). Previous gifts, as noted earlier, helped PCH to pay for six weeks of emergency housing, as well as to provide money, gift cards, food, clothing, and other items directly to the residents.

Because we have reached this temporary housing milestone and distributed this financial and other support to the displaced residents, we know we have helped them regain a measure of stability and independence to move forward with their efforts to bring normalcy back to their lives. We will continue to work with residents to help them identify the area organizations that can best provide the resources other than temporary housing that the residents may need. While PCH will be transitioning from active solicitation for donations to the Griggs Farm Fire Relief Fund, we will distribute to residents any additional contributions we may receive.

We will be focusing efforts on working with the Griggs Farm Condo Association to restore the building — and on moving forward with our larger mission to build, manage, and advocate for affordable housing opportunities in Princeton. The challenges PCH and HSD faced in locating temporary affordable homes for the residents demonstrate the significant need for additional affordable homes in the area. PCH was not able to place the Griggs Farm residents in other PCH apartments because there are no vacancies and wait lists are 12-24 months long.

In Princeton, six percent of families are below the federal poverty level and another 18 percent are below the “ALICE Threshold” (the United Way’s measuring a Household Survival Budget). Additionally, because only about 10 percent of Princeton homes are deed-restricted as affordable for low- or moderate-income households to rent or buy, there’s a wide gap between the supply and demand for affordable housing.

We continue to welcome unrestricted contributions for PCH to support our mission. These gifts will be used for the programs benefiting the over 1,000 current residents, as well as ongoing efforts to expand the inventory of affordable homes in the area. To make a gift, please see our website: www.princetoncommunityhousing.org.

Edward Truscelli

Executive Director

To the Editor:

On Wednesday, March 14, 2018, the Historical Society of Princeton held its public annual meeting, with the Board and staff extending gratitude to the community partners, members, donors, and volunteers who all help execute the important work of HSP. I want to echo those sentiments here.

2017 was an exciting time of growth and innovation for HSP, a hub for experiential history education and stewardship of collections and places. By promoting historical curiosity at all ages, we are building citizens who are critical thinkers, who consider nuance and multiple perspectives, and who know how to make informed decisions. This is essential for healthy civic culture.

With this in mind, we devoted our energies in 2017 to expanding the diversity and reach of our public programming, often partnering with other like-minded community organizations, which ultimately doubled the audience for our history education services.

We launched the Historical Fiction Book Group, with the Princeton Public Library, the Open Archive series, the Speaking of History series of panel discussions, and family programs such as the Chasing George! bike ride. Walking tours, including new themed tours, continued to grow in popularity.

We amped up our co-curricular support for schools, completing third-grade local history curriculum units, offering professional development free-of-charge to teachers, and piloting outreach programs for high school students that promote exciting, skills-based history classrooms.

These are just a few of the many public history programs HSP provides, benefiting thousands of people each year. Our supporters and partners make this work possible. In particular, I would like to celebrate the efforts of HSP’s stellar volunteer trustees. I am thrilled to announce that the HSP Board elected four new trustees during the Annual Meeting. All are members of the Princeton community and together form a cohort of unprecedented quality.

Peter Gibson is the founder and owner of Princeton Online, a hyper-local community web presence in Princeton. He has served on many local nonprofit boards, including those of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, and Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (now Learning Ally).

Caroline Hayes is a co-founder and principal of Finitive, a technology company that facilitates direct institutional investment into the alternative lending sector. She has over a decade of experience advising and investing in companies within the financial services industry.

Matthew Henderson is a managing partner at Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s International Realty, where he handles the firm’s finances. He is a Princeton native, and previously worked for Bear Stearns on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and in brand management for Johnson & Johnson.

John Marshall is a 45-year Princeton resident and the former owner of Main Street Café, Bistro, and Catering from 1988-2016. He is currently the president of the Princeton Merchants Association and has also served as the president of the Friends of Carson Road Woods since 2003.

The annual meeting culminated in a lively lecture by Seton Hall University’s Professor Emeritus Richard J. Connors. In honor of the centennial of World War I, he delivered a talk entitled New Jersey and the Great War, outlining New Jersey’s important economic function in the war, and the lasting impact of the war industry. HSP supplemented the talk by displaying collection items that illuminated the war’s effect on Princeton.

The annual meeting is always a happy celebration of the Princeton community and HSP’s contributions to its vibrancy. We thank everyone in attendance and all those who help advance the work of the Society throughout the year.

Izzy Kasdin

Executive Director, Historical Society of Princeton

To the Editor:

Princeton residents deserve more information before the budget vote for new school construction. We have been told that the architectural plans are based on new pedagogical approaches. Why haven’t we been given information about what they are? Or are the building schemes driving the pedagogy?

It’s time for the superintendent and Board of Education to open up and share. Why does it seem that every major decision in Princeton is made behind closed doors? Let the sunshine in and let the public and the media see what is proposed so that a real discussion can take place.

Sheila Siderman

Bouvant Drive

To the Editor:

On Sunday, March 18, the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) met to endorse candidates for local and county office. After a spirited and informative debate among the seven candidates for Princeton Council, I was honored to receive 77 percent of the votes cast by the more than 200 PCDO members present and, thus, the endorsement of the PCDO. I would like to extend my appreciation to the PCDO executive board, which worked hard to plan and orchestrate the endorsement meeting; to the members of the PCDO who devoted three hours of their Sunday evening to attend the debate and vote for their candidates of choice; to Nicole Plett of the League of Women Voters, who moderated the debate; and to Mercer County’s three incumbent Democratic Freeholders — Ann Cannon, Sam Frisby, and Pat Colavita — who also addressed the audience and took questions on Sunday evening.

The energy in the room and the interest in the political process was tremendous; it is an exciting time to be a candidate here in Princeton. As I said in my remarks on Sunday, Princeton is a vital community, but we face some serious challenges (among them affordability, sustainability, and how to deal with development). I want to listen to your concerns so that we can work together to surmount these challenges in a way that enhances Princeton’s unique character. I ask for your vote in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, June 5. Further information about my candidacy and my contact information can be found on my website, eveforprinceton.org.

Eve Niedergang

Forester Drive

March 20, 2018

To the Editor:

It was heartening indeed to hear of the gallant and successful efforts of PSE&G workers to rescue an elderly lady from her all-electric home. However, if the lines were underground the power would not have been lost. Maybe it is cheaper, as PSE&G claims, to keep repairing downed lines rather than burying them, but it is not cheaper for residents and the inconvenience is enormous. European countries do not have this problem. Maybe Princeton council can do something to push PSE&G into the 20th century or even the 21st!

Helen Goddard

Maxwell Lane

March 14, 2018

To the Editor:

I write as a supporter of Eve Niedergang for Princeton Council. At 7 p.m. on March 18 the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) will hold its Local Candidates Forum and Endorsement meeting. I ask you to join me in voting to endorse Eve for the Democratic Primary Election in June, and help her take the first step toward election to Princeton Council.

The Endorsement Meeting will be at the Suzanne Patterson building, located behind Monument Hall. If the Monument Hall parking lot is full, there is parking on the south side of Stockton Street and on Mercer Street. In order to vote for endorsement you must be a resident of Princeton, a registered Democrat, and a member of PCDO with dues paid for 2018 by March 4. Voting will be by secret ballot and you must be present to cast your ballot.

The Endorsement vote follows the Candidates Forum. The Forum will follow a Q&A format and will be moderated by the League of Women Voters. There are seven Democrats contending for two open seats on Council. Even if you are not qualified to vote for endorsement, the Forum will provide a unique opportunity for you to meet, assess, and form your own judgment about the candidates.

Eve has been active in the Democratic Party for more than 10 years. She has served two terms on the PCDO Executive Board, and as the Democratic Committeewoman for Princeton’s 18th Election District since 2014. She has worked on the campaigns for local, state, and national Democratic candidates.

I believe that Eve is the best qualified candidate for Princeton Council. She has worked in the field of education both as a professional and a volunteer. As a leader of volunteers she has helped establish the Friends of Princeton Public Library Book Sale as one of the most important non-property tax sources of revenue that provide the funds for the books and other media that we all borrow. Eve currently works for environmental sustainability as coordinator of volunteers at the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association.

Eve is a demonstrated leader who has shown that she listens carefully to all sides of an issue, uses available data to define the issue, and arrives at a solution that works for our community.

We need Eve on Princeton Council to ensure that Princeton remains a diverse, welcoming, and affordable community in which to live, work, and raise our families. Please join me to help get Eve endorsed by PCDO on March 18, and together we will work to elect Eve to Princeton Council in November.

Bernie Miller

Campaign Chair, Eve for Princeton Council, 

Former President, Princeton Council

To the Editor:

The municipality is currently looking to improve our curbside organics pick up program and we need your help! If your household has never taken prt in the town’s organics program, please consider signing up to be one of 50 households to participate in a study. If your household is chosen you will receive a free compost bin and free curbsided organics pick up for the rest of 2018. For more information and to sign up please visit www.princetonnj.gov.

Liz Lempert

Mayor

To the Editor:

Many thanks to the amazing PSE&G crew on Rosedale Road, Lawrence Township.

Today we needed to get our elderly mother out of her all-electric home, since there was no power following the storm on March 7, 2018. The volume of snow, closed roads, felled trees and power lines made it impossible to reach her. Hearing our dilemma, a group of PSE&G workers immediately offered their assistance. Within 20 minutes they guided our car into her driveway, careful to avoid the downed power lines, helped to shovel a path to her home, escorted her to our car, and made sure we navigated safely back onto the road.

All in a days work was their attitude, glad we could help. We are sure there are hundreds of stories like this one. We wanted to share this one with you.

Susan and Mark Gordon

Sergeant Street

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Arts Council of Princeton, I am writing to express my sincerest thanks to our friends at Nomad Pizza. On Wednesday, February 28, they generously hosted a fundraiser in their Princeton location to benefit our organization. Hundreds of friends and supporters in the Princeton community, and beyond, came out to enjoy their favorite hometown pizza and salads from Nomad. A special thank you to Lauren Sabogal, Stalin Bedon, Tom Grim and all of the staff at Nomad Pizza for coordinating and supporting this special event for the Arts Council of Princeton.

Taneshia Nash Laird

Executive Director

March 7, 2018

To the Editor:

Here we go again! PPS holds a hard sell meeting for “Innovative Educational” change in our schools and no parent challenges the validity or requires concrete evidence for the success of such changes!

My family fell victim to such “innovative change.” We lived in New York and by the time our children were in middle school, the halls were filled with screaming, running children. Ancient history was deemed “irrelevant.” Math became a joke. Students never read a decent book and they could barely spell their names. When parents asked for a comparison of SAT scores with past scores, the information suddenly wasn’t available. John Dewey’s theories have been around a long time and have proved rather unsuccessful.

As a senior citizen who is a graduate of Princeton Public Schools and who received a remarkable education and opportunities as a result, I hope the community will wake up to its responsibilities and demand concrete evidence for its futuristic innovative plans. A democracy cannot survive without an educated citizenry. Do not “dumb down” our children, their education, and their country.

Barbara Dollard

Elm Ridge Road

To the Editor:

Reading the coverage of the PPS’s proposal to transform our education system reminds me of a failed experiment in open classrooms which occurred in an adjacent school district when I was attending high school. The other school district built a new, open school building, which was touted as the latest and greatest in education. Ultimately, the building had to be re-designed and remodeled into a more sensible (and conventional) structure. The costs, both financial and educational, of this debacle were enormous.

The mantra of the proponents of the current proposal in Princeton seems to be that our current system is a relic from the beginning of the industrial era. Both of my sons graduated from Princeton High School and I spent considerable time at the school while they were students. I did not find any vestiges of the early industrial age. Instead, I saw caring, well-educated teachers, attractive and well maintained physical facilities, and a lively environment conducive to inquiry and learning.

Of course, educational systems need to change to meet the demands of a changing society. However, our school system had changed and adapted as necessary and can continue to do so without risking our children’s future on a repeat of a prior failed experiment.

Finally, I wonder if the funds being expended on presentations and consultants could be better used if they were spent on items relating directly to our students’ education — for example, teachers’ salaries.

Mary Ann Witalec Keyes

Franklin Avenue

To the Editor:

Recently, in pursuit of a belt for an ailing vacuum cleaner and some vacuum bags, we discovered that American Sew-Vac, a longtime Princeton icon, had disappeared from the Princeton Shopping Center without a trace. Standing there in puzzlement, we were approached by a total stranger, who informed us that the store had moved to somewhere in Pennington. We understand that the rent was raised beyond what the proprietors could afford. That’s right — like Jordan’s.

According to the shopping center’s website, the store is still there. In real life, it’s not. It now resides at 129 Route 31. Fortunately, they kept their old phone number, and we were able to track them down.

The store’s own website, as of this writing, does not reflect the move either — like the store, the website is somewhat old-fashioned and unsophisticated. But it’s a great store, invaluable if you own a sewing machine (or if you ever have occasion to thread a needle), and pretty darned handy if you own a vacuum cleaner.

At the time of the move, a sign was posted to tell customers of American Sew-Vac’s new location. The management of the shopping center would not permit the sign to remain in place. We can’t imagine why, since no one else is using the space yet. Leaving the sign up — or possibly, if it was deemed unsightly, replacing it with a better-looking one — would have been the neighborly thing to do.

The cozy usefulness of Princeton Shopping Center has been reduced. Yet again.

Eva Foster

Ewing Street

Sue Tillett

Moore Street

Carolyn Barnshaw

Terhune Road

To the Editor:

The unseasonably warm weather last week coupled with your 2018 Kids and Camps guide had me longing for the warm weather, outside exploration, and joys that come with summer. As a Princeton University undergraduate, I had the good fortune to become familiar with the Princeton-Blairstown Center (PBC) and to spend a summer working there. The kids who came to PBC then were kids who were from areas with fewer resources than where I grew up and whose opportunities were not always the same. I went there to work with and teach them, but I learned a lot in the process and became acutely aware of the lack of quality summer opportunities for these young people.

Fast forward a few decades, and I now serve on the Board of PBC, and I know first-hand that PBC is still making sure that students from under-served communities have opportunities for an enriching and positive summer experience. At the Princeton-Blairstown Center, we are working with young people to combat summer learning loss, the phenomenon where young people lose academic skills over the summer months. Each summer, 500 students — primarily from Trenton and Newark — come to our 264-acre campus in Blairstown, New Jersey for our week-long Summer Bridge Program, free of charge. They spend three hours a day engaged in hands-on literacy; science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); and project-based learning; an hour and a half in waterfront activities (swimming/canoeing/kayaking); and three hours a day working on their social-emotional skills through ropes and challenge course activities that focus on leadership, team-building, communication, and problem-solving skills.

Each student also gets to choose a book to take home with them, donated by many of PBC’s community partners including the Hun School, Princeton Friends School, Representative Andrew Zwicker’s office, and the Hamilton Township Library, to name a few. Research indicates that the best predictor of summer loss or gain is if a child reads during the summer.

All young people deserve opportunities for enriching and stimulating summer experiences so that they start the school year ready to learn and compete on an even playing field. For 110 years, the Princeton-Blairstown Center has been providing this opportunity to some of the most deserving young people in our community.

Chris Van Buren

Hun Road, Board Vice Chair 

Princeton-Blairstown Center

February 28, 2018

To the Editor:

Hurricane Maria is regarded as one of the worst natural disasters in history. Our musical friends in Puerto Rico suffered great loss, so we relied on the uplifting effects of music in order to help. Along with our community, we were able to sponsor six music students, two chaperones, and their director, David Rivera, from the Escuela Libre de Musica Ernesto Ramos Antonini (ELMERA). The ELMERA Jazz Ensemble students were able to spend a week in Princeton and then travel to Boston to compete in the 50th Annual Berklee Jazz Festival. We called this the Puerto Rico Project.

From February 2 thru February 13, the ELMERA Jazz Ensemble students got to experience student life in Princeton, performing with their PHS counterparts and eating their way through town. The highlight of their trip was the Berklee competition, where the ELMERA Jazz Ensemble won first place in the small ensemble category.

The PR Project concluded with the students packing nine duffel bags filled with donated supplies and equipment that they took take back home. The donations empowered the students to be ambassadors of change in their own communities.

We would like to thank the following people for supporting the PR Project: PHS music department, Pat Lenihan; PHS Principals, Angela Siso, Ben Stentz, Jane Sanchez, and Diego Negro with Princeton University; Mimi Ominski with Princeton Tour Company; Salina Paria with United Airlines; Quilts for Kids; Dr. Elaine Torres; the Board of Education, and Superintendent Cochrane. We also want to thank the following local companies for their hospitality: Despaña, Hoagie Haven, and Small World Coffee. Our heartfelt thanks to the Princeton Public Schools and the larger Princeton community for sharing in this inspiring musical experience.

A final thank you to Joe Bongiovi for leading us on this collaborative musical journey.

Debbie Bronfeld

Dodds Lane, parent member of PHS Band Program

 

To the Editor:

I read with great interest the recent letter in Town Topics on the Board of Ed Facilities Referendum authored by Sheila Siderman of Princeton. Her overall assessment that “it is actually a vote on major changes to our educational system “ is right on point. PLUS, the PPS Board plans to embed their envisioned educational system firmly into the facilities to be constructed incident to the referendum’s approval. Their initial justification for the facilities as critically needed to meet enrollment growth has become a Trojan Horse for seminal changes in the local education system now being advanced.

These concerns are compounded by questions regarding the enrollment growth projections themselves and the available measures to control or even reduce growth, including the related costs to accommodate. The best example is the Cranbury High School sending district’s underfunding of PPS tuition costs by over $1 million each year, plus not being required to contribute to bond issues for renovations or expansion.

I have been involved in job-related education, training, scholarships, and internships in New Jersey since the 80s and with both public and private education Boards and Commissions since first elected to the PPS Board in the early 90s. There were many intervening turbulent times both programmatically and funding-wise. In my view, the soaring, out-of-control costs and other issues related to PPS and other educational institutions in Princeton will be a top voter interest issue in 2018. It’s the most troubling period I’ve observed in 30 years.

John Clearwater,

Governors Lane

February 21, 2018

To the Editor:

The Princeton Board of Education Facilities Referendum is actually a vote on open plan buildings that drastically changes how students will be taught. The changes will especially affect students with learning issues, psychiatric problems, and with attention deficit disorder.

I am a child and adolescent psychiatrist and have done evaluations of children in the West Windsor/Plainsboro school district where they had a school with open classrooms. It was a disaster!! Even I could not concentrate to evaluate the children for their issues. Their newer high school has closed classrooms.

In the past week, I spoke to staff and students. They said that open classrooms were extremely unpopular. It was very difficult for most students and teachers to hear and focus. There was enough clamoring that they put up walls wherever they could. One example: A math teacher had a great deal of difficulty holding her students’ attention, especially while the health teacher nearby was teaching sex education.

When our three children attended schools in Princeton, I attended school board meetings regularly. I was often upset by the process by which decisions were made without appropriate professional oversight. Too often, the taxpayers paid for projects poorly planned and administered.

I recommend that the Princeton Board of Education reconsider their plan to create a new classroom environment for our students, which is likely to have negative results.

I am also concerned that more people will move out of Princeton as our property taxes increase yet again.

Dr. Naomi Vilko

White Oak Drive

To the Editor:

Is it true that Princeton is going to experiment with open classrooms again? Good! More students will have the same opportunity that I was given, when open classrooms were first implemented in the early 70s. I was in fifth grade then at Witherspoon School, and my parents were alarmed at the prospect of my entering middle school where sixth, seventh, and eighth grades were going to be taught as a group, with no age divisions. With six kids at home, my parents relied on the public school system, and for the most part it served us well. However, I remember clearly the day my parents sat me down and told me they were going to take me out of public school and enroll me at Stuart. They explained that I would be there for three years, after which I would return to the public school system for high school. I distinctly remember them saying that they didn’t want me to lose three years of my education, and this was the only way they could ensure that my education would continue on track.

Those three years at Stuart were the best three years of my young life, and I am grateful that my parents had the wisdom and foresight to send me there. Of course they would never have done it if the Princeton School Board had not attempted this (failed) experiment with open classrooms, so ultimately I owe my Stuart experience to the School Board at that time.

Yes, I did complete three years at Stuart, and when I entered Princeton High I was academically advanced — so much so that they ran out of classes for me in my favorite subject and had to enroll me at Princeton University as a non-matriculated student. I was a good student before Stuart, and an excellent student afterwards. Not only did Stuart catapult me academically beyond my peers, but also it taught me that I could achieve anything I wanted in life, and that being a girl was irrelevant to my life choices. That was a pretty bold message in 1970, just one year after Princeton University first accepted female students. Stuart was way ahead of its time then, and continues to educate and inspire girls from pre-K through 12 to catapult past their peers. Registration for their Lead Like A Girl conference “sold out” within 24 hours, with 1,100 attendees and a waiting list of 400 more.

I’m all in favor of open classrooms in the Princeton Public Schools. It was the reason why I had the great privilege of attending Stuart for those three years, and that experience transformed me as a person, as a girl, and as a woman. I have no doubt that implementing the open classroom experiment again will give many more young girls the opportunity to experience the finest education that this town has to offer — at Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart.

Barbara J. Clarke

Balcort Drive

To the Editor:

This is embarrassing.

The February 7 Police Blotter informed us that local police, while responding to a panhandling and shoplifting call, then arrested the 64-year-old for having outstanding warrants for several hundred dollars. Is there no compassion in this town?

1. There should be a fund to reimburse our town stores for food shoplifted by anyone who is obviously hungry and unable to make ends meet. We’ll make the first challenge grant contribution.

2. Our town’s police should not be directed to arrest people with non-local warrants for what obviously must be some who-knows-what minor offense(s). Law enforcement agents should focus on the well-being of our town and not spend time collecting trifling amounts of some other city’s budget from those who struggle to put food on the table.

Adding arrests onto warrants that were already overly burdensome just exacerbates what was not a pretty situation into something desperate. Families living in poverty can’t get out from under all the stuff that keeps piling on, and it seems like opportunistic profiteering to prey on those individuals who are already in such a tight spot.

That’s not what the Princeton community should be about.

Elizabeth Monroe, Alain Kornhauser

Cleveland Lane