August 8, 2018

Mr. Cochrane and Mr. Sullivan:

Last week we filed a complaint in Mercer County Superior Court which alleges that the Princeton Board of Education (BOE) violated the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) during a June 12 vote to renew the sending-receiving agreement (SRA) with Cranbury. In response, Superintendent Steve Cochrane characterized the lawsuit as “… less about democracy and more about disruption ….” and BOE President Patrick Sullivan called it a “frivolous lawsuit.”

If district officials are confident in their assertion that the June 12 BOE vote was conducted in compliance with the OPMA, then our complaint is at worst a minor inconvenience. However, if the June 12 or other recent BOE votes violated the OPMA by failing to clearly and publicly identify how each member of the BOE voted, one would hope this lapse in good governance would be of greater concern to Mr. Cochrane and Mr. Sullivan. The first sentence of the OPMA declares that “… secrecy in public affairs undermines the faith of the public in government ….”

The BOE decision to renew for 10 years the agreement by which approximately 280 Cranbury students attend Princeton High School (PHS) — 17 percent of the total enrollment — perpetuates the largest cause of overcrowding at PHS and hence the primary reason for expanding the school facility. The proposed work at PHS would cost taxpayers approximately $60,000,000; this includes long-overdue remedial work, but the primary cost is to expand capacity.

Mr. Sullivan contends that the SRA issue “was already extensively discussed and voted on in public. The discussion on the matter of Cranbury is over, period.” Many residents, including us, have observed neither a “discussion” of this issue, nor a dialogue. Instead, there has been an ongoing, one-sided marketing and promotional effort. While continuing to assert that “the SRA is a great deal for Princeton,” and that the cost to educate the Cranbury students is only 25 percent of the tuition paid by Cranbury, the BOE has consistently declined to provide written proof.

We agree with Mr. Cochrane that “there is a place for lawsuits and there is … a place for conversation.” However, compliance by public bodies with the OPMA is not contingent on the willingness of any private citizen to monitor and privately convey violations of such a foundational law. The rule of law is not upheld through the mechanism of private conversations. Rather, the OPMA specifically empowers members of the public to have this conversation in Court, so that violations can be properly and transparently addressed. Last year, members of the BOE, believing that the Board of the Princeton Charter School (PCS) had violated the OPMA at a PCS Board meeting, followed the law in filing a complaint in Court. They did not engage in private conversation prior to their action, nor should they expect this of others.

Whether or not the June 12 vote complied with the OPMA is now a matter to be decided by the Court — as should be the case in upholding a statute so fundamental to the transparent and accountable exercise of democratic good governance.

Corrine O’Hara, Joel Schwartz

Armour Road

To the Editor:

I urge Princeton residents to vote yes on both questions 1 and 2 for the public schools’ bond referendum. This referendum includes extremely important facilities improvements for all our schools. I understand how hard this additional tax increase can be, but the reality is that improvements to our schools cannot be put off and I believe would only become more expensive the longer we delay.

As a parent of both middle and elementary school children I have experienced the issues of overcrowding and facilities impact on education; having visited the high school I have seen that these issues only get worse there. All of the schools are overcrowded. All of the schools need serious fixes to the underlying HVAC systems. Children don’t get to go to all their classes in the winter due to the freezing temperatures in some rooms. And they get sick from other rooms being so warm teachers leave the windows open. Addressing space and facilities infrastructure are not small ticket items. Furthermore, the school board is taking a forward-thinking step in acquiring a property that is close to town and offers possible additional needed playing fields and future additional growth.

Any proposal this complex is challenging. I believe the BOE is addressing the totality of the situation in a comprehensive and unified way that will invest what we must in the infrastructure we need to continue to have the great schools we expect.

With regards to the tax increase specifically, the estimates presented show voting for both questions 1 and 2 would mean a $34.56 increase for every $100,000 in assessed value in 2020; up to $89.53 in 2022; then back down to $28.64 in 2023. Given how much we need to do for the infrastructure of our schools it is important to act now before the situation gets worse and the cost to resolve gets even higher. I hope you will join me in investing in our future and the heart of our community now.

Dana Molina

Laurel Road

To the Editor:

The arguments about the proposed $130 million construction bond for Princeton public schools are about two things, the cost to Princeton residents and the value of the investment return to students. Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber in his 2018 commencement address said: “the upfront cost of education is real, large, and very easy to measure. The returns are equally real and even larger, but accrue over a lifetime, are hard to measure, and vary from person to person. It is tempting to wish you could get more certainty at lower cost.” On the other hand the failure of public education was cited by Derek Bok, former Harvard president, in reply to a question about his book on the trouble in America.

From the cost point of view, New Jersey allocated more than $6 billion for school construction in the year 2000, primarily in poor school districts. Has all this been used up? Is there a measurable return on this investment? Maybe we need to compare district construction costs. Hamilton, with 24 schools and three times the number of students, last year approved a $56 million bond for construction, $22 million in credit coming from the state. Would it not be possible to reduce construction costs if the two districts worked together?

In terms of the return on investment, student progress is measured by tests and does vary from person to person. But that depends more on the input of the parent and teacher in time more than place of learning. There is data missing from the discussion that makes it difficult to justify such a large expenditure. Perhaps because it is based on the archaic method of funding schools with real estate taxes that always keep going up. We need to find out who really gets the lion’s share of the money and who benefits the most.

Louis Slee

Spruce Street

To the Editor:

I’m a parent of three children, two of whom are in the Princeton public schools and one who will be, and I’m writing in support of both the upcoming school bond referendum and the superintendent and School Board members who put our district’s ambitious plans together. Other letter writers have written persuasively about the conditions that create the need for this referendum: overcrowded buildings, a growing school-aged population, critical security improvements. What I’d like to focus on is not the need for these changes, but the process by which the Board developed its plan; the opportunity that we, as a community, have had to give input; and the choice that we, the voters, will face in the referendum.

Some recent letters have criticized the process by which the facilities plan was developed, arguing that residents had too few opportunities to weigh in before the final plan was announced, and that the proposal costs too much for too little in return. Others have argued that no improvements are needed: that the Princeton schools are doing just fine, or even if they’re not, our elected officials should be doing more with less.

I agree that involving voters in the development of such a plan is crucially important, and that our board members must continually strive for frugal solutions to district challenges. From what I’ve seen, the Board and Superintendent Cochrane have done just that. During the proposal’s development, they held countless information sessions seeking community input, and since the plan’s completion, they’ve conducted ample outreach to inform voters about its components. The recent decision to split the referendum in two is evidence of the Board’s commitment to keeping costs down while still achieving necessary improvements.

When I voted for our town’s Board members, I voted for individuals whom I believed would preserve and build on our schools’ excellence in a fiscally responsible manner. To me, this means more than husbanding our schools’ resources. It also means anticipating future needs, so that our schools will be positioned to improve upon their already distinguished record. Undoubtedly, each of us, on our own, would have prepared a slightly different proposal. But that’s not how collective decision making works. We, as a town, have pooled our resources to develop a plan; now we get to vote on it. If, on balance, we think the plan sets our schools on the right path, we vote yes. A no vote would scuttle the plan and send the district back to the drawing board, with all the time and expense that would entail: a profoundly dismaying outcome.

No one likes paying taxes. But no one likes living in a town with unsatisfactory schools, either. A school district in decline doesn’t only affect the children who fill its classrooms; it drags down property values and community morale along with it. A thriving school district, in contrast, boosts not only our community’s young people, but the vibrancy of Princeton as a whole. This fall, I will enthusiastically vote yes on the facilities referendum.

Jane Manners

Wheatsheaf Lane

To the Committee:

I am encouraged by your efforts to keep Princeton schools in good order. $129.6M is a big program.

1. What is the contingency amount in this cost figure at the present time? I will happily support such a program with proper contingency.

2. Who will administer this program to assure timely, cost-effective, and proper work?

3. What is the amount of administrative costs in the present estimate? I will happily support such a program with proper administration.

Without proper contingency and administrative considerations, I will not be a happy person in the polling booth!

Charles Bushnell

South Harrison Street 

August 1, 2018

To the Editor:

The property tax burden that will be imposed by the Board of Education proposal, despite the obfuscation by the BOE and the conflict-of-interest supporters, can only be accurately categorized as “massive.” There has been increasing public debate and opinion; however, the most serious questions and comments seem to be from those most seriously taxed, with no benefit to be derived, while the support is from those most immediately benefited, with or without tax consequences. 

As has been pointed out by Janet Wolinetz in her letter to the editor [Mailbox, July 25], as well as others, The BOE has been largely opaque on details of this proposal in the public fora.

These important questions have been largely ignored: 

What is the current ranking of our school system, educationally and per student costs, vis-à-vis past rankings? 

What are the educational goals of this proposal?

Where is the evidence that this proposal will achieve those goals?

What are the parameters that will be monitored to measure the success or failure to achieve those goals?

Who will have oversight of the execution of the projects envisioned?

What are the safeguards against cost and time overruns? 

Will this “upgrade” last any longer than the recent, costly renovation of the high school?

Anecdotal experiences aside, overcrowding, less than desirable facilities, understaffing, etc. are chronic problems in a system based on an antiquated and descriminatory method of financing education. “Baby Boomers” went through similar, and possibly worse (split sessions, unqualified teachers, lack of text books) yet school systems still managed to put a man on the moon and make our country the world’s leader in innovation and technology across the board of endeavors, which begs the questions — is it the school’s facilities or is it the students that determine scholastic achievement?

The tax-paying voters must have much more in-depth information on the proposed referendum as well as alternatives to it that may well serve the same objectives.  But first, we need to know those objectives and the BOE needs to understand that there is a bottom to the well of taxation and we are perilously close to it.  The federal tax law overall must also be considered since the increase in the municipal tax burden, should this referendum pass, will be at the expense of other spending, not for all Princetonians, not for the municipality nor the county, whose taxes are in addition to the school tax, but only for Princetonians who are property owners.  Is representation without taxation any less a tyranny than taxation without representation?

One final question. Princeton is a great community in which to live and learn, and for many reasons.  Our neighbor, the University, is one of those reasons, but it is also a significant beneficiary of all this community offers, including the school system to which it sends the children of its graduate students and professors. Where is this “neighbor” in the BOE proposal?

Marc Malberg

Autumn Hill Road

To the Editor:

Based on Paul Gorski’s Equity Literacy Framework, Princeton Public Schools (PPS) is at step one: recognizing bias. If heeded, these audit results provide the road map to navigate the four steps of equity literacy: recognize, respond, and redress biases and inequities, which culminate in creating and sustaining equitable classrooms, schools, and institutional cultures.


Princeton High School reflects the system as a whole which underscores the need for equity literacy district-wide.

Princeton Public Schools’ (PPS) equity mission statement exists, but is not understood. Comparatively, PPS’ mission statement on student well-being is common knowledge.

Despite strong academic outcomes, disparities persist among students in the following sub groups: special education, low socio-economic, and English language learners.

Current perception: disparities exist in discipline and academic expectations. Perception is powerful, creates reality, and therefore, demands attention.

More parents than students (especially students of color) express feelings of welcome and belonging.

Academic pressure and competition undermine equity. “Princeton is a small town with big people,” which creates barriers to relationships. Equitable education requires that influence be balanced among parents and guardians.

PPS’ curriculum and instruction is at the additive stage of equity literacy (adding a course here, a training there). Goal: transformation of PPS’ entire curriculum and instruction from within reflecting the gold standard of equity literacy.

Recommendations are clear and fourfold:

Focus on building community and relationships: “collective versus individual achievement.”

Build internal educational leadership capacity: respond to every incident of bias versus parental influence.

Build culturally responsive teaching practices and educational equity.

Recruit and retain a culturally diverse staff.

Achieving educational equity in PPS is not a sprint, but a marathon; there are no quick fixes. Courage and perseverance are required to name, confront, and dismantle institutional biases and inequities. PPS is commended for enlisting the knowledge and expertise of Marceline Dubose. Her team has created the roadmap for providing PPS students with an excellent and equitable education.

I whole-heartedly support PPS efforts on this marathon, thus far, and look forward to its continued progress toward sustained educational equity.

Mary Beth Charters

Leabrook Lane

To the Editor:

Make no mistake about it. Princeton has a crisis brewing.

First, over 20 homes priced at over $2 million, some way over $2 million, are for sale in Princeton and more are added daily to the sell lists. While there are many reasons for this, some experts are saying it is primarily because the new tax law limits property tax deductions to $10,000.  Many of these homes have been for sale for a long time and buyers are not lining up to pay $70,000 and more in property taxes. If multiple homes are sold at much lower prices, then the assessment tax bills for those homes will go down, putting more pressure on moderate and low income home owners’ taxes.

Second, everyone and particularly every educator understands that the high level of achievement in Princeton schools is a direct result of the overtly high level of parental involvement in education (a college town) and the high quality of teachers.  Very few other factors make a difference.

Third, no Princeton School Board and no superintendent has ever said “how can we make the schools better without hiring new staff or by building new facilities?” They never say “how can we be more creative with what we have?” They never say “can we cut administrators and use that money more responsibly?” They never ask “can we give our town a better education for the buck?” They always want more, they always hide behind the mantle of the need of providing a better education.

We vote for School Board members to be responsible guardians of our communities’ educational needs. They hire a superintendent to manage the system. Our citizens do not have unlimited funds to support our schools. Better management and thoughtful creativity is needed in a time of crisis, not throwing an additional $129 million on structures.

Stephen T. Schreiber

Prospect Avenue

To the Editor:

I attended the recent Princeton Zoning Board meeting where I watched the Board vote to allow yet another tear down in our town, this the second on my small cul-de-sac occupied by modest dwellings. The proposed replacement home is similar to the other tear-down/build-up on our  block. Actually, it’s almost identical save for the garage being on the left side of the home as opposed to the right. I guess that’s what passes for innovation and unique style in Princeton these days. 

My neighbors and I attended the meeting and voiced our concerns. Some members of the Board were sympathetic but essentially said that their hands were tied and that the Council must change the ordinance if Princetonians want a different outcome. People need to take an active role in getting changes through the Council, we were told.

In preparing to attend tonight’s meeting, I did some googling around and came upon a New York Times article that made mention of Princeton’s efforts to grapple with the teardown issue. That article was from 2005. The reality is that plenty of citizens have voiced concerns to the Council over the years (and, yes, are doing so presently), but nothing gets done. 

While I find the situation to be frustrating in many ways, what really gets me is the municipality’s hypocrisy. Larger homes use more energy (yes, even with energy efficiency upgrades) and get filled with more stuff, stuff that has to be created and shipped before used. In other words, lots of energy use. And that’s to say nothing of the wastefulness of demolishing what are often perfectly fine structures, featuring perfectly adequate kitchen cabinets, built-in shelving, etc., etc. 

So, here’s my piece: Princeton, stop talking to me about composting my organics and recycling my trash and riding my bike and managing my yard waste until you’re willing to do something about the teardowns. Want to take a stand on climate change? Let’s deal with the elephant on the block. 

Patricia Berhau

Morgan Place

To the Editor:

Based on our recent greenhouse gas inventory, we know that transportation sources are responsible for 32.27 percent of Princeton’s greenhouse gas emissions. With this knowledge, we greatly applaud the Princeton Bike Advisory Committee’s recent Beta Bike Lane and its impact on creating a safe riding artery to the downtown district. It was inspiring to take part in this collaborative effort and it demonstrated what we can do as a community when we come together to make Princeton a better place to live and work. We fully encourage the Princeton Council to move forward towards creating a permanent bike lane.

With the majority of Princeton residences within 2.5 miles to downtown, a reasonable distance for bike riding, we have a great opportunity to reduce our environmental impact by leaving vehicles at home for in-town travel.

In addition to reducing emissions, commuting by bike has numerous health benefits as it provides built-in daily exercise that burns calories, improves cardiovascular fitness, lowers blood pressure, and builds muscle.

It is critical that Princeton evolve with the times. Making Princeton a more walkable, bikeable town will attract new residents and visitors, particularly car-weary younger generations. We must, as a community, support the environmental, health, and cost benefits of creating safe lanes for biking.

Climate change is a problem to which are all contributing and our daily choices impact the footprint we are leaving.

Molly Jones and Christine Symington

Sustainable Princeton

To the Editor:

I write as someone who has just been defined as a member of an “older crowd,” yet I still have a son going into eighth grade in the Princeton school system.  I have lived in Princeton for 41 years, and raised a daughter who also attended public school here. From my own experiences and what I have observed or heard from family over the years is that quality of education has little to do with facilities but mostly to do with teachers and to some degree size of classes. Money could be better spent, and far less of it, hiring more good teachers and not “improving facilities,” buying or building for cafeterias, administrators, recreation, maintenance, and transportation.

Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann

Mercer Street

July 25, 2018

To the Editor:

I am puzzled.

Over the past few months numerous letters have been published pro and con about the school construction referendum. However, there has been little information sent by the Board of Education to homeowners or advertisements about open public discussions of the issue.

This is an important and expensive project that requires a greater understanding of pros and cons. Not for the few but for the many.

How much better it would be if the referendum was scheduled on the General Election Day. Turnout would be higher and taxpayers would save additional costs.

Janet Wolinetz

Bainbridge Street

To the Editor:

Unsurprisingly, there appear to be two basic factions that have formed in regards to the school referendum issue. Those in favor are a decidedly younger set, presently raising children. And those against are a generally older crowd, invariably without children. The reasons for these positions are obvious and understandable. The former want nothing but the very best for their offspring and their hopeful future. The latter are seriously worried about their own future and their ability to hold on to their homes.

As the oldest of eight children, I understand the outlook of the former. Now, being older, and never having had any children of my own, I am decidedly with the latter faction. My wife grew up in the house that we own and live in, and she wants to spend her remaining days here. She and I are gravely concerned about any further increase to our already astronomical property taxes, which we are very hard-pressed to pay as they are now. Since we both free-lance (a musician and a historian respectively), you can guess what sorts of resources we have to rely on (the dwindling, shrinking kind).

Something which would certainly help the referendum pass would be to institute an allowance or dispensation for those without children (especially those who have never had children), or maybe property taxes based on a small percentage of the actual income of the childless home owner. In a time when people are struggling to hold on to what they have (their homes, their dignity, their health) is it really fair to force those without children to pay for very high-end school improvements and renovations, when they, in turn, are forced to defer crucial expenses, or even urgent medical issues, in their own lives?

Consider for a moment if the referendum included basic healthcare coverage, especially for the childless homeowners that are going to be forced to pay for these upgrades. (Bear in mind that in Europe everyone has both free medical care and free schooling through college.) Not really that unreasonable if you consider what is being asked (or more to point, what will be mandatory — that is, finding the extra funds to be able to remain in one’s home — if the referendum passes).

Let those who have children choose to pay for the very best while not unduly burdening those who are childless and already struggling financially. Institute an allowance or dispensation for them and you’ll pass your referendum.

Bruce Lawton

Hawthorne Avenue

To the Editor:

I am writing this letter to ask the Princeton community to join me in supporting the upcoming school facilities referendum. My family moved to Princeton 15 years ago, in part due to the wonderful reputation of the schools. A product of public schools myself, it was important to me to raise my kids in a community that values public education.

I consider my four kids lucky to be able to attend the fine schools that Princeton has to offer. At the same time, I am embarrassed by the appalling conditions at Princeton High School. 

For those of you who think the district’s plan is extravagant and unnecessary, please open your eyes to the reality that our high school children face on a daily basis.

• Lunch for over half of the students is typically picnic style on the hallway floors due to an undersized cafeteria and lack of other common spaces where eating at a table might be an option. 

• Exams in the old gym entail 80-90 degree indoor temperatures due to lack of air conditioning, with children falling ill due to heat and hospitalized due to mold. Imagine taking critical exams in these conditions. 

• Brown liquid oozing from the ceiling of your classroom into a bucket that remains on the floor for months.

• Classes filled to the point where there are not enough desks for the enrolled students, with some having to perch on the ledges by the windows or on the radiators.

• Crowded hallways packed with students keeping you and your teacher from getting from one part of the building to another in time for the bell.

If you choose to dismiss this as an exaggeration, I invite you to take the time to visit the school yourself.

Improving high school facilities is not an option in my opinion. Voting “yes” to both referendum questions is imperative. We must do what is right for the wellness of our kids. Great towns build great schools. Princeton High School will not continue to be great without improved facilities.

Julie Ramirez

Stone Cliff Road

To the Editor: 

The PPS Referendum is the Tip of the Iceberg. The PPS BOE has not estimated the impact of the $130 Million Referendum on our real taxes.

The PPS Operating Budget (OB) is $100 million, increasing by 2 percent to 3.9 percent annually. A new 5/6 school will add “about $2.5 million for personnel,” said Superintendent Cochrane. It will have operating/maintenance costs similar to JW, let’s say $1 million total $3.5 million. Moving 520 5th and 6th graders to a 5/6 school requires new bus routes; plus $500,000 for transportation, total $4 million. Unknown energy and maintenance changes at all schools, add $1 million (you have to budget), total $5 million. This does not even consider the costs associated with the new admin buildings, turf fields, and sports facilities, $2 million? $4 million, Total $7-9 million.

Assume a $6 million annual referendum payment incurs a $700/yr tax increase on the “average” home. A $9 million annual Operating Budget increase imposes another $1,000 increase, for a total of $1,700/year, the first year.

An increase of $9 million to the Operating Budget; nearly 10 percent the first year, but it will be 13.5 percent above current budget the second year, 18 percent higher the third year, and 22 percent higher the fourth year. Splitting the referendum doesn’t change this fact.

I ask the PPS BOE to estimate the impact of the $130 Million Referendum on the PPS Operating Budget for five years to reveal the iceberg.

If you rent in Princeton, your rent will increase. Rents of $2,000-$4,000 will increase $100-$200/mo. Low income and fixed income residents will be forced to leave town.

Charlotte O’Connell

Patton Avenue

To the Editor:

As a former graduate student of Princeton University and a frequent swimmer in Dillon Gym, I too wish to add a few words to Anne Levin’s article on the same subject [Town Topics, June 20, page one]. My thoughts parallel additional Letters to the Editor. Of those, perhaps that of Brian Philippi follows mine most closely.

For the next months until January 1, as I join swimmers whom I’ve known for the past 20 years while swimming in Dillon Pool, I will be ashamed to admit that I am one of the privileged to continue benefiting from services open only to those members of the public previously associated with the University.

Using “overcrowding” as a cardinal reason for denying other local residents is at best ridiculous. But it does happen, every summer, when children of various ages join camps to enjoy and crowd the shallow end of the pool. Isn’t that what Princeton University is about? The community’s best friend and neighbor? There is no difference between these young paying customers and the long-term senior pool users. Will the University also cancel these and other important services to the residents, as our taxes increase to sustain the community, fully cognizant of the institution’s available funding.

As suggested by previous contributors to the paper, at the very least the University should allow all grandfathered members to continue their membership until such time that the directors sitting in their lofty towers can figure out how to embrace our community in the way it deserves.


Cedar Lane

To the Editor:

Morven Museum & Garden was delighted to once again be the favorite Fourth of July afternoon entertainment for so many of our local friends and families at our annual Jubilee. Thank you to the 2,000 friends and neighbors who joined us on this special day at the home of Richard Stockton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, with traditional favorite activities returning including varied colonial re-enactors, George Washington’s presentation as depicted by William Agress, signing of the Declaration of Independence, and bluegrass music on the porch by Ocean Country Band.

A few features debuted this year: reenactment of Morven’s own Annis Boudinot Stockton by Princeton teacher Alisa Dupuy; an interactive chalkboard wall art “Liberty is…” which had many thinking and exploring this ageless topic; a children’s parade to the “Happy Birthday, America”; and cakes generously donated by McCaffrey’s.

Unfortunately, Tico’s Juices was unable to attend, as advertised, due to mechanical troubles and our advertised blacksmith reenactor had health issues preventing his appearance. We apologize to anyone who was disappointed not to enjoy these two participants and wish good health to the blacksmith.

Plans are already underway to create another memorable Fourth of July Jubilee. In two short months, Morven reopens its first floor galleries to present “Morven: A Window Into America’s Past.” We look forward to greeting our friends and families, again, during the very exciting weekend of September 6 through 9.

Jill Barry

Executive Director

The Coalition for Peace Action will hold a Hiroshima/Nagasaki Commemoration on Sunday, August 5 at Hinds Plaza outside Princeton Public Library. A bring-your-own picnic is at 6 p.m., followed by a program at 7 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public. Guests will hear from Alex Wellerstein, a historian of nuclear weapons from Stevens Institute of Technology. David Steinberg, who was nominated for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, will read poetry. There will also be a performance by the Solidarity Singers. more

July 18, 2018

To the Editor:

I read with interest your article concerning maple trees planted many years ago bordering Ms. Chernaya’s property and that of RB Homes on Hawthorne Avenue [“Threat to Trees on Hawthorne Avenue Is Finally Addressed,” July 4, page one].

I agree that we should do all we can to protect and take care of our beautiful old trees. For that same reason, thoughtful and responsible homeowners these days should be careful when planting trees on their property borders, that they think of their neighbors and not plant trees with aggressive root systems that could damage property foundations, driveways, etc., and take care of their trees to prevent any such damage.

Alma Williams

Wheatsheaf Lane

To the Editor:

I voted for the previous $80 million school referendum since it was the right thing to do in providing needed capital improvements for the future. Now, 14 years later, we are being asked for an additional $130 million for some needed improvements, but others that are questionable.

As a project manager for the construction of seven schools at the NJ School Development Authority, I noted wasted expenditures as architects strove to create state-of-the-art schools at our expense. Without adequate input from teachers, parents, students, and the community, design follows an architect’s assumptions. Architects are not educators. The proposed referendum needs more review from the Princeton community that will be responsible for a 30-year tax obligation for Princeton students and Cranbury students.

We need to approve priorities like security, AC, and the crowded conditions that exist now. But the wish list for $130 million needs further review of numerous BOE (Board of Education) assumptions, such as student growth projections. Town Council has submitted an Affordable Housing Plan to meet the requirement of 472 apartments by proposing that developers construct an additional 1,888 market rate homes or apartments, resulting in extraordinary future student growth and perhaps another school bond issue in coming years. This is the equivalent of nearly nine AvalonBay developments, regardless of how they are spread throughout Princeton.

The last referendum improvements to the high school resulted in lawsuits and compromised settlements that did not cover the total costs, with construction and design deficiencies that exist to this day. Let’s not rush into a $130 million concept that needs community and educator input.

Vote for a sensible plan that addresses needed improvements, not a plan that exceeds those of similar school districts by 300 percent.

Peter Madison

Snowden Lane

To the Editor:

The Board of Education should schedule the school construction referendum for Election Day, to be sure that the greatest possible number of citizens will participate in the voting. It would be unseemly to do otherwise. This issue is of great consequence to our town, so the fullest exercise of our democracy takes precedence. It’s the right civics lesson for our children, too!

Ronald Berlin

Jefferson Road

To the Editor:

Summer is the most unequal time in America!

Research tells us that ALL students lose ground over the summer months when they are not in school. While middle- and upper-income families can access top-notch enrichment programs, low-income families have few if any equivalent opportunities. So many of the resources available to them during the school year come to an abrupt halt during the summer months.

Thursday, July 12 was National Summer Learning Day, a national advocacy day for keeping kids safe, healthy, and learning every summer. According to the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), the achievement gap between children from high- vs. low-income families is roughly 30-40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born 25 years earlier. This “summer slide” is what frequently happens to low-income children during the summer months, putting them further behind higher-income children who have access to summer learning programs.

At the Princeton-Blairstown Center, we have worked to combat summer learning loss for 110 years. Each summer, 600 students, primarily from Trenton and Newark, travel to our 264-acre campus in Blairstown, New Jersey for our award-winning, week-long Summer Bridge Program. This academic enrichment and leadership development program is provided free of charge. Middle and high school students spend three hours a day engaged in hands-on literacy, STEM, and project-based learning; an hour and a half in waterfront activities such as swimming, canoeing, and 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. At the end of the week, students make a final presentation to their peers and select a new or gently used book during our book fair to take home to ensure the learning continues back home. This year, we are proud to say our Summer Bridge Program is a finalist for the NSLA’s Excellence in Learning Award.

In honor of National Summer Learning Day, I urge everyone in our community to support evidence-based, high-quality summer programs like ours to reduce the summer learning loss for young people from low-income communities and help ensure they have an equal opportunity when they return to school in September.

Pam Gregory

President and CEO, Princeton-Blairstown Center

To the Editor:

As expressed in last week’s Mailbox by Brian Philippi and elsewhere by other community members, I am writing to voice my shared disappointment with the University’s abrupt and unnecessary kicking out of the many, long-time community members of Dillon Gym. Those members have long (for decades) used the gym for their fitness and health. To suddenly have it closed to them seems excessive and cold-hearted. And the reason given, overcrowding, has been noted by community members as disingenuous, if not an outright lie. 

We hope that the University will re-consider and re-instate access to the gym. Consultation and re-scheduling access rather than summarily cancelling would be the responsible approach. That the University has acted in the manner that it has is frankly a shock. (Albeit in a time of such shocks.)

H. K. Fairman, Jr.

Mount Lucas Road

To the Editor:

I am [Princeton Bicycle Advisory Committee member] Dan Rappoport’s “daughter” and we have been inseparable for 27 years: whether my bicycle frame was made by Trek; or after a crack was discovered, by Cannondale. To say “we have seen it all” on the roads of this country is putting it mildly. We have traveled through all levels of stressful conditions. The condition that produces the least stress is pavement that “is as smooth as a baby’s bottom” with a protected bike lane. Beggars can’t be choosers; so we will accept a bike lane with filled-in pot holes.

When we ride in a bike lane such as was experimented with in May on Wiggins Street/Hamilton Avenue, we do not need to fear vehicles moving into our lane. They can still cut us off at corners with no warning; but our place on the road is marked clearly. This also serves to lower vehicle speed. We are much more inclined to use the roadway rather than the sidewalk. There still remains no good way to escape road hazards but the law says we must ride “as far to the right AS PRACTICAL.”

Currently; the roadway has sharrows. This does not reduce the level of stress for me or make me feel safer than if the sharrows disappeared. I would support signs that say “Bikes may use full lane” as I have seen with my front wheel in Bordentown. That is still not as good a solution as a permanent bike lane. Those signs cause drivers to be caught off-guard.

Even though I don’t talk out loud and usually don’t make noise, I know that some of you are upset with the administration because your parking spaces were taken temporarily. I understand that you travel more than five miles to get to your jobs so biking to work doesn’t work. Hopefully, the administration can reach a deal with the Municipal Garage to give all of the gas-burners affected reduced parking rates. The man steering me and I both know how much safer it is for all users to have permanent bike lanes: small truck drivers, car drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Accidents and deaths will be reduced significantly. We wheely [sic] need to make bike lanes as much a part of the infrastructure as practical for everyone’s sake.

Please come to the town Council meeting on July 23 to show your support for the introduction of an ordinance to make these bike lanes permanent on Wiggins Street/Hamilton Avenue.

Julie Rosenthal

Daughter of Dan Rappoport, Copperwood

To the Editor:

I would add now only these points to the letter below: 1) renters pay property taxes in the form of increased rents charged them by their property-owning, tax-liable landlords; 2) the bond referendum, whether split or not, should be postponed until the November Election Day, to allow the School Board sufficient time to assemble necessary financial-impact information and to present this material in a comprehensive way to a voting public that cannot be expected to vote in ignorance on matters of great import to their financial lives.


To Steven Cochrane and Members of the Princeton School Board:

I am terrified about the tax consequences of this bond ordinance (if passed) upon each and every segment of the Princeton population.

Has the Board conducted a tax analysis of the consequences of this debt upon the major income brackets of our population? If not, why not?

You should all realize that presenting figures concerning an ”average” rise in taxes is not sufficient. We all need a breakdown of consequences for every income “group”:

1) Those earning above/below X-$$$,

2) in each of which years?

Dollar-estimates you have presented so far are based only on value of homes owned. This is nuts: not everyone in Princeton owns a home whose average value is $857,000.

Princeton is committed to “diversity” and “inclusiveness” for the entire community. Will the passing of this bond issue jeopardize the lives of some who already live here? Is that social price too high to be worth paying if it results in the drain from Princeton of some of our population who are most vulnerable (and still in need of tax relief after the devastations of the 2010 re-assessment)?

You are all obligated to present the true numbers before this school bond initiative can be considered by the public.

Thank you for your immediate assistance. I cannot personally vote for this bond issue until I know its impact upon Princetonians across the financial spectrum.

Daniel A. Harris

Dodds Lane