June 4, 2014

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At its 267th Commencement Tuesday, Princeton University awarded degrees to 1,244 undergraduates in the Class of 2014, seven from other classes, and 996 graduate students. Christopher L. Eisgruber, who presided over the exercises in front of Nassau Hall, delivered his first Commencement address since being named president of the University last year.

Honorary doctoral degrees were conferred upon former U.S. secretary of state Madeline K. Albright; Fazle Hasan Abed, the founder and chair of BRAC (formerly the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee), the largest nongovernment development organization in the world; Herb Kelleher, the co-founder and retired chairman, president and CEO of Southwest Airlines; James McPherson, pre-eminent Civil War scholar and the George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of History, Emeritus, at Princeton; and James West, an inventor, engineer and educator who holds more than 250 patents and is a dedicated advocate for increasing diversity in the fields of science and technology.

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The following is Mr. Eisgruber’s address to the Class of 2014, “Life’s Journey and the Value of Learning”:

In a few minutes, all of you will march through FitzRandolph Gate as newly minted graduates of this University. Before you do so, however, it is my privilege, and my pleasure, to say a few words to you about the path that lies ahead. I do so knowing that, for many of you, this morning’s ceremony will quite literally take you down a path that you have never trod before. Campus mythology maintains that students who exit through Princeton’s big front gate before earning their degrees will not graduate with their class. This superstition is of relatively recent vintage. When I was a student here in the 1980s, my classmates and I strolled merrily through the gate in both directions, with nary a second thought, and without, so far as I can tell, any adverse consequences. Traditions germinate in surprising ways on this magical campus, and, when they take root, they quickly seem as old and venerable as Nassau Hall itself.

But whether you have honored the taboo of FitzRandolph Gate or bravely defied it, this morning’s steps will be something new, the start of an adventure into frontiers unknown. Today is a celebration of what you have achieved here, but it is also — as the name of these exercises would suggest — a “commencement,” the beginning of a journey that takes you beyond this campus. That journey promises to be a challenging one, and even the first strides can be hard, as you leave behind a place that has been the locus of special friendships and personal growth.

Perhaps you will find it reassuring that Princeton students have felt that way not just for years or decades but for centuries. For example, John Alexander of the Great Class of 1820 waxed nostalgic about “his jovial hours at Nassau Hall,” which he said he would always “consider [his] happiest.” Likewise, Thomas Wilson, who graduated with the Great Class of 1879, said that he found leaving campus “harder than I had feared.” He remarked that “a college man feels the first shock of [adjustment] at graduation. … Of a sudden he is a novice again, as green as in his first school year, studying a thing that seems to have no rules — at sea amid crosswinds, and a bit seasick.”

Indeed, young Thomas’s life story, though he graduated from Princeton 135 years ago, sounds remarkably modern. Tommy, as he preferred to be called, was not sure what to do with his life after graduation, so he went home to live with his parents. After that he went to law school and got a degree, but he failed miserably as a lawyer. He attracted no clients and he felt sick all the time. His doctor diagnosed “liver torpor.” His disappointed and impatient father offered a second opinion. Dad told Tommy that his only problem was his “mental liver,” and the cure was to “choose a path and commit to it.” (I see several fathers in the audience nodding their approval!)

So what did Tommy do? At this point, I should warn the parents of the graduating seniors in particular to brace themselves. Contrary to Dad’s advice, Tommy went back to graduate school and got yet another degree — this time, a doctorate in political science. Fortunately, that turned out to be a much better fit for his talents, and he made quite a success of himself.

Those of you with degrees in history — or who are experts in what we lovingly call “Princetoniana” — undoubtedly know just how successful Tommy became. Tommy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, University Trustee A. Scott Berg of the Great Princeton Class of 1971, who is seated behind me on stage today, tells us that after graduating from Princeton, Thomas Wilson stopped using his first name. He switched to his middle name, which he thought sounded more grown-up and dignified. His middle name was, of course, “Woodrow.” Scott Berg suggests that Woodrow Wilson ultimately became “the most influential figure of the 20th century.” Others have emphasized that Wilson’s character and policies had serious flaws. His legacy is both compromised and controversial. There is little doubt, however, that Wilson lived a life of leadership, service and consequence, despite — or, indeed, perhaps because of — the surprising twists and turns that his path took after he stepped away from this campus.

There is a lesson for us in this story — and, no, the lesson is not that all of you should start using your middle names (believe me, my own middle name is “Ludwig Maria”; maybe Wilson’s change would work for you, but it definitely won’t work for me!). Your path beyond Princeton, like Tommy Wilson’s path, is likely to take many twists and turns. Immediate success is rare. You have to start somewhere, of course, but it may take you some time to find the right place. That is OK. You have emerged from this University with a liberal arts degree that prepares you for the long term — that prepares you to adapt and to confront challenges and to seize opportunities that you may not now be able even to imagine. My colleagues and I could not possibly teach you everything you need to know for your path beyond Princeton. We have not even tried to do so. But we have tried to teach you how to learn what you need to know to travel that path and to flourish in the places that it takes you.

Indeed, the twists and turns in the path beyond FitzRandolph Gate are not only inevitable. They are to be relished. Twists and turns bring discovery, they demand new learning — and that is a good thing. Discovery and learning help to bring joy and meaning to human life. That is one of the themes I hear frequently when I speak with Princeton alumni. They talk to me about how important continuous learning has been in their own lives. You may be able to become very successful by doing the same thing over and over again, and doing it very well. But it is much less clear that you can be happy doing the same thing over and over again.

Your teachers — represented by my faculty colleagues on stage with me this morning — have tried during your time on this campus to share with you the joy of scholarship and discovery that is so thrilling to us. Indeed, at the heart of all great teaching is the desire to inspire a genuine love of learning. You could hear that passion in the citations that we read for the marvelous New Jersey high school teachers, and the distinguished Princeton faculty members, whom we honored on stage this morning. It is one of the surprising and delightful secrets that all of us who teach discover as we go into the classroom. Some part of teaching is about transmitting information, but a lot of it, a wonderful amount of it, is about inspiring students to learn.

Even those of us who teach spectacular students like you find ourselves using all sorts of tricks to get your attention and engage your imagination. We will use whatever it takes: provocative questions, fanciful stories, in-class experiments, free food, bad jokes, dramatic pauses, demonstrative gesticulation! (That last was an example of both “demonstrative gesticulation” and a “bad joke.”) Teaching is a remarkably personal act, and teaching well depends upon a remarkably personal relationship.

I am, for that reason, skeptical about some of the enthusiasm one hears for MOOCs — that is, for the “Massive Open Online Courses” that anyone can take on the Web. These courses have their uses. Used appropriately, they are good things. But it is easy to exaggerate their benefits and their power. I recently heard a reporter say that colleges, like newspapers, were likely to have their fundamental business model disrupted by online alternatives. Journalism, she said, relied upon a relationship between writer and reader, or between television reporters and viewers, in the same way that universities rely upon a relationship between teacher and student.

Now, perhaps online technology will turn out to be, as some have predicted, a tsunami that radically changes all of higher education. Who knows; predicting the future is hard. But I do know this. The reporter’s analogy is mistaken. There never was a personal relationship between reporters and their readers or viewers. Once upon a time, Americans welcomed Walter Cronkite into their homes and trusted him and maybe they felt that they knew him personally — but he did not know each of them. Think now about the teachers who have mattered most in your lives — the ones in kindergarten or high school or here at Princeton. Take a moment to picture them. I’ll wager this: They mattered in your lives not because they were famous, not (in other words) because everyone knew them, but because they took the time to know you. Teaching is, as I said earlier, a deeply personal act.

I hope that, as you walk through FitzRandolph Gate, you will do so with a deep appreciation for the power of teaching. I hope that you will become advocates for the kind of personal teaching that has made a difference in your own lives. That kind of teaching is not something you can get from a MOOC. It is not cheap. To provide it, we as a society will have to invest generously in our schools and in our universities. But as we know from Tommy Wilson’s story and your own stories, an investment in the personal art of teaching is one of the best investments that our society, or any society, can make.

I hope, too, that you will continue to experience the joy of creative scholarship in your own lives. The challenge won’t be finding the books, or the syllabi, or the lectures. If you want them, you can find them. Easily. The challenge will be to find within yourself what your teachers have given you in the past. You will need to sustain the will to learn — you will need, in other words, to find the inspiration to read, the time to think, and the provocation and the energy to break away from the daily routines that enable you to cope with the responsibilities of adult life. Honoring the value of learning is not always easy, but if you do, it will make your life’s journey more fulfilling. Your teachers on this campus have sought to kindle a deep and persistent love of learning within you, and, if you nurture that flame, its glow can illuminate your path and warm your soul as you journey beyond the FitzRandolph Gate.
Those of us on this stage — along with all of your teachers, coaches, deans and mentors at this University — wish you well as you begin that journey. We hope that as you go forth, you, like Tommy Wilson and generations of other Princetonians, will continue to consider this campus your home. We hope that you will return here for Reunions and for other occasions. And, finally, we hope that you will stay in touch with the teachers and the mentors who mattered to you. For teaching is, as I have said twice already, a deeply personal act, and you matter to us. So we send you our heartfelt congratulations, and we will watch your journeys with affection and with pride. We are thrilled that on this auspicious Commencement Day, you are now, and shall be forever into the future, Princeton University’s Great Class of 2014.

Congratulations and best wishes!

With Bernie Miller in the lead and only three votes separating Jo Butler and Sue Nemeth, Tuesday’s Democratic Primary for two available Princeton Council seats was too close to call. It will be decided only after 11 provisional ballots are reviewed by the Mercer County Board of Elections on Wednesday.

According to the unofficial numbers, Mr. Miller, an incumbent, earned 1,602 votes. Fellow incumbent Ms. Butler finished with 1,543, while Ms. Nemeth got 1,540. That total includes absentee ballots.

In the race for former Representative Rush Holt’s Congressional seat, Bonnie Watson Coleman won the most votes from Princeton, with 1,310. Andrew Zwicker earned 660, Linda Greenstein won 459, and Upendra Chivukula earned 288.

The two-year terms of Mr. Miller and Ms. Butler are set to expire at the end of this year. The seats to be decided in November are for three-year terms.

Mr. Miller, who is currently Council President, and Ms. Nemeth, who served on the former Township Committee before consolidation, ran a joint campaign in an effort to unseat Ms. Butler. The move, announced in January, had the official backing of Mayor Liz Lempert and Council members Lance Liverman and Heather Howard.

Disagreements and differences in style were the reasons for the joint campaign against Ms. Butler, known for her questioning of details and insistence on transparency. The three candidates presented their platforms at a meeting of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) in March, but none received enough votes to win official endorsement from the organization.

Ms. Butler, 61, was a member of Borough Council before consolidation. She served for two years before being elected to the current Council after consolidation. She works for the educational consulting firm Wickenden Associates.

Mr. Miller and Ms. Nemeth served together with Mayor Lempert and Mr. Liverman on Township Committee, where Ms. Nemeth was deputy mayor. Mr. Miller, 85, was a member of Township Committee for a decade, and has also served as Township mayor and deputy mayor. He was a captain in the U.S. Air Force and worked as a corporate business executive until his retirement in 1998.

Ms. Nemeth, 53, ran against Marie Corfield for Assembly in 2012 but lost. She was elected deputy mayor of Princeton Township in January 2011, but chose not to seek reelection to the governing body after consolidation. She has worked at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University for more than 20 years.

 

Thomas John Muza, 55, of Hightstown has been indicted on a charge of second degree theft. He is alleged to have embezzled more than $180,000 from Princeton University’s famed Triangle Club.

Mr. Muza served as accountant for the theatrical troupe from 1993 until his dismissal in May 2013, following the discovery of financial discrepancies and suspicious expenditures in the club’s financial records.

Mr. Muza was general manager of McCarter Theatre until he was suspended from his job last year on November 19. According to McCarter spokesperson Tim Shields (Town Topics December 4, 2013), Mr. Muza had worked for McCarter since 1990.

Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced the indictment by a state grand jury. It has been handed up to Superior Court Judge Pedro J. Jimenez Jr. in Mercer County. Mr. Muza will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment.

Between January 2008 and February 2013, Mr. Muza is alleged to have used his position as accountant for the Triangle Club to steal the funds. He received an annual salary from the club of $4,000 and was a signatory on the club’s bank account.

An investigation revealed that he allegedly stole nearly $90,000 by writing Triangle Club checks directly to himself and cashing them or depositing them into his personal bank account. It is alleged that he used the money primarily to pay his living expenses, including credit card debt, mortgage payments, and utility bills. In addition, he allegedly wrote Triangle Club checks totaling more than $95,000 to make direct payments on three personal credit cards and to an unauthorized third party.

He was charged last year, on November 27. The matter had been referred to the Division of Criminal Justice Division by the law firm that serves as counsel for the Triangle Club, and which conducted an initial investigation of the thefts. The Princeton University Police Department also provided assistance.

Deputy Attorney General Mark Kurzawa and Detective Benjamin Kukis conducted the investigation for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial and Computer Crimes Bureau and presented the case to the state grand jury. Detective James Lanzi handled the investigation for the University Police Department.

“Rather than acting as an honest steward and ensuring that funds were strictly used to carry on the Triangle Club’s grand entertainment tradition, Mr. Muza allegedly abused the trust placed in him and shamelessly treated the club’s bank account like his own,” said Mr. Hoffman.

“White collar crime can have a devastating impact on its victims, whether they are individuals or organizations,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We intend to ensure that Muza pays for his alleged crime and pays back the money stolen from this nonprofit organization.”

The Princeton Triangle Club, which was founded in 1891, has had a number of famous members through the years, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jimmy Stewart, José Ferrer, and Brooke Shields.

The second-degree theft charge carries a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000. The charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The press release announcing the indictment, noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free tip line 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to report corruption, financial crime, and other illegal activities. Additionally, the public can log on to the Division of Criminal Justice webpage at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing. All information received through the tip line or webpage will remain confidential.

Members of the Princeton Regional Education Association (PREA), the union representing local teachers, and the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education (BOE) met yesterday, June 3, to negotiate a new contract to replace the current contract that is due to expire at the end of this month.

Together with representatives of the 370-member PREA, President Joanne Ryan and Chair of Negotiations John J. Baxter, the negotiators are Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane, Assistant Superintendent Lewis Goldstein, Business Administrator Stephanie Kennedy, BOE Vice President Andrea Spalla, and BOE members Molly Chrein and Patrick Sullivan.

They are due for another bargaining session next Tuesday, June 10. Both parties hope that a settlement can be reached by June 30.

If past history is anything to go by, that might be overly optimistic. The 2011-2014 contract took almost a year to negotiate and was not finalized until well into 2012. According to the New Jersey School Boards Association, such negotiations typically last 11 months. In Princeton, negotiations began on April 10, shortly after Stephen Cochrane succeeded Judith A. Wilson as superintendent of Princeton Public Schools.

In response to email queries yesterday, June 3, Mr. Baxter said that in addition to the usual issues of salary and health benefits, the BOE is proposing expansions in teachers’ hours as what amounts to a pay freeze. “The BOE is currently proposing no increase in base salary, i.e., a salary freeze, for the next three years. This freeze also extends to all positions related to extra-curricular activities, e.g., athletic coaches and club advisors,” he said.

With respect to health benefits, Mr Baxter said that a major concern is teacher contributions to premiums for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years. “State mandated contributions, that commenced three years ago, will sunset for Princeton next year when we reach ‘Tier 4’ the highest contributions,” he explained. “The law provides that the issue of contributions then returns to the bargaining table. To date, the BOE has refused to negotiate this issue, insisting instead that the Tier 4 contribution rates continue indefinitely into the future.”

The PREA maintains that the School Board is misconstruing the current law regarding health benefit contributions by suggesting in the recent budget presentation that staff contributions to health benefits “will plateau” in 2014-15 and implying that such contributions will level off at a fixed rate.

“Not so,” said Mr. Baxter. “The law, which sunsets in June, provides that, following a year of paying Tier 4 rates, health benefit contributions become part of the parties’ collective negotiations.” After that, the amount of contributions is a negotiable item for future years of any contract, although it must be at least 1.5 percent of a teacher’s gross salary.

Schools Budget

Superintendent Steve Cochrane and Business Administrator/Board Secretary Stephanie Kennedy presented the 2014-15 schools budget at a public hearing on April 28. The Board adopted a budget of $86.9 million budget, up $1.7 million from last year. This year’s budget includes a school tax rate of $1.05 per $100 of assessed home value, up 3 cents from last year. The amount to be raised by taxation is $65.9 million, up $1.2 million from last year.

“The budget is always an important factor,” said Mr. Baxter. “In years such as this, when the BOE creates its budget prior to having a contract with the 370 members of the PREA, that cannot be allowed to be a fait accompli. In other words, the BOE cannot use the fact that it chose not to budget for a salary increase to dictate the terms of our contract for 2014-15. That is not negotiating.”

Cost saving measures outlined in the budget have “added to the feeling among PREA members that they are not respected,” said Mr. Baxter.

But, according to Mr. Sullivan, cost-saving measures enacted in order to balance the 2014-15 budget primarily affected items unrelated to PREA salaries and benefits. “The Board’s annual budget for the school district is limited by the state-mandated 2 percent cap on allowed annual increases. Salaries and benefits comprise the lion’s share (nearly 70 percent) of the Board’s budgets every year, and this year is no exception. So every provision of every contract to which the Board is a party, including its contracts with its employee associations, must fit within the Board’s approved 2014-15 budget and within the 2 percent cap in each year,” he said. “We are trying to collaborate with PREA to create structures that preserve coverage levels but that lower premiums, to our mutual benefit,” he said.

Teacher Demonstrations

Teachers protested the three-year pay freeze on May 27 with a march along Witherspoon Street before attending a public meeting of the School Board that evening in John Witherspoon Middle School. They also distributed flyers to parents as they dropped off their children outside Princeton’s public schools.

“The teachers certainly have a right to make their concerns known,” commented Mr. Sullivan. “The Board understands these concerns and has listened closely to the goals expressed by the PREA leadership in our negotiations. The Board’s proposals reflect our attempt to respond to and meet PREA’s stated goals, while keeping within our budget. We believe our proposals contain ‘wins’ for both sides, and we hope PREA will consider them seriously.”

The next meeting of the Board of Education will be Tuesday, June 17, at 8 p.m. at the Valley Road Administration Building.

After an agreement is reached, any new contract would take effect upon ratification by the parties’ respective memberships. Under state law, if a new contract is not finalized by July 1, the expired contract remains in effect until the new one is executed.

 

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The keynote speaker at Class Day, part of Princeton University’s 2014 Commencement exercises, was former Vice President Al Gore, shown here making his way to the podium on Cannon Green, behind Nassau Hall, on Monday morning. The Nobel-Prize-winning environmental activist and former presidential candidate urged students to take part in the struggle to stop global warming for the benefit of future generations. See page 9 for accompanying story. (Photo by Anne Levin)

 

May 28, 2014
PATRIOTIC PLANTINGS: Garden Club of Princeton members Mary Funsch and Kathy Enquist were hard at work recently beautifying Princeton’s historic War Memorial Park.

PATRIOTIC PLANTINGS: Garden Club of Princeton members Mary Funsch and Kathy Enquist were hard at work recently beautifying Princeton’s historic War Memorial Park.

A century ago, Princeton citizens began planning a small park as a tribute to residents of the town killed in combat during World War I. It took nine years for the memorial to take shape at the intersection of Mercer and Nassau streets, and it continues today as a tribute to those killed in ensuing wars. As it has been for decades, the park was a focus of Memorial Day activities this past weekend.

According to a history of the site compiled by Leigh Bartlett from the archives of the Garden Club of Princeton, the classical stone bench was designed by Harvey Wiley Corbett, a New York architect who was also a lecturer in the arts department at Princeton University. Mr. Corbett was inspired by ancient Greek examples.

The club, which is a founding member of The Garden Club of America, has been a key factor in the evolution of the site. Recently, the group created a landscaping plan for beds in front of the Memorial Bench. Knock-out roses and boxwood were planted along with annuals in red, white, and blue.

This was the first phase of the project, which was planned in coordination with the town. Mastroianni Landscaping donated the plants and labor, working along with members of the club. The second phase will include landscaping the area behind the bench, with installation anticipated in the coming year.

When the memorial was completed in 1925, Art and Archaeology magazine described it as “an exquisitely designed exedra, carefully proportioned to the little park. With its simple inscription, ‘Hold dear our sons and daughters who gave their lives for freedom in the World War,’ it very touchingly does its work of commemoration. It is a model of what a simple memorial should be.” Andrew Fleming West, first dean of the Princeton University Graduate School, wrote the inscription, according to Ms. Bartlett’s research.

The memorial was initiated by the Chamber of Commerce with public donations. The Garden Club and members of their families have been involved over the last century in planning, fundraising, designing, landscaping, planting, cleaning up, and maintaining the park.

Early contributors included such prominent names as Mrs. Moses Taylor Pyne, Allan Marquand, Bayard Stockton, Gerard Lambert, and Mrs. Thomas Jex Preston, Jr., the widow of President Grover Cleveland. Moses Taylor Pyne donated several properties and the Nassau Club contributed a small piece of ground.

The location was selected by a design committee. “Nine buildings in various states of disrepair were acquired and leveled,” according to Ms. Barlett’s history. The secretary of the committee focused on architectural improvement of street plans and traffic routing near the park. It was Sydney R. Taber, who wrote, “The Princeton War Memorial promises to be a distinct adornment to the Borough, in which the community will take a just pride, as well as a dignified, chaste, and fitting means of commemoration. It is therefore hoped that every citizen of Princeton will wish to have a share in this common expression of admiration and gratitude towards those who died in a great cause.”

 

Authors Amy Yates Wuelfing and Steven DiLodovico will discuss their book No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes, Sunday, June 1, at 3 p.m. in the Community Room at Princeton Public Library. The book is an oral history of legendary Trenton alternative music venue City Gardens where just about every significant alternative act of the ’80s and ’90s performed.

Joining the authors, who were regulars at the club that closed in 1994, will be library staffers Allison Santos, who bartended at City Gardens alongside Jon Stewart (who grew up in Lawrence), and Carlos Santos, the club’s legendary DJ.

Bands who appeared at City Gardens in its heyday include Nirvana, REM, Nine Inch Nails, The Dead Kennedys, The Ramones, and Faith No More. In addition to Jon Stewart, artists who spoke to the authors for the book include members of Black Flag, Violent Femmes, and Ministry.

Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing at the event.

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Guest artists and young musicians from Riverside, Littlebrook, and Princeton High Schools will entertain Wednesday, June 4 at an evening in support of Christine’s Hope for Kids, a charitable foundation based in Mercer County and established in the spirit of Christine Gianacaci, who died in a humanitarian effort to serve children in Haiti during the earthquakes.

Dinner and live jazz featuring pianist Steve Kramer will be on the program, which begins at 7 p.m. at Riverside School gymnasium. This event is for adults.

Donations are accepted in any amount and can be sent to Christine Hope for Kids, Bill Cirullo, principal, Riverside School, 58 Riverside Drive, Princeton, N.J. 08540. To reserve a place at the dinner, call (609) 806-4260 by Friday, May 30 or email bill_cirullo@princetonk12.org.

Littlebrook Elementary is one of six schools selected from 18 in New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania to win a competitive award from the regional arts-in-education program, Young Audiences (YA) of New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania .

The program is supported by the Princeton-based electricity company NRG Energy, Inc., which has donated $74,500 for this second annual NRG Energy Creatively Green Awards. The competitive awards aim to use art to educate school children and their families on issues relating to sustainability.

The award, which is worth up to $10,000, will allow the school to host a “Creatively Green Family Arts Festival” on Thursday, June 12.

YA project manager Jackie Knox is currently working with a team of teachers and parents at the school on Magnolia Lane in preparation for the festival.

So far, their plans are to have the school’s young artists create a windsock for a “Windy Day Parade;” record a video postcard for “Messages in Motion;” silkscreen hand towels; construct and play instruments for an “Amazing Junk Jam,” and bring their creativity to bear on cereal boxes.

With the help of high school art students, there will be activities inspired by the school’s garden, such as rain barrel painting and assembling small fencing units from recycled bamboo and other natural materials.

“Our Garden Manager Mrs. Hayes will have a 3D sculpture workshop and NRG is planning to bring an electric car to display for the students as well as a solar panel demonstration,” said School Principal Annie Kosek. “Sustainable Princeton will be joining us and there are a number of other community partners who have expressed interest and are working out the logistics of their workshop.”

The school was prompted to apply for the award during a meeting with Maureen Heffernan, director of arts and education at Young Audiences NJ. While discussing the school’s Family Arts and Creativity (FAC) program, they learned about the festival. The school has been a participant in the Family Arts program, an evening event open for third grade students and a parent, since 1998.

“The family arts program is designed to strengthen child-parent relationships, build parent-teacher partnerships, and enrich the school community,” said Ms. Kosek. “The notion of having a family arts festival, which was school-wide, seemed like an opportunity we simply could not pass up and the concept of being “green” ties in directly with our K-5 garden and science curriculum as well as our composting initiatives.”

This will be the first time the school will receive funding for an event that brings together art and recycling. Littlebrook has a tradition of bringing awareness of environmental issues into its classrooms.

According to art teacher Colleen Dell, the school-wide festival will draw upon a collection of recycled materials that have been gathered for use in art activities.

At Littlebrook, “every student has a hand in the planning, growing, harvesting, and general care of their school garden,” said Ms. Dell. “Our school has integrated garden activities into our student’s curriculum and is a member of TerraCycle as well as participants in the Green Schools Program, the Alliance To Save Energies, the Princeton Garden School Co-Op and Sustainable Princeton.”

Through Terracycle “brigades,” Littlebrook students collect all types and brands of reusable containers, plus lids and foil tops. The school receives money in return for mailing these items to Terracycle. The money supports programs such as Littlebrook’s Joe Fund, which provides need-based scholarships for extracurricular activities and summer camp opportunities to any Littlebrook student in need.

Ted Holsten, the ESL teacher and the school’s Terracycle coordinator, reports that in the past six years collections at the school have garnered $1,252 for the Joe Fund.

Items collected, as of February 2014, include: 21,801 energy bars wrappers; 19,834 drink pouches; 7,731 dairy tubs; 7,563 snack bags; 2,670 candy wrappers; 2,239 cookie wrappers; 1,199 toner cartridges; 602 lunch kits … and the list goes on.

In collaboration with Terracycle, the school has demonstrated ways in which small personal changes in habits can drastically impact the environment and community. Fifth graders have created public service announcements about the importance of TerraCycle collections. “The students learned iMovie on the ipad, did some research to plan their persuasive points and then churned out some very creative projects in science class with their science lab teacher, Mrs. Friend,” said Ms. Kosek,

Other award-winners are Albert M. Greenfield School in Philadelphia, Pa., Deerfield School in Mountainside, N.J., Kellman Brown Academy in Voorhees, N.J., Ocean City Intermediate School in Ocean City, N.J. and Zane North Elementary School in Collingswood, N.J.

Winning schools in the NRG Creatively Green Awards will receive a unique opportunity to host an engaging and dynamic community festival for parents, children, and teachers, and provide communities an opportunity to engage on multiple levels.

This will be the program’s second year of creating two-to-three hour family arts festivals focusing on the importance of protecting the environment with hands-on art making workshops that promote sustainability.

Last year, the festivals reached over 1,400 students, family members, and educators.

“We received many compelling applications from schools across New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania each demonstrating exciting ‘green’ initiatives and programs,” said Ms. Knox. “It was really encouraging for us to see so much interest in bringing sustainable education to students and families.”

“Young Audiences is always looking for strategic partners who believe, as we do, that the arts are a powerful tool for learning,” said Larry Capo, president and CEO of Young Audiences. “NRG has given us a great opportunity to link art-making with protecting our planet’s environment. Their funding is allowing Young Audiences to produce multiple family arts festivals that bring together children, parents, educators, and artists focusing on what each of us personally and collectively can do to preserve our planet.

To learn more, visit www.yanj-yaep.org. For more on NRG, visit: www.nrgenergy.com.

 

The death of Elizabeth Gray Erickson last week has inspired tributes from friends and colleagues who worked with her in the numerous charitable organizations she championed. The 46-year-old mother of three has been praised as a tireless advocate for community service and social change, on a local and international basis.

The body of Ms. Erickson, 46, was found last Thursday afternoon at the edge of a reservoir in the Spruce Run Recreation Area State Park in Clinton Township. She had been missing since early that morning. According to police reports, Ms. Erickson’s husband Jonathan Erickson last saw her at about 11 p.m. on Wednesday night. When he awoke at 5 a.m., she and her car were gone.

Mr. Erickson called police, telling them his wife had recently been suffering from insomnia and depression. A search was launched, and Ms. Erickson’s vehicle was located a few hours later in Spruce Run, blocking two lanes of traffic. Her body was found a few hours later.

“We don’t know why she left the car in that position,” said Larry Ragonese, press director for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, which is assisting in the investigation along with the New Jersey State Police and the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office. “There was no sign of any other persons with her. There is no indication of foul play, but it is being investigated.”

A candlelight vigil was held last Thursday night in Palmer Square to remember Ms. Erickson. A memorial service will be held Friday, June 6 at Nassau Presbyterian Church (see accompanying obituary).

Chosen as an honoree for the Princeton YWCA’s “Tribute to Women” in 2011, Ms. Erickson was the subject of a video detailing her many accomplishments. “She was involved in so many incredible organizations С Isles, Kidsbridge, Planned Parenthood, just to name a few,” said Judy Hutton, the YMCA’s chief executive officer. “What struck me, and the reason we honored Liz, was her motto, which was ‘You have to make change in the world, but start with yourself.’ She modeled that. She was a very laid back, caring, compassionate person, so well respected. She touched thousands of lives. I don’t even think she realized how many.”

Ms. Erickson was on the board of VolunteerConnect for nearly 10 years and was most recently an emeritus member. She was instrumental in redirecting the organization’s mission, a few years ago, to embrace skills-based volunteering. “It was really Liz’s forethought,” said Amy Klein, executive director. “She did the research along with another board member. It was a great example of how she wanted to find a way to support all the non-profits.”

Ms. Klein went on to describe Ms. Erickson as “very charity-driven, and all about the people. She wasn’t just talk. She was really hands-on. She was a warm, caring, lovely person. I suppose most people don’t speak ill of people after they have passed, but if you had asked me about Liz before this happened, I would have said the same thing. She was salt of the earth. She wanted to help other people. I’ll miss her wisdom, her leadership, and her guidance. Everybody is saying the same thing. There are just no words to do her justice.”

Another board on which Ms. Erickson served was at McCarter Theatre. “There are no easy words to convey the profound grief and sorrow that so many people feel at this time. The McCarter board and staff are stunned and devastated by the news of her passing,” wrote Brian McDonald, president of the theater’s Board of Trustees, in an email. “I was with some fellow trustees and senior staff members at the theater on Thursday in a meeting that Liz normally attended. When we learned the tragic news of her death, tears flowed and continue to flow.”

Mr. McDonald went on to describe Ms. Erickson as “a truly exceptional individual, trustee, and friend. Her past board experience, extensive knowledge of other non-profit organizations and her passion for the arts made her an ideal trustee …. Implicit in her life of service was the belief that by working together, we can make our communities, large and small, better.”

Speaking by phone, Mr. McDonald added, “Liz was a friend in addition to a colleague. So this is really, really hard.”

Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert also counted Ms. Erickson as a friend. “Last week Princeton lost one of our very best people in Liz Erickson,” she wrote in an email. “Liz was an exceptional person — smart, generous, funny, and totally down to earth. She made a difference in the lives of hundreds of people, including my own. I am grateful for our friendship, and join the rest of the huge community of people who loved her in mourning her passing.”

Among the tributes to Ms. Erickson on Facebook is one from Marty Johnson, founder, president, and chief executive officer of Isles, the non-profit community development organization based in Trenton. “We are saddened by the tragic passing of Liz Erickson, a friend and former trustee of Isles,” he wrote. “Liz was smart, optimistic, energetic, and always wanting to think big. She was always willing to roll up her sleeves and if you wanted to get work done, you wanted her on your side. We mourn and give thanks for her support, friendship, and wisdom that greatly impacted our work and lives. She will be deeply missed.”

 

No more wage theft! That was the message of some 20 placard-carrying demonstrators who gathered in front of Cheeburger Cheeburger on Nassau Street last week.

The demonstrators, many of whom were Princeton University students and staff, showed their support for Irma Munoz de Gonzalez, a former employee of Cheeburger Cheeburger’s Lawrenceville branch.

In a lawsuit pending in the federal district court in Trenton, Ms. Munoz alleges she was not paid the legally-required overtime rate of pay for work over 40 hours per week.

“Wage theft is a significant problem for the Latino community, which is frequently victimized by employers in the Princeton area, especially restaurants and landscape businesses,” said attorney Roger Martindell, who is representing Ms. Munoz.

Mr. Martindell said in a press release that the demonstration was intended to educate consumers to harmful labor practices, especially wage theft, at stores where they shop.

Additional demonstrations against Princeton-area wage theft are planned for the near future, he said.

According to Mr. Martindell, wage theft is “fairly prevalent” in Princeton and is both a criminal and a civil offense.

Ms. Munoz worked for the Cheeburger Cheeburger franchise for about a year in the Lawrence and Hamilton stores. She came forward with her complaint after she terminated her employment in July of 2013 and the suit was filed in November of last year.

Ms. Munoz was not employed at the Princeton eatery. The Princeton, Hamilton, and Lawrence restaurants are owned by the same franchisee of the national Cheeburger Cheeburger chain.

“What’s interesting here is that an individual employee can sue not only on behalf of himself or herself but also on behalf of similarly situated employees even if those employees do not come forward and make a complaint on their own behalf,” said Mr. Martindell. “By bringing this action, Ms. Munoz, is representing the interests of any current employees who may be suffering from wage theft. They are covered by her legal action and could benefit from it.”

“It’s a kind of class action suit,” said Mr. Martindell, who said that he hopes for financial compensation for Ms. Munoz as well as changes in the practices of the company.

According to Police Chief Nick Sutter, there were some 10 cases of wage theft investigated and rectified through mediation last year in Princeton. Mr. Sutter has described wage theft as a crime that takes advantage of people with undocumented status.

But for the purposes of the law, “the immigration status of an individual employee is irrelevant,” said Mr. Martindell. “People living hand-to-mouth are less likely to bring a complaint of this sort and while that is a practical concern for individuals, the law protects workers from retaliation from their employer, who could be fined for retaliation against anyone who brings a complaint against them for wage theft,” he said.

“There is much discussion nationally about raising the minimum wage to deal with income inequality in our society. But too frequently consumers are unaware that workers are also hurt by the failure of employers to pay minimum wage, or the legally-required time-and-one-half overtime rate of pay, even at current low-level legally required wage rates,” said Mr. Martindell.

“Wage theft is an all too common occurrence in the Latino worker community, and some local restaurants are frequent violators,” said John Heilner, volunteer chair of the Human Services Commission subcommittee on immigration issues. “The purpose of the demonstration was to heighten awareness of restaurant-goers to abuse of the restaurant workers who serve them.”

“Wage theft” is the generic term that describes failure to pay wages according to federal or state legal requirements, as set forth in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act or the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law or New Jersey Wage Payment Law.

Persons who believe they have been the victim of wage theft can come to either the Human Services Office at One Monument Drive (the former Borough Hall), to the Princeton Police Department, or to the Latin America Legal Defense and Education Fund (www.laldef.org).

 

The Princeton Ridge Coalition has made progress in its negotiations with the Williams/Transco Corporation, which is planning to install a natural gas pipeline across the environmentally sensitive Princeton Ridge. But the citizens group still has serious issues with the safety of the company’s construction plans, which were recently filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Williams/Transco hopes to have approval of those plans by the fall.

To address their concerns, the Coalition will hold a safety briefing detailing the company’s plans on Wednesday, June 4 at 7 p.m. in Monument Hall. Mayor Liz Lempert and municipal engineer Bob Kiser are scheduled to attend. The meeting will focus on the latest construction plans filed this month by Williams, identifying “serious risks that we believe have not been adequately addressed and present conditions that we are requesting FERC to enforce if the project is approved,” said Rakesh Joshi, a member of the group’s safety committee, in a press release.

Williams/Transco first announced in January 2013 that it planned to build a second, larger, high-pressure pipeline next to one that was installed in 1958. Since the Princeton Ridge is a combination of wetlands and hard basalt bedrock and boulders, the Coalition is especially concerned about the fact that construction activity would take place 20 feet or less from the existing line, which the company plans to leave operational during the project. In addition to the more than 150 homes located within 2,000 feet of the pipeline, it passes through the property of Stuart Country Day School. Princeton Day School is 2,000 feet away and Princeton Academy is 4,000 feet away.

According to Rob Goldston, former director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab and chair of the safety committee, an accident could be catastrophic. “If the old pipeline ruptures and ignites, adults and children within 2000 feet of the blast will have 90 seconds to get to shelter before developing third degree burns,” he said. “According to the Gas Research Institute, those having 30 seconds of exposure at 550 feet have a 50 percent probability of mortality.”

Coalition members have additional concerns about the company contracted to do the work, Henkels & McCoy. That firm was working at the South Fork townhouse complex in Ewing Township last March when a gas explosion killed one resident and damaged more than 50 homes. The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the accident, since some reports have stated that when employees of the company smelled gas, they did not evacuate residents or call 911.

Mr. Goldston said there is particular worry about Williams/Transco’s plan to leave gas on during a portion of the excavation work. The company responded to the Coalition’s requests to turn off the gas in the existing pipeline at one point in the project, but plan to have the gas on as a 60-ton “side-boom” lays new pipeline while operating on top of the old pipeline. “We are concerned that forces due to the operation of this equipment could cause a catastrophic rupture of the existing pipeline,” Mr. Goldston said. “The soil in the Princeton Ridge is saturated with water and large, hard basalt boulders ‘float’ in this soil above the bedrock. Boulders could easily be wedged between the bedrock and the pipeline and/or the pipeline and the heavy equipment, resulting in unsafe stresses.”

Barbara Blumenthal, president of the Coalition, said that although members have been encouraged by Williams/Transco’s willingness to listen to their concerns over the past year, there are lingering worries. “We are holding the safety briefing because many residents remain unaware of the risks. In the next few months, our community has an opportunity to influence this project. By the time construction begins in April 2015, it will be months too late to speak up,” she said.

 

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The National Pastime was represented at Saturday’s Memorial Day Parade in the form of players from Little League and Girls Softball Association Teams. Memorial Day thoughts are also the subject of this week’s Town Talk. (Photo by Emily Reeves)

 

May 21, 2014

tease   5-21  mitch forestjpegForest Jewelers, a fixture on Nassau Street and one of the town’s oldest “Mom and Pop” stores, has closed its doors. Hamilton Jewelers, the store’s larger neighbor a few doors down, is said to be purchasing the business, though no one on either end is ready to say for sure.

“We’re talking, but nothing is official yet,” Donna Bouchard, Hamilton’s vice president, said on Monday. “Nothing is ready for confirmation.”

Mitch Forest, owner of Forest Jewelers, said last week that the store had been purchased by “a very reputable buyer, which is all I can say until the papers are signed. It will remain a jewelry store. It may still be called Forest Jewelers, but I’m not sure about that.”

The store at 104 Nassau has been a local institution for 32 years. Mr. Forest is heading to his home in Vancouver, Canada, where he owns a farm. “The commute is getting to be a bit much,” he quipped last week, taking a break at the store where customers were eyeing merchandise that was up to 70 percent off. “But it’s hard to leave. I’ve made so many friends here. We have over 6,000 customers, and I worked with a lot of them for generations.”

In the jewelry business since 1968, Mr. Forest, who is 63, had a store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan before opening up shop in Princeton, first at 20 Nassau Street for 10 years, and later at his current location. Moving from New York, he lived in Ewing Township before settling in Kingston. While living in the area, he became involved in several community activities.

“I served on the library boards, and I was a founder and the first president of the Princeton Borough Merchants. I served in the Kingston Fire Company and worked with the late Barbara Sigmund on sidewalk projects,” he said. “There was also the Princeton Ballet Society, Eden Institute — so many things.”

Mr. Forest worked briefly at LaVake jewelers before he bought his first jewelry store in town from Henry Kalmus. When his current location became available, “I grabbed it,” he said. “Princeton was a different town then. There were a couple of shops that had been here forever, a few of which are still here.”

He approaches the business as a craftsman as well as a businessman. “What set me apart is the fact that I’m an actual jeweler and I sit at the bench,” he said. “I make jewelry. I’m the only hands-on jeweler in town.” Among the distinctions Mr. Forest can claim is the fact that a diamond cutter once came to the store. “It was the only diamond ever cut in Princeton, bought by a local resident,” he said.

Mr. Forest will continue to make and sell jewelry on a limited basis in Vancouver, where the farm he owns off the coast of British Columbia grows organic hops for breweries, as well as “every vegetable you can imagine.” Mr. Forest owes his involvement in the farm to the Princeton Rotary Club, because that is where he met the man, now his father-in-law, who got him started in that business.

Last week, Mr. Forest said he has been touched by the response of those who wish him well. “A lot of people have come in just to say goodbye, which is really nice,” he said. “I’ll miss the friendships.”

 

On Saturday, May 31 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the Historical Society of Princeton is offering a new walking tour exploring the architecture on campus dating from 1756 to the present. Buildings on this two mile walk include the Georgian style of Nassau Hall, collegiate gothic marvels, and extraordinary contemporary designs, including the Frank Gehry-designed Lewis library, the stadium, the Icahn laboratory, and the brand new Princeton Neuroscience Institute/Psychology facility.

The tour starts at Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street. Admission is $8 per person. Tickets can be purchased at the door, or in advance by calling (609) 921-6748 x102 or e-mailing eve@princetonhistory.org.

Space is limited.

The Spirit of Princeton invites the community to the annual Memorial Day Parade and Dedication Ceremony Saturday, May 24. The parade begins on Nassau Street and Princeton Avenue at 10 a.m. and heads toward Princeton Monument Hall (former Borough Hall) for the 11 a.m. dedication ceremony. The parade features veteran’s groups, marching bands, civic and youth groups, all marching to honor those who have died in military service to their country.

The keynote speaker is Elena Duffy from Team Rubicon, an organization that unites skills and experiences of military veterans with those of civilian first responders to deploy emergency response teams in the fastest and most effective manner. Among the nearly three dozen participating groups are: the Princeton Police and Color Guard, American Legion Post 76, Princeton Girl Choir, Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad, MacGregor Pipe Band, Colonial Musketeer Fife & Drum Corps, Burlington City High School Band, Hightstown High School Marching Band, 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment, local Boy Scout and Girl Scout Troops, Little League and Girls Softball Association teams, and a Patriotic Bike Brigade for Princeton school youngsters. All current active duty or veteran service men and women throughout Central Jersey are encouraged to walk in the parade.

Small American flags will be distributed for free to children along the parade route. These and other parade expenses are paid by the Spirit of Princeton, a charitable non-profit group of local residents dedicated to bringing the community together through a variety of civic events, such as the Memorial Day Parade, Flag Day Ceremony, Veterans’ Day Ceremony and Independence Day Fireworks. Donations to Spirit of Princeton are encouraged via the organization’s website www.spiritofprinceton.org.

The parade and ceremony will take place rain or shine. No political campaigning is allowed, but local officials will be recognized along the parade route. Participating veterans can park at Monument Hall. Shuttle service is available to the parade start. Parade watchers can have breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon at the Princeton Rotary Pancake Breakfast on Palmer Square Green. For more information, call (609) 430-0144 or visit: www.spiritofprinceton.org.

The municipality of Princeton has issued an update regarding work at the hospital site on Witherspoon Street. While no demolition work has been authorized because the developer of the site, AvalonBay, has not signed the developer’s agreement, certain pre-demolition work is taking place.

Currently, the Yannuzzi Corporation is removing from the inside of hospital buildings various items that are being prepared for recycling or disposal, including carpeting, non-asbestos ceiling tiles, lighting fixtures, non-asbestos pipe coverings, copper water piping, electrical wiring, and office partitions. This work is anticipated to continue for two to three weeks.

Eisco Environmental is removing the underground fuel storage tanks and anticipates the work to be completed within the next two weeks. To date, no petroleum contamination has been found.

Yannuzzi Corporation has been preparing and constructing containment areas providing for the removal of asbestos from the inside of the hospital buildings. The actual removal of asbestos by double bagging and storing the material in a secure storage area in the hospital started Monday. As the work proceeds, that bagged material will be loaded into special sealed containers and transported offsite for proper disposal. This work is anticipated to continue for approximately 12 weeks.

The site is being monitored on a regular basis by representatives of Whitman Environmental, and the town’s Engineering and Health departments. In addition, representatives of the Department of Labor have visited the site. “Workers have been found to be qualified and properly certified for the work that they are performing and have been observed to follow proper safety protocols,” reads a statement from the municipality. Anyone with questions can contact the Engineering department at (609) 921-7077 or cceballos@princetonnj.gov.

LAST DAY ON THE JOB: Police Sergeant Mike Cifelli, seen here at his desk in the Princeton Police Department building on Valley Road, will retire after 26 years as a police officer on June 30. Since 20011, Mr. Ciffeli has served as the department’s Press Information Officer. During the winter stormstorm emergencies, he kept the community up to date with the latest information. After years of shift work, he is looking forward to spending more time with his family, including fun activities with his kids.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton Police Department)

LAST DAY ON THE JOB: Police Sergeant Mike Cifelli, seen here at his desk in the Princeton Police Department building on Valley Road, will retire after 26 years as a police officer on June 30. Since 20011, Mr. Ciffeli has served as the department’s Press Information Officer. During the winter stormstorm emergencies, he kept the community up to date with the latest information. After years of shift work, he is looking forward to spending more time with his family, including fun activities with his kids. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Police Department)

On his last day on the job Friday, May 16, it was business as usual for Police Sergeant Mike Cifelli at his desk in the Princeton Police Department building on Valley Road. Although he doesn’t officially retire until June 30, accrued vacation time will allow the 26-year veteran to take time off so that he can catch up with son Matt, 11, and daughter Connie, 13.

During his years on the force, Mr. Cifelli has done his fair share of shift work and is looking forward to more regular hours. “That’s the nature of the job,” he said. “I missed out on a lot of family gatherings and activities. It’s hard to say I want to make up for lost time, but I’ll give it a try.”

“While we hate to see him leave we are so happy for him and for his family and the time they can now catch up on,” commented Police Chief Nick Sutter. “We have all been enriched by our professional and personal relationships with Mike.”

Mr. Cifelli graduated from the Camden County Police Academy in 1988 and was immediately hired by the Montgomery Police Department. He served in the Patrol Division there until June of 1993 when he was hired by the Princeton Township Police Department. His hire allowed him to follow in the footsteps of his stepfather, Sgt. Jerry Offredo.

Promoted from Patrolman to Corporal in 1998, Mr. Cifelli was made Sergeant in the Patrol Division in April 2007. During this time period he was a Field Training Officer, Firearms Instructor, and Head Firearms Instructor.

Besides being an instructor at Mercer County Police Academy, he has served as President of PBA Local #130 and on the Negotiations Committee as well as on many department committees such as the Honor Guard, Awards Program, and others.

Since 20011, he has been the Princeton Police Department’s Press Information Officer, as part of the Community Services Bureau, where he initiated the Department’s Facebook page, Twitter Account, Nixle program, as well as two popular Tweet-a-Thons.

For his work in this capacity, particularly his skills at relaying information during severe storms to the public, he received a letter of thanks from Mayor Liz Lempert.

“Sgt. Cifelli changed the way our police department communicates with the public,” said Ms. Lempert by email Sunday. “He embraced technology and used it to help the entire department better serve the public, especially by keeping residents up to date on the latest information during emergencies like the snowstorms this past winter. He also started the tradition of the police Tweet-a-thon to shine a light on the every day workings of the department. I’m very sad to see him go, and wish him all the best.”

The official letter from the mayor was one of many thank yous and commendations from both inside and outside of the police department that Mr. Cifelli has received for various incidents, either for his work alone or for his work as a part of a team. He has received two Meritorious Service Awards.

“Mike really helped us pioneer through the development of the electronic/social media communications,” said Princeton Administrator Robert Bruschi. “He had Princeton involved in this early on and has set a very high bar for us to continue to reach for. He is a genuine nice guy who cares about the community and the organization.”

Introducing social media to the department is something of which he is proud. He’s also quite surprised at how the social media effort has taken off. “It’s become much bigger than any of us appreciated at the time,” he said, adding that it began as a way of putting the department’s best foot forward. “And it has certainly done that,” said the police sergeant, who described his retirement as “bittersweet.”

“Anytime you look at taking a step as big as this is I think you look at it as bittersweet,” commented Mr. Bruschi. “I think we feel the same way. Mike has been such an asset to the organization that we hate to lose him but you also recognize that the job as a police officer takes a lot of time away from your family. I know he is looking forward to spending time enjoying all of the activities that many of us take for granted.”

“Sgt. Cifelli has served this department well over his career and retires with the satisfaction of a job well done. Many of our current supervisors were trained by Sgt. Cifelli and his legacy will continue,” stated a press release from the department that goes on to say “The Princeton Police Department wishes Sgt. Cifelli the best of health and good fortune in all of his future endeavors.”

On leaving the department, Mr. Cifelli said it felt like the right time. “The department is heading in a new direction now and I’m glad to have been a part of that. It’s in good hands with Nick Sutter as chief and they can carry on without me.”

“It has been a fantastic, rewarding career and I’m leaving with memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.”

As Press Information Officer, he will be replaced by Sergeant Steven Riccitello.

Police Commissioner Heather Howard said: “From my perspective, Sgt. Cifelli’s accomplishments in leading the police department’s efforts to increase communications with the community through social media have set a high standard for us to meet moving forward. We are going to miss him.”

As for Mr. Cifelli, he’s is already looking ahead to summer. “We usually have a family vacation together and this summer will be extra special.” Matt and Connie have much to look forward to.

 

U.S. News and World Report ranks Princeton High School (PHS) among the top 10 Best High Schools of New Jersey for 2014.

PHS earned Gold Medal status in the media report Best High Schools of 2014, coming in at number 10 of 398 high schools in the state. Nationally, PHS is ranked at number 216 in the list of more than 19,400 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia.

President of the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education Tim Quinn said: “My board colleagues and I congratulate all PHS students, teachers and staff for this achievement. I think it’s significant that PHS was one of only three open enrollment high schools in the state included in this [top 10] ranking.”

The top ranked New Jersey schools are: 1: Biotechnology High School in Freehold; 2: High Technology High School in Lincroft; 3: Dr. Ronald E. McNair Academic High School in Jersey City; 4: Middlesex County Academy in Edison; 5; Bergen County Technical High School, Teterboro; 6: Academy of Allied Health and Science, in Neptune; 7: Ridge High School in Basking Ridge; 8: Union County Magnet High School in Scotch Plains; 9: Chatham High School in Chatham; and 10: Princeton High School.

West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South in Princeton Junction ranks 14th in the state; Montgomery Township’s Montgomery High School is 16th; and West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North is 20th.

While also pleased with the report, PHS Principal Gary Snyder was quick to point out that rankings are by no means the whole story when it comes to education. “We are honored to be recognized in the publication and yet are not guided by rankings since the data shows only a narrow piece of the overall picture,” he commented by email Monday.

Mr. Snyder’s tempered response was echoed by Mr. Quinn. “While the entire community can be rightly proud of such an honor, the Board knows that many special things happen every day at PHS that can’t be ranked or measured.”

The school board president went on to say: “For me personally, if a poll or ranking or school performance report contains information the staff can use as part of our district’s culture of continuous improvement; if it uses criteria that are aligned with our mission and goals and takes into account the diversity of the learning community at the high schoolСreally, in all our schools С then it is useful, no matter where we’re ranked.”

“PHS students are recognized nationally for their achievement in the arts, athletics, activities, and service, in addition to their academic achievements. We also strive for continual improvement as a school and seek ways to support every student in his/her quest for knowledge and pursuit of their passion, while maintaining a proper balance in regards to student wellness,” said Mr. Snyder.

Best STEM Schools

PHS came in at number 91 in the list of the 250 high schools across the nation that are listed as the best in terms of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The STEM ranking is based on a measure of student participation and performance on math and science AP exams in the top 500 public schools.

Gold Status

PHS is one of 25 gold medal winners in the state, which also has 19 with silver medals and 32 with bronze medals. Princeton’s Gold Medal status is determined by the college-readiness index, with only 500 schools nationwide achieving gold status.

With a student/teacher ratio of 12/1, near the average for the state, PHS scored above average for college readiness, at 62.6 percent, and above average for math proficiency and language proficiency, with a score of 3.6 for each out of a possible 4.0.

“We are pleased that the ranking recognizes both high achievement and equity,” stated Superintendent Stephen Cochrane, “and we congratulate our staff and students for their continued commitment to excellence.”

Methodology

To produce its Best High Schools 2014 report, U.S. News & World Report teamed up with the Washington, D.C.-based American Institutes of Research. One of the key principles is that a high school must serve all of its students well, not just those who are college bound, and that it must be able to produce measurable academic outcomes to show that the school is successfully educating its student body across a range of performance indicators.

U.S. News’s methodology for determining the overall rankings is based on three factors:

1. students’ reading and math results from the state standardized tests;

2. the scores of minority and low-income students as compared with the average for similar students in the state; and

3. the “college-readiness” index, which is based on the percentage of seniors who took and passed Advanced Placement (AP) exams.

The methodology used in the 2014 Best High Schools rankings was unchanged from the 2013 edition.

This year’s ranking is good news. Last year, the school was not listed at all by U.S. News & World Report, although last year’s Washington Post report placed it at number six in its list of New Jersey’s “most challenging high schools.”

In 2012, PHS had made US News &World Report’s top 10 list and ranked 196th in the nation.

“Princeton High School is a great place of learning for our students,” said Mr. Snyder. “With a talented faculty, challenging curriculum, varied course offerings, and supportive community, our diverse student body is able to thrive in one of the top open enrollment public high schools.”

In a similar report of Best Colleges and National Universities 2014, Princeton University ranked number one.

To view the complete rankings, visit: www.usnews.com/education.

 

The Mercer County Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program’s announcement that it would close its Princeton office as of May 16 was a wake-up call of sorts for members of the town’s government and municipal staff. The office, which is sponsored by the Children’s Home Society of New Jersey, provides checks for food, nutrition education, and breastfeeding support to those who qualify, on the third Friday of every month at Witherspoon Hall.

Bob Hary, the town’s interim health officer until the appointment of Jeffrey Grosser last March, had been meeting with the Children’s Home Society because of a decrease in the number of clients from about 600 a few years ago to a more recent number of about 200. “The question was whether there was still a need,” said Elisa Neira, Princeton’s Human Services Director. “Our belief was that there is. But I don’t know how much promotion the program had been getting in recent years. With consolidation and other changes, it kind of fell through the cracks.”

Mr. Hary was able to negotiate a reprieve for the program, and Ms. Neira and Mr. Grosser have come up with a revised plan to keep it alive and make residents aware that it exists. “They sent out over 1,000 flyers,” said Princeton Councilwoman Heather Howard, who is the governing body’s liaison to the Board of Health and the Human Services Commission, last week. “Health department inspectors were handing the flyers out at restaurants to employees, at the Y, at nursery schools, and other places. The good news is that they’re full for this week. But they need to maintain it. It is a reminder that there’s a significant need in our community.”

A driving rain last Friday kept some clients away during the morning hours. Many of them walk to the Witherspoon Hall municipal building with their children in tow. But by the afternoon sessions, attendance was up. “We had about 40 appointments for the day,” said Ms. Neira. “We’re serving about 150 families.”

The program used to operate out of the Henry Pannell Center on Witherspoon Street, in the neighborhood where many of the eligible clients, some of whom are undocumented, reside. Moving the monthly service to the municipal building may have something to do with the decrease in numbers. “It’s further away from where they live. And people who are undocumented might not feel comfortable taking part in a program like this,” Ms. Neira said. “So we’ve been doing quite a lot of work with that. Mayor Lempert did a public service announcement that will air on TV 30 sometime this week.”

In addition to providing clients with checks for free nutritious foods, as well as education and support, WIC makes referrals to other social service agencies and healthcare providers for pregnant and postpartum women, as well as children up to the age of five. People are often surprised to learn that this type of need exists in Princeton.

“New Jersey is unique in that it contains areas of both extraordinary wealth and extreme poverty,” Kelly Mannherz, the program’s administrator, wrote in an email. “Hunger is everywhere, even in communities you may not suspect like Princeton. The Mercer WIC Program of The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey is here to make sure that no child goes to bed hungry.”

Ms. Howard, who was formerly Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, ran the WIC programs across the state. “I saw that there is a significant vulnerable population,” she said. “For people in Princeton, this is a resource. They would otherwise have to travel to Trenton for these services, and that isn’t possible for many of them.”

 

An underage college student accompanies his friend to a liquor store where the slightly older friend, who is of legal drinking age, buys a case of beer. The pair are stopped, on the way out, by a police officer checking to see if they are old enough to be making the purchase. Though he is only carrying the case of beer and is not the person who made the purchase, the hapless underage student is taken into custody. And the unfortunate incident ends up on his permanent record.

It is situations like these that Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert and leaders of other municipalities addressed last week at a rally at Hinds Plaza, in support of The New Jersey Opportunity to Compete Act. The bill, expected to be voted on next month, would ask employers to sensitively evaluate job applicants who must check the box indicating they have a criminal record. The seriousness of the infringement, and how many years it has been since it occurred, would be taken into account. And if a serious crime was committed, the bill asks employers to consider whether the applicant has proven to be rehabilitated.

“It is in the interest of Princeton residents and all residents of New Jersey that those with non-violent criminal records are eventually able to find gainful employment in the mainstream economy,” said Mayor Lempert, who delivered a speech. “In fact, it’s not surprising that having a job significantly reduces the risk of recidivism — lowering the crime rate and enhancing public safety for everyone’s benefit.”

Under the Opportunity to Compete Act, criminal background checks are delayed until later in the hiring process. The bill does not apply to violent crimes including sex offenses, and it does not prevent employers from conducting background checks. Nor does it force an employer to hire anyone with a criminal record or hire an applicant deemed unsuitable or unqualified.

Some 65 million adults in the United States have a criminal record, Ms. Lempert said, the highest level in this country’s history. “This is largely because of increased enforcement of non-violent drug offenses,” she said. “As a result, we spend an incredible amount of money incarcerating people for non-violent crimes and then creating a system where once they’ve served their time, it’s nearly impossible for them to find a job.

“On top of that, the vast majority of people with criminal records, even of those convicted, have never spent a day in prison. Yet in some ways we are giving them a life sentence of never getting a fair shake at a job. We have to ask ourselves — is this system actually making us any safer?”

Laws similar to the proposed bill have been adopted by 12 states. The bill is sponsored by Senator Sandra B. Cunningham and Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman. It is “not about handouts or giveaways, but rather responsibility,” Ms. Cunningham has said. “The text of the legislation is summed up in a phrase: competing, win or lose, on your own merits.”

 

Celebratory chest bump... l-r #23 and #27

Princeton High boys’ lacrosse players Matt Purdy, left, and Matt Corrado celebrate after a goal in PHS’s 7-3 win over Hopewell Valley in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals on May 13. The Little Tigers went on to edge Allentown 11-10 in overtime in the MCT title game on Thursday as they earned their second straight county crown. For more details on the MCT championship run, see page 31.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

 

May 15, 2014

One of Princeton’s oldest “Mom and Pop” stores is closing its doors next week. Forest Jewelers, a Nassau Street institution for 32 years, will sell its last bauble on Tuesday before owner Mitch Forest heads to his home in Vancouver, Canada, where he owns a farm. The store has been purchased by as-yet-unannounced buyer and will reopen in the same location, possibly with a new name.

“The commute is getting to be a bit much,” he said Wednesday, taking a break at the store where customers were eyeing merchandise that is up to 70 percent off. “But it’s hard to leave. I’ve made so many friends here. We have over 6,000 customers, and I worked with a lot of them for generations.”

In the jewelry business since 1968, Mr. Forest, who is 63, had a store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan before opening up shop in Princeton, first at 20 Nassau Street for 10 years, and later at his current location at 104 Nassau Street. Moving from New York, he lived in Ewing Township before settling in Kingston. While living in the area, he became involved in several community activities.

“I served on the library boards, and I was a founder and the first president of the Princeton Borough Merchants. I served in the Kingston Fire Company and worked with the late Barbara Sigmund on sidewalk projects,” he said. “There was also the Princeton Ballet Society, Eden Institute – so many things.”

Mr. Forest worked briefly at LaVake jewelers before he bought his first jewelry store in town from Henry Kalmus. When his current location became available, “I grabbed it,” he said. “Princeton was a different town then.There were a couple of shops that had been here forever, a few of which are still here.”

He approaches the business as a craftsman as well as a businessman. “What set me apart is the fact that I’m an actual jeweler and I sit at the bench,” he said. “I make jewelry. I’m the only hands-on jeweler in town.” Among the distinctions Mr. Forest can claim is the fact that a diamond cutter once came to the store. “It was the only diamond ever cut in Princeton, bought by a local resident,” he said.

Forest Jewelers has been purchased by “a very reputable buyer, which is all I can say until the papers are signed,” Mr. Forest said. “It will remain a jewelry store. It may still be called Forest Jewelers, but I’m not sure about that.”

He will continue to make and sell jewelry on a limited basis in Vancouver, where the farm he owns off the coast of British Columbia grows organic hops for breweries, as well as “every vegetable you can imagine.” Mr. Forest owes his involvement in the farm to the Princeton Rotary Club, because that is where he met the man, now his father-in-law, who got him started in that business.

The sale has been successful so far. And Mr. Forest has been touched by the response of those who wish him well. “A lot of people have come in just to say goodbye, which is really nice,” he said. “I’ll miss the friendships.”

 

May 14, 2014

Photo by Beowulf SheehanTranslator Shelley Frisch is not usually given to demonstrations of emotion. Recent news, however, has her “giddy with excitement.” The Jefferson Road resident has just received news that the German to English translation she has worked on for two years has been awarded this year’s Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize by the Goethe-Institut U.S.A.

The award honors the work of bringing Reiner Stach’s Kafka: Die Jahre der Erkenntnis to English readers as Kafka: The Years of Insight, published by Princeton University Press in 2013.

Add the fact that the same book is now on the list for the PEN Translation Prize, and Ms. Frisch might be excused for being “beyond giddy.”

“This is an amazing prize,” said the translator in an interview this week. Ms. Frisch is no stranger to awards, having already picked up one of the most prestigious, the Modern Language Association’s Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for a Scholarly Study of Literature, in 2007. She will collect this latest accolade, which comes with a $10,000 prize, from the Consul General of Germany in Chicago at a ceremony in that city in June.

Established in 1996, the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize is awarded each spring for an outstanding literary translation from German into English published in the U.S. the previous year. It is funded by the German government.

A jury of five selected Ms. Frisch’s translation, which is part of a three-volume Kafka biography by Mr. Stach. Having translated the first volume, Kafka: The Decisive Years, in 2005, and the second, Kafka: The Years of Insight, she is now about to embark on the manuscript of the third and final volume Kafka: The Early Years, to be published by Princeton University Press in 2017.

The jury described Mr. Stach’s biography of Kafka as “monumental” not only because of its length and detail but because of its “lively, readable style that will make it the standard account of Kafka’s life for the foreseeable future.”

Ms. Frisch’s translation, said the jury, “makes this marvelous biography not just available, but accessible and inviting for English-speaking readers. Frisch sustains Stach’s voice over hundreds of pages, finding fresh, compelling, and often witty ways to render his German into English. Not only that, but given the lack of a standard complete edition of Kafka’s work in English, Shelley Frisch made the risky and courageous decision to provide her own translations of all the biography’s quotations from Kafka’s works, letters, and diaries, and the results more than justify her choice.”

Comments from jurors such as “together with Reiner Stach, Shelley Frisch has given us a Franz Kafka whom we will read with new insight, wonder, disquiet, and yes — even laughter,” are music to the translator’s ears. “Kafka is all too often regarded as a gloomy writer, but his texts are actually hilarious in spots and even over long stretches, although this hilarity, which thoroughly infuses the original German texts, does not often come through in the standard translations, and I’m pleased that the jury felt I was able to convey his wit,” she said.

As for conveying the author’s voice, the veteran translator said she strove to impart a sense of Mr. Stach’s “soaring prose.” According to his translator, Mr. Stach is “a masterful stylist as well as the finest biographer I have encountered.”

“Like his biographical subject, Kafka, Reiner Stach is a witty writer, and I made a point of inserting word plays and unexpected usages to give English-language readers a feel for his narrative brio …. Sometimes you have to tug at the edges of your target language to make a book come alive in its new linguistic garb,” said Ms. Frisch.

The Art of Translation

Asked about process, Ms. Frisch described an intense method that begins with an extremely rough draft of the entire text created at “warp speed.” With Mr. Stach’s 700 plus pages, this yielded “a multilingual chaos” in German and English with smatterings of Czech “replete with synonyms set apart by slashes, waiting for me to choose between them.”

With a complete rough draft in hand, the translator then began contracting and selecting from “the cumulative options of the turns of phrase I think best suit the text, along with plenty of visits to the library (and the Internet) to verify details, discussions with the author, countless rewrites, and comparisons between the original German text and my English version,” she explained. “When I am as satisfied as I’ll ever be that a near-final draft is in place, the ‘acoustic’ phase begins, a final reading to test out how the sounds of individual words and phrases work in combination.” Here is a translator, who strives for musicality of language and brings an acoustic dimension to her choice of words.

Kafka: The Years of Insight covers the last decade of the writer’s brief life. It was chosen from some 56 titles, including another by Ms. Frisch, whose many translations from the German include biographies of Nietzsche and Einstein. She is currently finishing a dual biography of Marlene Dietrich and Leni Riefenstahl by Karin Wieland and translating short stories by Husch Josten, one of which, “Le Coup de Foudre,” will be published in AGNI Magazine this fall.

Widely published on German literature, film, cabaret, and the political and linguistic dimensions of exile, as well as on translation, Ms. Frisch has received an array of grants, prizes, fellowships, and residencies.

She taught at Columbia University while serving as executive editor of The Germanic Review, then chaired the Haverford/Bryn Mawr Bi-College German Department before turning to translation full-time in the 1990s.

She holds a PhD and MA in Germanic Languages and Literatures from Princeton University and a bachelor’s degree in German from SUNY Stony Brook.

She has also translated for the New York Review of Books, the New York Times, the Leo Baeck Institute, Schocken Books, Inlingua, literary agencies, literary festivals, and private clients

 

A forest of large painted and individually collaged prisms is hanging throughout ArtWorks in Trenton in a massive interactive installation that is the centerpiece of a one man show of work by the abstract painter Alan S. Goldstein.

Mr. Goldstein, who was born in the Bronx in 1938, has based much of his life’s work on nature’s inventions and processes. This show relates to the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water and will be on display through June 14.

The forest installation was inspired by trees familiar to the artist from over three decades of walking to his Bucks County studio. “My trees are part of my life and I see them age and die like my friends, like myself,” said the artist. “Slowly they loose twigs, branches, leaves, and bark until they stand like ghosts waiting to fall.”

Having spent most of the 1960s in New York and New Jersey, teaching and exhibiting, the artist moved his home and studio to Bucks County in 1970. He taught drawing and painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and was head of drawing and painting at Bucks County Community College, from which he retired as a professor emeritus in 2003.

After initially studying architecture, Mr. Goldstein became interested in stage design, and subsequently in sculpture and painting. Of his work, he has said: “I seek the core of things, of the universe, of myself.” He has described art as “an activity of the mind and spirit as well as the hand” and his subject as “the nature of nature.”

He works predominantly with paint, ink, and mixed media and has experimented with tar, rope, steel, and fabric.

His work is represented in over 70 private collections in the United States and abroad, and he has exhibited in many prestigious venues.

Over the years his work has been exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Rosenfeld Gallery, Arch Street Gallery, and the LG Tripp Gallery in Philadelphia. In New Jersey, his work has been on display at the Bristol-Myers Squibb Gallery in Lawrenceville, the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, in the Newark Museum, and at Fairleigh Dickenson University.

His work is collected by and has been exhibited at the James A. Michener Art Museum, for which he has often served as guest curator and lecturer. It can also be seen at the Doylestown Health and Wellness Center and frequently at the River Run Gallery in Lambertville.

“Earth, Air, Fire, Water,” works by Alan Goldstein will be at ArtWorks, 19 Everett Alley in Trenton through June 14. For more information, contact info@artworkstrenton.org or (609) 394-943. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more on the artist, visit: www.AlanGoldstein.net.

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