Web Edition

lead stories
other news



chess forum
town talk


press releases


last week's issue

real estate
classified ads

School District Eyes Potential Costs For Next Year's Budget

Candace Braun

Monetary concerns could force a second question on the April vote for the 2005-2006 Princeton Regional School District's budget.

"Right now we are operating well within our budget. I hope I can say the same in 12 months," said Alan Hegedus, chair of the Board's finance committee.

Last year voters approved a $62.3 million budget, which raised property taxes in the Borough by 10 cents, up to $1.56 per $100 of assessed valuation of land. In the Township, taxes went up by seven cents, to $1.43.

While no specific numbers for this year's budget were mentioned at the Board's meeting on January 25, "taxes will go up," asserted Board member Joshua Leinsdorf.

Between a lawsuit filed by parents last fall, and gang violence in town that is causing a growing concern for students' safety, there are several issues the Board must consider while looking at its budget for this year. Both the facilities and personnel committees are recommending a second question for the budget's April vote.

After parents of female field hockey and softball players at Princeton High School filed a Title IX complaint against the district in the fall, claiming that female athletes were being treated unfairly, the Board began examining ways to satisfy the lawsuit's demands, which include adding and updating existing fields in the district.

The facilities committee is recommending that the district "recondition" the fields at the high school and the Valley Road Building, at a cost of $13,850. Add to that two additional new playing fields at John Witherspoon Middle School, and the total cost becomes $118,830.

The personnel committee also has recommendations for a second question, including a security monitor for John Witherspoon Middle School, at an undetermined cost, and two resource officers for the high school, at a cost of $160,000. These officers are being considered to restore order in the schools following recent incidents of gang-related violence involving high school students. "We are looking at the matter very carefully," said Board Vice President Charlotte Bialek.

The committee is also recommending that the district hire an additional science teacher at the high school, to accommodate increased enrollment, and is looking to hire one guidance counselor for each of the four elementary schools. The counselors would assist troubled students and their parents, and would preferably possess bilingual skills so that they can help improve the district's minority achievement gap.

"It's still open to a lot of discussion," said Ms. Bialek.

The first open discussion of the district's budget for 2005-2006 will take place on Tuesday, February 15, at 6 p.m.

PHS Tardiness

In related news, the tardiness policy at the high school is currently being rethought by Board members. According to Ms. Bialek, the policy, which used to require that students who are late three times receive one absence, was changed in 1997, and has left students who are late facing no consequences for their actions.

"Tardiness has become a big problem at the high school," said Ms. Bialek. "I think the Board would agree it's important to be on time."

Tom Hillman, a student representative on the Board, said that students are responding very negatively to the possibility of reinstating a lateness policy, as it is difficult to get to some classrooms within the allotted time.

"I have heard zero positive reactions to this so far," he said.

Ms. Bialek contended that too many students are taking advantage of the lack of policy by standing in hallways until the bell rings for class.

"I think the staff at the high school know about the extenuating circumstances," she said. Board member Joshua Leinsdorf suggested instituting a policy that would force students to attend a Saturday detention. Ms. Bialek said that the Board's program committee will discuss that possibility, along with the possible reinstatement of the former policy, at its February meeting.

In other news, the Board said farewell last week to Dr. Richard Marasco, who filled in as interim superintendent during the transition after Dr. Claire Sheff Kohn left her post last July.

"It was an absolute pleasure," Board President Anne Burns said of working with Dr. Marasco. Ms. Burns read a poem that recalled how he also filled in as interim superintendent previously in 1999, "when things in Princeton were not so fine." She added that he helped the Board accomplish many things over the past several months, including finding what they hope to be a solution to the Title IX lawsuit.

"It's been a really wonderful experience," said Dr. Marasco. "I wish you and your new superintendent a great school year."

The district's new superintendent, Judith Wilson, assumed her post on Tuesday.

go to next story

Website Design by Kiyomi Camp