Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 26
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
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Princeton Regional School Board Wraps Up Year and Looks Ahead

Ellen Gilbert

As she did in her cover story in the Princeton Regional Schools’ June newsletter, Superintendent Judy Wilson struck a positive note at the opening of the school board’s final meeting of the year last Tuesday.

Anticipating Princeton High School’s graduation the following day, she remarked on the several “moving on” ceremonies that had been occurring in the middle and elementary schools in recent days, and expressed her appreciation for the many accomplishments of students and teachers throughout the system.

As part of the continuing series of presentations on program highlights at various schools, Principal William Cirillo and music teacher Paul Chapin talked about the arts program at Riverside elementary school. Mr. Cirillo, who has been principal at Riverside for 21 years, described his belief that music and art should be part of a school’s “core curriculum,” noting that “four words” provide a “basic common denominator that cuts across cultures and any curriculum: connections, context, meaning, and emotion.” He and Mr. Chapin noted highlights of the school’s residency program, in which visiting artists (including Meryl Streep’s brother, Harry) skillfully wove dance, sculpture, music, and other arts into the everyday work of students.

Reporting for the Finance Committee, Josh Leinsdorf noted that the district is “in the black,” and that the remaining $850,000, which will go into capital reserve, is a reflection of what a good job district administration did in framing this year’s budget.

Facility upgrades in the coming months will include a new roof for John Witherspoon Middle School, and the planting of trees along the corridor between PHS and JW, to “soften the look” according to Mia Cahill. The Valley Road building continues to be under discussion, she said, and the Facilities Commitee looks forward to receiving the reports that municipal bodies were asked to submit suggesting what to do with the the part of the building facing Witherspoon Street.

Walter Bliss spoke of the Personnel Committee’s enthusiasm for the proposed appointment of Dr. Rick Miller as K - 12 social studies supervisor, which was approved by the board. The board also approved a plan prepared by Human Resources Assistant Superintendent Lew Goldstein and his colleagues for mentoring new teachers. Mr. Bliss expressed the hope that a good mentoring program would enable the district “not just to recruit high quality teachers, but to maintain them.”

A new program for autistic students ages 15-18, planned for the the fall at JWMS, was announced by Program Committee Chair JoAnn Cunningham and approved by the board. Ms. Cunningham also announced that in the interest of focusing on curriculum and instructional issues, the committee had agreed to devote just two meetings a year to consideration of textbook adoptions and school trips. The board returned to this announcement later in the meeting, when Mr. Bliss suggested that some of the specific items that did not get discussed at board meetings, but were approved en bloc by the board, deserve more attention. One example of this was approval of a $5,000 grant award from the State’s Amistad Commission’s Exemplary Practice Award Program to Jundamarie Gikandi, social studies teacher at PHS, for her commitment to infusing African-American history into the curriculum. Ms. Wilson noted that a well-stocked new library, the Amistad Resource Room, had opened at JWMS to support students and teachers working on African-American history.

Enrollment is lower than expected in the district’s summer enrichment program, according to Ms. Cahill. She noted that some classes had to be cancelled, and that next year should see an improvement on this year’s “experimental” effort.

Ms. Cahill ended the meeting much as Ms. Wilson began it, commenting on this “exciting time of year,” and saying that the “district is poised to do great things in the next few years,” during which she believed it would become a “centerpiece of education.”

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