January 12, 2022

PPS BOE Plans for Challenges Ahead; Safe, In-Person Learning is Top Priority

By Donald Gilpin

The Princeton Public Schools (PPS) Board of Education (BOE) last week welcomed two new members, Mara Franceschi, who is taking the seat vacated by Daniel Dart, and Cranbury representative Robert Christopher; and two members re-elected last November, Betsy Baglio for her third three-year term and Brian McDonald for his second. 

The BOE also voted unanimously to elect Dafna Kendal as Board president, taking over from Board member Beth Behrend, and Michele Tuck-Ponder to continue as vice president.

With a $17.5M Facilities Stewardship Referendum coming up for a vote on January 25, and the ongoing challenges of long-term facilities planning, tight budgets, and the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic, the PPS Board is looking forward to a busy year ahead.

“We are excited and optimistic about 2022,” Kendal wrote in an email Monday. “As always the Board’s priority is the education, health, and safety of our students. We know that all students lost out on learning and experiences because of the way the pandemic has temporarily changed how schooling is delivered.”

Kendal went on to voice affirmation for PPS Superintendent Carol Kelley, who took over leadership of the district on July 1, 2021. “The Board will continue to support Dr. Kelley as she and her administrative team work to address all of the issues that have arisen,” Kendal added. “The Board is grateful for the professionalism, care, and commitment of our teachers and support staff, and to the administrators for all they are doing to keep our schools safe and open.”

Christopher echoed Kendal’s concern with keeping students in school full-time. “Having been a member of the Cranbury Board of Education since the start of the pandemic, it’s difficult to think of anything more important than finding some sense of normalcy for our students,” he wrote. “Of course, health and safety is of primary importance, but having our kids in person as much as possible should be our goal.”

The Princeton and Cranbury school districts have a send-receive agreement with Cranbury high school-age students attending Princeton High School.

The BOE has a letter in this week’s Town Topics Mailbox urging residents to inform themselves about the Facilities Stewardship Referendum and vote on January 25. The letter points out the urgency of the needed repairs, the benefits of the potential $7 million in debt service aid from the state of New Jersey, and the likelihood of school tax levies decreasing next year due to retiring debt from past facilities investments.