U.S. Education Leader Visits PHS, Johnson Park; New Asst. Supt. Chosen
By Donald Gilpin
Princeton High School and Johnson Park Elementary School hosted U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten yesterday, March 29, as she visited New Jersey schools in Princeton and Newark to highlight their use of American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to support students’ recovery from the pandemic.
President Biden signed the ARP, also called the COVID-19 Stimulus Package, into law a year ago, including $130 billion to support recovery efforts at K-12 schools. More than $3 million of that came to the Princeton Public Schools (PPS), which have been using the funds to address student learning recovery and the ongoing impact of the pandemic through teacher support, expanded learning opportunities, mental health supports, and COVID-19 prevention and mitigation strategies.
At PHS, Marten, on what she called her ARPStars Tour, met with administrators and teachers and visited a science classroom, as well as focusing on counseling and music programs.
“There are real concrete examples here of students actively engaged in their learning and teachers thoughtfully implementing the use of funds,” said Marten. “We heard the teachers talking about how they’re implementing the learner-infused technology-centered program here. The classroom is very active, expanding their efforts and showing evidence of the dollars invested, not just in recovery but long-term in adjusting inequities.”
She went on to praise the teachers’ attention to individual students. “There’s a focus on equity for each and every student, what they need, when they need it, and the way that they need it,” she said. She also noted examples of emotional support for kids and of teachers’ understanding of students’ mental health needs.
“It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” she added. “It’s very learner-centered.” She commented on the large tents on the PHS front lawn as evidence of physical structures funded by the ARP dollars that are serving the goals of the music program and others.
Later in the morning Marten traveled to Johnson Park, where she visited a preschool classroom, participated in a discussion with district leadership and teachers, and discussed tutoring and special programs funded by the ARP that provide learning opportunities for students beyond the regular school day.
Valerie Ulrich, PPS supervisor of preschool and special projects, noted that ARP funds had provided much-needed support for mental health intervention services; the restructuring of science teaching to be student-centered and problem-based; partnering with outside agencies for counseling for students and wellness programming for staff; resources to warehouse student learning data; and the creation of before- and after-school programming, high intensity tutoring, and enriching summer programming to address critical learning needs following remote and hybrid instruction.
Ulrich emphasized that the ARP funds had contributed significantly to making the schools “safer, healthier and technologically modern” and had also been “the greatest source of support as we build an educational system that is student-centered and honors the collective wisdom of our staff.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Marten traveled to Newark for a discussion with Mayor Ras J. Baraka and leaders of Newark Public Schools, Montclair State University, and the American Federation of Teachers. She is scheduled to continue visiting Newark schools today, March 30.
New Assistant Superintendent
In other local school news yesterday, March 29, the PPS Board of Education was expected to approve the appointment of Kimberly Tew as the new district assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. She is scheduled to start on June 1, replacing Kathleen Foster, who has served as interim assistant superintendent since January when she took over from Robert Ginsberg.
Tew has been the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction in the Robbinsville School District since 2016.
“We were fortunate that we had a very qualified and impressive pool of applicants,” said PPS Superintendent Carol Kelley. “Dr. Tew stood out based on her experience, her commitment to students, her knowledge of curriculum, and her ability to collaborate with educators and diverse stakeholders.”
Tew earned a bachelor of arts in history and secondary education from The College of New Jersey, a masters of arts in educational administration from Rider University, and a doctorate of education in teacher leadership from Rutgers University.
She served as the K-8 supervisor of curriculum and professional development in Robbinsville before serving as assistant superintendent. From 2006 to 2014 Tew was a sixth grade social studies teacher in the West Windsor-Plainsboro School District.
“I am looking forward to working with the team at the Princeton Public Schools,” she said. “I hope to develop and improve upon an instructional program that cultivates informed citizens and lifelong learners. I’m also eager to begin cultivating relationships with Princeton’s staff, students, and families.”
Kelley added, “It’s a pleasure to welcome such a distinguished educator to our team.”