October 12, 2022

Princeton Residents Deserve Something Different, Better for the Taxes They Pay

To the Editor:

In 2022, Princeton High School (PHS) is ranked 490th nationally (U.S. News). In 2009, it was 94th. Yes, my dear neighbors and fellow parents, PHS is declining in pretty much every category in every national ranking. Some may say ranking is not everything. Some may also say I don’t have kids in public schools. Why bother? Well, 49 percent of our property tax goes to Princeton Public Schools (PPS) and people who plan to buy house in Princeton do look at these rankings. It does matter.

I moved here in 2016 and have witnessed a few relatively big events related to PPS. From the controversial renewal of Cranbury SRA, to the failed $100M infrastructure referendum, and to the very recent so-called math curriculum reform, which, if it took place, was essentially a dumbing-down effort to our children. Even though it has been called by current PPS administration a “rumor” after many parent groups raised their strong oppositions, it is fair to say that there have been serious trust issues among the PPS, the Board of Education (BOE), and taxpayers.

In pretty much every single such event, the BOE’s performance has been somewhat mediocre. There has been no fiasco. Yet it has never tried to change or create anything better and new either. Until very recently, I can’t say I strongly disagree on how the BOE is representing us in managing the $90M-plus budget. It really is mediocre. I am just trained to not expect too much over the years: The schools are good after all. That changed when I recently noticed the declining of ranking and started to dig. 

We deserve something different and better for the taxes we pay. Princeton is a town known for its excellent school district among surrounding areas, and that justified expensive old houses. That is no more. Use math as an example: PHS’s math proficiency score is 51 percent. Montgomery is 70. West Windsor is 67. We need to elect someone new into the BOE to push for changes. Rita Rafalovsky is that person.

I met Rita in a Kung Fu class parking lot when both our sons still wore white sashes. We both moved into this town for the reputation of the public schools, and were both shocked to realize the reputation does not seem to hold anymore. Rita is the type of person who refuses to just stand there and watch. I was actually very relieved to learn she decided to run.

If you are concerned, we need Rita to be in the BOE to represent us. As a first-generation immigrant, Rita went through the public school system herself. Her pragmatism came from years of professional background in financial services and management consulting. Since Rita decided to run, I have watched her diligently working on diving into so many issues that have contributed to PPS’s trend of declining. I urge all my neighbors to go to Rita4BOE.com to learn more about her and vote for Rita to bring transparency, community, and excellence to PPS.

Shenwei Zhao
Prospect Avenue