March 20, 2024

PPS Seeks to Extend Foster’s Contract

By Donald Gilpin

Acting Superintendent Kathie Foster will be leading the Princeton Public Schools (PPS) through June of 2025 if the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) agrees to waive a state law and allow an extension of her employment time.

Foster, who has served as acting superintendent of PPS since November, has agreed to extend her tenure, and the PPS Board of Education voted 10-0 on Monday to request permission from the NJDOE to keep Foster at the helm for the next 15 months.

“We firmly believe that our school district is best served by Dr. Foster’s continued leadership at this time,” the BOE wrote in an email sent out on Friday, March 15, to the PPS community. “We are beyond grateful to Dr. Foster for her kind and effective leadership, her commitment to excellence, and her dedication to students.”

Board members at the meeting repeatedly emphasized the value of continuity and stability, as well as Foster’s kindness and competence and her focus on students’ well-being and success.

“We appreciate that students are always at the heart of your decision-making, and you’re moving us forward, “said BOE member Betsy Baglio.

New BOE member Adam Bierman said that the district had recently been through “tumultuous” times, and noted that Foster “has been a salving balm and things are much smoother.”

Foster expressed her gratitude to the BOE. “I love this community,” she said. “It’s incredibly student-centered.” She praised the “impassioned, smart community” and the abundance of “outstanding staff members.”

“It’s wonderful working with a Board where we all say ‘Is this what’s best for students?’ and that’s how we make our decisions,” she added.

Since Foster officially retired when she stepped down as superintendent of Robbinsville Schools in 2020, New Jersey law allows for her employment by PPS for only a limited amount of time. If the Princeton BOE’s request from the DOE for an extension to Foster’s contract is granted, the Board will negotiate a new contract with Foster, which it will discuss with the public before voting on it at a future meeting.

The Board’s March 15 email stated that its attorney had spoken with the Mercer County superintendent of schools, who indicated that he supported the extension.

In early 2025 the BOE will begin its search for a new permanent superintendent, said BOE President Dafna Kendal.

Foster, who has been paid a per diem rate of $1,100 since taking the reins as acting superintendent about four months ago, has served in three different key positions in the PPS in recent years.

She was the district’s interim assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction from December 2021 through June 2022. Then in March of 2023 she stepped into the breach as interim principal at an unsettled Princeton High School following the sudden dismissal of its principal, Frank Chmiel. Foster led PHS for about five months, until the selection of the current principal, Cecilia Birge.

On November 14, 2023, Foster took over the district leadership from Superintendent Carol Kelley, who was granted a leave of absence until her August 31, 2024 resignation date.

Foster received her bachelor of arts degree from Hope College in Michigan, a master of arts in educational leadership from Rider University, and a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania. At the start of her career she was an eighth grade math teacher for 17 years before moving into administrative roles in Robbinsville as Pond Road Middle School assistant principal, then principal, then assistant superintendent for the Robbinsville District, then superintendent.