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Board of Education Meeting Highlights - December 13, 2016

----The Board recognized the following retiree:  Constance Escher, Social Studies Teacher, John Witherspoon Middle School, after 26 years of service, effective July 1, 2017.  The Board thanked Connie for her efforts on behalf of students, parents, staff, and community members over her years of service in the district. “I can attest that her enthusiasm and passion for the district and students carries over to any endeavor that she participates in,” said Board member Molly Chrein.

---- The Board recognized outgoing Board members Tom Hagedorn, Molly Chrein, and Andrea Spalla for their service to Princeton Public Schools. Multiple community members spoke to thank Mr. Hagedorn, Ms. Chrein, and Ms. Spalla for their work on the Board and their service to the community.

  • Mr. Hagedorn served on the PPS Board of Education for three years, and Superintendent Steve Cochrane praised Mr. Hagedorn for his work in making sure that policies were up to date, but also were living documents that reflect the values of the district. Supt. Cochrane noted that Mr. Hagedorn often seemed motivated by maintaining civility on the Board, so it was fitting that an updated civility policy would be passed later in the evening.
  • Ms. Chrein served on the PPS Board of Education for more than 6 years, and Supt. Cochrane thanked her for the real and visible contributions she made in the district during that time. He added that her greatest contribution has been in being a remarkable source of wisdom and counsel, often giving sage advice behind the scenes and considering long-term perspectives.  
  • Ms. Spalla also served on the PPS Board of Education for more than 6 years, most recently as the Board President. Supt. Cochrane called her an impact player, saying that’s she’s truly brilliant and reads everything she can get her hands on -- from the New York Times and The Tower to books on education reform and legislative journals. Supt. Cochrane said that Ms. Spalla has been a fearless advocate for equity and everything that she’s achieved as Board President has been out of her deep care for students.
----Tribute to Departing Board Member/Andrea Spalla

WHEREAS, Andrea Spalla is leaving the Princeton Board of Education, after fulfilling six (6) years and eight (8) months of service; be it therefore

RESOLVED, that the Board recognized the contributions that Andrea Spalla has made to our district and its students and thank her for her time and effort, especially for her work in the following areas:

President – January 2015 to January 2017
Vice President – April 2012 to January 2015

Member of the:
External Affairs Committee
Facilities Committee
Finance Committee
Personnel Committee
Program Committee
Strategic Action Plan           
PRAA Negotiations
PREA Negotiations

Chairperson of the:
External Affairs                
Student Achievement Committee

Representative/Liaison to the:
Minority Education Committee
Send Hunger Packing Program
Community Park Elementary School PTO            
Littlebrook Elementary School PTO
John Witherspoon Middle School PTO
Princeton High School PTO
Riverside Elementary School PTO
PTO Council

----Tribute to Departing Board Member/Molly Chrein

WHEREAS, Molly Chrein is leaving the Princeton Board of Education, after fulfilling six (6) years and eight (8) months of service; be it therefore

RESOLVED, that the Board recognized the contributions that Molly Chrein has made to our district and its students and thank her for her time and effort, especially for her work in the following areas:

Member of the:
External Affairs Committee
Facilities Committee
Finance Committee
Personnel Committee
Student Achievement Committee
PRAA Negotiations
PREA Negotiations
PRESSA Negotiations
Strategic Action Plan

Chairperson of the:
Personnel Committee

Representative/Liaison to the:
Legislative Action Task Force
Johnson Park Elementary School PTO
Littlebrook Elementary School PTO
John Witherspoon Middle School PTO
Princeton High School PTO
NJSBA/MCSBA
Princeton Education Foundation

----Tribute to Departing Board Member/Thomas Hagedorn

WHEREAS, Thomas Hagedorn is leaving the Princeton Board of Education, after fulfilling three (3) years of service; be it therefore

RESOLVED, that the Board recognized the contributions that Thomas Hagedorn has made to our district and its students and thank him for his time and effort, especially for his work in the following areas:

Member of the:
Facilities Committee
Finance Committee
Personnel Committee
Policy Committee

Chairperson of the:
Policy Committee

Representative/Liaison to the:
Community Park Elementary School PTO

---- During the Board President’s report, Ms. Spalla stated that the proposed expansion of the Princeton Charter School (PCS) is a serious threat to the district’s financial health and its ability to maintain and continue the excellent programs the Princeton community expects and demands.

Ms. Spalla will be creating an ad-hoc committee to assist and support the Board and the PPS administration as it responds to the PCS proposal. The committee will be a working group, assisting with communications and implementing specific tasks. The committee will not contribute to any legal strategy.

----Dr. Julia Sass Rubin, an Associate Professor at Rutgers’ Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, gave a presentation comparing the finances and demographics of Princeton Public Schools and the Princeton Charter School. She explained that when all the data is factored in, PPS and PCS spend nearly the same amount to educate students. She also explained that if more students attend the charter school, Princeton Public Schools will face a greater financial burden. To see the full presentation, please click here and scroll to 36:17.

----Superintendent Cochrane used his Superintendent’s Report to also address the proposal to expand the Princeton Charter School. He emphasized that as the Superintendent of Princeton Public Schools he is in firm opposition to the plan, but would like to explore possibilities to unite the two institutions. He suggested that if charter school students were brought back into the district, the charter school facilities could become a magnet school – possibly focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Arts.

The Board approved a resolution opposing the proposed PCS expansion and directing administrators to file a petition against the expansion with the New Jersey Commissioner of Education, who will review the information and make the final decision on whether or not to allow the expansion. (see below)

---- Princeton Charter School – Expansion Application

WHEREAS, the Princeton Board of Education operates the Princeton Public Schools, which consist of four elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school, which together provide for the educational needs of approximately 3,700 students residing in Princeton, New Jersey; and

WHEREAS, the Princeton Charter School operates a charter school, pursuant to the Charter School Program Act of 1995, N.J.S.A. 18A:36A-1 et seq., and educates 348 students (the maximum permitted under the Commissioner-approved charter), almost all of whom, upon information and belief, reside in Princeton; and  

WHEREAS, on December 1, 2016, the Princeton Charter School provided the Superintendent of Schools with a copy of an application that it filed with the Commissioner of Education, wherein it requests an amendment of its charter to increase the maximum number of students it can education to 402 in the 2017-2018 school year and to 424 in the 2018-2019 school year, a net increase of 22%; and

WHEREAS, if the Commissioner grants the Application, the Board of Education believes that it will have a substantially adverse impact on the Board of Education, the Princeton Public Schools, the real estate taxpayers of Princeton, and, most importantly, the current and future students attending the Princeton Public Schools, inasmuch as it will result in an annual loss from the Board of Education’s budget of approximately $1,160,000 annually in tuition costs paid to the Princeton Charter School, as well as additional transportation costs incurred (over and above the approximate $5,050,000 annually the Board of Education is currently obligated to pay in tuition to the Princeton Charter School);

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Princeton Board of Education hereby directs the administration and its general counsel to take all actions deemed necessary and appropriate by them to prepare for the filing of a response with the Commissioner of Education in opposition to the Princeton Charter School’s proposed expansion; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, to the extent the President of the Board of Education and the Superintendent of Schools deem it appropriate, they are hereby authorized and directed to retain the services of an expert or experts to provide an expert opinion or opinions as to the impact, if any, that will be sustained by the students attending Princeton Public Schools, the Princeton Board of Education, and the real estate taxpayers of Princeton if the Commissioner
of Education grants the Princeton Charter School’s application to amend its charter; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the administration and legal counsel are also authorized and directed to take all other actions that are reasonably necessary to effectuate this Resolution; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the administration and legal counsel are directed to keep the Board of Education and its Finance Committee updated as to the costs incurred in connection with the activities necessary to prepare to file the above-referenced response; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that copies of this Resolution will be sent to sitting members of Princeton Town Council; the Mayor of Princeton; and to each State Legislator for the 16th Legislative District (of which Princeton is part).

---- The student representatives to the Board, Brian Li and Abby Emison, reported that PHS students have been taking Stanford University’s Challenge Success survey during their English classes. The survey will measure a wide range of student experiences, including time spent on homework and sources of stress. Supt. Cochrane and several Board members commended Ms. Emison and Mr. Li for encouraging the Board to gather data on student perspectives and thanked the PHS administrative team for implementing the survey.

----The Facilities Committee reported that after an architectural study, it was decided that it would be too costly to renovate the Valley Road building into additional classroom spaces and move administrative offices to the soon-to-be-vacant Princeton Packet building. The Board is continuing to look at other possibilities for managing space concerns in the district due to enrollment growth. Supt. Cochrane shared that one recent possibility the district is considering is using the facilities that Westminster Choir College may be vacating.

----The Board approved the policies listed below:


Teaching Staff Members:
3283 Electronic Communication between School Employees and Students
Support Staff Members:
4283 Electronic Communication between School Employees and Students
Students:  
Community:

----The Board approved the job descriptions listed below:

  • Executive Secretary – Office of Human Resources, Public Information and Community Relations
  • Executive Secretary to Business Administrator/Board Secretary
  • Payroll Manager
---- The Personnel Committee reported that the district is considering an automated substitute calling system that would allow teachers to submit requests for substitutes online. The system could go into effect in September 2017.  

----The Board approved the appointment of Princeton Family Institute of Princeton, NJ for on-site workshops with ESL students and family members at Princeton High School, bi-weekly, from December 2016 to June 2017, to facilitate workshops that support student engagement in school, for a fee, not to exceed $2,600.  Funding for this professional service is provided by the NCLB Title 3A program.

---- The Student Achievement Committee reported that John Witherspoon Middle School is discussing an exploratory program for 7th graders that would focus on cultural competency. The committee also discussed the possibility of dual enrollment with Mercer County Community College for psychology and/or criminal justice classes that would be held at PHS.

---- The Board approved the appointment of two, part-time interim employees who will share the responsibilities of the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction until a permanent replacement for retiring Assistant Superintendent Bonnie Lehet is found.  

----The Board passed updates to the Electronic Communication between School Employees and Students policies for both teaching and support staff; the High School Graduation policy; the Use of Communication and Recording Devices policy; and the Civility policy.

----The Board approved the PHS Program of Studies for 2017-2018. The amended Program of Studies includes new language that mentions accommodations that are needed for special education students and includes information on financial assistant for students who would like to take AP tests. Copies of the PHS Program of Studies for 2017-2018 are available in the Curriculum and Instruction Office.

----The Board approved the purchase of literacy intervention materials from Heineman for a sum of $26,548.00.  Materials will be used for targeted and guided remediation of reading skills and progress monitoring for the AIS programs in the elementary schools. Funding for the materials will be paid through IDEA grant funds.

----The Board approved the following overnight school trips listed below.  No child will be denied access to these trips due to the expense, as per Board procedures.

PHS
Japanese Class Visit
Tokyo & Kyoto, Japan
March 10 – 19, 2017

Woman’s Choir Tour
Chicago, IL
May 22-26, 2017

Teen PEP Retreat
Camp Mason
Hardwick, NJ
May 31 – June 2, 2017

---- The Board approved the appointment of Spiezle Architectural Group, of Trenton, NJ, to provide services for the initial phase of Referendum Planning. The Board clarified that the contract with Spiezle is for a capacity study only at this point, and the contract does not require the district to continue working with the firm if it pursues a referendum.

----The Board approved the appointment of Sundance Associates, of Cherry Hill, NJ, to perform a demographic study of the Princeton Public Schools Enrollment Projection, for a fee of $9,100.00 (Phase I).  

----The Board welcomed the following staff to the district for the 2016-2017 school year: Meiling Chuang, Instructional Assistant-Mandarin, Princeton High School, effective December 16, 2016; Eva Genova, Kindergarten (LR), Community Park Elementary, effective December 14, 2016; Vailshali Pandkar, Educational Media Assistant, John Witherspoon Middle School, effective January 3, 2017; Sheny Gonzalez, Transportation Aide, Valley Road, effective December 14, 2016; Frankie DeLeon, Pre-K Instructional Assistant – Autism, Riverside Elementary, effective December 16, 2016; Carol Roche, Interim Assisant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction, Valley Road, effective February 2, 2017; Justin Morton, Instructional Assistant – Autism, Riverside Elementary, effective December 16, 2016; and Kenny Emile, Bus Driver, Valley Road, effective December 12, 2016.

The next scheduled meeting of the Board of Education will be Tuesday, January 3, 2017 (Board Organization Meeting) and Tuesday, January 24, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. in the Board Conference Room at Valley Road.