Below is a summary of the January 24, 2017 Princeton Public Schools Board of Education Meeting. To see a summary of the action that was taken during the meeting, please scroll to the end.
- Board President Patrick Sullivan used his President’s report to share his concerns about the Princeton Charter School’s proposal to expand its enrollment by 76 students, which would cost PPS an additional $1.16 million each year. He encouraged the PCS board to withdraw the application and continue to work with PPS in good faith to find a mutually beneficial solution.
- Mr. Sullivan voiced strong concern that the process to decide whether to allow the charter school to expand is not democratic, but instead is being made by eight unelected trustees and one appointed commissioner.
- Mr. Sullivan concluded that he would like to see PCS and PPS coexist in a long-term, sustainable way where both PCS and PPS could learn from each other.
- Board members Dafna Kendal, Betsy Baglio, and Connie Witter all voiced concern about the PCS proposal to expand and expressed a desire to find a solution that is best for the Princeton community and Princeton students.
- Marc Dashield, the Administrator for the Princeton municipality, gave a presentation on the local tax levy and how the revenues from taxes are divided between the municipality, the county, and Princeton Public Schools.
- Superintendent Steve Cochrane shared some recent highlights in the district, including the PHS Gives Back day on January 25, the achievements of the fall athletic teams, and a visit to John Witherspoon Middle School from author Jerry Spinelli.
- Supt. Cochrane also shared about work the district is doing around diversity and equity.
- On December 13, a team of 15 students and staff from PHS attended the second Day of Dialogue alongside many other students from central New Jersey; on January 11, a dozen administrators attended a workshop entitled Diverse Learners and Issues of Equity; on January 30, members of the administrative team will attend another workshop on how to make the conversation about diversity central in schools and classrooms. Throughout the year, teachers are also learning about ways to increase their cultural responsiveness through professional development trainings.
- The Board reviewed the Violence and Vandalism Report from the start of the school year through December. Supt. Cochrane noted that the students in the report represent ½ of 1 percent of the total number of students at JW and PHS.
- The Board reviewed the HIB Report Card, on which the District scored a 78/78. The report indicated the District’s strengths are in the timeliness of reporting HIB incidences, regular meetings of the School Safety Teams, and character education.
- The Board reviewed a first draft of the calendar for the 2017-2018 school year. The Board discussed the possibility of adding a full day of conferences on Election Day so that students would not be in schools while the buildings are being used as polling sites. The Board also looked at adding January 3 as the final day of Winter Break for 2018.
- During the public comment time, several inquiries were made about incorporating snow days into the calendar as a precaution so that the last day of school could more likely remain set.
- Student Representatives to the Board, Brian Li and Abby Emison, reported that PHS students are in the midst of midterms right now, and many students are feeling stressed and are cramming for their exams. Mr. Li and Ms. Emison suggested that in light of the amount of class time that is spent reviewing material for midterms and finals and the time that is spent taking the exams, in addition to the time spent on standardized tests, that the district consider looking at assessments that employ critical thinking skills and use probing questions, such as project-based learning, instead of more traditional tests.
- Board members discussed the merits and weaknesses of midterms and finals and Supt. Cochrane explained that one of the goals in the District’s Strategic Plan is to bring more innovation into teaching and assessments. He stated that teachers should be allowed to make the right pedagogical decisions for their classes when it comes to assessments.
- During the public comment time, several teachers commented on the educational value of midterms and finals, noting the many hours that teachers spend making sure tests are relevant and useful for both students and teachers.
- Mr. Li and Ms. Emison also shared that PHS will be conducting the first-ever PHS Gives Back day on January 25. The day is the first in a series of events that are aimed at building school unity. During the PHS Give Back day, students will be making lunches for the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, creating Valentine’s Day cards for senior citizens, and making cancer care packages.
- The Personnel Committee reported that at its last meeting, Interim Athletic Director Brian Dzbenski gave a presentation highlighting the achievements of PHS athletes during the fall season.
- The Personnel Committee discussed the need to begin developing a plan for engaging alumni, including building an alumni database and looking for opportunities to bring alumni back to PHS and recognize their accomplishments, possibly as a Hall of Fame honoree or for a speaker series.
- The Personnel Committee also reported that three significant searches are currently underway: Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, PHS Assistant Principal, and Athletic Director. All three positions will close at the end of January or beginning of February.
- The Policy Committee reported that it will be presenting the first reading of two new policies in February. One will be related to the educational stability for children in foster care and the other will be related the education of homeless children.
- The Board had the first reading of a revision to the Board Bylaws. Board member Betsy Baglio explained the intent of the revisions is to provide more communication between committee members, committee chairs, and the full board.
- During the public comment time, both a PHS student and a teacher encouraged the Board to find ways to help students be prepared for college and careers, but also to be ready to uphold the nation’s democratic values, actively participate in civic duties, and to be able to engage in dialogue with people from various walks of life and who hold various viewpoints.
- The Board approved the job description listed below:
- The Board approved the purchase of absent and time management software (sub-calling).
- The Board approved the purchase of literacy intervention materials from Heineman for a sum of $28,805.00. Materials will be used for targeted and guided remediation of reading skills and progress monitoring for the AIS programs in the elementary schools.
- The Board welcomed the following staff to the district for the 2016-2017 school year: Ackerman, Andrea, Visual Arts (LR), Johnson Park Elementary, effective January 23, 2017; Manju Chawla, Special Education Assistant, Johnson Park Elementary, effective January 17, 2017; Ko Choi, Special Education Assisant-Autism, Riverside Elementary, effective February 8, 2017; Sidoney Daley, Instructional Assistant, Johnson Park Elementary, effective January 25, 2017; Lalainya Fox, Special Education Assistant-Autism, Princeton High School, effective January 23, 2017; Johanna Hunsbedt, Social Studies Teacher (LR), Princeton High School, effective February 6, 2017; Nnenna Nwachukwu, Instructional Assistant (.8)/Nurse (.2), Princeton High School, effective January 9, 2017; Jamar Reed, Special Education Assistant, Johnson Park Elementary, effective February 1, 2017;
Andre Thompson, Bus Driver, Valley Road, effective January 11, 2017; Karen Fosina, Special Education Assistant-PT, Riverside Elementary, effective February 7, 2017; and Marin Naya, AIS Instructional Assistant-PT, Riverside Elementary, effective February 1, 2017.
- Following new regulations from the State of New Jersey, the Board approved funds to test for lead in all drinking water in schools and classrooms.
- The Board approved the Violence and Vandalism report and accepted the HIB report.
- The Board approved a new substitute teacher automated calling system.
- The agenda item for field trips was tabled until after the next Student Achievement Committee meeting is held.
- All other motions passed.
- The next meeting of the Board of Education will be Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. in the Board Conference Room at Valley Road.