Statement to the Press
President, Board of Education
Princeton Public Schools
November 25, 2019
We write to correct a public misunderstanding of communication guidelines accepted by the Board of Education at its public meeting on October 29, 2019. It is important to understand that these are voluntary guidelines, not a mandate, which simply summarize our existing policies and procedures. They are based on a NJ School Boards Association "best practice" template that restates the legal and ethical obligations of school board members under New Jersey law.
We talked through and customized the NJSBA template in public retreats earlier this year, as a way of strengthening board governance and helping us work more effectively as a team on behalf of our students. These guidelines address how current board members would like to communicate with each other, district staff and the community. (You can read the guidelines here)
The NJSBA template included a line stating that Board members “serve as ambassadors for their district, emphasizing the positive aspects of the district.” We initially understood this language as encouraging members to share with the community the many good things happening in our schools. In no way did we intend to limit the speech of our Board members, as we recognize the value of accurate information, diverse opinions and honest dialogue. We regret any confusion this language may have caused, and we agreed at our meeting last week to review and revisit it at our upcoming meeting on December 3.
In the meantime, we want to provide some additional clarification and correct the misinformation that was recently published in our local press:
School board members are among the most heavily regulated of NJ elected officials, empowered by state law to govern the public schools at a local level. None of us have the power to act individually; we act only as a collective body. As is typical for such bodies, for clarity, we have long-standing policies that designate our Board President and Superintendent (or their designees) to speak on behalf of the Board and the District, respectively.
Designating a spokesperson does not in any way restrict the right of individual members to ask questions, state opinions or otherwise speak at board meetings — or to speak as private citizens elsewhere. All board member speech, however, is subject to the Code of Ethics (N.J.S.A. 18A), which requires such speech to be accurate and not contain confidential information or compromise the Board. Board members are free to disagree around the board table, but once the Board votes on a particular matter, the Code of Ethics/NJ law also requires that members support the decision of the majority, while remaining free to indicate the reasons why they may have voted against that decision.
As school board members, we tackle complex challenges on behalf of our kids, while balancing the need for transparency with highly specific ethical requirements. As with any entity with a governing board, there may be a need for preliminary financial information or certain proposals to stay internal until finalized or more fully developed and ready for “prime time” discussion, or until impacted groups or individuals have been notified in a logical sequence. To do otherwise could result in confusion, jeopardize negotiating abilities or create uncertainty in our schools. For example, as a courtesy, we would want to inform teachers and/or administrators, as appropriate, of any proposed changes impacting their school, classrooms or educational programs prior to disclosing such information to the public.
We are all constantly learning and improving how we work together. In recent months, we have implemented a number of measures to enhance transparency and communication with our community. These measures include:
Bagels with the Board – These are opportunities for informal interactions with the Board now held regularly in each of our school buildings.
More frequent Board meetings – We are now meeting twice monthly with more work done in public and more opportunities for public comment.
More open committee meetings – We have increased the number of open Facilities Committee meetings and Student Achievement Committee meetings, and we have also added an Equity Committee, which meets in the evening, often with 20 or more members of the public present.
Board, District and Superintendent Goals – These were developed and discussed in public sessions.
Training through Rutgers University in Collaborative School Leadership – We are actively working with the leadership of our three unions to create even more transparency, engagement and collaboration on topics related to student achievement, policy and finances.
Meetings with other governing bodies and community partners – Since January, we have presented our budget in a public meeting of the Municipal Council; met quarterly with the Mayor and Municipal leadership and staff to discuss issues of shared concern; instituted a schedule of regular meetings with Princeton University, Princeton Charter School and the Institute for Advanced Study; presented District goals and challenges at meetings of the Planning Board Master Plan Subcommittee, the Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood Association, the Princeton Clergy Association and the PTO Council; and have met and continue to welcome meetings with leadership from other local organizations to share District goals and initiatives.
We welcome continued conversation on the topic of internal and external Board communications. Increasing clarity around how we can and should communicate will help us be more effective as we move forward with the community in support of our students.
About Us and Members
In general, the following are the most important functions of the Board:
- Setting and maintaining policies that define the district's values and expectations
- Approving the Annual School Budget
- Representing the community's educational philosophy
- Hiring and annual evaluation of the Superintendent
- Supporting and implementing the district's Strategic Plan
For more information about Board operations please see the Bylaws Section of the Board Policies.
The public is invited to attend any public meeting held by the Board. All meetings are scheduled for Valley Road Administration Building at 25 Valley Road, Princeton, NJ. Board meetings begin with a call to order at 6:00 PM and immediately move into closed session at 6:01 PM. The Public Session begins at approximately 7:30 PM unless otherwise noted. Formal action will be taken at all meetings unless otherwise noted.
Meetings are scheduled for the dates listed below. Additional meetings may be added as necessary.
January 6, 2020 (Board Organization Meeting*)
*7:00 p.m. Organization Meeting
Meet the Board Events
To be Announced.
Board Agendas and Minutes
Watch Board Meetings
Equity Committee - Michele Tuck-Ponder*
Betsy Baglio, Jess Deutsch, Bill Hare, Debbie Bronfeld
Facilities - Greg Stankiewicz*
Bill Hare, Dan Dart, Brian McDonald, Beth Behrend
Finance - Bill Hare*
Beth Behrend, Dan Dart, Brian McDonald, Greg Stankiewicz
Personnel - Debbie Bronfeld*
Betsy Baglio, Michele Tuck-Ponder, Dan Dart, Beth Behrend (Alternate)
Policy - Greg Stankiewicz*, Jess Deutsch*
Brian McDonald, Evelyn Spann, Michele Tuck-Ponder (Alternate)
Student Achievement -Betsy Baglio*
Debbie Bronfeld, Beth Behend, Dan Dart, Jess Deutsch, (Alternate), Brian McDonald, (Alternate), Evelyn Spann, (Alternate)
Negotiations - Michele Tuck Ponder*
Betsy Kalber Baglio, Beth Behrend, Brian McDonald, Steve Cochrane, Mike Volpe, Matthew Bouldin
*Chair of Committee
SPED - Betsy Kalber Baglio, Bill Hare, Dan Dart
PTOC - Betsy Kalber Baglio, Beth Behrend
PHS PTO - Greg Stankiewicz, Brian McDonald
JW PTO - Debbie Bronfeld, Dan Dart
Community Park PTO - Betsy Kalber Baglio
Johnson Park PTO - Debbie Bronfeld, Dan Dart
Littlebrook PTO - Brian McDonald
Riverside PTO - Jess Deutsch, Beth Behrend
Princeton Planning Board - Greg Stankiewicz
NJ School Board Association - Greg Stankiewicz
If you have difficulty accessing the budget, please contact the Communications Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Board Policies and Documents
All updated board policies and board documents can be found on the BoardDocs website.
Board Member Responsibilities
Responsibilities of Board Members Serving on a School Board, as outlined by the New Jersey School Board Association, includes the fulfillment of certain responsibilities as noted below:
1. Establishing goals for the public schools based on student educational needs, parent and community aspirations, state and federal standards and district financial resources.
2. Developing a philosophy of education that will become the basis for sound decisions that affect the governance of your community's schools.
3. Developing policies to guide the administration in managing the schools; and developing bylaws to direct the board in carrying out its governance responsibilities.
4. Developing a community understanding of educational issues and school policies through the maintenance of effective communications systems.
5. Providing adequate funding through the school budget for the district's present and future needs.
6. Ensuring quality education by providing adequate facilities and equipment.
7. Establishing conditions that enable the administration to recruit and effectively evaluate professional staff.
8. Engaging in board self-evaluation and in-service training programs for the purpose of providing well-informed leadership and sound decision-making.
9. Establishing a process for the board to negotiate in good faith with its employees, while representing community educational goals and financial interests.
10. Abiding by the oath of office for school board members.
Princeton Public Schools District Goals 2019-2020
- Student Achievement: Significantly and measurably advance equity in the service of student achievement through differentiated instruction for diverse learners; culturally responsive teaching; restorative practices; and a continued focus on “Knowing Every Child."
- Financial Sustainability: Develop and begin to implement a multi-year financial plan to achieve fiscal sustainability.
- Facilities Planning: Develop and begin to implement a multi-year facilities plan that:
- Ensures that the approved referendum projects are completed as planned, on time and on budget;
- Provides appropriate maintenance and improved sustainability and energy efficiency at all existing facilities; and
- Addresses the need to renovate and expand school facilities to accommodate rising enrollment and advances in pedagogical best practices.
- The Board will, at all possible times, utilize evidence-based decision-making.
- The Board will continue its efforts to communicate, consult, and collaborate with all partners, stakeholders, staff, and the broader community in an open and transparent manner.
- In collaboration with the Administration, the Board will schedule several public workshops to engage the full Board and community on key issues facing the District, including financial, long-term planning, and facilities issues.
- The Board, in collaboration with the Administration, will work to increase committee effectiveness, transparency, and communication by:
- Specifically defining each committee's purpose and charge;
- Defining annual committee goals that align with and support District goals;
- Holding open meetings whenever practicable in light of the agenda;
- Establishing clear guidelines for community engagement during open meetings; and
- Providing meeting summaries to all Board members and the public in a timely manner.
Our mission is to prepare all of our students to lead lives of joy and purpose as knowledgeable, creative and compassionate citizens of a global society.
To achieve our mission, we strive to stay true to our values of partnership, innovation, and care.
Our schools are places of partnership where educators work closely with one another, where relationships with families are forged, and where collaborations with individuals and organizations across our community and throughout the world support the highest levels of teaching and learning.
Our schools are places of innovation where curiosity is sparked, risk-taking is encouraged, and where problems are viewed as opportunities for deeper understanding and creative solutions.
Our schools are places of care where every child is known, every culture valued, and where kindness and courage are modeled.
Our Strategic Planning Goals: 2016 - 2021
Wellness and Balance
Every Child Known
Closing the Achievement Gap
Innovation in Teaching and Learning
Communication, Connection and Care
Our Theme for 2019-2020: Knowing Every Shild – Supporting Them Together Superintendent's Goals: 2019-2020
1. Advancing Equity in the Service of Student Achievement: Equity is the goal that overarches all five of our strategic planning goals. A district that is educationally equitable is one in which we welcome and value all individuals for who they are and provide the structures, relationships, and resources they need to achieve their greatest potential. The throughlines that connect all of the strategic planning goals and that move us toward our vision of equity are 1) differentiation of instruction and 2) culturally responsive teaching. In 2019-2020, the Superintendent will extend those throughlines and advance both equity and student achievement through the attainment of the following goals:
a. Implementation of a District-Wide Approach to Restorative Practice and Justice – As an outcome of our Equity Audit, the strategic implementation of a district-wide plan for Restorative Justice will continue our focus on proactive approaches such as building a strong sense of community within each school, training in implicit bias and trauma-informed teaching, increasing the diversity and responsiveness of our staff, and connecting with leaders in our community. It will also involve responsive approaches such as repairing harm and restoring relationships when violations of community standards occur. This work will be ongoing and will involve engagement of students, educators, and community leaders. By June of 2020, building on the training last year for all administrators and each school’s Climate and Safety Team, the Superintendent will ensure 1) training for all Equity Team members in the principles and application of Restorative Justice, 2) training for all school counselors in the principles and application of Restorative Justice, 3) the development of a code of conduct for PHS based on the principles and practices of Restorative Justice, and 4) the development of a bias- response process for the District that incorporates the principles of Restorative Justice.
b. Implementation of the Components of Culturally Responsive Teaching – The Superintendent will work with his administrative team to coach teachers through faculty meetings, department meetings, and professional development days in the practical and daily implementation of the components and associated elements of culturally responsive teaching including.
- Component A: Recognizing the Educational Impact of Cultural Diversity.
- Elements: Awareness of Own Culture* Knowledge of Students' Cultures*Patterns of Cultural InteractionComponent
- B: Addressing Demographic Inequities in Achievement.
- Elements: Knowledge and Use of Achievement Data Across Demographic Groups to Inform Instructional Practice * Differentiated Instruction
- Component C: Building Relationships Across Cultural Differences.
- Elements: Culturally Responsive Classroom Relationships/Expectations *Effective Communications with Diverse Groups of Parents * EffectiveUse of Communication Support Resources
- Component D: Adapting Curriculum to Reflect Cultural Diversity
- Elements: Multicultural Content Integration and Multiple Perspectives * Physical Classroom Environment
- Component E: On-going Self-Reflection About Cultural Competence
- Elements: CollegialDialogue*ExposuretoDifferences*Staff Development
c. Enhancing Equity through Response to Diverse Learners – The superintendent, together with the Director of Student Services and the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, will continue a three-year process to evaluate and enhance outcomes for special education students as they relate to IEP compliance, organizational efficiency, and effective and empathetic communication with parents and guardians of students with special needs. This will be the third year of this goal and will focus on an independent evaluation of organizational efficiency, as well as effective and empathetic communication with parents and guardians of students with special needs.
d. Enhancing Equity Through Enrichment for All – The superintendent together with the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction and the building principals will implement the District’s new enrichment program entitled FOCUS (Fostering Our
Children’s Unique Strengths). The implementation will include the creation of learning opportunities based on the Multiple Intelligences as well as math extension activities. The implementation will also outline multiple measures for participation including teacher and parent observations as well as student self-selection.
e. Development of an “Equity Dashboard” for Assessing and Communicating Progress - To help regularly assess and communicate progress in the implementation of the District’s equity efforts, the Superintendent will work with the Board and Administrative Team to develop an Equity Dashboard with key metrics, including the following:
- Welcoming school environment as measured through annual climate survey
- Graduation rates
- Placement in AP and Honors Courses
- Participation in Arts and Athletics
- Engagement in School as measured by the ChallengeSuccess Survey
- Attendance Data with a focus on Chronic Absenteeism
- Rates of Special Education Classification
- Discipline Data
- Academic Performance as measured through standardized assessments
2. Facilities Stewardship: Our facilities should support our staff, our students, and all of our strategic planning goals. Wellness, instructional innovation, even community, connection, and care can be enhanced through adequate, thoughtfully designed, and efficiently operating physical spaces. The Superintendent will work with the Board to accomplish the following:
a. Referendum Implementation, Oversight, and Communication – The Superintendent will continue to work with the Board and the Director of Facilities to oversee the implementation of the projects associated with the $26.9 million referendum, provide regular communication to the community about the progress of those projects, and engage the community in ways that allow for input regarding the projects from stakeholders and community members with recognized expertise.
b. Sustainability and Energy Efficiency – The Superintendent will collaborate with the Director of Facilities in the development of 1) an implementation plan of projects identified as part of the State’s Energy Savings Improvement Program (ESIP) or other energy savings programs, and 2) a set of protocols and practices for increasing energy efficiency district-wide.
c. Planning for Growth – As student enrollment in the District continues to grow, we must plan for our facilities to accommodate that growth. In developing such a plan, the Superintendent will work with the Board, the municipality and with members of the community to 1) update and refine our demographic projections, 2) outline multiple options for school expansion, and 3) explore funding options that minimize tax impact.
d. Support of Best Pedagogical Practices – The design of space, the implementation of technology, even the selection of furniture should all be guided by current research on best practices for teaching and learning. The Superintendent together with the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction will establish a committee of teachers, administrators, Board members, students, community members, and representatives from institutions of higher education to develop a set of recommendations regarding the role of facilities in supporting best pedagogical practices.
e. Maintenance of Existing Facilities – The Superintendent will work with the new Business Administrator and Director of Facilities in the development of a detailed internal maintenance plan to supplement the three-year plan submitted in the Fall to the county office. The internal document, presented to the Facilities Committee by June, will reflect District priorities and result from the new Director’s evaluation of District needs.
Financial Stewardship and Sustainability – In a continuing commitment to maintain the affordability of public education in an increasingly resource-constrained environment, while also enhancing learning for a growing and diverse student population, the superintendent will take the following steps towards establishing a three-year path towards fiscal sustainability: 1) work with his administrative team to implement a priority-based budgeting process with the goal of presenting the Board with multiple pathways for closing the anticipated budget gap whilemaintaining the District’s mission, 2) work with the Board and association leadership teams to develop fair and sustainable employment contracts, 3) continue to collaborate with community partners to explore savings through additional shared-services, 4) continue to generate and review creative measures for reducing expenses, 5) continue to generate and review creative measures for increasing revenues, and 6) join the Board in its advocacy for legislative changes in the State’s school funding formula and other aid allocations.
Transforming Child Nutrition: Enhancing Our Mission Through Food – In the Princeton Public Schools, we view our cafeterias as an extension of our classrooms - and of our values. Through our breakfast and lunch programs, we are committed to the health and wellness of our students, to the sustainability of our planet, to the provision of quality food for all children regardless of economic means, to partnership with our community, and to food as an entry point to learning. In the 2019 school year, the Superintendent will work with our Food Service Management Company and its new onsite director to 1) ensure the provision of a globally adventurous, nutritious and healthy menu, 2) develop a student survey to evaluate the food quality and cultural diversity, 3) establish participation goals and a plan to achieve them, and 4) establish sustainability protocols and ensure they are followed.
Creation of a New Communications Structure – The Superintendent will work with the Board and his administrative team to develop a multifaceted communication structure that 1) celebrates learning and student achievement, 2) recognizes and honors the diverse languages and cultures within our community, 3) provides the community with timely information regarding key issues and initiatives, 4) responds quickly and appropriately to crisis situations, and 5) invites feedback from all stakeholders.
Term Expires 2020
Greg Stankiewicz, Vice President
Term expires 2019
Term Expires 2021
Term Expires 2020
Term expires 2019
Term expires 2019
Term Expires 2021
Term Expires 2021
Term expires 2020