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West Windsor Board of Education Candidates 2014

West Windsor Candidates Answer League Questions

EDITOR'S NOTE: These are the verbatim responses of the West Windsor Township candidates for the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional Board of Education to questions presented by The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area in cooperation with The Princeton Packet.  The candidates were allowed to vary the length of their answers to the three questions but were given a word limit for the total.

Candidates – Vote for two (three-year term)

Richard Andrew Kaye (incumbent) - Retired educator

Dana Krug (incumbent) - Community Volunteer, Marketing and Project Management Professional

Yingchao “YZ” Zhang - Information Technology Sales Engineering; website:

In 2012, the West Windsor-Plainsboro school district agreed to accept U.S. Department of Education's oversight of its special education services. What are your thoughts on how the district can improve services for students with intellectual disabilities?

Mr. Kaye:  
My forty four years as a teacher, principal and educational consultant, is the basis of the  statement that intellectual disabilities is too narrow a description of the program, and also presents a negative stereotype. It is appropriate to refer to this as a program for students with special needs. As a member of the committee that conducted the program review, I thoroughly understand the ninety plus recommendations. Already we have more students in AP classes and the number of course over rides has been dramatically reduced. Forty four recommendations and plans for improvement will be reviewed by the Curriculum Committee, which I chair, on October 14th, to determine their status and whether there is a need for further revision of the plans. This process will be carefully followed to completion. In addition, we must ensure that the best practices and professional development of general education and special education are properly combined to maximize the delivery and results of our educational program for all learners.

Ms. Krug
The WW-P district builds programs for special education students to meet each child’s individual needs at every developmental stage. The district will continue to strive for early identification and intervention, enhanced professional development and differentiated educational programs and strategies, to help all WW-P students, including those with special needs, to succeed. Training teachers in techniques to address specific learning differences, such as dyslexia or language disabilities, should improve services for special needs students.

The district has established many special education programs in-district, including programs for cognitive disabilities, autism, behavioral disabilities, learning and language disabilities and several integrated pre-school programs. These programs allow students to mainstream with their peers in the community. The district continues to evolve its special education programs to meet the changing needs of its students.

Mr. Zhang:  
Our district faced some challenges in this area, in part due to lack of mutual understanding between the district and the community.  While federal oversight helps streamline the services provided to intellectually disabled students, our district should provide special services by listening to the voices from the parents intently.  I believe communication and collaboration between parents, school teachers and staffs, and external healthcare providers is the key in creating a sustainable environment of trust and support that is necessary for special need students to be successful.

What changes would you propose for the school district's budget process?

Mr. Kaye:  
Our continued triple A bond rating, award for excellence in financial procedures and reporting, and less than State average per pupil expenditure with outstanding results, shows an excellent budgetary process.  At the same time, we should conduct a public survey to determine what specific questions or issues the public needs to better understand, regarding the budget.  Each school should gather input from its community, as part of the data used by the principal to prepare final requests and documentation. Finally, the Board must always prioritize the allocation of limited financial resources against the expanding list of wants, to ensure that we support a balanced, quality program, instructional and co-curricular, for all of our young people.

Ms. Krug
As Chair of the Finance Committee, I am working to ensure that budget presentations to the public are clear, transparent and explicit. Residents are always welcome to make suggestions and ask questions during the process. 

Some tweaks to the process need to occur since the school board election was moved from April to November. Newly elected board members are now seated in January, after the initial budget is formulated. Therefore, in order to ensure that new board members are familiar with the budget process, the board will include new board members in public meetings to discuss the budget.
 
The board follows a documented budget process that has served the district well. The process begins early in the school year with each board committee determining the priorities for the following school year. These priorities range from capital improvements to curriculum changes. The board works with the administration to build a budget that will stay within the state guidelines, maintain the $200 million in physical assets, meet all of the contractual obligations to the district’s teachers, administrators, service professionals and vendors, and meet the educational needs of the district’s students, including enrollment and class size projections. In addition, the board and administration need to plan for future growth in the townships. The budget process is explained to the community over the winter at several board meetings and in other public forums.

Mr. Zhang:  
Our WW-P school district is known for excellent quality of education, and we could not have achieved this reputation without carefully managing our school budget.  However, between the chronic under funding in decreased state aid but increased unfunded mandates, and the newly imposed property tax cap, our schools face unprecedented challenges.  

Given the complexity of our community needs and our budget constraints, we should initiate a community based strategic plan effort, so that the community will have a chance to envision what our schools will be like in the next decade.  Our budgetary goals should be based upon the vision presented by the community and managed with long term goals in mind and short term goals satisfied.  My scientific and quantitative analysis skills and expertise in information technology will be an asset during this process.

Other school districts in the area--Princeton is one example--videotape their school board meetings for televised viewing. Would you support a proposal that West Windsor-Plainsboro broadcast live or videotape its Board of Education meetings?

Mr. Kaye:  
YES! The foundation of a democracy rests with the right of each citizen to vote. Board members are elected to govern public education.  Every citizen should have maximum access to the conversation as a basis for determining their vote. Before my final vote, I will want to know if this decision reduces important service for students.

Ms. Krug:  
The Board of Education meetings are forums for open and consistent communication. If broadcasting the meetings helps residents to understand the role of the school board and the issues that the district needs to address, I support it.

Mr. Zhang:  
Yes. Our local township has a longstanding tradition of smart, transparent local government and community involvement.  There is no reason why we are not doing everything we can to ensure that we use modern day technology to ensure that all community members have an opportunity to participate in our local school board meetings in a meaningful and cost effective fashion.


MISSION STATEMENT: The League of Women Voters®, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. 

To read the responses of candidates for other offices and to find links to debates, go to the LWV-Princeton Area website.
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