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West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School Board 2002

2002 SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES VOTERS GUIDE

NON-PARTISAN ELECTION INFORMATION

Vote Tuesday, April 16, 2002

CANDIDATES FOR WEST WINDSOR-PLAINSBORO REGIONAL SCHOOL BOARD


Polls are open in West Windsor and Plainsboro from 7 AM to 9 PM

The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area is a nonpartisan, non-profit volunteer organization which works to promote active, informed participation of all citizens in their government. The League provide nonpartisan information on public issues, and takes action on issues after member study and consensus. In publishing this material, the League neither endorses nor rejects the views of any candidate quoted.

All candidate information in this guide was compiled from candidates' responses to questionnaires. Replies are printed in the candidates' own words, without editing or verification. Due to space limitation, the candidates were given a word limit for replies. Incumbents are indicated by an asterisk (*).

Reprinting of this guide in part or in whole is not permissible without written permission of the League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area.

Copyright 2002 by the League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area

The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area submitted the following five questions to all candidates for West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School Board:

1. What qualifications and experiences would you bring to the School Board?
2. What do you see as the district's greatest challenge both at present and looking to the future?
3. Please identify curriculum areas that need to be addressed.
4. How can the School Board work efficiently and decisively with the Administration and the community to move the district forward?
5. The School Board has approved, as one of its goals for 2002-2003, the reduction of inflation-adjusted per pupil cost over the next five years by an average of at least 1 percent per year. Do you support this? If so, how would you achieve this while maintaining quality? If not, why not. Support your position.

SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES FROM PLAINSBORO

Term: 3 years
Select One

Patricia F. Bocarsly
Address:
15 Clydesdale Ct., Plainsboro, NJ 08536
Occupation:
Professor of Pathology, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School
Education:
B.S., Biochemistry, UCLA; M.A. Microbiology, Univ. of California, Davis, Ph.D. Microbiology, Boston University, Post-doctoral, Sloan-Kettering Inst. for Cancer Research
Significant Community Activities: 
Previous: Dutch Neck School parent advisory board (3 years), WW-P K-12 Science Curriculum Study Group, Middle School Transition Committee, Site-based management team (development and implementation teams, UES), PTA Involvement 12 years including officer positions: secretary and co-president, UES, vice-president, WW-P Middle School, Treasurer, High School North.
Current: Board of Trustees (3 years) and Vice President (2 years), WW-P Education Foundation, Superintendent's Key Communicators Group, PTSA HS North, post-prom committee, Deacon, Westerly Road Church, Princeton, NJ.
1. My children have attended six WW-P schools, ranging from K-12th grade. I am familiar with the buildings, administrators and the entire range of our curriculum. I have 12 years of involvement with PTAs and district committees and am currently vice-president of the WW-P Education Foundation. In addition to my most important role as a parent, I am a full professor at the UMDNJ  New Jersey Medical School with teaching, research and administrative responsibilities. My experience as a professional educator and long-term district parent complement my volunteer activities, and together will translate well to board service.
2. District growth is continuing at the rate of 4%/year while state aid is static. Next fall, we are opening what is expected to be our last school. Nationally and locally, such growth and financial pressures have frequently led to major programmatic cuts. We have an excellent district, and our greatest challenge will be to maintain that excellence and our commitment to programmatic diversity, facilities improvement and small class sizes while keeping budgetary growth at manageable levels. This will require development of a district strategic plan and careful oversight of our programs and budget to achieve greater levels of efficiency.
3. The lengthy configuration debate has occupied much of the board's energy over the last few years. As a consequence, there is a backlog in taking action on completed curriculum reviews. Although progress has been made in language arts (e.g. incorporation of spelling in the elementary curriculum, expansion of LA Honors), there is more to be done, particularly in the areas of consistent program delivery within grade levels and greater articulation between grade levels. As indicated in the G&T review, this program needs to be enhanced and expanded to meet the needs of a broader group of children. The science curriculum review is ongoing, and the math review will begin soon, each of which will require careful analysis and board action.
4. The board has not functioned well as a team over the past few years. Rather than consensus building, there has been frequent conflict between the board, the administration and the community, shutting down of communication and too many 5:4 votes on critical issues. Such votes do not engender community trust. Although I would be only one of nine, I can commit to listening respectfully to our administrators, fellow board members and both communities and to thoroughly exploring the issues before me. The board can and should be able to work more efficiently, cohesively and decisively.
5. I applaud the goal to reduce the per pupil cost, and, for the next year, this 1% goal has been met. Next year, school taxes will actually slightly decrease for Plainsboro residents. I believe there is room within the budget for even greater efficiency. However, while I support budget reductions wherever possible, I firmly believe that our district values must drive the budget, rather than the budget driving our values. Furthermore, it would be poor stewardship to continue to postpone much-needed building upgrades and repairs solely to meet a budget goal.
Jack M. Greenberg
Address: 
17 Prospect Avenue, Plainsboro, NJ 08536
Occupation:
Government Administration
Education: 
B.A. Political Science - The College of New Jersey (Trenton State College, 1975; Masters in Public Administration (M.P.A.) - Penn State University, 1977
Significant Community Activities:
Member Wicoff PTA, currently Wicoff PTA school Board Liaison; Member WW-P Ad Hoc School Naming Committee; New coach Cranbury-Plainsboro Little League
Responses:
1. I have 20 years of experience assisting independent boards and commissions in meeting their responsibilities. I have also served three years as a member of a condominium board of trustees, two of those years as president and treasurer. These experiences have given me an understanding and perspective of the proper role of a school board member. School board members are community representatives, they need not be "professional educators". Their role is to provide the common sense necessary to analyze the information being provided to them by the "professional educators". My 16 years of mangement audit experience will assist me greatly in analyzing this information.
2. A number of major issues including configuration and redistricting have polarized and alienated large sections of the community. The Board's greatest challenge is to demonstrate that it can bring the community together. One way it can do this is to appoint community members to serve as advisory members on its committees. This will allow the community to be more involved with the Board's decision making process.
Within a few short years the student population may outgrow the current configuration of the school buildings. The Board will need to make difficult choices whether it wants to build new schools, to make additions on the current schools, or to come up with less costly alternatives, like increasing class size.
3. The district needs to do a better job of providing the appropriate level of challenge for all students at all grade levels. The middle 90% of student population feels their needs are largely ignored in this district. Little is being done to provide appropriate opportunities for our brightest children, especially at the K-3 level I support recommendations of the external team report , "Evaluation of K-12 Programs and Services For Exceptionally Able Students".
4. The Board and administration need to greatly improve communication among themselves as well as within the community. The administration must provide the Board with timely, accurate information in order for it to make truly informed decisions. My recommendations to appoint members of the community to board committees as well as to create an internal audit function, would assist the Board in improving its communication with the community. This will also improve the quality of the information offered to the community.
5. I do not support the idea of adding a fixed percentage increase to last year's "proposed" budget as a way of developing a budget. A budget should be based on the needs of the district and not on a fixed percentage increase. The administration was able to fund the Village music room addition, and a number of other large projects from its current budget. This is either due to excellent controls on the part of the administration or last year's budget being too high. The NJ School Board's Association encourages districts to move toward some type of "zero-based" budgeting approach. I would concur. This approach will give the Board more oversight to ensure that quality is being maintained and tax dollars are being spent wisely.

SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES FROM WEST WINDSOR

Term: 3 years
Select Two
 

Salvatore J. Astarita
Address: 
78 Rainflower Lane, West Windsor
Occupation: 
Retired Manager at AT&T
Education: BS Mechanical Engineering, Polytechnic Institute of Technology, Graduate Studies in Industrial Management.
Significant Community Activities:
Past President of Pioneers, a bell system charity organization. Safety committee member in Lawrence Township. Attends weekly school board meetings. Member of FOWWOS and West Windsor Senior Center. Worked with the League of Women Voters for Candidates Night for Mayor and Council members.

Responses

1. I have the background, skills, and energy to carry out this important function. My educational background was strong in liberal arts, languages, sciences, and math. I ran high school track and field, was a member of the high school football team, and played the accordion in the school orchestra. At AT&T, I was a manager at its Corporate Education Center in Princeton. Also, for 26 years I taught military science to National Guard members.

While at AT&T at its Corporate Education Center, I was involved in Engineering and Management Supervisory Programs. I supervised a color TV recording studio, involved in Educational programs for the company. I worked closely with the teaching staff to accomplish this task.

All of my work and life experiences required the ability to work together with diversified groups, as well as the ability to capture the imagination and enthusiasm of each group with clearly defined and common goals.

2. The districts greatest challenge is to bring equity to all schools. The proposed 5-year plan recently presented to the school board should be approved as quickly as possible and implemented with a minimum of disruption.

3. Recent talks with parents who are concerned with the overall curriculum for the majority of students should be addressed - especially the "middle student group." The top students and special education groups get most of the attention. The "middle student group" does not have sufficient staff and enrichment programs to motivate them. Let's correct this oversight so that they are not left behind. We must prepare all students for the future world economy and stress technology in all curriculums.

4. I believe that the administration needs a strong school board that they can respect. When this happens, decisions will be made more efficiently and decisively. We need to make it happen! We should also include the community as well. As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "greatness is not in where we stand, but in what direction we are moving. We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it - but sail we must, and not drift, nor lie at anchor."

5. We can easily maintain quality while reducing per pupil cost as was done this year. Keep in mind that we have one of the highest per pupil cost in the state ($11,501). If we cannot continue to find monies in the line-by-line items in the budget, we could do the following: reduce surplus; reduce the number of temporary employees and consultants; reduce overtime, travel, and maintenance; delay some building additions; delay some school equity improvements; selected hiring freeze; freeze on equipment purchases. The above will not reduce the quality of education in the school system. 

Jaya Enamandram
Address:
2 Alta Ct, Princeton Jct, NJ 08550 
Occupation:
Computer Consultant
Education
M.S ( computer Science) , Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay,India.
Significant Community Activities:
I serve as the Co-President of the UES PTA this year. I have participated in several district committees. My family is also involved in several cultural and music organizations and the Red Cross.

Responses:

1. My work at UES PTA has enabled me to meet many parents and interact with many in the Administration. I am especially proud to have served as a conduit between our parent community and the administration in implementing initiatives like the Code Blue Drill which teaches our kids how to act safely in case of an intruder or any other emergency situation at school. This is also the first time we have a Middle School Orientation. My work as a Computer Consultant calls for being a good team-player with
the systems group, gathering information from several areas at theclient site and coming up with a feasible, cost-effective software solution within a scheduled timeframe .

The qualities of great teamwork, good communication and adhering to a time schedule and budget, that are essential in my professional career are the same qualities that are much needed presently on the Board in order to move the WW-P School District forward. I am deeply committed to using my talents and efforts to serve the community on the Board of Ed.

2. Presently, with Redistricting and the new school, this is a time of great transition and adjustment to the new configuration. The present Challenge is to integrate the new schools seamlessly into the District. Curriculum equity as well as curriculum issues need to be addressed. Better Communication is needed so that parents have less anxiety about the changes. The WW-P school district is projected to have a growing student enrollment in the coming years. The issues of redistricting will surface again in coming years with this growing student population. Capital improvements will be needed in our older facilities.With bigger schools, the Board and Administration will need to work harder to maintain the quality of education in our school district in a cost-effective manner.

3. First, K-12 Science program Second, Language Arts honors IV in the high schools

The WW-P district is consistently ranked as one of the top schools in NJ. To excel even more, we need to train our kids early on , as in the Middle School. A Language Arts Honors program can be introduced at the 8th grade level. This will enable our kids to also adjust better to the extra academic demands when they transition into High School.

4. It must be done in the following ways: Firstly, The Board must engage in a Dialogue and not a Debate. The tone from the Board must be one where the parent community can be reassured that Board members are reasonable people who are willing and working well together to promote the Education offered in our District. Secondly, Board needs to set goals for the administration. This must be done via Strategic Planning.which is a process of setting objectives for improvements through the collective efforts of Parents,Teachers and Faculty.This will enable all the stakeholders to feel part of the decision making process and thereby ensure successful implementation. Lastly, the Board must adhere to a time schedule on important issues.

5. I Wholeheartedly support this goal. We must continually look for ways to improve reduction in operating expenses such as telephone, paper etc We must continue to promote energy saving habits, use the district wide email facility, provide Inhouse Training and Seminars for teachers wherever possible, encourage the Distance Learning program which reduces hiring costs and support the Academy at HS North for better integration of our special ed students. PTAs must be encouraged in their fund-raising efforts for the direct betterment of their schools.

 

Linda Geevers (incumbent)
Address:

20 Hawthorne Drive, West Windsor, N.J.
Occupation:
Licensed as a Salesperson with Coldwell Banker Residential Referral Network, volunteer
Education:
Cornell University, B.S., Communications Arts, 1981 
Significant Community Activities:
West Windsor-Plainsboro School Board member 1999-2002 serving in various capacities as Vice President, Chair-Negotiations Committee and Chair-Administration Committee; Volunteer-member, Dutch Neck PTA, UES PTA; Member, Congressman Rush Holt's Education Advisory Committee, (2002); Head coach, West Windsor-Plainsboro Basketball Association Eagle League and Girls Instructional League 2000-02; Team publicity volunteer, WW-P travel soccer.

Responses:

1. This year has been challenging, yet rewarding serving as Board Vice President, Chair of the Negotiations Committee and Chair of the Administration committee. During my tenure on the Board, we opened the Grover Middle School, expanded High School North to a full 9-12 school, and are currently building a new elementary school. We also created the highly successful Institute for Professional Development, which established in-service programs for our staff. Curriculum reviews and the review of the district's entire policy manual continue to be important on-going projects. Along with these successes, I have come to the conclusion that if there is one thing that I would like to accomplish during a second term, it's Strategic Planning.

2. A decade ago Strategic Planning was utilized very successfully in our district. Groups were formed which included such key stakeholders as parents, students, staff members, town officials and community members with an interest or expertise in the relevant areas. These community committees studied issues and produced reports that aided the Board in its decision-making.

3. The issue of providing our students with an exceptional public education during this period of growth will continue to be our main challenge. The curriculum review cycle, begun two years ago, has already provided concrete recommendations and improvements. On-going program evaluations, which include input from parents, students, staff and community members, will continue to provide the impetus for a strong K-12 curriculum. All of our students, from the exceptionally able to those with special needs, and everyone in between, should be challenged to the best of their abilities. In addition to curriculum issues, a future committee will need to be formed to make recommendations to the Board on what to do about the anticipated overcrowding at the K-3 level if and when the Countryside development becomes a reality. Overcrowding on the Grover/HSS path will need to be addressed as well.

4. The importance of re-establishing community input and involvement into the planning process cannot be over-emphasized. I believe that the people most affected by a decision should be involved in the development of that decision. This allows consensus building to begin at a much earlier level, which enhances the probability of community support for decisions.

5. Regardless of our strengths, our limited resources still need to be efficiently allocated. I strongly support the Board's new budget guideline (growth + inflation minus at least 1% for the next five years), and I am pleased that has been achieved for the 2002-03 budget. One strategy for finding efficiencies in the system might be a management assessment of the district's business department as we begin our search for a permanent Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Support Services. The Board's Finance Committee has begun reviewing Requests for Proposals in this area. The Board may also want to consider soliciting bids from other financial auditors since we have been using the same firm for approximately 20 years. Also, consideration of a full-time grant writer would help bring in more money to the district.


Michael Newman
Address:

4 Hamilton Drive, West Windsor
Occupation:
Investment Banking
Education:
Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, General Course Diploma in Industrial Relations from The London School of Economics, London, England, Master of Business Administration in Finance from the State University of New York at Albany
Significant Community Activities:
Coach, West Windsor Plainsboro Soccer League; Coach, West Windsor Little League; Vice President, Princeton View Homeowner's Association 2000 ­ 2002

Responses:

1. As a resident with a child in second grade and two pre-schoolers, one at the Joseph F. Capello School and one entering Kindergarten in the fall, I bring to the Board the perspective of a parent with a vested interest in the quality of education provided by the District. Professionally, I have worked for commercial and investment banks as a Vice President in municipal finance for twelve years. Through this experience, I have a thorough knowledge of municipal finance that will allow me to contribute to the cost effective operation of the District. My expertise in municipal debt is particularly relevant as the District seeks the best means to finance capital expenditures, and the need to maintain the lowest cost financing.

2. Rebuilding and maintaining the respect and confidence of the community in the Board. Absent the confidence of the community, the Board will be unable to lead the District in addressing present and future challenges. Without leadership, the community will become increasingly divided, with individuals pursuing their own self-interest ahead of the interests of the District, resulting in the polarization of the Board and reduction in quality of education.

3. A teaching culture has been developed, and the curriculum revised on a vertical and horizontal basis so each student in the same grade receives the same educational content, and the content covered in one grade builds upon the prior grade. With this achievement, the curriculum needs to be reviewed to insure the provision of an education that prepares our students to address the demands of society ten years into the future.

4. By (a) restoring and maintaining the confidence of the community in the Board, (b) setting clear and challenging goals for the Administration, supporting them in their efforts to achieve such, and reviewing their success in achieving them, (c) establishing committees, with community and administration representation, to perform strategic planning, (d) seeking out the best information available at the time an issue is under consideration, and taking a timely decision based upon such information, and (e) all members of the Board moving forward in support of a decision by the Board.

5. I don't support this goal because it will adversely affect the quality of education as it encourages poor financial practices and deferred maintenance of facilities, mandates reductions in programs and personnel (or increased class size) to offset growth in wages, and eliminates the need to examine District programs because the budget will be driven by cost, and not the needs of students.

The Board must maximize the return on investment of each tax dollar, thereby restraining the growth in taxes. This should be accomplished through an annual review of the District's programs to insure their continued value to our students and the educational process. These services must be financed prudently to insure the satisfactory financial position of the District, and quality of education. The failure to provide for such will adversely affect the quality of education in the District, and consequently our community and the value of our homes. 

 

Stephen R. Smith (incumbent)
Address:
16 Greene Drive,West Windsor, NJ 08550
Occupation:
Physicist / manager (currently Manager of Teaching Laboratories in the Physics Department at Princeton University)
Education:
Public schools, Fayette, Alabama, B.S. and Ph.D. in experimental physics, M.I.T.
Significant Community Activities: 
West Windsor Township: Open Space Task Force, Administrative Code Review Committee
West Windsor-Plainsboro School District: K-12 Science Curriculum Study Group; Elected member of Board, 1997,1999; Elected Board President or Vice President ,1998,1999, 2000.

Responses:

1. My wife and I have been WW residents for 20 years. Our two daughters graduated from WW-PHS (1988, 1990).

I hold Bachelor's and Ph.D. degrees from M.I.T., and taught physics at Princeton and Bryn Mawr College for ten years. I especially enjoyed teaching freshman physics, and co-authored an introductory-level textbook.

I have been a manager in high tech businesses for twenty years. As a General Manager, I was responsible for all business, personnel, accounting, legal, and plant operations aspects of an independent manufacturing and R&D site in Princeton Junction, and also for a sister operation in France.

2. We are going to have to work hard to maintain a sense of community, across townships, neighborhoods, and schools.

It is time to reconvene broad community discussions of our educational goals. Such specifics as the International Baccalaureate and testing programs tailored to our student's strong performance are a start. But we need to look beyond specifics. As I often say, this district can be "more than merely excellent." But what should these words mean?

Continuing to control costs is an important element in retaining the confidence of the community. This is a never-ending effort, to which I brought my analytical skills and business experience even before I joined the board.

3. We will shortly have two high schools, two middle schools, two upper elementary schools, and four lower elementary schools. Ensuring comparable programs between schools and effective coordination of curriculum over all grades will be a challenge.

Recent program evaluation teams have included nationally known educators. It is important that we continue this level of review, and ensure effective responses.

I wonder if we address the needs of all students equally  including "those in the middle." With our new structures in place, it is time to consider how this question might be studied.

4. We need a more collegial approach. Administration and board need to recommit to open and honest dialog, careful definition of expectations, and agreed priorities.

We need a broad, community-based review of priorities. Our 1997 Strategic Plan represented a major effort on the part of board members, staff, and the community. Perhaps, instead of mounting a massive single effort, we could more easily manage a series of "mini strategic planning committees," which would review major areas on a rolling basis. In these committees, people representing all areas of our community would discuss our educational values, strengths and weaknesses, and vision jointly.

5. The School Board has approved, as one of its goals for 2002-2003, the reduction of inflation-adjusted per pupil cost over the next five years by an average of at least 1 percent per year. Do you support this? If so, how would you achieve this while maintaining quality? If not, why not. Support your position.

I proposed this goal, and strongly support it. We expect eventually to have 10% more students, but will be building no new schools. Economies of scale (accepting more students, but not having to add more principals, custodians, etc.) will lower our per-pupil costs. We will, of course, continue to make cost improvements in purchasing, bus contracting, and similar activities. New programs will generally be funded out of cost efficiencies achieved in current activities. On some time scale, our debt service costs will come down, as we retire bonds issued to fund schools built during our growth period.