Plainsboro Board of Education Candidates 2014

Plainsboro Candidates Answer League Questions

EDITOR'S NOTE: These are the verbatim responses of the Plainsboro 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 one (three-year term)

Rachelle Feldman Hurwitz (incumbent) – Retired fundraising consultant

Isaac Cheng - Management consultant, focusing on business strategy in biotech and pharmaceuticals; 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?

Ms. Hurwitz:

When first elected to the Board of Education I was asked to serve on our District's Special Education Program Review Committee. Short, intermediate, and long range goals from our district's review continue being implemented. Following our special education review, I was asked to sit on the NJ School Board Association's Special Education Committee. Our committee worked in tandem with the NJSBA's Special Education Task Force. From the onset I had goals I advocated for from our committee. First and foremost, school board members should be trained in special education. Starting in 2015, all New Jersey's school board members will begin special education training by the NJSBA. My hope is to foster a deeper understanding of special education needs, spectrums, IEP process, and develop stronger and richer communication with parents who seek accommodation(s). Another goal was improving classification. While we wait for the Governor's Task Force Report, we have begun discussions on early intervention, classification, and the process needed to insure we provide the best and appropriate accommodations. Special education needs and laws are always changing. For more insight, please go to the NJSBA's website and review the Task Force's Report. I appreciate remaining on the NJSBA's Special Education Committee, working with legislators, and using my advocacy skills not just for WW-P, but for all of New Jersey's children.

Mr. Cheng:

If elected to the Board, my central philosophy (in all decisions) will be that each student learns differently and that each student must receive the support that he or she requires.

The Department of Education guidelines are a step in the right direction because they provide better access to advanced courses for students with special needs.

I will continue to support the guidelines, but in line with my central philosophy, I believe that the Board could do more to approach all students with special needs, according to the details of each unique situation. Guidelines may be sufficient for most cases, but they must not be a crutch in limiting the individualization of special services.

I recently spoke with a parent who collaborated with the Board and the educators to create a custom learning plan for her child with special needs. This is the sort of case-by-case collaboration that I aim to continue on the Board.

By definition, students with special needs require an individualized approach. My goal is that individualized attention is not just achieved on the day-to-day within the classroom, but also in the very approach taken by the District.

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

Ms. Hurwitz:

School budgets are not like running a corporation. If a company has a crisis there is an option to seek a bank loan. School budgets are approved by NJ State, must provide for potential emergencies, and once approved, the district operates within the fixed annual budget. Last spring during our board meeting I stated I wanted to see our entire board working together on our budget and start our process earlier. We should include an in-depth review of expenditures and priorities. This year we initiated our first budget summit of impending costs. Furthermore, I would like to reestablish community meetings to explain our school district's disbursements. When elected to the school board I suggested we implement the use of pie charts reflecting expenditures, so our community could visualize the proportioning of our budget. You can find the pie chart on our website within our budget link.

Mr. Cheng:

The budget process must be more open and transparent, especially since the budget is no longer on the ballot for a public vote. Currently, the Board sets broad guidelines for the budget, and the administration creates the detailed budget with input from school principals.

While this may have worked in the past, increased community input is necessary. I encourage individual school principals to solicit input from their respective communities before sending their budgets to the Administration. The additional input will enable the budget to be better understood by the community and to more directly impact our students.

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?

Ms. Hurwitz:

I welcome community involvement during our board meetings. If broadcasting live, or videotaping our meetings would stimulate more attendance, we should review our options.

Mr. Cheng:

While in an ideal situation, all meetings should be broadcasted, we unfortunately live in a world with budget constraints.

I believe that all use of tax dollars should be appropriated in a manner that most directly benefits the students. In our community, the station manager’s time is already split between West Windsor, Plainsboro, and the school district. Increasing workload will directly increase financial costs without directly benefitting our classrooms.

However, I would fully support a solution where Board meetings are recorded by community attendees and distributed online. This would provide additional transparency to the process without unnecessarily impacting budget.

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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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