Plainsboro Candidates for WW-P School Board 2013

Plainsboro Candidates Answer League Questions

November 5, 2013 General Election Day

Polls will be open from 6am until 8pm

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)

Alapakkam “Mani” Manikandan (incumbent) – IT professional, currently QA Practice Head for a Cloud Solution company; website:

Yu “Taylor” Zhong - Risk Manager at a Financial Firm; website:

What actions would you recommend for handling growth of the school district?

Mr. Manikandan:

We need to continuously review and evaluate the programs being offered, and look for potential consolidation, or elimination, wherever possible. We should plan all expansions, contracts etc., considering future needs of the district. For example: We have proactively accounted for some growth opportunities while planning the current expansion at Village School. We should keep in close contact with the two townships to become familiar with their expansion plans so we can plan better for potential future students.

Proactive planning is the best way to handle any growth in the district.

Mr. Zhong:

Growth of the school district means more students will be vying for limited resources. One responsibility for a board member is to review and vote on budget for various programs. If I get elected, I will constantly review the programs. While we should support all the students, I would rank and prioritize the programs by enrollment. I will support programs with large enrollment. I'll also seek help for those with smaller enrollment or find external resources to support them.

How would you address the financial challenges faced by the school district?

Mr. Manikandan:

We need to continue our process of careful financial budgeting. We have to continuously review our contracts, processes, operations etc., to find areas for improving efficiency, reducing cost etc.

We also need to work with the state and federal governments to explore any innovative ways of getting addition funding/aid. For example – Installation of solar panels using government rebates, Using special grants for security infrastructure etc. As an incumbent board member I am proud of our achievement in decreasing our per pupil cost to $1000 below state average.

Mr. Zhong:

We must seek external resources. There are several ways:

i) Federal funding: Fed funds are available for some high school programs. Edison school district got fed funds. I will learn the process and help the district to apply for fed funding. I will make this my top priority if I get elected. We should also research fed funds for STEM education.

ii) WW-P Education Foundation and Alumni network: Peddie School has endowment of over $300 million. WW-P can learn from that and do the same thing. We should support WW-P Education Foundation and help it seek donations from WW-P alumni network. We can also ask alumni to sponsor some programs. For example, Latin will be eliminated. One alternative we can try is to seek help from former students attending Latin classes.

iii) Local business: We can work with local business and get them to sponsor various programs / activities such as sports. We need to be very selective in identifying those businesses.

What changes would you support to improve school safety, including technology security?

Mr. Manikandan

We need to ensure that we come-up with a practical, sustainable and balanced plan for improving the safety in our schools. This has to be a continuous process that involves all the stake holders including local police, fire department, administration, parents, township, county, state etc. The plan has to include appropriate technology security, while supporting some of the 21st century needs like social media, own devices etc. I am happy with the success of the pilot program at Village and Millstone which this year was expanded to Grover and Community. Based on the results, I will support expansion of this program to all schools.

Mr. Zhong:

Since the Sandy Hook incident, the district made school safety a top issue. This year $1 million was budgeted for increased security measures. The district is considering expanding the Eyes on the Door security pilot program. The program will be extended to the middle schools as well as Village and Millstone River, and it will also be implemented for after-school activities. In addition, 42 security cameras have been purchased and will be installed in the schools. I support these measures.

Other districts also take school safety seriously. Some arm their teachers, some place police officers inside school building, others installed camera. Summit schools in New Jersey are stopping unannounced visits.

WW-P is one of the top ranked-school districts in the state, let's make it one of the safest as well.

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