Planet Princeton

What’s in the Name, Post-Consolidation? The Princeton ______ Schools

The Princeton School District. Princeton Public Schools. The Princeton Schools. The Princeton Open Public Schools.

Those are the names the Princeton Regional Schools Board has come up with so far as possibilities for what to call the local school district after the two Princetons consolidate.

Because the two Princetons will merge on Jan. 1, 2013, the district will no longer be a regional district, and thus will need to change its name. The district will still maintain its sending/receiving relationship with the Cranbury school district.

School board members briefly debated potential names at the board’s public meeting Tuesday night. They will discuss the issue again at the board’s special meeting Feb. 7.

As part of the renaming process, the school board also unanimously voted Tuesday night to pay consultant Smith and Manning $12,500 to design a new school district “brand identity platform” with a visual identity that includes an icon or logo with graphic elements that communicate the district’s new name change.

“You might think the naming options could be endless, but the options are very few,” Superintendent of Schools Judith Wilson said. “We are keeping the name Princeton, so it really does give us few options that are variation on the same themes, but some of those have more meaning than the others.”

“Whether it is simply the Princeton School District, the Princeton Schools, the Princeton Public Schools, or the Public Schools of Princeton, there is very little variation on the theme, but I will say public schools, as I see it, means all public schools, including all charter schools, those existing and in the future,” Wilson said. “That is a consideration I would put out there. There are other considerations people may feel strongly about such as what the initials would be.”

Board President Rebecca Cox asked her fellow board members for feedback on the naming issue and whether they had a preference. “The designer had an immediate and visceral reaction to the word `district’, which they felt was very bureaucratic.”

Some board members liked Princeton Public Schools because it is simple.

But board member Andrea Spalla said she was concerned about the charter school issue. “I share Judy’s concern about using the word `public’ officially in the name name,” Spalla said. It locks us in to distinguishing ourselves in a way that could feel anachronistic five years from now…Things on the charter school front are probably going to get worse before they get better for us.”

Cox said it could be argued that the real definition of a public school is one where everyone is invited to come and there is no need to apply or enter a lottery for a spot.

“But we’re talking about a name, not a footnote appended to it,” Spalla said. “It should be as simple and clear as possible.”

Board member Tim Quinn suggested the board get feedback from the public using the board’s Facebook page.

“Let’s see what the public is feeling about the use of the word `public’,” Quinn said. “We could also could call ourselves the open public schools…I do share the concern about the nature of public education and the forces trying to redefine what public education is both in our state and nationally.”

Wilson said once the board comes up with a name, it will be forwarded to the Mercer County Superintendent’s Office for approval. She suggested the board chose a new name before the start of the new fiscal year July 1. The district is in the process of having its website redesigned, so it would be good to change the name while the redesign is being done.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Abbi

    Tim Quinn, Thanks very much for the further detail! With your info, I did a little research, it seems that almost all of NJ public school districts are named with either the convention “[ ____ ] School District” or “[ ____ ] Public Schools”, with a few as “[ ____ ] Public School District” (despite the designer’s visceral reaction to “district”, it seems as many as half, at least more than a third of NJ districts use the word “district” in the name). There are a few districts (more in South Jersey) that have the convention “[ ____ ] Schools” (with out the word “public” or the word “district”) and a handful or less as “[ ____ ] Board of Eduction”. I found none in NJ that currently have the convention “Public Schools of [ ____ ]” (in addition to being unique, another consideration about “Public Schools of [ —– ]” convention is that in lists the district will always be alphabetically listed under “Public” instead of under “Princeton”.)

  • Tim Quinn

    Clarifying some comments and questions that have arisen as a result of this story: The rebranding costs mentioned are linked to the district’s long-overdue and much-needed website overhaul, not to the state-mandated name change. These services would have been incurred regardless of consolidation. The board hears from parents of students in the district on a daily basis that our website needs a thorough redesign, and improving communications to stakeholders was a cornerstone of our 2010 Strategic Plan. The web redesign process was under way before the consolidation vote. The company paid to assist in this process is owned by the parents of students in our district schools; they are offering their services at a significant discount. To further clarify the legal position, the district is required by law to change its name, and our wonderful symbiosis with Cranbury does not make us a regional district under the statute. Cranbury pays a per-pupil tuition fee to Princeton, which is designated as a regional district based only on the fact that it levies taxes on multiple municipalities (Princeton Borough and Princeton Township.) Princeton Regional Schools has no authority to levy taxes on Cranbury, which collects taxes from its citizens and sends a portion of what it collects to Princeton in the form of per-pupil tuition fee. Also, the name change itself will require very little cost. The district will use every sheet of existing letterhead before the rebranding must take effect (Jan. 1, 2013) and there are no signage considerations. It was thought that since the web redesign was under way, it was more efficient to decide on a name before the project progressed further. Several people have asked about a possible merger with Cranbury to keep us a regional district. About four years ago, the executive county superintendents of Mercer and Middlesex counties studied the feasibility of merging the districts, but I’m not sure they offered an opinion. This leads me to believe that very little or no cost savings would result. Not to speak for everyone, but I think both districts are very pleased with the current arrangement and see no reason for change.

  • Tim Quinn

    @Abbi: The naming of all public entities is covered by state law. Since we are no longer a regional district (one serving multiple municipalities), that portion of state law no longer applies to Princeton and the board is required to change the name. The new name must be approved by the state Board of Education. N.J.S.A. 18A:10-2 states, “Each board of education of a local district shall be known as the Board of Education of (name of municipality) in the County of (name of county).”

    The board has been advised that the adoption of this corporate name does not prevent it from adopting an unofficial name such as one of those mentioned above or another name as long as it is not misleading or inconsistent with the municipal name. We believe the unofficial name is also subject to state Board of Education approval. A similar situation exists at the public library. The corporate name is The Joint Free Public Library of Princeton, while almost everywhere it is known simply as Princeton Public Library. It’s worth noting that the library’s corporate name is covered by statute and will change as well, but the unofficial name is likely to stay the same. (Also worth noting is that I am not a member of the library’s Board of Trustees, which has final authority on matters relating to its operation.) While the library’s unofficial name can stay the same if it chooses, it appears that keeping the word “Regional” in the school district’s name would be inconsistent with the laws and practices governing unofficial names. I hope this helps.

    We did receive one suggestion that would allow us to keep the acronym “PRS”: Princeton’s Remarkable Schools.

  • Abbi

    Is there a legal issue or a technical issue why we can’t just leave well enough alone and stick with “Princeton Regional Schools”? Are the technical/legal rules for naming a district really that strict (I’m curious – would like to better understand the reason that we “have” to do this name change …). I thought one of the main points made by those promoting Consolidation was that it was going to create efficiencies of process and save money … and now because we have consolidated we are now spending School Board time and resources on a name change? And $12K on new “branding” and image? I’m a graduate of K-12 Princeton Regional Schools and I think it would be nice if we kept the same name. And spare us the cost of name-changing, with all the new stationary, new email addresses & web links, etc. And maybe we could use the $12K for something educational if at all possible.

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