Letters: Princeton School District’s Quest for International Baccalaureate Designation a Waste of Money

To the Editor,

We are outraged to hear that before the school board settles the teacher’s contract, we are spending additional taxpayer’s funds on another fancy label called International Baccalaureate.

International Baccalaureate (IB) is an international designation for schools that meet a certain requirement as defined by the International Baccalaureate Organization. IB schools are often great schools, but an IB label does not automatically guarantee it to be a best school. Good international schools in other countries sometimes seek IB designation to make themselves more comparable to their American peers so that they are more easily recognizable by American universities. Schools in poorer areas sometimes seek the designation to differentiate themselves from other urban, less academic driven schools. Princeton is in neither category.

Moreover, IB designation requires extensive financial investments, not only in the initial three-year approval process, but also on an ongoing basis annually. Simply put, IB is not cheap! We would have supported such an initiative if we were not in today’s penny-pinching economic environment. Given the fact that we cannot even secure a teacher’s contract after more than a year of negotiation, we strongly suggest the school board stop wasting taxpayers’ money, and stay focused on more pressing issues such as settling with the teachers.

When the money is tight, let’s invest in those who make a difference in our kids’ lives everyday rather than more expensive labels.

Becca Moss
Janice Fine
Robert Dodge


  1. The school board has not approved an IB program. It has not even been brought to a board committee for review.

    1. IB designation has been said to be a future goal. This letter points out, in advance of such a proposal, that it should be a lower priority than getting a contract with teachers. Teachers have been working without a contract for months.

      1. @sam_wang:disqus: Full disclosure: I’m a former Princeton BOE member and the husband of a teacher in a neighboring high-performing district. Because of this connection with NJEA, I was barred from participation in negotiations and know only what’s been said in public. (I also follow you on Twitter and enjoyed your legendary sparring with Nate Silver.) It’s true that Princeton teachers have been working for almost a year without a contract. Now that the board has reached at least tentative agreements with the district’s other two bargaining units, I think it’s reasonable to ask why this process with PREA has taken so long and has been so acrimonious. I have my own theory, which I won’t share since I don’t know all the facts. I hope the purpose of tonight’s meeting is to ratify the two contracts — the agenda still hasn’t been posted — so the public can learn details of these settlements. They just might cast PREA’s obstreperous public tactics in a different light.

        As for IB, I wonder what assessments are involved. Will it require students to take another round of standardized tests, in addition to PARCC and AP? That will be one of many questions (along with cost) our educators will have to consider before making a recommendation to the community. To paraphrase Mr. Cochrane here: you might think a public school district maneuvers like a speedboat, but it actually moves more like an aircraft carrier.

        —Tim Quinn

        1. @sam_wang:disqus: I’m sure you recognize the need for the district to work on the longer-term needs of students while the board deals with short- and medium-term personnel and contract issues. It seems as if some who write letters about negotiations with PREA view everything from mowing the lawns to buying computers as money somehow being taken away from teachers. In fact, this move to fact-finding could mean that teachers will not realize any increase in salary for a long time. Fact-finding is a protracted and expensive process, with the cost shared by the union and the taxpayers. By contrast, the board was able to realize agreements with its other bargaining units without talks ever reaching an impasse. As I wrote earlier, this has led me to formulate a theory about why the PREA negotiations got bogged down. Perhaps tonight’s meeting will offer data to support my theory.

          1. I do hope you were at the last BOE meeting, Tim, as there were lots of corrections that were made to “data” offered at the unbelievably offensive Emergency BOE meeting. As theories are always supported by facts- I’ll assume you will make sure to have your facts correct.

            1. Hi @marthafriend:disqus: I regret I could only tune in to the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting as the JW student was speaking. So I missed the retractions, but understand there were some mistakes in the original PowerPoint and that they were acknowledged and corrected. I did have a quick look at the corrected PowerPoint last night. As for this thread, I think I said I had a theory about why these talks have gone on for so long that they have reached the point of exhaustion and thought the data presented at the special meeting would support my theory. Some of it did, but not in the way I’d hoped, so it is still a theory based on partial evidence and conjecture. Since we have enough of that in our community about this matter, I’m not not going to share my theory. I’m hopeful these negotiations will be resolved so this is not hanging over everyone’s collective head this summer.

              I understand that several PREA members took offense to the special meeting; I heard the word “ambush” used to describe it. Really, was the purpose of the meeting a surprise to anyone who has been following this long saga? The settlements had been announced the week before; there could only be one reason for the meeting. I wasn’t at the special meeting and haven’t seen the telecast — I was at a Planning Board meeting and heard there were problems with broadcast. If some who attended were offended by something said or the perceived “tone” of the comments, then that is regrettable. I would just point out that I found the content and tone of some of the comments made during open forums at board meetings to be offensive. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.

  2. perhaps this is up for discussion at tomorrow’s “special board meeting”?? There is no agenda posted on the district website.
    -Wednesday, May 20
    Special Board Meeting – Closed Session
    Special Board Meeting-

    1. Since the board announced recently that it had reached tentative agreements with the local bargaining units representing administrators (PAA) and support staff (PRESSA), I’m guessing the Wednesday meeting is to ratify those contracts. This is pure speculation on my part, but if PRESSA and PAA have ratified the agreement before tomorrow evening, I’m guessing the board will discuss and vote on a motion to approve the contracts. I sincerely doubt the board would meet in closed session, then approve something major like IB at a special meeting. As should be apparent from the DLI process, school curriculum change is a deliberate process. If tomorrow’s special meeting isn’t to consider the contract, my only other guess it is related to strategic planning. Again, pure speculation.

      1. It would be helpful if the Board would post an agenda and we didn’t have to speculate.

        1. I agree. I think the protocol is for agendas to be posted at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting. Usually, in late spring and early summer, there are a lot of personnel actions (retirements, reappointments, new hires), which could account for the delay. If the board is considering ratification of the contracts, it might be required to have a separate personnel vote on members covered by the new contract. This could also tighten the time frame for release of the agenda.

  3. All sorts of special designations & “awards” are being purchased by the town of Princeton as well They can be bought directly with fees and/or indirectly with staff time.
    How many “awards” can we give ourselves? How “special” can Princeton and everything in it be? The list of possibilities is as long as the list of .coms and .orgs seeking income.
    Leaders naturally seek recognition, for the abundance of reasons people do such a thing…and we know this. But, will more awards ever make up for their childhood slights, insecurities, or needs to dominate? And do these awards make governance in our schools or town “better”? Of course not.
    I prefer leaders who only seek the Miss/Mr. Congeniality award…. that cheap, simple ribbon one wears with a smile… when they are rather selfless and clearly loved for their thoughtfulness. : )

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