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Princeton Public Schools files 140-page response opposing charter school expansion

Lawyers for the Princeton Public Schools have filed a 140-page document with the New Jersey Commissioner of Education opposing the expansion of the charter school.

The district is requesting that the commissioner not consider the application for expansion at all because it claims the board of trustees for the charter school violated the state’s open public meetings act when it passed a resolution to apply to expand the school by 76 students and add a weighted lottery system to benefit economically disadvantaged students.

“There is no proof that PCS’s weighted lottery will alleviate the inequities with PCS’s enrollment, which have a segregative effect; there is no proof that PCS’s test scores outperform similar peer schools, and, as such, little weight should be given to such data; PCS’s claims that increasing its enrollment will alleviate the District’s rising enrollment are flatly untrue,” reads the document. “The financial impact to the District is real and significant, which could threaten the District’s ability to maintain its excellent educational programs. Finally, there are compelling public policy reasons that favor denial of PCS’s Application.”
The document calls on the state commissioner to at least consider postponing a decision on the charter school application until a superior court judge rules on a lawsuit filed by the district regarding the violation open public meetings act.
“If the Commissioner were to approve the Application and the Superior Court subsequently voids the Board of Trustees’ action, the resulting conflict between the two decisions would cause considerable confusion, disruption, and uncertainty in the budgeting processes and operations of both the District and PCS. Any such conflict would also disrupt PCS’s lottery process for the upcoming school year, thus having negative consequences for the children involved,” reads the document. “Since the PCS Board of Trustees’ action is currently the subject of litigation (and the Board believes that the Court will invalidate PCS’s action), the Commissioner must, at a minimum, postpone consideration of the Application. Denying the Application, however, eliminates any possibility of confusion and uncertainty for the Board, PCS, and all the children they serve.”
The district also calls on the state to place the charter school on probation for the alleged Open Public Meetings Act violations. “The Commissioner should place PCS on probation for its failure to operate in compliance with its legal obligations as a public body. The Board respectfully submits that if the Commissioner takes any action here, it should be to deny the Application and place PCS on probation,” reads the document. Lawyers for the district also claim the charter school has violated the open public meetings act at every meeting since June. They also contend that the charter school has refused to provide the district with certain information the district requested to craft a response to the expansion application.
The district also is requesting that the application be thrown out on its merits because the school has not been enrolling a representative cross section of the community with respect to all student groups, including special education students and English language learners.
“Conspicuously absent from PCS’s submission is any analysis of its current waitlist to ascertain whether weighting the lottery will actually have any impact or any discussion of changes it intends to make to its outreach,” reads the document. “Because PCS likely has few or no prospective students currently applying who would be eligible for the new weighted lottery, the weighted lottery will do nothing to remedy the fact it fails to comply with its legal obligation to enroll a representative cross section of the community.”
The district claims that using a weighted lottery will actually worsen enrollment equity rather than improving it and that every charter school expansion has resulted in a decrease so far.
“PCS’s proposed weighted lottery is designed to benefit families who have incomes significantly higher than those recognized by the New Jersey Department of Education as economically disadvantaged,” reads the document. “Second, it appears PCS historically has not seen demand for its kindergarten lottery among economically disadvantaged students. Third, PCS’s past expansions have resulted in decreases in its enrollment of economically disadvantaged students, not the increase PCS baselessly claims will result from its proposed new round of expansion.”
District officials also claim that little weight can be given to the school’s strong performance data because of the demographic makeup of the student body. They also argue that because the Princeton Public Schools
are among the very best in the nation by any measure, there is no justification for the expansion based on educational quality or opportunity.
The district also calls the charter school’s claim that its expansion plan will assist the district because of the district’s increased enrollment “a sham” the district claims is not supported by data.

Using a “weighted student” measure developed by charter school opponent and Julia Sass Rubin of Rutgers University, the district claims the charter school and public schools spend the same amount per pupil. The charter school has repeatedly disputed Rubin’s numbers and claims.

District officials argue in the document that the expansion request will have a significant financial impact on the district of more than $1 million annually that “will unnecessarily harm and threaten the District’s ability to provide an excellent education for its students.”

They also argue the application should be denied based on public policy and say the Princeton community is “overwhelmingly opposed to the expansion.” More than 3,400 people have signed an online petition opposing the expansion, and Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert wrote a letter to the commissioner, “noting the breadth and intensity of the community’s concerns about it.”
The district argues that the expansion would hurt the current and future Charter School students because about 90 percent of them go on to Princeton High School and budget cuts because of the expansion would hurt the students there, they say.

Finally, the Princeton Public Schools argues that the charter school application is contrary to “the original and best policies of the charter school movement, and is harmful to the vast majority of children in Princeton, particularly those most vulnerable children that PCS claims to want to help.”

One of the original purposes of the charter school movement was to create laboratories for educational innovations that larger, more bureaucratic public school districts did not have the flexibility or capacity to try. “This description simply does not apply to the Princeton Public Schools,” reads the district’s response. “The district is a pioneer of educational innovations in many aspects, at every grade level and for children of every background and learning ability level.”
The full 140-page document can be read online here.

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.

  • Jon

    Are you sure all $95m budget from tax payers of Princeton? There is no federal and state funding at all that is given per student? I don’t see any reason Princeton will simply give $7k/head to Cranbury, and later should not take such a big advantage. Maybe it is better to ask how they come up with this $17k number ( I heard it is $18.8k).

  • BlueBlazer

    No, I do mean ALL schools. From pre-k at JP to PHS. That money goes to ALL schools and therefore benefits ALL students, including PCS students. From before they get admitted to PCS to after they leave PCS.

    Money sent to PCS only supports the families enrolled. If a child doesn’t pass through PCS they won’t benefit from those funds.

  • George

    By “ALL schools” you mean just PPS.

  • BlueBlazer

    I have heard PCS’ say their hands were tied by state guidelines and so they were unable to involve the community in this, which is possible. I’m not aware of this being an actual limitation, but would love to review it.

  • Liz Winslow

    Yes. We’ve heard you. I personally think the sports program never will benefit my disabled kids, so I think I’ll lobby hard for that to be abolished – that’s over a million bucks a year! Likewise, they’ll never do band or perform in the state of the art theater – an ax to them, too! Now do you see at all how crazy this sounds?

    Or maybe we could look at why we’re paying first grade teachers cash comp (just cash!) of $95k. Or why we have a truckload of administrators making $140k-$170k (heck ,the business manager makes $181k) unchecked. Or why PPS, while claiming poverty and the need to jack our taxes every year, just came up with $40k for a gardening program, which while nice, I fail to see how will improve on the 3 r’s. There are tons of things PPS could take a deep look at, but it’s just easier to blame PCS, which educates 10% of the students on 5% of the budget, and use some extremely fuzzy math to do it.

  • Liz Winslow

    The MSGPs should cause anyone in PPS’s administration to feel shame. Especially JW’s. Those measure kids’ growth from where they are, so there’s no way to cherry-pick students. There are a million other ways to skin this cat, but those are extremely transparent. And I’d want to know why, for $95mm a year for 3900 students, the middle school in LA and math is at the 17th percentile and 26th percentile. Instead, everyone’s drunk the kool aid that everything’s great because everyone says it’s great.

  • Liz Winslow

    You whined, over a post you didn’t even see, and won’t come clean with who you are or what your agenda is. Are any of those things not facts? We shall continue to disagree on math, I suppose. Done with you here.

  • George

    Whether its good or bad, PCS operates under the rules controlled by the state, not the town. They had a flat budget for a number of years while PPS was getting tax increases and union contract renegotiations.

  • Veronica Lake

    This oft-heard formulation cracks me up: “the money follows the child.” How happy and nice and non-threatening it sounds–conjuring up images of children merrily skipping over to Bunn Drive as smiling dollar bills frolic along behind them, all destined to become one big happy family under the welcoming roof of PCS. But someone could just as easily–and just as accurately–say “the children tear the money out of the budget and drag it across town with them.”

  • BlueBlazer

    Again I ask, did PCS hold ANY public meetings about the proposal for the months they were planning it?

  • BlueBlazer

    Bottom Line: Funds that are currently flowing into ALL schools would be reallocated to ONLY PCS.

    If a comensurate level of funding was pulled from PCS and redirected to PPS would Charter not need to reconsider their budget? How would Charter feel if this was done with zero input on their part, and without warning?

  • George

    Yes, one can say that both PPS and PCS have (about equal) high costs when adjusting for demographic imbalances. But I don’t believe PPS claim of better performance. The NJASK test is fairly old now, it hasn’t been used for the last couple of years. And I don’t know how they calculated the growth rates. I think they just picked one statistics that shows them ahead. Its much more obvious to look at the recent PARCC tests and compare the scores for each demographic. The fraction of students who outperform expectations is twice as large in PCS than in PPS in each grade and for each demographic group.

  • George

    They are not attempting to “reallocate” funds. The funds are simply following the children.

  • resident

    The only claims I’ve heard from PPS about per child cost have been in response to PCS claims that PCS educates more affordably than PPS. The counter argument to that claim has been PPS educates everyone, while PCS educates primarily only the most affordable demographic.

    Given that, after adjusting for the demographic imbalances, the cost per pupil for PCS and PPS is nearly identical, this also must mean PCS is high when compared to other NJ districts, after adjusting for demographic imbalances, yes?

    And where are you getting the notion that PPS test scores are mediocre?

    John Witherspoon outperformed the Princeton Charter School on the NJASK growth rates relative both to its peers (96 percentile versus 81 for Princeton Charter School), and statewide (96 percentile versus 91 for Princeton Charter School).

  • BlueBlazer

    Again, we are not discussing other communities. That is a separate discussion. We are discussing how PCS (without any public engagement) is attempting to reallocate funds.

    Did PCS hold any public meetings about this proposed amendment in the months it was apparently planned and discussed?

  • George

    This is simply a quantitative statement. For example, PCS cites in their letter that only 4 districts out of 103 spend more money per student than PPS: East Orange, Camden, Pleasantville and Teaneck. Well, one can check that each one of them has much much larger fraction of economically disadvantaged students than PPS. And PPS likes to claim that they are more expensive because of the demographics. Simply put, considering all the factors, PPS is just not doing such a great job in the quantitative sense, they spend a lot of money to educate a well-off district with mediocre test results.
    How should PPS react? In the spirit of free competition. They should see what the parents who send kids to PCS want and try to attract more of them or adjust to having a smaller share of the students.

  • BlueBlazer

    I think this sort of view, “well there aren’t that many, so it shouldn’t be a big deal” is what contributes to people feeling like PCS parents are elistist.

    And using the “well, other districts have different demographics” is just moving the goalposts. We are discussing our community, and how it will be impacted by PCS’ proposal.

    Lastly, obviously we will just disagree on this point but I’m not sure how you would want PPS to react to PCS proposal. I don’t any demonization or exaggerations of PCS. The one lawsuit I am of aware makes sense given that there was/is no public record or discussion that I am aware of for PCS’ proposed amendment.

  • resident

    Of course you insulted me. You said:

    There are a lot of cowards on this board, yourself included.

    and

    So, pardon me if I don’t look to you for moral leadership, let alone thorough thought, on this issue.

    —-
    You insulted me because I disagreed with you about using an internet message board anonymously.

    Regarding your math, here is the original claim:

    Given that 30% of Princeton parents want more rigorous academics and apply to PCS, its not unreasonable to have such a school here.

    Parents. Not children. Parents. 30% of the parents. Family size is irrelevant. Also, claim was made regarding kids in school, or out of school. So your calculations make absolutely no sense.

  • Liz Winslow

    Nobody insulted you. Somebody just disagreed with you, and you couldn’t handle it, so now you’re whining about it (the whining is actually an insult; the feeling disagreed with is not). I think if you spend some time on this matter yourself, you’ll find that 200 familes at Charter is reasonable. But since you can’t or won’t do the math:

    200 families x avg family size of 4 = 800 people
    4x oversubsciption at Charter = 3200 people (so 10% of every single person in Pton, despite family makeup)
    Allow for families with no children or children under or above Charter age – there you go.

    This is quick, easy, common sense. I’m sure someone with more exact numbers could make an even more compelling argument.

    What are YOUR math numbers that are so far superior to these?

  • resident

    You didn’t explain anything. You just insulted me.

    I certainly never asked you to look to me for moral leadership – I can’t imagine why would even think I did. And why do you think it’s courageous to talk to a fellow community member they way you just spoke to me? That is not bravery as I know the concept.

    And so, I’ll ask again – how do you get 30% of the parents in Princeton from 200 families at PCS given the population of 30,000?

  • Liz Winslow

    Your math is about to collapse under its own weight, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt since you didn’t see PR’s original (inane) post.

    And I certainly will “scold” anyone using social media who employs it to spit out statements wrong at best and libelous at worst under cloak of anonymity. Who are YOU to call me out on that? BTW, who are you, again? Just one more person without the courage of their convictions to speak publicly, I guess – sturm and drang is fine for other people, but the vapors appear when others might disagree with you (not avatar-you).

    As someone formerly involved in a very sensitive industry – nobody would ever care at all about school board comments on the local web site. So unless you’re a) pro Charter and b) employed by PPS, seems to me you’re worried about, gasp, what the next kaffee klatch will think. So, pardon me if I don’t look to you for moral leadership, let alone thorough thought, on this issue.

    There are a lot of cowards on this board, yourself included. You may dislike me boatloads, but I’m not one of them. I make no secret of who I am or what my views are. And I will wager I sleep better at night for it.

  • George

    Yes, PCS should increase their underrepresented demographics, it would be good, but its not their primary function. On the other hand, PPS is a bit too loud about how they educate all. They have a relatively small percentage of disadvantaged students compared to most other school districts and I don’t think they deserve that much credit for it, Princeton is hardly a tough district.
    Whatever people say in forums has no relation to PCS administration. On the other hand, PPS administration is engaged in exaggerations, lawsuits, and public relations campaigns to demonize PCS.

  • resident

    Personally, if you wanted my vote for the expansion, I would suggest doing what ever you had to do to increase the amount of underrepresented demographics in the PCS – ELL, special needs and low income households – THEN ask for an expansion.

    As it stands, and given the way each school is funded, I simply see it as wrong to take money from the school that educates all comers, including the most expensive to teach, and give it to the school that educates a very small amount of kids who for whatever reason under represents those that need the most help.

    Also, I would suggest as a school, PCS should engage with the public differently. Here and on face book, PCS advocates are calling people names, calling the superintendent unprofessional, mocking people for stay anonymous, calling people racists….it’s off-putting to say the least.

    But it doesn’t matter – Really, it doesn’t. You will probably get your expansion because ultimately, only one person’s opinion matters.

  • resident

    Who are you to scold them for choosing how they use social media?

    Certainly it’s occurred to you that people might post anonymously for a number of reasons. Perhaps the views they share here would be uncomfortable to have known at their place of work. Or perhaps they are in social and/or professional relationships with others posting and/or reading here and would rather not have political disagreements spill over into real life. Or maybe, they just prefer to be anonymous, which is allowed by the web site.

    And FWIW – what are you talking about? George claimed 30% of Princeton PARENTS shared his view about academic rigor – he said:

    Given that 30% of Princeton parents want more rigorous academics and apply to PCS, its not unreasonable to have such a school here.

    —-

    What does it matter how many members there are in a family? That has nothing to do with his claim. His claim was about the parents in Princeton.

    And also….huh? Can you explain this to me?;

    You said:
    asked how 30,000 people and 200 families equated to 30% or so of Princeton’s kids applying to Charter. As families by definition have more than one person, this was a ridiculous statement, that s/he went on to sulk about
    ——
    Where is the ridiculous statement?

    200 families. Call it 4 per family…..800 people. 800 =/= 30% of 30,000

    30% of 30,000 = 9,000.

    Which isn’t even close.

    But that doesn’t matter because GEORGE DIDN”T SAY 30% of the people of Princeton are involved in charter school….he said 30% of the PARENTS support a rigorous education! Which is still an unfounded claim.
    —-

    So best as I can tell, you made a bunch of rude comments to someone without even speaking accurately about the topic of discussion.

    Nice.

  • George

    At some level the purpose of charter schools is to create competition that should be simply driven by consumer choice. If more people want to enroll their children in charter school, it should expand, and the public school should contract. Overall, the costs to the town are about the same, so why do we even really need to parse people’s values and opinions. If PPS doesn’t want to lose its market share, it needs to adjust and improve.

  • Liz Winslow

    Princeton resident, who has since apparently thrown a tantrum at the idea that someone knows who s/he is (although I’ve done nothing to out him/her but merely point out that s/he has left a trail a mile wide, and ask for a real name to be used out of sheer integrity), asked how 30,000 people and 200 families equated to 30% or so of Princeton’s kids applying to Charter. As families by definition have more than one person, this was a ridiculous statement, that s/he went on to sulk about. And I repeat, s/he really should show some courage and post under his/her own name at this point, and own what they say.

  • Liz Winslow

    Shows just how much personal courage and integrity DOESN’T exist, eh? Say anything you want behind the cloak of anonymity, but when someone’s got your number, cry to PP to delete your comments.

  • resident

    1) If your estimate is correct – that 30% of the entering K class enters the PCS lottery – that still does not mean 30% of the community share the values you articulated. That just means 30% of a couple hundred families with K-aged kids are interested in charter.

    2) Families could also share the values you articulated and still not support PCS, or PCS expansion (which are two separate issues. That’s something that seems to be lost here. These threads quickly devolve into ‘why don’t you support charter?’ when often the opinions offered are relevant to the expansion).

    3) I think you are mistaken if you believe PPS doesn’t support high academic achievement at all levels.

  • George

    Wow, he just disappeared!

  • resident

    Wow – what a nasty post.

  • George

    I am not saying that most people are acting for selfish reasons, just that if they do consider their own self-interest, there is not much upside to PCS expansion for them. And its perfectly reasonable for parents to value things other than academics more, everyone has different values and they should be respected and accommodated to the extend possible. So there should be sports teams and magnet/charter school. I don’t think most parents follow 1-2% changes in the budget. PPS waged a huge (dis)information campaign that turned everyone against PCS. I am sure it would have happened anyway if this was rolled out slower, just look at the battles that were waged when the school was forming.

  • George

    In their annual reports they do state the size of their waiting lists. In some meeting minutes they mention the number of people who applied to the lottery. One can figure out from that perhaps how many people decline admission.
    I would equally like to see the statistical differences in the academic performance when PCS and PPS students get to high school.

  • BlueBlazer

    I don’t read it the same way you do. PPS states on page 24 that by mixing in income brackets higher than what is set at the state level PCS will further lower the chances for applicants on free/reduced lunch programs from being admitted. This is accurate. I do agree that a family of four earning $65k ANYWHERE is struggling. I also agree with PPS that this is a poorly thought out attempt to weight the lottery. If PCS is going to correct their lottery, it should be done in a way that actually WILL help diversify demographics, not just sound promising. One example might be three tries for those on free/reduced lunch, two tries for those in public housing, etc. Or a two slots set aside for those on free/reduced lunch programs and two tries for those in public housing. There are quite a few options that would ensure better results that what is proposed.

  • BlueBlazer

    I would caution against making a statement like “most people have selfish reasons to oppose PCS expansion.” It comes across as snobby, and I’m presuming you don’t intend it to. From what I’ve seen, read, and heard people are blindsided by this request. They feel left out of a process that impacts them and their children. To call them selfish, say they don’t value academics, or that they petulant about not getting in is unwarranted. As I’ve said before, the black eye PCS has in the community over this is self inflicted.

  • BlueBlazer

    Where is the data on PCS admission applications? I can’t locate it anywhere. PPS has requested it, but PCS hasn’t provided. Until that can be seen there’s no reason to guess declines are any number. Or that 30% of our community want what PCS offers.

    It would seem that having this data to review would be the best way to answer many questions about the true demand and demographics of applicants. I’m puzzled why PCS wouldn’t use this information to bolster their amendment proposal.

  • FreshAir

    Cranbury needs to end in 2020. period, end of. Let’s make room to welcome the children of grad students, new Princeton residents, & children from Princeton’s 445 new affordable housing units without having to listen to whining school administrators from 2020 on. Nothing against Cranbury children who endure the long commute at their parents behest, but this agreement hasn’t served our own Princeton kids well. The anti-traffic, walkability people should be on board, given the multiple buses & cars that will stop coming through town in 2020. The sustainability people should be on board, if they are sincere about the sustainability of our community buildings. The parents of 270 Princeton kids losing attention from teachers & opportunities should be on board without hesitation. The taxpayers who lose millions should be on board. School administrators who can’t plan for our needs let alone Cransbury’s may never be on Board because their budget may shrink, but they already care so little about us and that shows so much it hurts.

  • Liz Winslow

    LOL – I don’t have any buddies who are pro-charter in Cranbury, but I agree we’ve got the rawest deal ever. Around 300 kids paying around $17k in tuition, on a 10 year contract, not renegotiable until 2020. So until then, Princeton – and any bonds it issues – bleeds at least $7k per Cranbury high school student. Back of the envelope – 7k x 300 kids x 3 more years = $6.3 million literally thrown out the window. But as I’ve said before, there’s money for multiple performance spaces better than what I had at a Seven Sisters school, turf fields, $40k for gardening, iPads for all… but SURE, PCS is the whole fiscal problem, educating 10% of the kids on 5% of the budget. Sure it is.

    Again – at some point – while weightings are interesting and worth considering – one has to come back to raw numbers. And PPS’s raw numbers stink to high heaven.

    Cranbury, IMO, needs to be renegotiated in 2020 at whatever the per student rate is then (about $24k now), PLUS 2% per year in property tax raises, PLUS the cap-jumping Pton has already done, PLUS a true-up payment. If they can’t or won’t do it? Happy trails finding another school district or building one of your own. I did not move here to be a charity to Cranbury high schoolers.

    I’d love a school superintendent from anywhere in the developing world come, look at the facilities, look at the bills, and laugh the PPS BOE and administration out of their offices. Not that we shouldn’t have better facilities than in the developing world, but there’s just no bloody grip anymore on necessity vs. luxury.

    As far as bonding – JW has social dances with Cranbury 8th graders as a get-to-know-you. PCS always has been excluded. So much for “they’re all our kids” from PPS. And I agree – $60mm-ish is about the right number, for us not to be spending like drunken sailors but still get better results, such as, oh, WW-P right down the road (and PPS, give me a break on economies of scale there – at a certain point you just don’t have more administrators, etc. so that fails to wash).

  • FreshAir

    What’s sadder than the money is the opportunity to be on sports teams & in groups that 270 Cranbury kids take away from Princeton High School kids every year. There are bonding & growth opportunities, and experiences Princeton kids miss in this community, because of a relationship that favors Cranbury. It’s not like Cranbury is comprised of economically underserved kids, or our international community comprised of children of Princeton’s visiting academics. Princeton loses too much in the deal with Cranbury.

  • Liz Winslow

    You would’ve gotten side-eye from a 3rd grade math teacher for that one. You should hardly be holding yourself out as a leader of the opposition to the expansion if the extent of your mouth-foaming leaves you incapable of coherent thought. BTW, when *will* you start using your real name? It would be… refreshing to see someone with enough courage of their convictions to stop hiding behind anonymity.

  • Princeton resident

    wow- maybe you could be a little more condescending. nice.

  • Liz Winslow

    Oh, my favorite part – Linda Greenstein from Cranbury writes opposing the expansion, and cites Evelyn Spann as the PPS rep from Cranbury. Gee, if I were representing a school district that pays $17k in tuition to a district that spends $24k to educate each kid, and that contract were up for renegotiation in 3 years, I might choose my words more carefully.

    But again, there is sheer intellectual dishonesty here – maybe hundreds of Cranbury kids x a $7k/head deficit is where PPS should start looking to trim (and should disclose this vitally important fiscal hole to Harrington).

  • Liz Winslow

    This whole thing is so intellectually dishonest – it implies (nay, flat out says) that stranded costs are stranded, nothing about the 10% holdback, etc. It gives platitudes that PPS is great, with little to no data to back that up. And it seems like 2/3 of it are newspaper ads – still containing 0% down car financing offers – to back up the meritless open meeting claim. Even if you oppose the expansion, any taxpayer should want to know what it cost PPS to come up with 140 pages of self-serving, inflammatory muck – and why the district for whatever reason came up with lawyers from far out of town to do it.

  • Liz Winslow

    Holy cow – look at page 23. PPS is arguing that PCS would give preference to children who aren’t truly economically disadvantaged. Apparently public housing is not evidence enough of disadvantage; in a town with median income into the six figures, PPS is begrudging families of 4 who make $65k? PPS, this is just plain slimy, and with your plethora of $150k+ administrators, you know it. Shame on you for trying to limit the weighting of the lottery to those who are borderline destitute – what a strategy – then you can later claim the working poor weren’t represented.

  • Liz Winslow

    Well, to start with, families tend to have more than one person in them. Beyond that glaring point, look at the number of lottery applicants and compare to number of district kids. This is not difficult.

  • Liz Winslow

    Just FYI, “Princeton resident” has left a wide breadcrumb trail for anyone wishing to, within a pretty tight margin of error, know his/her true identity. (and no, the handle is not Cochrane’s). It would be refreshing if a real name would be used at this point, actually. It’s nice when people own what they say.

  • George

    The problem is most people have selfish reasons to oppose PCS expansion: a) People who don’t particularly value academics, want their children to have more time for sports, arts, etc. They don’t apply to PCS and don’t want the resources going to it, also they don’t want stiffer academic competition in high school. b) People who applied to PCS and did not get in. They feel rejected, the system is too exclusive and not fair. Also don’t want more competition for their children in high school. c) Some fraction of people who got into PCS and want to keep it small for whatever reason. All these people oppose PCS but it has nothing to do with how well PCS is doing its job.

  • George

    I don’t have the data on how many people decline admission to PCS, I would guess it is not large. Anecdotally, one might have a chance being in low single digits on the waiting list. Broadly in the community, if you ask people do you want a rigorous academic education for your children, how many would say yes? In a town like Princeton, where roughly 30% of households have at least one PhD, I would hope at least 30% (that doesn’t mean that all those with a PhD want to send their children to PCS). It is unfortunate that PCS has been so demonized recently, all they are doing is teaching well and perhaps demonstrating that there is a better way.

  • Princeton resident

    this is totally different than what you said above: “20-30% of Princeton residents share these values”

  • BlueBlazer

    Just because someone applies and is accepted, doesn’t mean that someone will accept the offer. Many new parents will consider all school options for their children. Knowing how limited the openings are at PCS it makes sense to apply, just to keep your options open. Bottom line, it is flawed thinking to cite total applicants as a basis of PCS’ support.

  • George

    You are discounting the fact that a) not all Princeton residents have elementary-middle school age children and a good fraction send children to private schools and b) only about a third of families that apply to the PCS get in. From the number of people on the waiting list (which is public) and also based on the statements from the PCS, one can estimate that about 30% children who start kindergarten apply to PCS. So about 30% of families who are most directly affected want their own children to get into PCS. Now I wonder how many people who apply to PCS and don’t get in then become vocal opponents of it.

  • Princeton resident

    the population of Princeton is around 30,000 and the population of PCS is around 200 families- how is that 20-30% of residents??

  • George

    The point is that 20-30% of Princeton residents share these values. This is is a large enough fraction that it cannot be ignored, even if its a minority. Especially in a place like Princeton. Otherwise, it will become just another rich town with no point to it, like many other in NJ.

  • Princeton resident

    the point is that a public school district is not based on your values, it is is based on the values of a community. pretty clear that if the Princeton community got to vote on this issue, there would be no PCS expansion, probably no PCS at all…

  • George

    I was using the word “challenged” in replying to resident above, which is different from what I think you mean by the word, although it also works. In general, when kids start school they don’t have a concept how hard it should be. They can be equally happy and well adjusted in PCS and PPS but their internal understanding of how much mental effort school requires will be different. We have the example of West Windsor schools near here, which push it perhaps too far in the direction of academic competition. But given the choice between PPS and West Windsor schools, its a close call based on my values and I can understand why some people I know choose West Windsor.

  • BlueBlazer

    I think it would be useful to clarify what exactly is meant by “challenged.” In my limited and anecdotal experience, the choice to go PCS is usually driven by parents wanting quantifiable “results” that demonstrate exactly where their children rank. Perhaps this is inaccurate and you have a different take. I also see the default assumption time and again that PCS is hands down the “be all end all” of quality academic education in our community, usually backed up by pointing to standardized test results. Frankly, it gets a bit tiresome.

  • George

    My point is that many other districts with much more diverse populations than Princeton manage to have magnet schools. It doesn’t matter if its 30% or 15%, its still enough to fill a decent size school and so there is no good reason not to have one. Any detriment to the “70%” is barely measurable. Most resources are spent of course on the bottom quarter and that is fine, but it doesn’t mean that people who are not “challenged” should be just ignored because they will be OK anyway.

  • Murray

    In my 13 years of having children in the Princeton Public School system, I have never met an administrator or a teacher whose goal it was to bring “all children to the same level.” Instead, in every conversation I have had with my children’s teachers, their focus has been on what my kids need as individuals to be challenged and engaged academically, and feel happy, respected and safe socially.

  • Princeton resident

    not all of those who enter the lottery decide to enroll, even if the do “win” a spot. So, the 30% is not really accurate.

  • resident

    It is in fact unreasonable if accommodating those 30% is to the detriment of the other 70%. Particularly given that the most challenged among us are largely in the 70%.

  • George

    One can have a debate whether the purpose of public education is to bring all children to the same level or to challenge each one to the maximum of their abilities and interests. Certainly PCS is not unique, there are plenty of public magnet schools that are designed to challenge students. Most large cities have such schools. Given that 30% of Princeton parents want more rigorous academics and apply to PCS, its not unreasonable to have such a school here. I would not call 30% “special interests” of a “few people”. If the district was interested in setting up a magnet school within the regular school system it would probably work almost as well as the charter school.

  • resident

    A right to a public education does not mean a right to an education that meets the narrow specific desires of a few people.

    PPS has created a school system that meets a diverse, and demanding, student body, and has been extremely successful. To take money from the system that educates all comers, regardless of language, of ability, of economic standing, of support at home, of physical challenges, and give it to a school that serves none, or a very small amount of these same citizens because…why? Because they are standing up for themselves and want their kids to have a different curriculum in a setting void of economic diversity?

    Sounds ludicrous to me.

    I want my kids to study nothing but spelunking, origami and witchcraft all day, and be served Fresca in crystal goblets for lunch. Where’s my charter?

  • Murray

    As a foreigner with a PhD, let me chime in to say that I believe that public education should serve as many kids as possible, and not those with special interests. And as a side note: I have two kids in the public schools, and both are getting an excellent, and rigorous education in all topics including science, by well-educated and passionate teachers. Please be careful about making assumptions about what most academics here in Princeton prefer.

  • George

    These are not mutually exclusive. Some academics qualify for low income and a good fraction come from abroad. Those with less resources should be given priority if they want rigorous education. And certainly most academics don’t have resources to send kids to private schools and usually don’t want to, so it will alleviate overcrowding. But I don’t get the gist of your comment, if PhDs can’t stand up for themselves here in Princeton, then where else?

  • Princeton resident

    so you are acknowledging that the expansion is for the children of Phd’s looking for more rigor, and not to serve the low-income or English language learner students or to alleviate overcrowding ?? ok, that’s we thought.

  • George

    Princeton public schools and the board have been hostile to the Charter from the very beginning, just read the accounts of the battles when the school was forming. And their reaction now is overblown, its not about 1.5% of their budget, its about control and monopoly. Different families want different things for their children, some want to have two recess periods instead of one and some want to have more math and science. It is good that PPS has a robust ESL and special education programs, but I also like to see them brag about how many of their kids participate in science Olympiads. Its too late to wait until high school to engage children in serious academic pursuits. The charter school was formed because PPS was not serving a significant fraction of Princeton population that expects higher academic standards. As I mentioned before, Princeton school district has by far the largest fraction of residents with a PhD, that is why it needs a charter school, even if the reason is somewhat different from other charter schools. PCS would probably grow by a factor of 3 or so if it could accept everyone on the waiting list. So that is how many parents want academically-rigorous education. If the district accommodated those families (something like 30% of the total), there would be no need for the charter.

  • Milo mina

    I, as a Princeton tax payer have not seen any proposal. Have you? Talk is cheap, where is a actionable plan? Why the expression of surprise and mad dash to referendum etc.

  • resident

    I’m pretty sure he is worried about the $1.2 million at stake that would be helpful to educate the extra 200. PPS, unlike charter, doesn’t get a budget increase when enrollment goes up. If 500 more kids show up next year, they will be educated with the same budget.

    Also, what gives you the impression that Mr. Cochrane and PPS haven’t been planning for the additional students coming from Avalon Bay?

  • Princeton resident

    hahaha- that actually made me laugh out loud.

  • Milo mina

    Tgis may come across as blunt and rude but it needs to be said; Mr. Cochran who is making so much noise and has been spending so much time fighting PCS has been sleeping on his job responsibility. The Avalon development and the university residences did not spring up out of nowhere overnight. Where is the forward planning and proposal to deal with the overcrowding? I don’t recall seeing anything from all his concerned supporters of this very facial and real flaw in his management. It’s almost like he just woke up this year and realized; bummer, we have a problem but let me divert the attention to 78 seats that charter wants to expand by and maybe everyone will forget I failed to account for 200 in my planning.

  • Milo mina

    Reading your tone and how you are taking this so personally, I would think you ARE Mr. cocharane mascarading as a Princeton resident.

  • resident

    I think the attitude of PCS supports in this, and the many other threads here and elsewhere is the driving force behind any division you perceive.

    In your post above, you complain that Mr. Cochrane is being divisive after you call him a child and claim with no proof that his administration is bloated…you go on to repeat a falsehood about the cost per child in PPS. PPS costs are in line with similar schools.

    George starts the thread by calling an accurate claim by PPS “drivel.”

    In other threads, PCS proponents call those who oppose the expansion racists who stand against freedom….

    FWIW – I never supported the charter because, IMO it never had a clear purpose, other than some vague desire for more academic rigor. That does not seem like enough of a reason to earn a charter, particularly since – despite claims to the contrary – PPS is doing a very good job providing education to a student body that is at once diverse and demanding.

    But hey, it got it’s charter, and has been doing it’s thing….so fine, my tax payer dollars are going to benefit a very, very, very small number of my neighbors to educate their kids in a setting nearly completely void of economic diversity, and that drastically under represents a number of demographics. Oh well. That’s the way it goes…

    Now you want more of my tax payer dollars? Well, I have to say, had PCS and it’s supports not been so nasty, divisive, rude, and by my estimation intentionally misleading, and had the expansion been proposed in the open rather than snuck in under the wire, I probably wouldn’t even have noticed! But instead they called me racist for suggesting PCS weight their lottery now THEN ask for an expansion….they repeat the debunked claim that PCS is multitudes more efficient that PPS and ignore data to the contrary, and insult the person that assembles the data…they call Mr. Cochrane names and mock his efforts, when what I see is a professional doing his job in a professional manner….

    It’s really to much to take. And so now, I’m completely engaged to preventing PCS from taking MORE of my tax dollars to educate just 76 more kids when that expansion negatively impacts 3,500 of our children, the most economically disadvantaged kids among them…..

    But don’t worry – your expansion will probably pass because after all, why should it not be up to one political appointee, right? Why not let one person outside of our town tell us how to spend our tax dollars? Why shouldn’t we take money from the institution that has 15% low income kids, 6% ELL kids and 13% SE kids and give that money to a small school that has 1% low income, 0% ELL and 3% Special Ed!!!!!!!!

    Makes all the sense in the world, doesn’t it???? By all means – let’s give MORE money to the school that doesn’t do the heavy lifting!

    But, given who appointed the person who makes the call….you’ll probably win. So there’s that. If you don’t want to foster resentment in the community after your victory, I would suggest to you and the other PCS proponents that frequent the social media threads to be respectful those who disagree with this decision.

    I know that I have been less than cordial in this post, and I apologize in advance, but honesty, I just can’t take it anymore – PCS is asking the community for more of our tax dollars, and do so by insulting, ridiculing, and presenting false information about a school system I respect and enjoy. You know how you guys don’t like it when people get nasty about charter? It goes both ways.

  • Princeton resident

    not sure what you are referring to, but I have attended many Board mtgs. and read the minutes every month and have seen no evidence of Mr. Cochrane being confrontational or immature nor ever having anything close to a tantrum or a threatening tone on ANY subject. EVER.

  • Milo mina

    You can’t have it both ways. He cannot claim to be the leader and then hide behind a broad board when the heat is on. You either own the direction you are taking the schools in or step out of the role. The buck stops with him.

  • Princeton resident

    do you realize that the superintendent does not act on these matters unilaterally ? He makes decisions with a publicly elected Board. A board that YOU get to vote for.

  • Milo mina

    The superintendent has been confrontational right from the start. He has acted in an immature manner much like a child whose favorite toy is being taken away. This tantrum like behaviors is more about protecting the bloated administration than your and my children. His tone his threats and his attack attitude has divided an otherwise intellectual and congenial population into two camps that are taking the arguments as personal attack when the real issue to be addressed is simply “why is it so expensive to educate Princeton students per child?” If the money was going to teachers, equipment for kids etc, I would have no problem.

  • Princeton resident

    raw data tells you nothing about those who opted out, or how they may have scored.

  • George

    I make no connection between the standardized tests and intelligence, being happy or successful. The tests are more a measure of hard work and knowing stuff. Some families value it and some don’t. That is why we need the charter school. The academically inclined population of Princeton is underserved by the PPS. They are not disadvantaged, but they are underserved.

  • George

    Its hard to screw up schools in this town (just as its hard to fix them in other places). They are just riding on the fact that many parents will ensure their kids will be OK one way or the other. But I know academically-inclined families who are moving out to other districts.

  • George

    LOL, thanks, this must be a complement

  • WhatInTheWorldz

    Take it from a parent who knows: students opt out because the PARCC is BS.

    But, if stats are all you care about: US News & World Report ranks PHS in the top 10 of New Jersey High Schools. Why do you think so many families move to this town? The scenery’s nice, but it’s the schools that bring them here.

  • WhatInTheWorldz

    Not at all. Princeton Public Schools were left with no choice since the Charter School filed their expansion request rather secretively without any kind of public discourse or debate. Lawyers were needed as the deadline was approaching. And, make no mistake, there have been a lot of opinions and discussions and protests prior to this court filing.

  • WhatInTheWorldz

    Not at all. Princeton Public Schools were left with no choice since the Charter School filed their expansion request rather secretively without any kind of public discourse or debate. Lawyers were needed as the deadline was approaching. And, make no mistake, there has been a lot of options and discussions and protests prior to this court filing.

  • WhatInTheWorldz

    If you think insuring the quality of our kids’ education is a waste of taxpayer money, maybe you need to go back to school and think some more.

  • WhatInTheWorldz

    You sound like someone who took too many standardized tests.

  • WhatInTheWorldz

    As a parent of a child at Princeton High School, I resent your insinuation that those students who opt out of standardized tests are somehow less intelligent than those who take them. On the contrary, I’d say those who opt out are smart enough to know that the PARCC test is a superficial, limited, and ultimately meaningless yardstick by which to measure a young person’s abilities, intelligence, and creativity. An increasing number of colleges and university’s understand this now, too, and are removing standardized test from their admission requirements. I feel sorry for kids with parents who think that SAT/ACT scores have any bearing on their children’s ability to succeed and be happy.

  • George

    This includes high school which had very low participation and skewed the results. One needs to look at raw data for each grade, which are available for download.

  • Princeton resident

    Stephen Stirling and Adam Clark written in NJ news.

  • George

    Where does this statistics come from? I have all the detailed spreadsheets for all grades and its typically 10-15% in each not tested for all reasons.

  • Princeton resident

    you are totally misinformed about who opts out.
    plus this:PRINCETON PUBLIC SCHOOLS

    1754 of the 4484 PARCC tests scheduled were not taken for reasons other than students being absent or a medical emergency.
    This means 39.12% of PARCC tests were skipped because students refused or for other reasons.

  • George

    It is not large, only about 10%. And who do you think opts out- students who would do well or who would do poorly? If they participated, it would only lower PPS scores.

  • Milo mina

    Is this your opinion or do you actually know what the lawyers are charging? And since when is it a wise use of taxpayer money for two public officials or for that matter two public entities to use lawyers to communicate. And before you say this is the only way, remember the suprientandant is he one who decided to use lawyers and sue instead of dialog

  • Cost-Benefit

    The lawyers cost a tiny fraction of $1.2 million/$6+ million per year, it’s actually a very sound use of taxpayer money to advocate on behalf of the residents who are having to respond to the expansion request post-submission and through a state process instead of a local one.

  • Princeton resident

    large numbers of PPS students opt-out of PARCC testing. Numbers from that test are meaningless in this discussion.

  • George

    Some of the statements here are demonstratively wrong. For example, “The Princeton Public Schools are among the very best in the nation by any measure” – this is self-congratulatory drivel.
    The performance of PPS on PARCC scores is middle of the pack in comparison to peer schools- and this is considering that the district has by far the highest concentration of PhDs in NJ and therefore most academically- consciousness parents. Also, academic performance on PARCC scores in PCS is much better than PPS when comparing the same demographic populations. The fraction of PCS students that outperforms expectations is twice the fraction of PPS students for each comparable demographic group.

  • Milo mina

    My, my, my! This is a classic case of “let’s throw everything and the kitchen sink at it and see what sticks”. What a disgusting waste of taxpayer money.

    I wonder what the lawyers charged to come up with the 140 page filing.

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Santa Comes to Kale’s Garden Center

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Princeton Symphony Orchestra Holiday POPS! Concert

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Screening: It’s a Wonderful Life

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Santa Comes to Kale’s Garden Center

December 16 @ 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
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Palmer Square Winter Wonderland and Photo Workshop

December 16 @ 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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T-Connect Trans Youth Group

December 16 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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