Princeton Public Schools delays release of public records for the third time

The public records custodian for the Princeton Public Schools has extended the time for releasing public records to Planet Princeton for a third time in response to recent public records requests.

Planet Princeton filed two public records requests with the Princeton Public Schools back on Nov. 14. Under state law, a public agency has seven business days to respond to a request. The Princeton Public Schools requested more time to fill the requests on three separate occasions, and officials have now said the documents will not be ready until Dec. 18.

According to the public records custodian for the district, the public records requests generated “thousands of pages” of records.

Planet Princeton has offered to clarify or narrow down the requests to reduce the number of records and make the request more manageable because of the delays, but has not received a response from the district.

One public records request seeks each email and text message sent or received by Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane, Business Administrator Matthew Bouldin, and School Board President Beth Behrend between July 1 of 2019 and Nov. 14 of 2019 referencing Westminster, Rider, or WCC. 

The other public records request seeks each email and text message sent or received by Behrend from Sept. 1 to Nov. 14 referencing school board member Daniel Dart, or Dart, or Dan. The request also seeks copies of each legal bill related to the Dart matter, and copies of each legal bill related to the board’s new communication policy.

Sources have told Planet Princeton that the school board leadership has forced Dart to meet with a school board lawyer over two emails he wrote. In one email, Dart expressed opinions about school district issues. In another email that was also submitted as a letter to the editor, Dart endorsed two candidates for the school board and expressed his opinion about the school board’s handling of some matters, including how the district billed sending district Cranbury for special education costs. Cranbury sends its high school students to Princeton High School.

Dart has declined to comment on the issue. Behrend also did not respond to a Nov. 18 email on the Dart issue.

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  1. Interesting. Please continue to ask probing questions. This is our only hope for effective oversight of the school system.

  2. Bravo, Krystal.

    Our school district leadership needs to be held accountable. The public has the right to know what exactly happened.

    As if the communications agreement weren’t scandalous enough, the power bloc in the school board put on a show of denial at the Dec 3 meeting. They said that it was the public that misunderstood the language of the agreement. They insisted the agreement was “aspirational”, “non-binding”, “didn’t require unanimous approval” and “wildly accepted as best practice”.

    If any of these claims were true, the school board then must explain:

    1. Why all ten board members, including the three members who voted no, were required to sign the agreement under the sentence “By our signatures below, we the Princeton Public School Board of Education agree to adhere to the Board-Superintendent-Community communications guidelines established in this document.”

    2. Why was the school board attorney Stephen Fogarty brought to the meeting two months ago to defend the legality of an “aspirational” and “non-binding” document? Should Mr. Fogarty’s professional competence be called into question when he strongly defended a document that was unanimously considered as “problematic at best” by legal experts? Or was his competence his ability to “make a case” regardless, in exchange for a fee.

    3. How many other school districts have formally adopted the communications agreement as a board policy? This was a question repeatedly asked yet still unanswered.

    The burden of proof is on the school board to show that they didn’t abuse their power and misappropriate taxpayer funds in an attempt to silence dissent.

  3. Thanks, Krystal. The BoE’s deafness here reminds me of the Superintendent’s and the BoE president’s elaborate statements on equity at PPS. Teachers report that they follow the “chain of command” and ask Steve for help but are ignored.

    The resolution on Communications is a smokescreen for deafness to the obvious. How long ago was it that black parents asked the Superintendent, in person at a Civil Rights Commission meeting in Monument Hall, to end discriminatory punishment of their children? His response then, as now: workshops for teachers.

    The problem is less the teachers than the administration’s deafness to the obvious. Can BoE leadership pick off objectors one by one, starting with Dan Dart? Would releasing the documentation that Planet Princeton has requested prove their case, or yours?

    Why are we paying for workshops for BoE members to “learn how to listen.” Where are their ears???

  4. It is simply outrageous that the Superintendent is using taxpayer funds in an attempt to muzzle opposing points of view from Board members who are duly elected representatives of the citizens. And how ironic that this clown show trying to enforce a new communications policy cannot or will not provide transparent access to public records. Time to recall Steve Cochrane and send him to join Greg Stankiewicz on his boat trip.

  5. Dan Dart has constitutional rights that have been violated.This man is an elected representative of the people. Why are they harassing him and how does Cochrane still have his job ? The man makes like over $250,000 a year literally violating the constitutional rights of elected officials… how does this man have a job?

  6. The BOE lawyer also is done. Stephen Fogarty Needs to go, taxpayers did not vote for these kind of lawyers. Also should be disbarred… the lawyers are supposed to not do unconstitutional stuff… All their six figure salaries and pretty suits should b sold off and the money handed back to the taxpayers .. Why isn’t Fogarty doing something useful like getting Princeton U to pay its fair share of taxes…

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