Princeton Public Schools releases records in response to Planet Princeton OPRA requests

A lawyer for the Princeton Public Schools has released large volumes of emails, as well as legal bills, in response to two New Jersey Open Public Records requests Planet Princeton filed in November. The district had delayed producing the records three times, citing the large volume of the records. The district chose to pay lawyers to review and redact the records. The records were released right before the holidays.

Many of the records are redundant. The same email sometimes appears dozens of times. Oddly enough, the records also include Uber receipts and dozens of pages of Groupon emails.

The emails from the first request detail the school board’s actions behind the scenes to develop strategies to buy Westminster Choir College. The records and legal bills for the second request also show that a great deal of time and money have been spent trying to silence board member Dan Dart for expressing his opinions in two emails this fall. Planet Princeton will be posting stories on both issues based on reviews of the emails.

Readers can review and download the emails and legal bills by following the links below. We will also be adding the documents to our new public records repository.

Documents:

Emails, Part One:

http://bit.ly/PPSemailspartoneJan2020

Emails, Part Two:

http://bit.ly/PPSemailsparttwoJan2020

Legal Bills:

http://bit.ly/PPSLegalbillsfall19

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20 Responses

  • Thank you Krystal! It’s really upsetting to see the Board spending money in this way when there are many unmet student needs in the district that this money could help with. Shouldn’t the board tolerate a difference of opinion? Isn’t that part of what diversity is about?

    • Reading the emails, the BOE more than tolerated a difference of opinion. Mr. Dart shared numbers and data in his letter to the editor as a “private citizen” that should have been shared by the BOE. If this was unsatisfactory to him, he should have raised it as much as possible with the BOE and PPS, and beyond that, Mercer County, the NJ DOE etc. Why waste local time and resources. To waste local time and resources when we have none to spend displays a lack of how little $ we have as discretionary.

      • I feel the public should be able to know ALL the statistics available about public spending. The BOE has been extremely cagey about releasing information about outside enrollment, for example. The only cost-benefit analysis we’ve been given is a glossed over one in favor of current policy, but no satisfactory amount of detail on outside enrollments and costs has ever been provided. I understand that these are complex issues, but lack of transparency from the BOE does not increase trust. Doing things like rehiring the same firm that had 50% cost overruns last time does not increase trust.

        • Yup – I agree. What saddens me is that someone who as a BOE member wrote a letter to the editor and started something that absorbs so much time and energy — even on behalf of our very local journalists. Who, gee, could really could contribute to our community’s and public school system’s success by focusing on the $6 million burden we bear to host a separate “public” and “extraordinary” school district here vs using that money to close the achievement gap and support ALL of the public school kids here. $6 million funneled to 400 kids does not = all by any means.

          • All else fails, try blaming the Charter School. That has been the modus operandi for some foiks in our town.

      • If diversity were tolerated, the BOE wouldn’t have used their legal team and a threat of an ethics charge to go after Mr. Dart. This is all about keeping information that the BOE want secret from the public.

      • @ANON You might have misread the whole story if you think Mr. Dart wasted “local time and resources”. I doubt you or any readers here have finished reviewing all the documents posted by Krystal. May I suggest that you hold off your comments until Krystal publishes her analysis of these documents? Meanwhile, you and those BoE members can all use a democracy 101 crash cause.

  • If these have been “reviewed and redacted” by lawyers, how do we know if some messages have not been omitted altogether to avoid causing the schools trouble? I find it very disturbing that that occurred. They should have simply released them. Public officials should know from the get-go that emails sent in the process of doing business are subject to disclosure. And I’ll bet the lawyers cost us taxpayers a lot of money. Another shame from school board.

    • vs 6 million we send to a charter school in our own town. vs the inordinate amount of time spent dealing with an elected BOE member who chose to spend a portion of the tiny amount of discretionary income and time the PPS District and BOE actually has to spend on, you know, education, on his own crusade.

      • Are you suggesting that the existence of the charter school means that the BOE is authorized to waste money on a phony legal threat against an elected public official? You may not like Mr. Dart’s position, but he was chosen and elected by the citizens of Princeton to express it.

        • Lol – I am highlighting someone who ran on and espouses fiscal conservancy. And yet he is using scarce and minuscule discretionary PPS funds and time of PPS admin and BOE on fighting a First Amendment and Sunshine Law fight bc he chose to rep himself as a private citizen while sharing PPS $ info in the process. If he wants to fight a significant fight for funds, get at the state level and work on the larger amounts eg the PCS tuition pay. If he wants to play BOE member + private citizen, ok – hire David Boise and take it elsewhere.

          • The public is entitled to know the info that Mr. Dart was trying to get. The only reason that the First Amendment and Sunshine Law was invoked was because the school board was trying to hide this info. Resources were wasted because PPS admin and BOE leadership fought this. It is they you should be blaming.

            In an ideal world, this info should have been provided without a fight. Just like how PPS should have handed over the info that Krystal requested on the first request. You should be asking why school district is trying to hide this info. I thank Mr. Dart for his work on this issue. It’s what the school board members should be doing as they are the only ones who are in a position to know this info.

      • Nobody forced the BOE to spend money on lawyers, did they? It certainly looks like they decided that spending money on lawyers was what they wanted to spend their “tiny amount of discretionary income” on.

        • Again, that was set in motion by Mr. Dart, in 2019, in a public school system. Did he not expect a response that involved lawyers given his role and decision to do that? No need to expend PPS time and resources playing the underdog. Make or save PPS money, as a BOE member, stop spending it at this point.

          • You are saying that PPS is so dysfunctional that the only way they know how to handle legitimate, legal requests is by wasting taxpayer dollars on lawyers (and there was no need). I hope that this isn’t the case. If it is the case, then we really do need to vote in BOE members like Mr. Dart who will challenge the system and the current way of doing business.

            I hope the Board passes a rule that limits how much the PPS admin spends on frivolous legal business like this. Our students need the money more.

  • Obviously dissent is more than desired and welcome, as is transparency. So is applying both principles with some common sense and intelligence. Mr. Dart is voting on the BOE according to his views and assessments, representing many constituents. I laud him for that.
    But what did he expect when he writes a letter to the editor as a citizen re the BOE when he is also a BOE member and shares information ie re Special Ed tuition payments that only a BOE member, in theory, could know at the time? That’s actually NOT in the best interest of the community and honestly not at all transparent. It actually is really confusing. Of course it set in motion a process aimed at clarifying how BOE members are expected to communicate, irregardless of what the result was.

  • Part deux — At this point, what is in the best interest of all of is to get the straight and accurate scoop re what is owed to our district if a sending one is in arrears, and what by law can and can’t be recouped, Mr. Dart cites “Sunshine Law” and “First Amendment” — of course that is going to lead to getting attorneys involved. I have a friend who was a BOE member in another NJ district. Her takeaway was that there are so many Fed and State mandates that a district has very little with which to work. Why is Mr. Dart, as a BOE member, squandering that scarce time and money? We the brilliant Princeton electorate elected him to be smarter than that — I think. We have a miniscule amount of discretionary income. Did anyone ever think that cutting teachers is one of the options that reduces the ongoing amount of discretionary income? Sadly, it’s true, and I am NOT anti-union. I’m just a realist. Please get real Mr. Dart et al — get us the clear and accurate info and then move on. Otherwise you are whittling away at the tiny discretionary income we have available. Thanks.

  • I didn’t misread anything. There was no story, there were three downloads. I respect Krystal immensely but need no analysis — she gave us all the original sources, up to us to analyze I assume, right?

  • I cannot read the emails.I get this error message for both Parts I-II “”Google Drive can’t scan this file for viruses.

    Planet Princeton – Part 1 – REDACTED.pdf (157M) is too large for Google to scan for viruses. Would you still like to download this file?

    Download anyway”””” . I’ve tried various computers and I can’t “download anyway”. Most public library computers and even Federal Express/Kinko’s computers will not download the emails that you attached to your article…..

    I’m interested in the continuing saga on Westminster Choir College

Comments are closed.