Princeton Superintendent of Schools will leave at the end of the school year

Princeton Superintendent Steve Cochrane
Steve Cochrane

Steve Cochrane, the superintendent of schools for the Princeton Public Schools, announced today that he will leave Princeton after six years as the head of the district.

He met with staff this morning to tell them the news. He will leave at the end of the school year.

His departure comes at a time when the school district is facing several major issues including contract negotiations with teachers and staff, decisions about how to deal with growth in the student population, potential facility expansions, and the completion of district construction projects voters approved in the 2018 bond referendum.

“For the past six years, I have had the incredible honor to serve the students, the staff, and the families of the Princeton Public Schools.  I have also had the privilege of working with some remarkable community partners who care deeply about our kids. Together we have faced some daunting challenges, and together we have produced some profound changes. I am proud that as a community, we have shifted the direction of our District and charted a course towards wellness, racial literacy, and a vision of success for our children that is grounded in joy and purpose,” Cochrane wrote in a letter to parents that was sent out Monday afternoon.

“So what will I do next?  I am not entirely sure as retirement is uncharted territory for me.  I can say that my wife and I have made the decision to move closer to my mom who is now in her nineties and living on her own in my hometown of Seattle. I am also hopeful I can find a way to return to the roots of my career in higher education and take what I have learned over the last four decades to help prepare future teachers and principals,” Cochrane wrote. “Of course, I am not retired yet.  There is much to do in the coming months, and I am determined to finish this school year strong.  We have a budget to balance, contracts to settle, and the future of our schools to plan.”

Cochrane, 60, is a resident of Lawrence. He became the head of the Princeton Public Schools in January of 2014. Previously he was the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for the Upper Freehold Regional Public Schools. He began his career in public education as an elementary school teacher in South Brunswick and later served as principal of Hopewell Elementary and Timberlane Middle schools in the Hopewell Valley regional district. Before he began his career in public education, he was an admissions officer and assistant dean of students at Princeton University. He replaced Judith Wilson, who retired after nine years as the superintendent. A graduate of Princeton University, Cochrane earned his master’s degree in education from Harvard University.


  1. Many thanks to Steve for his efforts. It will be a challenge to find a successor who combines his concern for students and excellence with an understanding of the generous and vocal community of Princeton.

  2. Thanks to Steve Cochran for his service in a very difficult job. That said, in his remaining time, and when the new Superintendent is appointed, one hopes that more focus will be given to metrics about what and how to improve the schools as relates to renovations and new construction. In the two hearings I attended (one at Witherspoon and one at a Board meeting) the now-deferred plan was thick with bromides (the buildings will have flexible space! the students will be more comfortable!) It will look like this cool building in Singapore!) and thin on data-based improvement practices which will push P schools closer to the best countries’ results(Finland, Japan, South Korea, Denmark…). Many ways to go appropriate to USA culture: more student participation in extracurriculars; lower drop-out rate; higher SAT scores; etc. Most will recall that when Japan was whipping Detroit in the car market with higher quality, the initial reaction included the notion that quality couldn’t be quantified and/or defined objectively with metrics; and then they realized Japan had and they began to do it. The same can be done with educational systems and practices.

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