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Bierman, Behrend, Hubbard win Princeton Board of Education race, incumbent Michele Tuck Ponder ousted

Voters in Princeton have ousted two-term school board incumbent Michele Tuck Ponder on Tuesday, but incumbent Beth Behrend survived a challenge to remain on the school board another term.

Newcomers Eleanor Hubbard and Adam Bierman won a three-year term on the board. Newcomer Rene Obregon Jr. came in fourth place, while Tuck Ponder came in last place, according to unofficial votes. Some mail-in and provisional ballots could still change the vote tallies.

Hubbard was the top vote-getter, with 3,955 votes. Behrend received 3,221 votes, and Bierman received 3,181 votes winning in spite of an email smear campaign that tried to associate him with Republicans based on the alleged positioning of his lawn signs near Republican lawn signs. The campaign also claimed he was trying to defund public education. Bierman was a Democrat, ran an unsuccessful campaign for a seat on the Princeton Council as an independent in 2019, and is now a registered Democrat again.

Bierman ran for the school board unsuccessfully in 2020 and ran and then decided to drop out a second time in 2021.

The lifelong Princeton resident, whose father served on the school board many years ago, criticized the board’s handling of the departure of Princeton High Principal Frank Chmiel, as well as the leadership of Superintendent of Schools Carol Kelley, who has taken a paid leave of absence until she leaves the district next fall.

Voters approved the district’s $13 million bond referendum by a vote of 4,070 to 1,706.


  1. Ah well, two out of three ain’t bad. But it is too bad both incumbents weren’t shown the door.

    1. Yes, I agree. Two out of three isn’t bad. And there was not much distance between the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishers.

      1. It is a shame to our community that we have voted out the strongest voice on our school board for black and brown children. Ms. Tuck-Ponder was an important part of the board and her absence will negatively impact everyone the board serves.

  2. Are we surprised?… We will see this new board grossly neglect the concerns of the minority students in the district under the guise of representing “all children”. We will see them roll back programs and funds that went towards helping minority students have an even playing field in an often bigoted and biased town. Princeton district has really shown their true colors this year by making sure they push or phase out any and all black individuals of decision making status.

    1. As a Cranbury resident who does not have a vote in Princeton, but follows board of education elections closely, as they do pertain to my children, I am rather sorry to see Ms. Tuck-Ponder go, and I believe she brought a valuable perspective to the board.

      To throw the full weight of her support behind a wildly unpopular administrator on the way out a week before an election was a bold choice. And while I respect the commitment to her values and the backbone it took to stand by them publicly, I do not agree with her assertion that “the most important responsibility of the Board is to manage, support and protect its chief executive. I cannot say that it surprised me that it cost her her board seat.

    2. I’d be interested to hear what specific programs and funds that went towards helping minority students have an even playing field you think will be rolled back. And which particular concerns of minority students will this new board grossly neglect? It’d be helpful to understand some specifics here.

  3. Response to comment by JP: The idea that MTP was the only defender of minority rights or equity issues is simply false, and the terrain of the BOE and the Town is much more complex than that. Even if the results predicted by JP were to come to pass — again, the simplistic conclusion is probably false — the fault would be on Kelley, who violated the trust of her office over and over again and, to cap things off, conned the BOE into giving her a year of paid vacation. I was planning to vote for MTP up until the last week — in part because of exactly the concerns JP raises, although not only — but she torpedoed my support with her ridiculous, quasi-fascist claims about the “first duty of a democratically elected board is to support its chief executive.” This made it impossible for me to vote for her. And I am actually sorry about that fact, but there you have it. But I spent a lot of energy this year trying to address “playing the race card” by various people in various ways, and I am done standing by while that takes over much of our public space and public mind.

    1. Peter you comments above, are spot-on m. I feel JP’s comment are devoid of serious analysis, just numbing rhetoric
      Another note, I enjoyed reading the article above. With one correction. I am a registered Democrat. I was briefly an independent, when I ran for Princeton council in 2019. I was opposing the then pay to play PCDO candidates night

  4. At the Board of Ed meeting last week, Michele Tuck-Ponder said, “We will be held accountable by the public for our actions and decisions, and that is appropriate.”

    I agree with this statement. I voted for her in the two previous elections, but regrettably not this time.

    It is definitively not the Board’s job to “protect” the CEO… The Board’s primary duty is to protect its stakeholders – the owners of the company.

    In a public school system, the “owners” are by definition the public – we the people who fund the district and its operations. In other words, the constituents who voted for those Board members to represent. Early on during the Chmiel affair, Tuck-Ponder made a comment that indicated she felt it was not her “job” to listen to those constituents.

    But a Board “protecting” a CEO from accountability as the company lurches from debacle to debacle is a broken board who is not fulfilling their fundamental responsibility of oversight.

    Takeaways from the past two years:

    – Equity is critically important, but equity without accountability is not excellence.

    – Racism is absolutely wrong, but blind bias in the other direction is a flawed response. If all you see is race, then you can’t see anything else.

  5. Response to the comment by JP: This town elected MTP as mayor once and as a BOE Member twice. So perhaps it’s not the town but rather her policies in her last term. Let’s reflect on that.

    Dr. Kelley faced challenges, and these issues have no connection to her gender or race. Just as a white male or a transgender Asian individual could be unsuitable for a position, appointing Dr. Kelley as the superintendent was a misstep. Continuing to support her unquestionably was also a mistake. Reducing this to a discussion of gender and race is another misjudgment. You can’t rectify one mistake with another.

    Shifting blame onto others for your own errors and shortcomings is something we teach in kindergarten. A mature adult acknowledges their mistakes.

  6. Shame we didn’t pick up all three. Next election we can take back even more sanity. Thanks to Kelley for leaving a month into a school year instead of leaving during this past summer to allow us to find a suitable replacement before the year began.

  7. One can support “all students” and that is what we should want from our Board of Education. The problem with recent policies of the ex-Superintendent and some supporters is the belief that supporting students of color (hispanic and African-American students) has to come at the expense of the needs of Asian-American students. Eliminating and restricting access to AP courses because of the demographics of the students who want to take those courses (ofteh Asian-American in the sciences) is fundamentally wrong. We need to work as a community to raise the level of achievement of all students, and not try to place a ceiling on what students can learn. There’s nothing racist about such a goal and it’s a shame that the charge of racism is so easily made.

    1. @AnotherPrincetonParent Who said that? Absolutely no one. Your statement alone is part of ,if not THE problem. People like you literally making things up and then sharing it on public forums such as this for all to consume. Furthermore, this statement has one demographic in mind as it relates to success. Again. THE problem. Case rested.

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