Baglio, Kendal, and incumbent Sullivan win three-year terms on school board

Matt Herwig ’16 votes in local elections on November 3 at Peddie School. Photo: Nathan Drezner

In the Mercer County elections held on November 3, Elizabeth Kalber Baglio, Dafna Kendal, and Patrick Sullivan were elected to the Board of Education from a pool of four candidates. At the end of their terms, Rebecca Cox, the chair of the Facilities Committee, and Martha Land, the liaison to the PHS PTO, stepped down from their positions, while Sullivan was re-elected. Baglio, Sullivan, and Kendal were elected with 2096, 2012, and 1771 votes respectively, and Robert Dodge finished fourth with 1528 votes.

Baglio, a former educator and education consultant, now focuses her attention on the PTO of Community Park Elementary School, the school her two children attend, and volunteers with the CP Dual Language Immersion program. “I used to be a teacher, I worked in professional development,” she said. “Now with kids in the system, I just felt like my background allowed me to be able to give back to the community.”

Kendal has a background in law and has children at John Witherspoon Middle School and Littlebrook Elementary School, where she volunteers for the PTO. She hopes to focus the board’s attention on fiscal policy and equal opportunity for all students, as well as encourage more community involvement. “I want to ensure that special education remains a hallmark in the district and I’m looking to [increase] opportunities for nontraditional learners,” she said.

Sullivan, who has children at JW and PHS, is the current Chair of the Finance Committee, Chair of the Student Achievement Committee, and the Vice President of the Board.

“The policies that I would like to see implemented are pretty much the fact points of the strategic plan,” Sullivan said. “Those include focus on student wellness, encouraging creativity and collaboration in everything that you do as a student, having every child be known, closing the achievement gap, and making sure that people who are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds have the same opportunities as everyone else to be successful.”

The candidates drew support from different parts of the community. “The incumbent had a lot of support from the board members. Betsy Baglio had a lot of support from Community Park … Dafna Kendal [has] support from Littlebrook, where she has kids, and [from] John Witherspoon … and [Dodge] and [Kendal] have also been very supportive of the PREA,” said French teacher Malachi Wood.

Two specific proposals from Student Board Liaisons Nick Pibl ’16 and Madi Norman ’16 are the implementation of several no-homework weekends during the school year, which has already been introduced, and having a later start to the school day. “The American Academy of Pediatricians has recommended that high school students at the earliest start at 8:30 and even though the public high school starts at 7:51 … those extra 39 minutes [can allow] huge gains to be made in performance, quality of life, emotional happiness… all those things,” Dodge said.

The board will continue the no-homework policies and implement new policies that are in the student’s best interest. “With the homework policy, they’re the ones who are going to have to continue it or to modify it as needed,” Wood said. “I think teachers need to have more input in [it]. There are some teachers who … need to assign certain things, and if it’s not going to be on these weekends … there might be some times when more things are due.”

Kendal stressed the importance of changing the board’s approach to negotiations, especially those between the board and the PREA. “Going forward, it is my hope that the board will do a better job communicating with all stakeholders so that negotiations can be managed with transparency and expediency,” she said. “I do not think that the board and PREA will always agree on everything, but I do believe that we can do a lot more to avoid the divisiveness experienced during the negotiations earlier this year.”

Many in the community who became more involved in the school district during the extended negotiations last year between the board and the PREA also seek better communication and collaboration from the board. “I envision a future of honest conversations, with diverse opinions, between ALL of the players within PPS: Superintendent, administration, educators, employees, families and students,” wrote Jennifer Cohan, who runs Community for Princeton Public Schools, in an email. “New blood and new energy will ensure the board will communicate better, which will help build Princeton as a strong community.”

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