Four candidates will seek Princeton three school board seats

Four candidates have signed up to run for three seats on the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education.

The candidates are two incumbents, a former school board member and a newcomer. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 5.

Incumbent school board members Debbie Bronfeld and Greg Stankiewicz, along with former school board member Dafna Kendal and newcomer Susan Kanter, turned in their nominating petitions July 29.

School board member Bill Hare did not file to run for re-election.

Bronfeld has lived in Princeton since 1998. Her two sons graduated from Princeton High School in 2015 and 2018.

Bronfeld worked for corporate America for several years in finances and inventory management. Since 2007, she has worked and volunteered for several nonprofit organizations, including Dress for Success, the Princeton Children’s Fund and Housing Initiatives of Princeton.

Bronfeld said she is running for re-election because there is much work to be done. She wants to ensure that students are educated in an environment that is conducive to their learning style. She wants to continue to provide support for special education students and minorities so they can excel.

She said she also wants to focus on the budget. The district needs to implement a “fair and sustainable budget, and this will not happen overnight. We (need to) have board members around the table with the skills sets to not only review the budget, but to make recommendations to change the budget,” she said.

Acknowledging that she has been “very vocal” about the budget, Bronfeld said she favors an ad-hoc savings committee to listen to cost-savings ideas. She wants to talk to “all of our community partners” – some who may assist in sharing expenses and others who may help in raising money for the district.

Kanter, whose three children are graduates of Princeton High School, has lived in Princeton for more than 20 years.

Kanter worked for 23 years as vice president of operations for a large multi-national wholesale firm in New York City until she retired 10 years ago. She has been involved with the Princeton High School and John Witherspoon Middle School PTO’s. She is also active in the Princeton Children’s Fund and the 101 Scholarship Fund at Princeton High School.

Kanter said she has observed first-hand how the issues of budget, referendum planning, equity, sustainability and wellness can impact the community. Through her volunteer work, she said, she has discovered that solutions can be achieved when community and stakeholder input is solicited and considered.

The pressing challenges facing the district – budget, facilities, wellness, sustainability and equity, all of which are interrelated – “will require hard work, detailed analysis and collaboration from the community to come up with solutions that are right for Princeton now and that are sustainable in the long term,” she said.

Kanter added that she would use her skills, experience and knowledge to ensure that all students, families and employees of the district feel supported, welcomed and heard and that they all have an equal opportunity to achieve their goals.

Kendal, who is an attorney, has lived in Princeton since 2011. Her daughter attends John Witherspoon Middle School and her son attends Princeton High School.

Kendal, who served one term on the school board form 2016 to 2018, said she decided to run again because of her concern about the district’s finances and its impact on students’ education.

The district must “right itself financially” without affecting vital programs and services for the students, she said, adding that dropping programs and services is a last resort.

“I hope to restore the focus of the district onto educating kids, while thinking creatively about how to address budget shortfalls. There are many avenues that should be explored to increase revenue to the district, other than raising taxes,” she said.

Responsibly serving the community calls for integrity, transparency and careful navigation of budgetary constraints, all of which she demonstrated during her prior service on the school board, Kendal said.

Stankiewicz lived in Princeton while he was attending graduate school at Princeton University, and moved back to Princeton in 2006. His daughter will be a senior at Princeton High School.

Stankiewicz is the statewide coordinator of the New Jersey Community Schools Coalition, and is also a lecturer at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.

Acknowledging that the school district faces “difficult challenges along with tremendous opportunities,” Stankiewicz said he is seeking re-election because he believes that he has the background and experience to strengthen public education for all students and their families.

“My priorities are to work together as a community to overcome the funding shortfall we are facing, by making sure that Princeton receives the financial support from the State that our students are entitled to,” he said.

Stankiewicz suggested pushing for direct state funding to offset the costs to the district of the Princeton Charter School, as well as changes in state law that penalize districts – such as Princeton – that have growing student enrollments.

Also, Stankiewicz wants to identify additional space and upgrade the school buildings to educate a growing student population, and to take steps to reduce students’ stress level by focusing on strengthening their wellness and mental health.