Meet BOE Candidate Debbie Bronfeld

Name: Debbie Bronfeld

Age: 55

Occupation:
Program Associate, Mercer Street Friends Food Bank

Clubs/Organizations you belong to: Band Parent PTO

Do you have children in the Princeton Public School district? My older son, Harrison graduated from PHS, class of 2015. My younger son Max is a junior at PHS. Both attended Littlebrook Elementary School, JWMS and PHS

Why are you running for the Board of Education?
I have wanted to be more involved in my community. I started attending the monthly BOE meetings about 2 years ago, and realized I wanted to be on the BOE so that I can make a change, preserve our educational excellence and assist our students.

If elected, what would be your top priority?
My top priority is executing a multi-year capacity plan based on the current increased enrollment, which is due to the town’s growth of condensed housing construction. The capacity plan must take into account the district’s current resources, including teachers, support staff, facilities and the budget.
As the student population grows we need to make sure we do not make hasty decisions to move teachers to different classes and increasing the size of others. To understand future population growth we need to partner with Princeton University, Avalon management, local realtors, the town planning board and the Institute of Advanced Technology. These stakeholders have a vested interest to ensure PPS continue to thrive.

WEEK 2

What are some new ideas or approaches you will bring to the Board of Education and how will these benefit the Princeton Public Schools community?

One point is budget transparency, which will highlight where and what we are spending and where and what we need to spend. The population increase is forcing the community to review the budget, and understand if we can hire more teachers, create more class rooms or expand our current buildings. The detailed budget will be a catalyst to starting communication on a multiyear plan and community awareness.

At the elementary schools, I want to have workshops and assemblies to talk about respecting each other. Students need to learn to respect their teachers and their fellow students. They also need a place to talk about their feelings and feel that someone is listening to them.

My ideas for JWMS are to create peer groups in each grade. The peer groups are so our middle schoolers have a place to be heard. We need to create a space where our students feel protected and where they can connect not only with each other, but also with their families and the community. PHS students interested in helping other students will run the groups. I want to empower all our students, and middle schoolers sometimes feel like no one cares about them. We as parents, BOE and the community need to show the students at JW that we truly care about their well-being and want to hear what they have to say.

For PHS, we need to offer more independent study programs to juniors and seniors. A four-year college program is not for everyone; therefore we need to offer different paths for our students to take advantage of.  This idea treats PHS students like individuals, and not forcing each student to fit into the same mold. We need open conversations about cheating at PHS. There needs to be a place where students can openly report others that cheat, with no repercussions. At a competitive school like PHS, there needs to be an equal playing field for all students. Another idea is to have service learning starting freshman year and be part of the curriculum through senior year. This exposes our students to things outside of their own inner circles, and will give them a better view of the world around them.

With the student population on the rise and a significant demand for a plan to keep the town’s academic system in place, what are some examples of remedies, both short- and long-term, you would like to see set in place?
Enrollment in Princeton has increased and decreased over the years. Therefore, we need a long-term multiyear capacity plan that includes all stakeholders – Princeton University, the Institute of Advanced Technology, Princeton Planning Board, the BOE, PREA and the community. Without the stakeholders involved and understanding their continued plans of housing construction, it will be difficult to create a plan.

To continue Princeton’s educational excellence, all stakeholders who are part of the growth need to be part of the solution. Any plan also needs to look at the infrastructure critical to supporting the continued increase in student population.  We cannot knee-jerk react to population growth, we need to make smart and value added choices with a multiyear strategic plan.

Short-term, I want to review our facilities to determine if all our buildings are being used effectively. Our review should also include our PPS personnel, teachers, supervisors and support staff to understand what areas are being covered and what areas need to be filled to support the increase in population.

WEEK 3

What is your opinion on standardized testing? What will you do as a board member to facilitate healthy student and teacher practices to prepare and cope with rigorous testing under current state regulations?
We need to have a standardized test that measures what our students have learned. We should not have tests that test the students on subjects and information they have not been taught. The PARCC put too much pressure on our students to be able to take the test on the computer, without focusing on the content of the tests. So many students were hung up on using the computer that they did not focus on the subject matter. PARCC was not administered well by the state and has upset many communities, teachers, parents and students. PARCC was also very expensive and was not a good fit for Princeton.
BOE members and teachers needs to work together to embrace a process meaningful to our students. Many students opted out of PARCC in our town, therefore it is very difficult to know if the scores that were received represented our students. We need to find tests that test our students on what they have been taught. 

What do you think is the best way to accommodate the needs of students and how will you help exercise solutions to the issues they find most important? 

One major idea to accommodate the needs of the students is to hear what is troubling them. This might be easier at PHS, where we could set up an online questionnaire that the students could anomalously answer with their phones. We could install feedback boxes throughout the schools where students can give feedback on issues that bother them, and on things they like. At JW I’d like to hear if the students would like more clubs, or sport opportunities, or music and drama opportunities. We need to focus on the students, and find out what makes them tick and what they want to be part of, so they can feel connected to their schools and peers and teachers and communities.

At the Elementary schools we need to create workshops and assemblies where we can talk about respect. Students need to learn to respect their teachers and their peers. They also need a place where they can talk about their feelings and feel that someone is really listening to them.

For JW I’d like to create peer groups in each grade. The peer groups would be a place that middle schoolers feel protected and able to talk about their feelings. The groups will be run by PHS students who are interested in helping other students. I want to empower all our students, and middle schoolers sometime feel like no one cares about them or is listening to them. As parents, BOE, and the community we need to show the students at JW that we truly care about their well-being and want to hear what they have to say.
At PHS we need to offer more independent study programs for juniors and seniors. A four year college program is not for everyone, therefore we need to offer different paths for our students to take advantage of.  We want our PHS students to feel like individuals, and not make each student feel like they have to fit into the same mold. Another idea is for service learning to starting freshman year and be part of the curriculum through senior year. This exposes our students to things outside of their own inner circles, and will start to give them a better view and appreciation of the world around them.

WEEK 4

Make your final pitch. Why should you be elected to the Princeton Board of Education?

As a member of the Board of Education I will ensure we continue our excellent educational system here in Princeton. My personal and professional experiences qualify me to help move Princeton Public Schools into the future, but still staying true to our community and ourselves. My personal experience is as a parent of two sons who attended the Princeton Public Schools starting in LB, JW and then to PHS. One son graduated in 2015, and the other is currently a junior. My children have received an excellent education and I want this to continue to be available for all families and children in Princeton.

I have been involved in the schools since they entered LB. Volunteering on the LB PTO, as room parent, library aid, book fair at JW, Super Saturday, homecoming and with the Band Parent PTO.  These experiences have given me the opportunity to meet many parents and share in what it means to be part of a community.

Professionally I bring to the table 20 years working in corporate America and for the last 10 years in the non-profit sector. Both have prepared me to work with all types of individuals. I have a degree in Accounting and an MBA with a concentration in Operations and Logistics.

One of the most important skills I have developed from my experiences is the ability to listen to others and appreciate points of view that differ from mine. I have worked on many teams both professionally and non-professionally. I will bring these skills with me to the Board of Education. I look forward to working with the current board members and to continue the work they are doing, but I will also be asking the hard questions to ensure we are transparent to the community and working within the districts resources, including the budget, staff and facilities.

I have been on a listening tour meeting with members of our community and hearing what their thoughts are about Princeton Public Schools. I look forward to being a representative of my community members. I want to continue to communicate with the community and to make sure they have a place to voice their opinions about the BOE and our schools.

I also want our students to be able to voice their opinions too. We need to accommodate the needs of our students and hear what is troubling them. This might be easier at PHS, where we could set up on-line questionnaires that the students could anomalously answer with their phones. We could install feedback boxes throughout the schools where students can give feedback on issues they like or that bother them. At JW I’d like to hear if the students are looking for more clubs, or sport opportunities, or music and drama opportunities. We need to focus on the students, and find out what makes them tick and what they want to be part of, so they can feel connected to their schools and peers and teachers and communities.

About Erica Chayes Wida

Erica Chayes Wida is a writer, mom, and complete zealot when it comes to poetry, paella and globe collections. After graduating with a degree in Anthropology from UCLA, Erica moved to Italy where the seasons and old architecture inspired her journey back to the East Coast. Since then, she and her husband have created a nest egg locally and, over time, developed a rather grand love affair with the town of Princeton. Erica is senior editor at The Princeton Sun and enjoys fulfilling her Princeton affections on a daily basis. | View all posts by Erica Chayes Wida