Meet BOE Candidate Alex Martin

Over the past month, The Sun has questioned candidates about local issues leading up to their contested election. Here is the full four weeks, including this week’s issue – a final pitch as to why they should be elected Nov. 8.

Name: Alex Martin

Age: 49

Occupation: CEO of PuriCore

Clubs/Organizations: Harvard Business School Class Secretary, Cornell Alumni Ambassador Association Network Chairman, Boy Scouts of America Troop 88 Committee member

Do you have children in the public school district? My 4 children have attended Johnson Park, Princeton Charter School, and Princeton High School. I currently have a senior at PHS, a sophomore at PHS, and an 8th grader soon to be at PHS.

Why are you running for the Board of Education? I am running because we have a good school system here in Princeton but I believe we can do better. I have been an agent for positive change all my life and would like to support Steve Cochrane in his efforts to continually improve our schools. Having lived and learned in many school districts in this country and out of it, I would like to help import best-in-class ideas to Princeton.

If elected, what would be your top priority? My top priority would be to address the financial challenges required to maintain a first class school system where the student population is growing faster than the tax base.

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? 

Having lived and learned in various outstanding school systems (in Europe, Latin America, and select US towns including Scarsdale, NY, Winnetka, IL, and Wayne, PA), I’d like to see a best practice assessment to explore ways to improve our schools. Perhaps we could have more systematic use of non-evaluative feedback for educators and administrators. Maybe we should think about raising an endowment to help cover rising costs. Or perhaps we should look at an overhaul of the AP system to see whether learning is still the top priority or whether there is a better way that might lessen the escalating stress on students while improving the educational experience. The main point is that we should be constantly evaluating what other successful school districts are doing and evaluate whether they would make sense in Princeton.

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? 

With taxes capped at 2 percent and student growth looking to be about 5 percent, clearly we need other sources of revenue besides property taxes. In the short-term we will likely need a referendum on a bond for facility expansion – the high school alone was built for about 1200 students and this year will house close to 1600.

In the longer-term I’d like to explore building up an endowment; we have significant opportunities to form partnerships with the University, industry and alumni who believe in public school excellence. There is no reason we cannot tap additional resources beyond the existing tax base.

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?
Some form of standardized testing has its place, but unfortunately between statutory requirements and university expectations, the quantity has spiraled out of control. As a board member I am certainly in favor of opting out wherever possible, and a dialogue with all stakeholders on how to reduce the overall testing burden.

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?
Student feedback is critical; I’d work closely with the Student Liaison to make sure that the most important issues raised by the students are addressed by the Board and/or the administration.

WEEK 4

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

I have spent much of my career bringing about positive change and raising money—not through taxes—through representation on boards. The financial constraints of a school system are not unique to Princeton, but potential solutions may be found by looking elsewhere. I have a track record of importing best practices, and then championing those ideas to bring about improvements. I would love to put my energies to work helping Princeton Public Schools; with four children who will ultimately graduate from Princeton High School, I have a vested interest in doing everything I can to optimize the educational experience. In addition to the several thousand family dinners we’ve had together where we usually touched upon what was working or not working well with school, my wife and I have tapped into parent and neighborhood networks to discuss what would be best for the children and the community. As a resident who would like to be able to retire here someday, I am very sympathetic to the genuine concern over rising property taxes. One option we should consider seriously as an aid to the financial challenge brought on by the growing student population is to raise an Endowment fund. There is no reason we can’t follow the lead of other top public high schools who have successfully managed to ease the financial burden through an Endowment. Boston Latin has a $30 million fund, and Brookline, a public school in the suburbs of Boston, has raised $25 million. A Princeton Public School Endowment Fund would complement the excellent work done by the Princeton Education Foundation, by targeting different types of donors looking to make an investment for the longer term success of the Princeton Public Schools.  An Endowment would provide additional capital for the school system without further burdening tax payers. An Endowment is just one “best practice” that could help Princeton, I am sure there are many others. Each idea just needs a champion to get it done. On all the boards I have served, I have always been open approachable, open to new ideas, and helped champion and drive change. Change is never easy, and requires persistence and resilience. If you think the Princeton School System is just fine as it is, then I am not your candidate. If you think there is room for improvement and want someone who will listen, bring ideas to the table, and help make them happen, then I hope that you’ll give me one of your three votes. I have no other agenda than to make the school system the best it can be, with the understanding that higher taxes are not the answer.

 

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