From fighting for and getting three of the West Windsor-Plainsboro school district’s schools constructed to coming up with long-term projections for school enrollment, Stan Katz has played a significant part in the evolution of the school district for more than the past decade.##M:[more]##
Now, Katz is moving on — literally thousands of miles away. Katz, who has served on the school board for more than 12 years, is moving to Silverthrone, CO, in August, after living in West Windsor for more than 31 years.
At 9,"000 feet in elevation, the town is located within 14 miles of four major skiing locations, and the five towns that make up the valley have a population of about 25,"000, Katz says.
“We’ve been going out there summers and winters for many years,” says Katz. “We’ve always liked the mountains.”
Katz, who is retired after work more than 20 years in the American Stock Exchange, says the decision he and his wife made to move to the state was completely independent of the fact that his two sons attend college there. One of his sons, Jeffrey, will be a senior at the University of Denver, and the other, Dan, will enter the University of Colorado at Boulder as a freshman. His wife, who has been running the children’s department at Border’s on Route 1, will be doing the same thing in a town near their new home in Colorado.
Originally from northern New Jersey, Katz, whose father owned a department store in Tenafly and whose mother was a homemaker, moved to West Windsor after attending graduate school in Philadelphia.
He got involved with the school district in 1995, as the co-chair of the referendum committee, although he did not yet serve on the board. And that period of time was the most significant of his achievements with the school district, he says.
In 1995, when the school district was discussing the upcoming referendum, school officials wanted to hold off on including the construction of Grover Middle, Town Center Elementary, and the completion of construction at High School North all in one referendum. But Katz urged against the move, saying it would be harder to get voters to approve three consecutive referenda, rather than just putting all of the construction into one.
“It turned out to be a really good idea,” he says of the $59.7 million referendum. “The idea was that we got all the proposals passed at that time.”
Some people around town were saying that the referendum proposal should not be asking for more than $40 million at the time, but Katz said he was concerned that given the politics at the time, and given that the public was less than trusting of the board, one referendum was a good idea. In addition, Katz said district officials had the calculations and projections as to how many seats they needed for the future, and advocated that they should plan for them.
The district agreed and assigned him as the co-chair of the referendum committee, to help promote it. The efforts, needless to say, were successful, and the referendum passed in 1996.
“It’s now 2008, and we haven’t needed to build another building,” he says, pointing out that the forecast was accurate. “Because of that, the public tended to trust us because of that.”
Katz has also been widely known for his demographic projects, most recently, the number of school children that would be generated by transit-oriented development at the Princeton Junction train station.
In his absence, Katz says he is confident that other officials, including assistant superintendent Thomas Smith, will be able to successfully move forward.
He says he will miss “the interaction with the people who are interested in education.”
“It’s not an accident that this district is as large as it is and as good as it is,” he says. He points to other schools that are ranked on the same level as WW-P and says they have far fewer students. For having such a large student population and still retaining the highest quality of education is quite the feat, and Katz refers to it as a “major source of pride.”
School and township officials praised Katz’s tenure on the board. “As finance committee chairman, Stan’s outstanding analytical abilities dominated discussions during a time of explosive student growth,” said Councilwoman Linda Geevers. “Whether it was the budget, negotiations, referendums, demographic studies, or curriculum matters, Stan was there to protect the taxpayers and to improve the quality of education for out students.”
She also pointed to his contributions in helping the school district achieve a triple-A bond rating, “something only a few districts have achieved across the nation.”
School Board President Hemant Marathe said it would be an understatement to say that Katz will be missed on many fronts, including as a demographer and financial expert. “Luckily, our growth has slowed down, but he served the district very well with his knowledge of demography,” Marathe said. “The district is very close to the forecast he drew up in the last several years.”
Marathe also said that since Katz has served on the finance committee since he became a board member, “our budgets have been consistently good.” He said WW-P’s per-pupil costs, compared with other districts of the same size and demography, have consistently been going down since he has been on the board.
Katz was also a good friend, Marathe said, and while the two did not always agree on everything, “he always liked to think out of the box, and that was very much appreciated. All his actions were always what he thought was best for the district and best for the kids.”
The board has 65 days from the official Katz resigns, which is August 7, to appoint a replacement, Marathe said. Since a lot of the board members are out of town throughout August, an announcement will be made at the board’s next meeting on Tuesday, August 26, as to how the process will proceed. Whoever is appointed will serve until April, when Katz’s term would have expired anyway, and will have to run for election to continue serving, he said.