This story was originally published in the October 2018 Princeton Echo.
The month began with more arguments over the proposed $130 million school bond referendum and ended with the process on hold, at least for now, and no word on when it might be put before the voters. The measure was originally scheduled to be decided at a special election in October. Then the school board divided it into two parts and announced plans to place it on the ballot during the general election on November 6. But the state’s delay in reviewing the referendum resulted in another delay. More recently the board said it would consider reducing the funding request by about $47 million and that it hoped a revamped referendum could be ready for a vote by December 11.
When and if it gets back on track the referendum is sure to be hotly contested. Supporters of the bond proposal have begun distributing lawn signs that say “Vote Yes. Great Towns Build Great Schools.” The signs reference the website www.yes4princetonschools.org.
And at least one more opponent has emerged: former board member Harry Levine, who served from 1981 to 1987. In a letter to the board he wrote, “I am disappointed that the current board appears to have renewed a 10-year sending-receiving relationship with Cranbury prior to deciding how to address significant expansion of the high school.
“Was this a backdoor attempt to force approval of the bond? Why wasn’t the Cranbury decision delayed until after the community voted on the proposed bond?”
But as the referendum moves to the back burner, another legal action moves to the front. Joel Schwartz and Corrine O’Hara, a couple, earlier in the summer filed a lawsuit in Mercer County Superior Court objecting to the electronic voting procedures used by the board. A hearing on that case was scheduled for September 27, after this issue of the Echo went to press.
More recently Schwartz and O’Hara filed an appeal with the state Commissioner of Education to repeal the June 12 decision renewing the sending and receiving agreement (SRA) by which students from Cranbury attend Princeton High School (PHS).
As explained in a press release from the Schwartz and O’Hara, they contend that the Cranbury agreement should be overturned because, among other reasons:
- The circumstances which originally prompted it no longer exist.
- The presence of hundreds of Cranbury students at PHS causes overcrowding which would not otherwise exist, but for the SRA.
- A significant portion of the current bond referendum proposed by the board — for expansion of PHS — would not be necessary but for the SRA.
- Virtually the entire economic burden of the PHS expansion falls solely on Princeton — not Cranbury — taxpayers.
- Better options exist for Cranbury students in neighboring school districts closer to Cranbury.
The Schwartz-O’Hara appeal also contends that Evelyn Spann, the Cranbury representative on the Princeton board, illegally voted on the June 12 decision concerning the sending agreement, and that she “has repeatedly and regularly voted illegally on matters upon which she is barred, by statute, from voting.”
In their appeal the couple asked for “an order setting a schedule for a feasibility study examining the appropriateness of the Princeton-Cranbury SRA; an order limiting the items on which the Cranbury liaison, currently Ms. Spann, may vote to those set forth by statute; and an order taking such action as the Commissioner deems appropriate with respect to past unlawful votes by Ms. Spann.”