Three candidates are running unopposed for three seats on the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional Board of Education. Incumbents Dana Krug and Martin Whitfield are up for two West Windsor spots, while newcomer Loi Moliga is running for Isaac Cheng’s vacated Plainsboro seat.
Krug has lived in West Windsor since 1995. She attended Northern Valley Regional High School in Demarest and earned a bachelor’s degree in international area studies from Duke University. She also holds a master’s degree in nonprofit management from the New School University. She is currently serving her third term on the school board. She previously worked in the advertising, marketing communication and strategy and marketing systems development fields. Krug has served as the president and chair of the Friends of the West Windsor Library, the tournament director at West Windsor-Plainsboro Babe Ruth and the co-president of the Community Middle School PTA.
Moliga has lived in Plainsboro for 14 years. She attended Aiea High School in Hawaii and earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from Whittier College. She went on to earn a master’s in social service administration from the University of Chicago. This is her first time running for public office. Moliga was an active member and past president and treasurer of the Plainsboro MOMS Club, as well as a parent rec coach for the West Windsor-Plainsboro Soccer Association, West Windsor-Plainsboro Basketball Association and LORK basketball. She has also volunteered with Cranbury Little League, coached a robotics team and chaired the PTA book fair, carnival, entertainment night and yearbook committees.
Whitfield has lived in West Windsor for 15 years. He attended Bishop Ahr High School in Edison and graduated from the University of Texas San Antonio with a degree in American studies. He was first elected to the school board in 2017. He currently works as the general manager and director of operations at the Windsor Athletics Club/Princeton-Windsor Cultural and Sports Complex. He previously worked for the NBA in marketing, corporate service and NBA TV. Over the last several years, Whitfield has partnered with local and national nonprofits to host fundraisers and events at the Windsor Athletic Club. He also volunteers at local senior centers, speaks at schools and mentors youth and student athletes.
The West Windsor-Plainsboro News sent questionnaires to each candidate. Their responses follow below.
Why should voters elect you to the school board?
Krug: I have held many leadership roles in organizations that promote the academic, social, emotional, and physical well-being of children and families in our community. My long-time volunteer commitment to the WW-P community, at the library, with youth athletic programs and in the district schools, coupled with my extensive school board experience uniquely positions me as a valuable contributor to the school board. The positive working relationships I have built with members of our community will be critical as WW-P manages through the global pandemic and local population growth. My children’s attendance in our schools has given me a first-hand understanding of issues that face the school board. I understand that children can learn differently and that instruction and the classroom experience should support each child’s learning style.
Moliga: I have been an active school and community volunteer for many years. I care for and I am invested in our schools and our children. With three kids in the district, at three different schools, my first hand experience as a parent and community member, allows me to have an ear to the ground and gives me a clear perspective on how decisions will impact students and families. If elected, I will work with integrity, to do what is right by those I represent. I will work tirelessly and with a level of commitment that ensures informed decision making that supports our students. Most importantly I will listen and empathize with the concerns of our community and be its voice.
Whitfield: Each day I oversee and operate the Windsor Athletic Club/Princeton-Windsor Cultural Complex, serving thousands of WW-P families and students. My position calls for me to interact daily with our local residents/members with a direct focus on their enhancement and enrichment. Countless hours and conversations have been spent understanding our district’s families, which has given me a greater awareness of the direct needs of our residents and students. This has enabled our customers to grow both academically, socially, athletically, intellectually and emotionally. Essentially, the dynamic combination of my previous/current experience and expertise, my daily perspective as the general manager and my personal experience as a parent of five children who have been in the WW-P School District, is the exact perspective needed on our school board.
The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor earlier this year sparked important conversations about racial injustice, including in West Windsor and Plainsboro. Do you believe racial injustice is an issue in town? If so, what can the district do to dispel it? If not, what would you say to those who say it is a problem?
Krug: Systemic racism exists throughout the country, including in our two towns. I am proud that the WW-P school district believes that “confronting structural and systemic racism, bias, and discrimination is at the forefront of its responsibilities.” Initiatives have begun to promote equity in our school community, well before these most recent events. These encompass curriculum, student training, hiring, advocacy and representation. Curriculum is reviewed with an eye toward representing people of different backgrounds appropriately. Discussions about race and culture will continue to address difficult topics. Hiring efforts continue to focus on finding the best candidates with attention to diverse representation. The district recently hired a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity Coordinator who will support WW-P “by offering training, workshops and/or conferences relating to cultural diversity, equity and access, systems of privilege, and anti-racist efforts.”
Moliga: Racial injustice is an issue that we continue to grapple with as a nation. The conversations that are taking place across our nation, are happening in our towns. From the Black Lives Matter rallies in both Plainsboro and West Windsor, to the district’s response to a racist social media post by a student in April, to incidents that don’t make the headlines, the discussions are ongoing and relevant. I am very encouraged by the district’s Sept. 9 convocation message highlighting the concerns and plans for addressing social injustice and equity in our schools, this includes the hiring of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity coordinator. I look forward to the progress we collectively make in the district.
Whitfield: It is our job as community leaders, parents and students to come together in a consistent and concerted effort to eradicate racial discrimination, injustice and to continuously push for greater understanding, inclusivity and diversity in our community. I have been a strong advocate for racial equality/justice and as well, a contributor in bringing each local ethnic group together in our community. We have greater commonalities, than differences. The color of our skin should never be a sole indicator of our character, content and moral aptitude. Our dynamic commonalities should help us form a respect and understanding of one another. With that respect, we are then able to help in the eradication of racism/discrimination, mitigate systematic oppression and nullify the opportunity for racial indifference and racial injustice to show up in our community or schools.
How do you think the district has handled learning adjustments due to COVID-19? Is there anything you would change or do differently?
Krug: Much has changed in the district since virtual instruction began in March. The district has moved to a new platform and learning is synchronous. District staff has worked to build a dynamic educational program virtually and in-person for our students. This program is evolving each day to meet the needs of the district’s students. Parents can choose hybrid (coming in person to school and virtual) or virtual only. Some of WW-P’s special education and English language learner populations can attend school in-person each school day. In the future, I hope that the district can obtain rapid COVID testing which will help with managing daily in-person participation.
Moliga: When schools moved to remote learning in mid-March, the district took on the daunting task of educating over 9,500 students virtually. The things that the district did well were: focus on learning vs. grades, provide chromebooks to all students, and be flexible with student assignments. Then over the summer, asking families for feedback on curriculum priorities, in-person vs. virtual learning, and afterschool activities. Some items that the district could have done better with 20/20 hindsight: start synchronous teaching earlier, get continuous feedback from families to course correct, ensure students received services that they needed, and involve the community in the decision making process around cancelling extra curricular activities.
Whitfield: I believe the District has handled learning adjustments very well due to an unprecedented and unexpected Covid-19 pandemic. By offering a Hybrid and Virtual Option to district parents/students and families, this enabled the district to be able to focus on all learners at every level and to also meet the overall varying and differing needs of parents/students/teachers and staff.
Do you think that pressure to perform academically is an issue for students in the school district? If so, what would you suggest the district can do to help alleviate stress and anxiety? If not, how would you respond to those who believe there is a problem?
Krug: Yes, I believe there is pressure to perform academically in our school district, as there is in any high-performing district. As a parent of one student in the district and two recent WW-P graduates, I am keenly aware of the academic pressure students experience. Our district’s strategic goal focuses on recognizing that children need to balance physical, social, emotional, and academic needs. The district is dedicated to social and emotional learning and strives to develop a school culture that supports students. The counselors and teachers provide a welcoming and respectful environment. Each school has age-appropriate programs in conflict resolution, promoting respect and tolerance, character education and cyber ethics. The district provides opportunities (even in a virtual setting) for students to connect with peers and supportive staff, all of which have been shown to help students to deal with academic stress.
Moliga: Since ours is an academically high achieving district, it is natural for students to feel the pressure. However, I do distinguish between a student’s internal drive (which should be nurtured) and external pressure to perform, a clear negative. I support the steps the district has taken to reduce the external pressure. Such as expanding counseling services, integrating counseling themes into the curriculum, no homework nights, and Parent University presentations. Something I would encourage the district to work on is to make extra curricular activities accessible to more students. Extracurriculars help students cope better with pressure. Many students are not able to participate even when they want to. For example, in my son’s middle school almost all after school clubs had long waitlists.
Whitfield: I am a former Division 1 college basketball player and former NBA employee. I have experienced supreme competition both personally and professionally in terms of the tools, dedication and time needed to perform at your best and succeed within a particular platform, subject or activity. I learned how to perform in a highly competitive area and dedicated myself to exceeding my own personal expectations. The ability to balance academic pressure and life’s pressures is something that is learned by students through cognitive, practical and logical methods of development. This process also develops the particular tools of success that will ultimately benefit the student throughout their lives. Monitoring our students effectively and continuously communicating with parents/students, can essentially help alleviate stress and anxiety by helping our students navigate their own personal, practical and successful balance.