Princeton Board of Education Profile: Beth Behrend

PRINCETON, NJ — Incumbent Princeton Board of Education President Beth Behrend is running for another term this coming election.

A product of public schools, Behrend emphasizes on the importance of a good public education. She says her focus has always been on putting students first while dealing with the various challenges brought on by the pandemic.

Read below to learn more about Behrend and her platform for the upcoming elections in Princeton.

Name – Beth Behrend

Age (as of Election Day) – 52

Position Sought – Board of Education, Princeton Public Schools

Family – I live in the Riverside neighborhood of Princeton with my husband, Robert, and our three children, ages 14, 16 and 18, and our dog, Truffles, and four finches. My children attend/have attended Riverside Elementary, the Princeton Unified Middle School, The Pennington School and PHS. Our oldest (PHS 2020) is a freshman at Princeton University.

Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?

Yes, my brother is Register of Deeds in Waukesha County, Wisconsin.

Education – I am a product of public schools, originally from Hartland, Wisconsin, with degrees from the University of Wisconsin – Madison (BA) and the University of Michigan Law School (JD & LLM in Public International Law).

Occupation – I worked in NY and abroad as a corporate attorney advising Fortune 500 companies on global financings, joint ventures, acquisitions, governance and regulatory matters (8 years) and then in Princeton as corporate counsel for Medarex, Inc., a public biopharmaceutical company (9 years). I’ve spent the past ten years as a community volunteer and trustee in local non-profit organizations, including the Riverside PTO, the PTO Council, the Watershed, the Princeton School Garden Cooperative, the NJ League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton.

Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office.

President of Board of Education, Princeton Public Schools

Campaign website

Why are you seeking elective office?

I’m running again because I believe that effective, equitable public education is the cornerstone of our democracy – and that my experience and proven track record of making progress for our students during two years of leadership is what the Board needs during the pandemic and for the challenges ahead.

The single most pressing issue facing our school district is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.

The hard work of ensuring that our top-ranked schools continue delivering an effective and equitable education for all of our students through the pandemic and the challenges beyond. This is what I plan on doing:

  • Help secure and retain an experienced permanent superintendent;

  • Partner with her/him to set clear goals around equity and wellness, student achievement, prudent stewardship of finances and facilities;

  • Seek further spending reductions and new sources of revenue; and

  • Continue collaborative, strategic planning for rising enrollments.

What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?

I have a proven track record on the job — we’ve made real progress for our kids over the past two years while in Board leadership: stabilized district finances (from deficit to surplus through cost savings), improved and expanded facilities, took big steps toward equity (initiated free Pre-K, adopted revenue-neutral 1:1 device initiative for all students, funded broad-band connectivity for remote learning through $250K anonymous donation) and launched planning for enrollment growth. I know the ins and outs of PPS (parent, PTO leader, volunteer, helped include school gardens in curriculum), have a demonstrated commitment to the Princeton community (past trustee of Watershed, Princeton School Garden Cooperative, League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, Unitarian Universalist Congregation) and I’m an open-minded consensus builder focused on kids, not representing any particular agenda.

Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform.

My vision is for PPS to be a lighthouse for districts in the region and beyond, with;

  • students feeling welcome, affirmed, engaged, safe and comfortable in our schools;

  • the community being fully engaged and supportive in the PPS mission, with consensus and enthusiasm for long-term master planning with schools at the center (we can grow and maintain great schools); and

  • taxpayers feeling informed and confident about how schools are administered and funded.

What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?

During my two years of Board leadership, we hired talented new senior administrators and:

  • found $500,000 in recurring savings, stabilizing district finances, now with a cushion of $2.9M to deal with COVID costs, deferred maintenance and uncertain State funding;

  • dramatically improved building maintenance and cleanliness, while adding HVAC, classrooms and accessible, sanitary outdoor restrooms for our fields;

  • supported our most vulnerable learners by adding free Pre-K (75 seats), reducing suspensions through a restorative justice approach to discipline, providing equal access to technology through a revenue neutral 1:1 device initiative and broad-band connection;

  • reached fair and more sustainable settlements with our three labor unions; and

  • rapidly shifted to remote learning and are feeding 500 students and their families during the pandemic, while reopening schools safely with detailed protocols to ensure effective remote and hybrid teaching and learning

The best advice ever shared with me was:

Jay Michaelson of the “Ten Percent Happier” mindfulness blog recently advised readers to “lean back” from unhealthy, reactive habits such as worry, anger or conflict over social media narratives, into more reflective learning and growing, making space to focus on ways to really make a difference. I ran for the Board in 2017 to make a difference for the children of Princeton. I’m running again because I’d like to build on what we’ve accomplished and to continue the hard work, “leaning back” as needed to keep my focus where it belongs — on the kids.

What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?

School Board service is a big job, with a steep learning curve. I bring proven, collaborative leadership to the Board, at a time of great uncertainty and challenge, and would be honored to represent the 32,000 citizens of Princeton. I’m ready to hit the ground running in January 2021, to build on positive momentum and continue progress towards making our wonderful public schools even better for our kids.

In anticipation of the upcoming election, Patch asked candidates to answer questions about their campaigns. We will be publishing candidate profiles as election day draws near.

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This article originally appeared on the Princeton Patch

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