Letters to the Editor, Jan. 20


Opportunity knocks to improve schools
To the editor:
Voters in the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District should not miss an important opportunity to improve our schools by voting in favor of the referendum on Tuesday.
   When High School North was first proposed more than a decade ago, South parents, students and faculty were told that both schools would have equivalent facilities. The South PTSA has lobbied since 2000 to get the ball rolling. Now it’s 2006, and we finally have a unique opportunity to accomplish this goal. The bonds used to pay for construction of other district schools are being retired, and it will finally be possible to improve our older schools without a tax increase.
   High School South truly needs the proposed improvements. Five new enclosed classrooms will be built. Better partitions in open classrooms will enhance the learning experience by reducing noise. Our choirs, bands and orchestras will be able to practice together, and hold concerts at the school. (Anyone who has tried to sit through a concert, theater performance or meeting in South’s current auditorium knows that South’s facilities are noisy, uncomfortable and undersized.) Classrooms will be renovated for fine arts, a new gym built and other athletic facilities renovated.
   My children graduated from South years ago, but I will be going to the polls to support the referendum. So should you.
Deborah Brett
Sherman Court
WW-P school district is at a turning point
To the editor:
We are at a turning point in our school district’s history. The referendum that will be presented for vote on Tuesday is our opportunity to relieve the overcrowding and substandard space that our students currently live with at High School South.
   Our building was designed to hold a maximum of 1,300 students and we are bursting at the seams with more than 1,600 students now, with more to come next year. History is being taught in an area that used to be a hallway, and math is being held in an old storage room. The state of New Jersey has implemented a new requirement for students to study performing arts in order to graduate, yet our orchestra is too large to fit on our auditorium stage. The renovations proposed are not glamorous or state-of-the-art, but they are designed to accommodate our growing student population.
   The artificial turf fields proposed for both South and North are to be determined as a second question on the ballot. The opportunity to build these fields and provide better conditions for our physical education classes, as well as our sports teams, can only be approved if the voters pass the first question on the ballot.
   The timing is critical because the debt service that we have been paying for the construction of High School North will reduce this year. We will be able to finance the South construction without incurring additional financing costs. Your taxes will not increase due to this construction, and yet the benefit to our school, our students and, ultimately, to your housing values will be of terrific value.
   If Tuesday is a difficult day for you to get out and vote, please download an absentee ballot at: www. njelections.org/absentee_doe.html. If you want to see the proposed design or have questions about the costs that will entail, please contact The Citizens Referendum Team at any of the following addresses: dhasling@comcast.net, andylupo@comcast.net, tonyfleres@comcast.net or chris.yan@comcast.net.
   We proudly support this referendum and we urge you to vote yes on Tuesday.
Dee Harris Ferrante
Barbara Reiff
West Windsor Plainsboro High School South PTSA
Clarksville Road
West Windsor
Support referendum, sustain ‘Pirate Pride’
To the editor:
There certainly is no lack of "Pirate Pride" at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South. Since South’s beginning in 1972, the high school has grown tremendously in both size and spirit. Since that time, South is proud of the rich tradition that the students have created on the athletic fields, in the music programs and in the classroom.
   However, because of this growth in both spirit and size over the last 34 years, a need has arisen to add onto, update and improve the school. On behalf of the students at High School South, I encourage everyone to vote in favor of the proposed facilities referendum on Tuesday.
   What exactly does it mean that Pirate Pride is increasing? It means that an increased student population is participating more than ever in school activities and programs and that the building needs to be updated to reflect this increase.
   For example, the orchestra program at South in 1972 began with five string players. At present, the orchestra program has approximately 300 string players and three different ensembles. The building, unfortunately, has not similarly increased in size. The musicians must perform densely packed onto the small stage. Additionally, there are only two tiny practice rooms, and one music room that is always over-filled. The referendum calls for a new, greatly needed theater, additional practice rooms, and a new music room that would allow the music program to (continue to) flourish.
   Like the musicians, sports programs suffer from increased growth and lack of available space in the building. (The athletic department has grown even more this year with the addition of a fencing team.) Teams must compete for time to use the one and only gym at South. Whereas High School North currently has two gyms and approximately the same student population, it is logical that South should also have a second gym. More space, such as an additional gym as proposed in the referendum, must be created for the sports teams. The building that was built 30 years ago for a much smaller student body and student-athlete population needs to be upgraded to meet the demands of the South athletic department.
   The most important part of the referendum is increased class size. Additional student space and classrooms are to be built if the referendum passes. Music and athletics are important, but the increased number of classrooms would be most beneficial to South.
   Though I will not see the effects of these changes for myself if the referendum passes, my own Pirate Pride and love of High School South has compelled me to write on behalf of future Pirates. I believe and know that the needed changes at South will greatly benefit the future classes to pass through the building. Pirate Pride is ever-increasing and the building should reflect this growth. For the future benefit of High School South, in both size and in spirit, please vote in favor of the referendum on Tuesday.
Brooke Dearden
Student Council President
West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South
Clarksville Road
West Windsor
Students, parents, staff all support referendum
To the editor:
Voters in West Windsor and Plainsboro are being asked to vote on Tuesday on a facilities referendum for upgrades and additions to our district schools.
   We formed the Citizens Referendum Team this fall because we feel so strongly about the need for this referendum. For the last few months, we have tried to inform our communities about what the referendum encompasses, how it is that taxes for the school district debt will not increase if the referendum passes and why all of the components of the plan are so important. Along the way, we have had the opportunity to meet parents, district staff, students and senior citizens. We’d like to share some of what we have learned.
   All of the students we’ve talked with are very excited about the plans. Those who participate in music at South look forward to having practice rooms in which they can fully extend their bows and a stage on which all the orchestra can fit. Students in winter sports were excited to see the proposal for a new gym at South, as they are often searching for practice space. The boys and girls basketball teams have to take turns — one group can practice after school, and the other has to come back at night to use the same space. Students at North were glad to see the proposal for a new science lab, as they want to ensure none will be shut out of a lab science as the student population there grows.
   Parents shared other stories. We heard about dusty field hockey fields and muddy spring fields, and their impact on the students. They were thrilled to see the new kind of synthetic turf fields. Many implored us to do something about the auditorium, and were quite pleased that the plan includes a new auditorium with both a larger stage and quiet, comfortable seats.
   Staff members enlightened us. We learned that Dutch Neck still has trailers and some small-group-instruction classes meet in the hall or on the stage. In Wicoff’s original second-floor classrooms, there are only two electrical outlets in a classroom, posing quite a challenge to integrating technology into the curriculum. Dutch Neck, Wicoff and Hawk staff were very glad to hear about the proposed ventilation work.
   Almost everyone we’ve talked with has been very supportive. Some are understandably concerned about taxes, but are pleased to learn that the timing and amount of the referendum are such that taxes for school debt will remain level, and that the savings without the referendum would only be $64 to $111 a year for an average house. It seems our biggest enemies may be apathy and the "what’s in it for me" syndrome.
   WW-P schools have been rated among the best in the state. All of our students deserve adequate facilities for their needs. We encourage everyone to vote on Tuesday. We hope that the outcome will show that the members of the West Windsor-Plainsboro community truly do care about their neighbors, and will support each other for the good of the whole.
Anthony Fleres
Diane Hasling
Andy Lupo
Chris Yan
Citizens Referendum Team
West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District
Time to invest in older facilities
To the editor:
I write as a past member of the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional Board of Education to urge residents to vote yes on Tuesday’s referendum.
   During my time on the board (eight years ending last spring), our capital programs by necessity focused on building new schools. Now it is time to invest in our older facilities. As the current board has explained, earlier construction bonds are now being retired, and we can fund the new investment without increassing total capital expenses.
   Let’s all work together to support our superb educational programs.
Stephen Smith
Greene Drive
West Windsor
Thorough review, analysis have preceded referendum
To the editor:
Preparation, review, analysis and public engagement are the key elements that have led to the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District’s proposed $27.4 million facilities referendum. Having served as a member of the WW-P school board, I became aware that addressing the needs of our district’s facilities must be a top priority. Every year, the board budgets more than $1 million for capital improvements. However, many of our schools, in particular our older schools, need repair and renovation work that far exceeds what could possibly be budgeted on an annual basis.
   The formal process to address such urgent needs began in July 2004 as the school board amended its policy by adding new responsibilities for facilities oversight to the Administration Committee. As chair of the Administration and Facilities Committee, I assisted in the organization of building tours of all 10 schools with the district’s administration and other board members. Not only could we see firsthand what work needed to be done, but we also had the opportunity to speak with each principal in order to understand how these needs impacted the instructional program.
   With the assistance of the architect, additional input from teachers, staff members and parents was taken into consideration to develop a final plan to address those needs. I credit our superintendent, Dr. Robert Loretan, and our school board for being fiscally responsible and sensitive to taxpayer concerns by timing the proposed debt with the retirement of other long-term debt. The district has stated that it anticipates there will be no tax increase due to the proposed projects.
   In conclusion, the school board has done its due diligence on this referendum. The integrity of the process is evident through the thorough review process and the exceptional outreach effort to inform parents and community members. The needs are real, and the proposed plans address those needs. Please join me in voting yes on Tuesday.
Linda Geevers
Hawthorne Drive
West Windsor
(The writer, a West Windsor township councilwoman, served on the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional Board of Education from 1999 to 2005. This letter represents her views as an individual West Windsor citizen and not as a member of either body.)
Bears are enlisted in fight against disease
To the editor:
The students and staff of Saint Paul’s School in Princeton have raised more than $500 through the sales of "65 Roses" bears for cystic fibrosis research. They used their Christmas money to purchase these small bears to benefit the children afflicted with the No. 1 fatal genetic disease, cystic fibrosis. The students learned about genetic disease, used their savings to contribute to the research effort, and will make a difference in the longevity of the children suffering with cystic fibrosis.
   The "65 Roses" bears get their name from the way children with cystic fibrosis pronounce the name of their disease.
   With this kind of commitment from students, we are confident that we will be able to write a letter someday announcing an effective treatment or cure of cystic fibrosis.
Mary Furey Gerard
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Talbot Lane
NAMI supporters enjoy a ‘Night Out’
To the editor:
Over 300 people came to The College of New Jersey on Jan. 8 to hear pianist/psychiatrist Dr. Richard Kogan discuss Beethoven’s life and play his music. Every seat was filled. The recital/reception was a fundraiser for NAMI Mercer, the Mercer County affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
   NAMI Mercer is a nonprofit organization of families and individuals working to improve the lives of those affected by mental illness through education, advocacy and mutual support. NAMI offers essential support through NAMI helpline, professional courses, support groups, speaker programs, anti-stigma presentations and fellowship activities for people in recovery. NAMI services are delivered, free of charge, by volunteers/professionals who have experienced the same challenges as those who seek their help.
   Beethoven suffered from depression, paranoia and psychotic episodes, but his immortal music is evidence of the contributions people with mental illness have made — and continue to make — to our civilization.
   We at NAMI wish to thank all of our sponsors and supporters, and especially the many volunteers who helped us organize the evening. In 2005, NAMI programs have touched and served over 2,000 families and individuals in Mercer County. With yours and community support, NAMI continues to reach out and to build programs to help those in need. Thank you.
Tina Clement
Night Out With NAMI
Jerry Lindauer
Executive Director
NAMI Mercer
Americans must recover their sense of outrage
To the editor:
Where is the outrage?
   President Bush got $550,000 from Enron during his campaign for governor of Texas. During his campaigns for president, he got more money from Enron than any other Republican. Of Enron’s contributions, 75 percent went to Republicans.
   President Bush also received more than $100,000 from Jack Abramoff but has "given back" only $6,000 to charity — which I guess eases his conscience. One can only imagine what Enron and Mr. Abramoff got in return.
   The top 10 contracts for rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan all went to Republican contributors. Halliburton is the leader with total contracts (mostly no-bid) of $11.4 billion. In return, Vice President Cheney’s former company contributed $2.38 million (from 1990-2002) mostly to Republicans.
   Just before Christmas, the House of Representatives voted on a massive budget bill. Most members had no idea what was in the bill. The only people who did were the special-interest lobbyists who wrote it and the leadership. This bill gutted many social programs for the underprivileged and gave favors to those with financial clout.
   Congressional term limits would change the incentives for entering politics and were a possibility until Republicans took control. Now Congress must impose limits on itself, which will never happen. Only if Americans recover their sense of outrage over the abuse of power and vote the offenders out of office will there be a chance of change.
Ronald A. LeMahieu
Sequoia Court
West Windsor