CRANBURY: Parents hear high school transition prep plans for eighth-graders

By Amy Batista, Special Writer
CRANBURY – The Cranbury School District invited Princeton High School representatives to do a presentation for Cranbury’s eighth-grade parents who are getting ready to go to high school during its board meeting on Dec. 1.
“This is a great time for us to get together and start the planning process for eighth graders to transition to Princeton High School,” said Dr. Susan Genco.
Gary Synder, the principal of the high school, as well as Steve Cochrane, the superintendent, presented details on the transitioning of students.
“Gary and I are thrilled to be here,” Mr. Cochrane said. “I want to begin by saying how proud and grateful we are of our partnership with Cranbury.”
He said that educators are meeting often to talk often about the journey of their children through the grades.
“We get contributions from Cranbury on a professional level, from our parents here who serve on conceivably every committee, and most importantly, from the students of Cranbury who contribute to the high school in every way,” he said. “We look forward to having that continue for a long, long time.”
Among the issues discussed was the high school’s strategic planning process.
“We’ve just launched it last year and I really want this community to understand the direction we see ourselves moving in over the next five years,” said Mr. Cochrane. “And I also understand that the board has just begun the strategic planning process, so it may be helpful to hear the journey that we took and there may be some things that we can share in terms of the process,” he said.
He said the district has put together a website that documents some of the process that officials have gone through and the products they have been able to produce thus far.
Mr. Cochrane also shared the district’s mission statement.
“It took us awhile to come up with this one mission statement that captured what we wanted for our kids, but we came to consensus on preparing all our students to lead lives of joy and purpose as knowledgeable, creative, and compassionate citizens of a global society,” he said.
He said parents don’t often see the words “joy” and “purpose” in a school district mission statement.
“What you have in your mind for your kids as parents is you want them to be joyful and purposeful people in life well beyond high school and college years, so we wanted to establish that as a mission statement for our kids,” he said.
He said they have value statements that focus on partnerships among the educators, school and home, in the community and globally.
“Innovation was the next value,” said Mr. Cochrane. “We want to ensure that our students are taking creative risks and are free to make mistakes and learn from them. We want to be able to prepare our kids with the ability to improvise.”
Mr. Cochrane said the district has five strategic planning goals: wellness and balance; every child known; close the achievement gap; innovation; and culture of care, connectiveness and communication.
Mr. Snyder, who has 30 years experience in education, also made a presentation that reiterated what Mr. Cochrane had said,
“We are reminded often what high school teachers mean to students,” he said as he reflected on a story of how a particular high school teacher played a significant role in his life. “Thirty years later when I saw Mr. Kalifica’s picture in the paper it brought back all the memories about how he cared for me. I was not the greatest student, but U.S. history was my favorite topic and he knew that. And I became a history teacher.”
It was a reminder for Mr. Snyder that the faculty cares for the students and that they take their responsibilities as educators seriously.
“Princeton High School is getting to be a large school. We are 1,580 and growing. We make it a point to know our students and they know us and have these working relationships,” he said.
Mr. Snyder mentioned that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the building was full of alumni coming back to see their teachers.
“That’s the care that our kids have for coming back and seeing their teachers and the love they have for the school,” he said. “I love going there every day and I can’t wait for your eighth graders to arrive as ninth graders in September,” he said.
Mr. Snyder said guidance counselors will be meeting and having nights to in January to inform students and parents about the process.
“That’s the first time we give you a lot of information and you will learn about course selection,” he said.
He said that the Guidance Counselors would begin to meet with the eighth graders to talk about course selection in late January to early February.
“That’s a really good time that you start to learn about the high school and the courses,” he said.
Eighth grade student orientation will be Jan. 8 at 8:30 a.m. at the Cranbury School. Representatives from Princeton High School’s guidance department will speak to the students about the programs and opportunities at the high school.
Princeton High School parent orientation will be held Jan. 20 at 7 at p.m. at Princeton High School’s Performing Arts Center.