Ian Rowe: ‘Unequivocally opposed to the Princeton Plan’

Dear Parents of Pelham,

Since I announced my candidacy for Pelham School Board, I have been overwhelmed with support. Thank you. I have also heard directly from a number of you on some of the issues of greatest concern to you. To discuss these issues and others, I am having my first in-person meet and greet (outdoors) this Saturday, April 10th at 623 Francis Street, and on ZOOM on Sunday, April 11, both at 4 PM. These events will be held weekly until the election.

In addition, to provide insight into how I would operate on the Pelham School Board, this is the first in a series of “position papers” I will write on specific issues facing the Pelham school system. I do this to both articulate my position, and to create the opportunity to have reasoned, public discourse so that voters can weigh the pros and cons on any given issue.

The first issue is the Princeton Plan. I chose this issue first because I believe its implementation would not only adversely affect current Pelham elementary parents. The entire town would also suffer from increased traffic, congestion and environmental degradation.

Let me say at the outset I am unequivocally opposed to the Princeton Plan.

Although the current school board President Jessica DeDomenico said in the Pelham Examiner that the Princeton Plan is “something we would look towards later on down the road,” the Pelham Equity Audit made a recommendation to implement the plan. Moreover, one candidate running for the Pelham School Board endorsed the Princeton Plan in the March 22, 2021 edition of the Pelham Examiner.

If you are not familiar with the term, under a Princeton Plan, Pelham’s organization of elementary schools by neighborhood would be eliminated. In its place, the schools would be organized by grade-level. Each building would be assigned same-grade kids together, regardless of where each child lives. As an example, all Pelham Kindergartners (and only Kindergarteners) would attend Siwanoy. Hutchinson would have all (and only) Pelham students in grades 1-2. Colonial would have all (and only) Pelham students in grades 3-4. And Prospect Hill would have all and only Pelham fifth graders. The exact configuration and location might vary.

But whatever the final mix, a new family with young children in Pelham would have to physically change schools every 1 or 2 years, for a total of four times, before they entered Pelham Middle School. Those families with multiple kids would be especially burdened. Imagine that every morning and afternoon, almost all elementary school parents across Pelham would have to drive across town to drop their kids off or pick them up. Perhaps buses would have to be implemented, which would come at an enormous cost. And imagine if you are a Hutchinson parent, after fighting for a beautiful new school and dealing with the burden of the 2-year construction phase, you now have to drive across town because your daughter or son cannot attend the gorgeous campus in your own backyard.

Not only would implementing the Princeton Plan be a logistical and environmental nightmare, the people who moved here, like my family, who wanted to lay down roots for their kids and live in a home near one elementary school, would see all of that upended. It is very reasonable to predict that home values would be reduced. From an academic perspective, there is great value in having an elementary school in which Kindergarten and first graders can be mentored by fourth and fifth graders. All of that would be lost.

I reject the Princeton Plan, and instead favor a strategy that makes the education at each of our four neighborhood elementary schools exceptionally good, regardless of the demographic makeup of the student body. Because of the collective town support, the Hutchinson School will now be the jewel campus in the district. If you want to understand why I am so passionate that education should be excellent in each Pelham school building, no matter the racial composition, please watch this video of my own personal story: https://www.aei.org/multimedia/race-in-america-education/.

I look forward to dialoguing with you on the Princeton Plan. My next papers will include topics such as board transparency (especially as it relates to information being requested from our kids); safely reopening schools and the Equity Audit, among others.

As always, thank you.

Inspiring A Standard of Excellence for All Students

Ian Rowe