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Until last year, Princeton School Board candidate Jenny Ludmer wasn’t expecting to go into politics. 

Originally from Virginia, Ludmer received a master’s degree in physiology from UCLA, worked as a researcher at Duke University, and became a senior science writer at Lockheed Martin Corporation. After having her first child, she became a stay-at-home mom and moved to Princeton six years ago. Since then, she has volunteered extensively at her children’s schools.

Ludmer is the vice president for communications for John Witherspoon Middle Schools' parent-teacher organization board. At Littlebrook Elementary, she helps lead the Science Expo, has championed the school garden, has run the chess club, and has also been behind a number of sustainability initiatives. 

But, after the 2016 presidential election, she decided to add something else to her repertoire: politics.

“I, like many people, was awakened after the national election. One of the first thing I did was work with other people. We took four busloads of people — not exclusively women — to D.C. for the Women’s March,” said Ludmer. “And then, I came home and said, ‘Okay, this was great, but we have to look local.’”

Ludmer began attending every school board meeting that she could. Eventually, she became a founding member of two nonpartisan groups, the Good Government Coalition of New Jersey and STAND Central New Jersey, which aim to raise voter awareness. Then, in July, she started her petition to run for the Princeton Board of Education to help give a voice to her fellow citizens.

“I’ve always been active voter. I’ve always followed politics. I’ve donated to politicians,” said Ludmer. “But it was really this national election that made me realize that I can’t just assume anymore that the people in power are considering the best interests of the public.”

For instance, Ludmer explained that she had learned that many parents in the district were concerned with the safety of having schools open on Election Day, when the public is free to go in and vote while students are in classes.

Ludmer questioned the lack of an explanation that the ‘powers that be’ gave: There wasn't yet another solution. Researching on her own, she found that many New Jersey school districts were closed on Election Day.

“I sent the list of calendars to many board members, and now they are proposing that we’ll be closed on Election Day,” said Ludmer. “That was one of the biggest things I’ve learned. Even as a citizen, you can show up to these meetings and make a difference.”

If elected, she wants to continue prioritizing the voices of the citizens. Wellness and racial literacy are Ludmer’s top two issues because they capture the zeitgeist, or spirit, of the times.

“We know that the pendulum has swung too far. The survey showed us that the average ninth grader is doing three and a half hours of homework, and that’s well above the national recommendations that have been up there for twenty years,” Ludmer explained. “We know that we have to do something, and we have to act.”

She hopes to continue discussions on decreasing stress among students, including the discussions on block scheduling, reductions in the amount of homework, and the examination of the quality of homework. Regarding racial literacy, she supports the current efforts of implicit bias training for teachers, recruiting from historically black colleges and universities, and having a racial literacy elective at the high school level.

More outreach to the public is necessary, Ludmer argues, to further initiatives about stress and educate the public on the counterproductivity of too much homework and the dangers of implicit bias.

Ludmer believes that her background in science would be beneficial in continuing efforts to find solutions to these problems by giving her the ability to research, analyze, and further evidence-based solutions.

As a citizen and former scientific analyst, she already has experience collaborating with the district on research. 

“I worked with the district this spring to ensure that every parent who pulls a student out of our district get an exit survey, so we are actively getting data now on why people choose to leave the district,” Ludmer said. 

She wants to continue such analysis of issues if elected to the board, especially regarding overcrowding and new facilities. She believes that the discussions right now are being rushed.

“As far as I know, we do not yet know the settlement for affordable housing,” Ludmer said. Without this information, she thinks starting the process for procuring new school facilities would be unwise. If elected, she believes she’d be the one to ask all the questions before deciding on a concrete proposal.

The desire to know all the facts before making a decision, Ludmer explains, stems from her training as a scientist. 

“You don’t assume anything. You ask. We can’t have a hesitation in that department just because we’re caught up in the moment of wanting to jump on the wagon and expand,” Ludmer said.

Ludmer is running against five other candidates for one of three vacant seats on the Princeton Board of Education. The election will occur on Nov. 7. 

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