Candidate Profile: Jean Durbin for Princeton Board Of Education

PRINCETON, NJ — Princeton resident Jean Durbin is running for a seat on the Board of Education this Nov. 3. A graduate of Temple University’s law school, Durbin has been serving as an attorney in the Office of Finance and Treasury at Princeton University.

Durban identifies many pressing issues faced by the school district, including educating children in the midst of a pandemic, reckoning with past racial injustice among other challenges. She brings with her a background in social work, policy and law, which she feels could help the school district in achieving many of its future goals.

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

Name – Jean Durbin

Age (as of Election Day) – 52

Position Sought – Board of Education

Family – Husband, Jon, and two sons who have gone through Princeton Public Schools since Kindergarten. One is now a sophomore in college and the other a sophomore in high school.

Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?

Education – I graduated from Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work, and Franklin & Marshall College.

Occupation – I’m currently serving as an attorney/contracts manager in the Office of Finance and Treasury at Princeton University. I’ve been there for a little over four years, and previously served for five years in what is now the University’s Office of Advancement. I’ve practiced law in the public and private sectors and previously worked as a hospice social worker.

Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office – None

Campaign website –

https://www.facebook.com/JDurbin4BOE

Why are you seeking elective office?

Service on the school board is a natural segue given my past community service and the challenges we are now facing in our schools and community. I think I bring a unique set of skills that could help the Board operate collaboratively to accomplish critical work, including the hiring of a new superintendent and projected growth in enrollment.

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

There are many pressing issues for our community, including educating our children in the midst of a pandemic, a reckoning with past racial injustice, a soul crushing property tax burden, and growth in our schools with aging facilities, among other challenges. But the single most important task for the Board to accomplish now is hiring an experienced superintendent with strong management skills and a demonstrated record of fostering the principles of equity and inclusion for all our children and within all our schools. I’d like to lend my skills to the Board to help us meet these challenges while ensuring that our children receive the best education possible in schools that are well run.

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

We are fortunate to have eight of us vying for three seats on the Board of Education. I bring a background in social work, policy and law, as well as experience in development (fundraising). I also have a deep record of community service across varied sectors of our community, which has enabled me to know and work alongside many people whom I might not otherwise have the opportunity to know.

If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community (or district or constituency).

In my opinion, this question suggests only failures and no achievements. However, the Board has engaged in priority-based budgeting and found significant cost savings, hired an experienced interim superintendent, negotiated three contracts, expanded free Pre-K (twice), hired new staff that reflects the diversity of our community, implemented restorative justice positions and recommended and supported a shift in discipline within our schools, and conducted necessary reviews in the areas of equity and special education. These are all positive efforts in line with the district’s strategic plan. I am always happy to have a conversation about the challenges our schools and community are facing. It helps us all to continue to talk and listen to each other with open minds, empathy, and a willingness to truly connect.

Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform.

If elected, I would work to recruit an experienced superintendent with strong management skills and who understands the values of our community and the importance of advancing equity, access and inclusion. I would work to set goals, implement policy and provide guidance to the administration to help them deliver the best education possible for all of our kids. I’d continue the efforts underway to hire excellent staff that reflects the diversity of our community. I’d work to ensure that every child feels welcomed and known, and I’d ensure that we implement measurable steps to close the achievement and opportunity gaps.

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

My professional life has presented me with opportunities to think critically and work under pressure as well as work with people. I sometimes characterize hospice social work as showing me people at their very best as they faced the challenge of the end of life. And practicing law sometimes showed me people at their very worst, behaving badly for pecuniary gain. Most of us operate somewhere in between on most days, but it is important to take time to understand what motivates people around you so that you can try to better understand how to work together and problem solve.

The best advice ever shared with me was:

Three women who adored me as a child were my mom, grandma and baba. I hear their words every day, especially in moments of joy and challenge. My baba shared with me early in my childhood that it is important to be kind to others even when they are not kind to you, because they are likely carrying a burden that is heavy. This was the beginning of my understanding of emotional burdens. When people lash out in unkindness, it likely has little to do with you, and more to do with their own burdens. She was really good at being patient and kind in all kinds of situations that occurred in our large family, and I am grateful I had her example to try to live by.

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

I will work hard to ensure that our schools are well run, that our children are educated in schools where they are seen and known and feel valued and welcomed. I will work hard to keep costs down and support operational efficiencies as well as creative ways to fund targeted needs. I will work hard to plan well and foster an atmosphere of openness and fairness so that our community’s support of and faith in our schools is nurtured. Public education matters. Raising good citizens matters. I’d like my work on the Board to be for the betterment of our schools and community.

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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