Candidate Profile: Karen Lemon For Princeton Board Of Education

PRINCETON, NJ – A recently retired AT&T executive, Karen Lemon is an experienced leader and mentor, who has led inclusion and diversity teams. Lemon is currently vying for a seat in Princeton School district’s Board of Education. She wants to make the Princeton School District affordable for all students and foster an environment of inclusivity and diversity.

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

Name – Karen Lemon

Age (as of Election Day) – 57

Position Sought – Princeton Public School Board of Education

Does anyone in your family work in politics or government? No

Education –

Bachelor’s of Science in Mathematics Education

Occupation –

Retire executive from AT&T

Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office – None

Campaign website –

www.jlhforboe.com

Why are you seeking elective office?

I want to work collaboratively as part of the Board of Education to regain Princeton’s reputation for providing excellence in education for all students, in a diverse and welcoming community while doing so in an affordable manner. I am running as a slate with Paul Johnson and Bill Hare. With them, I share a vision:

  • Where all children receive an equal education in a safe environment. Currently this is not the case as there is an opportunity gap for low income, Black/Hispanic, and special needs students.
  • Where all families and community members have a voice. My neighbors and friends in the community feel the current board leadership is not listening, and is not responsive or transparent in oversite of the district.
  • Where everyone can afford to live and grow old in Princeton and where children will receive an excellent education. 48 percent of your tax dollars go to the schools – you deserve more efficient and transparent spending of your tax dollars.

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

The safety of our children.

  • Support the superintendent, faculty, and staff as they work to deliver a quality education to all students during this pandemic. This includes technology support for remote learning and working to improve the school environment for a safe return.
  • Transform to make our diversity an asset…currently it is a determinate of academic success to the disadvantage of low income, black/Hispanic, and special needs students.
  • Focus spending directly on our students and in the classroom, versus the overuse of consultants, attorneys, and expenditures that do not focus on providing educational excellence in a safe and welcoming environment.

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

Two months ago, the differences were significant but the issues and agenda items including: Trust, Diversity and Affordability that Paul, Bill and I have discussed as a slate, are changing the conversation. The other candidates are now also discussing academic success for all and working to address excess spending. We have changed the conversation. Yet differences remain, including;

  • I believe we need a scorecard to measure our progress in support of all students. We want to take action to address the opportunity gap and then be held accountable for results.
  • I want to restore the trust of the community. The current board leadership has not acted on the feedback from the community. Our community wants the board to listen, be responsive, and be transparent.
  • I do not want to just talk about more affordable schools. I want to work to reduce the tax burden by not only holding to the 2% cap but to reduce the year/year increase.

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

  • They have allowed the achievement and opportunity gap for low income, Black/Hispanic, and special needs students to stagnate and is some cases drop. All students deserve the same opportunity, tools, support, and encouragement to succeed.
  • They have allowed the public trust to erode. This is the result of decisions such as the 2019 communication policy, that changed limiting who can speak at board meetings and the use of attorneys to suppress other board members and members of the community.
  • They have not efficiently managed our tax dollars. Examples include: the use of consultants which often provide little value (i.e. $143k to evaluate the purchase of Westminster College), the over spending on capital projects (i.e. $530k for bathrooms and a concession stand), and making long term agreements which limit financial options (i.e. agreeing to a 10 year send/receive agreement with Cranbury).

Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform

The platform is focused on:

  • Diversity – we must respect and support all students, families, and staff in our school community.
  • Affordability – Princeton Public Schools receives 48% of your property taxes and the board needs to recognize its impact on the ability for everyone to continue to live in Princeton.
  • Trust – board members are your voice to the school district and all members should conduct themselves accordingly. Board members need to listen, be responsive and be transparent.

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

  • I have a BS in Mathematics Education and an MBA.
  • While I have been in the classroom, I spent most of my career at AT&T from which I retired in March 2020.
  • Over the last 10 years at AT&T I led large, global IT organizations managing over 1000 people – As an executive I managed +$500M in revenue and owned the P&L.
  • I was the diversity and inclusion leader for more than 7000 people and led programs to make AT&T a more inclusive place to work.
  • I mentored and sponsored Newark students at high school and college level.
  • I have previously sat on the board for the Tri-State Diversity Council and on the Board of Advisors for Catalyst. Both organizations work to support diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.
  • I am currently on the Board for Junior Achievement in New Jersey. I have led large, complex organizations and budgets. I have made strategic, creative decisions to meet objectives. I have led diversity and inclusion initiatives. I have the skills, experience, and passion to realize and implement excellent education for all students, in a diverse community while doing so in an affordable manner.

The best advice ever shared with me was:

My parents always stressed with me and we always shared with our sons the need to treat people like you want to be treated. This has driven me throughout my career and now my run for the school board to make sure all people/students have an equal opportunity to realize their goals. As shared by Sonia Sotomayor, “Until we get equality in education, we won’t have an equal society.”

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

The most important thing is our students. Our goals need to be to make them good citizens who are prepared to reach their potential every day and in life. I am proud of the diversity in the Princeton community. I just want to make the schools work for ALL students. This includes addressing bullying of LGBTQ children, the importance of teaching a complete view of our nation’s history and working to make PPS an inclusive environment for all students.

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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