For those who haven’t heard, I am jumping into the fire! Anyone reading this blog knows my stances on education. Is it enough though? We need change and we need it now.
These are the reasons I am running. I will tackle each reason below.
- Far too many Dover residents don’t want to send their child to Capital School District.
- Every student needs to be treated as an individual and not a test score.
- Our middle schools need a lot of help.
- We need more fiscal transparency and accountability.
- Low-Income Students.
- The Every Student Succeeds Act.
- Student Data.
- More participation from parents in the district.
- Special Education.
- More participation in state legislative matters.
- Charter schools within our district.
- Support for our teachers.
- Ensuring opt out of standardized testing is honored as a parental right.
- More focus on the arts.
- Perception of the district.
- Perception of Dover as a result of the district.
- Oversight of the Delaware Department of Education and the United States Department of Education.
“Far too many Dover residents don’t want to send their child to Capital School District”
I moved to Dover in 2004. From the very first day, I heard parents complaining about Capital. How it was unsafe. How there was bullying. How other districts or charters were better. I talked to a parent recently who heard the same things twenty years ago about not sending their child to Capital. Enough! We live in the capital of the first state to sign the Constitution. We need to be a shining example for Delaware. There should be no reason, with the amount of money we receive from taxpayers, we can’t be.
“Every student needs to be treated as an individual and not a test score”
I do not believe a standardized test score, from a test taken once a year, provides an adequate snapshot of a student’s progress. It is a very small part of the grand picture. As a state, we have spent an exorbitant amount of time and money on testing. The results? Pretty much the same. Yes, our graduation rates have gone up… a bit. But there have also been many changes in how that is recorded on a state level. What has changed? Our schools are held accountable under standards and high-stakes test scores that take time away from actual instruction. If we want “excellence in education”, we need to take back the conversation and deliver excellent education. What we have now is not excellent. It is a system designed to test, label, and punish. This is not a slight against the great teachers and leaders we have. This is the educational world we live in.
“Our middle schools need a lot of help”
Full disclosure here. I pulled my own son out of Capital because I felt my child wasn’t safe in William Henry Middle School. Parents had the same fears at Capital’s Strategic Plan forum at the Modern Maturity Center recently. Many parents feel the elementary schools are good, but once our children go to the middle school level things get bad. I am not saying these are failing schools. But we need to take a very careful look at exactly what is happening and make the necessary changes. We can not keep this up. Every single student in the district deserves to feel safe. Every single parent should be able to sleep at night and not worry about school safety. This is the most consistent thing I have heard about Capital School District in the twelve years I’ve lived here. But I want my son to come back to Capital.
“We need more fiscal transparency and accountability”
Capital School District, like any other school district or charter school, is a business. Capital is a $109 million dollar corporation. That is a lot of money. Are all funds being allocated to their intended use? No, they aren’t. The board needs more oversight with financial matters. I’ve been to board meetings where the board members ask the Chief Financial Officer questions about finances. I’ve heard the CFO start his answer many times with “Well…” and it is followed with a complex answer to what should be an easy answer. Capital has not had a referendum since 2009. We are overdue. The funds received from the last referendum will not continue to cover costs. We will be operating at deficit levels before too long. Either we go to referendum or we make cuts. Nobody likes the word referendum. But in our current system, it is an unfortunate reality. This process will need to be given a microscopic look by the board at every single level. And every aspect of this should be clearly laid out to the public. Are we spending taxpayer money wisely? Is there any waste in our finances? What are we sacrificing for students when we could reallocate funds to make sure all students are given what they need? These are things I would examine as a board member. As well, our state is facing a growing deficit while more legislation passes that decreases potential revenue to our state. This will result in more local funds (your school taxes) paying for school expenses.
Poverty and low-income is growing in Delaware. And yet the conversation in our state tends to revolve around Wilmington. Dover is facing this. If the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) redistricting plan passes at all levels, Capital won’t receive funds we need now for programs such as more funding for low-income students, basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade, and English-Language learners for many years. Due to a slight dip in low-income populations in Dover, Capital received a substantial cut in Title I federal funding last year. As a result, less funding is coming to help our most at-risk students. As a district, we go above and beyond for the low-income students in our district. But we also need to make sure we are getting a fair shake in Delaware. I fought for more representation with WEIC from the rest of the state, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. While I support the WEIC plan and recognize many students in Wilmington have very big needs, I also recognize many students in the Capital School District have the same kinds of needs and there needs to be equity across the board.
“The Every Student Succeeds Act”
In December, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This massive education bill replaces No Child Left Behind. It is so massive many people don’t understand everything in it. In the coming months, regulations will come down from the United States Department of Education, down to the Delaware Dept. of Education, and down to the district level. We need our board to fully understand every single facet of ESSA and what it means for our district. We need to make sure we have a voice when the state decides what kind of control they will have and what local control even means. We need to ensure our students, teachers, principals, schools, and our district do not fall into the same traps they did through Race To The Top. We need to have a seat at the table and make sure we are not on the table. When everything gets sorted out with ESSA, school districts will be swarmed with companies wanting us to make contracts with them. We need to make sure we keep a very close eye on every single penny we spend.
As we advance in the 21st Century, technology is coming into the classroom more every day. There are grave concerns about student data and privacy. New systems and modules of learning are being implemented in our schools and many parents are worried about where that data is going. While there are protections for the obvious and surface level data points, there are computer codes below the surface with copious amounts of data being collected, right now, in real time. Every single key stroke, how long a student takes to complete something, social-emotional student data, discipline, grades, health… all of it and more. Our board needs to be a watchdog between the district and the DOE, both state and federal levels. I do not support full-blown personalized learning as it turns our teachers into moderators and our children are subjected to their school day becoming screen-time.
“More participation from parents in the district”
When it comes to district decisions, I think parents need to have a very powerful voice. But getting parents to join a committee or help out or even attending a meeting is not always easy. At the recent Strategy Plan meeting, maybe 10-15 actual parents showed up out of a crowd of fifty. Many were district educators. No parent should ever feel intimidated to address their concerns or issues. In these days of social media, we need to make every single effort to communicate with parents as a district. Robo-calls are not always the best answer. As a board member, I will always be available to hear parental concerns about their children in the Capital School District. Those concerns will not be ignored or taken lightly. You will receive a response from me, guaranteed. I encourage every single parent in the district, and even our citizens, to get involved in our district. We have sports programs that generate a lot of public interest, but when it comes down to matters of education, we need more.
Disabilities are on the rise in Delaware. We all know this. The demands for students, parents, teachers, staff, administrators, and the district have never been greater and they will continue to increase. No parent should feel their voice is not being heard in an IEP meeting. We need to make sure the best accommodations we can give are for the sole benefit of each student with a disability. We need more staff training on each student’s disability. We need to tackle the ever-growing amount of IEP meetings and how to handle this for teachers. Teachers are the second most important factor in any child’s well-being. For students with disabilities, their needs are greater and we need to make sure everyone involved in the process is on top of this. We also need to make sure all parents of special needs students are given the opportunity to participate in the parent councils created out of Senate Bill 33.
“More participation in state legislative matters”
The more legislators hear from their constituents, the more they will listen. Since I began writing about education 21 months ago, I have found this to be very true. As a board, we need to be on top of every single bill that affects education. We need to take a position on legislation that will impact Capital. It needs to be timely so our legislators can make the best decisions for children. This also includes regulations introduced by the Delaware Department of Education that are acted upon by the State Board of Education.
“Charter schools within our district”
As anyone who has read Exceptional Delaware knows, I tend to give charters a hard time. Charter schools are public schools that get funds from the school districts their students come from. In Capital, there are five charter schools in our area that our students choice to. Polytech as well. They aren’t going anywhere. While this may come to a shock to many, I believe we need more collaboration with all the schools in our district. We should be actively reaching out to them. The purpose of the original charter law in Delaware was for charters to serve as an almost lab-like school. The best practices and innovations from these schools would spread out to traditional district schools. We need to get back to that. Do we know what the charters in our district are doing every day? Probably not. Perhaps they may need help with something. We should have that kind of relationship. As well with Polytech and the private schools in our area.
For children just entering the public education system, Kindergarten should be a time of play and discovery. It is an introduction to education, not an indoctrination to “rigor” and “grit”. We need to make sure our youngest students have recess and we don’t put pressure on them to perform and get homework and take high-stakes assessments. We all lose when we do this. I will fight for this!
“Support for our teachers”
As I said earlier, teachers are the second most important factor in a child’s life, after their parents or guardians. Children spend anywhere from a third to half their day with teachers 180 days a year. Teachers have an enormous amount of pressure. They need to instruct students, they need to communicate with parents, they are evaluated, they attend IEP meetings, they grade classwork, they test prep, they deal with school climate issues. They are the front line, every single day. Are we, as a district and a board, doing everything possible to make sure they are successful? Are we actively listening to what they need, what they ask us for? What battles can we fight on their behalf as an elected board when they are not able to speak? We need to be actively involved in making sure they are able to do their job: to teach our children. We have to make sure our teachers are happy while also making sure their happiness is the best for the students of the district.
“Ensuring opt out of standardized testing is honored as a parental right”
My proudest moment as a father of a student in the Capital School District was when the board passed their opt out resolution in October, 2014. This was the first action any school district in Delaware took to honor a parent’s right to decide what is best for their child in education. It helped to pave the way for other districts to act as well as our legislators. It is a parent’s choice, plain and simple. If elected, I will continue to make sure that right is honored and parents have that choice. If any parent wants to opt out and feels bullied or intimidated by anyone at a district or state level, I want to know about it. I will fight for your choice until my dying breath. I will also make sure the federal government knows Capital’s stance on this as well.
“More focus on the arts”
Since No Child Left Behind took over education 15 years ago, the arts in our schools have suffered immensely. We need to bring them back. We need to restore the well-rounded education system and make sure we are not giving short shrift to the arts. This can be anything from music to art classes to more library time. We need to make sure our arts teachers don’t lose three months of the year to standardized testing and become nothing more than glorified test administrators. This generation of students has lost an integral part of education as the focus went from all subjects to English/Language Arts and Math. I will do my best to make sure the programs we have continue and that programs we lost can possibly be brought back.
“Perception of the district”
We have a beautiful high school. We have a state of the art district office. South Dover Elementary School is great. But some of our other schools need work. William Henry has been begging for new lockers for years. This ties back into my first item. A district is more than the buildings. The classroom is the heart and soul of education. We need to make sure the classroom is an environment parents feel proud to bring their child to. We need to make sure every parent is treated as a person and not a guest. We need to actively listen and make sure protocol does not get in the way of a resolution. Many do this already, but juggling the role of an educator and being able to help can be difficult. I recognize that. But we need to make sure parents do not have any negative perceptions of our district whatsoever. Parents want to feel like they are being heard. They want action, and it is usually instant. It is in a parent’s nature to protect our children and to resolve problems fast. Sometimes schools and the district can’t always give those quick and easy answers. But we need to make sure if we tell a parent we will follow-up with them, that we do so and with fidelity.
“Perception of Dover as a result of the district”
It’s really simple: if a school district thrives, more people will move into the area. If more people move into a district, more businesses will come. That means more jobs and a better economy. That also means more accountability and transparency as a district. I love Dover. We are the crossroads of many diverse communities between our largest city and rural and tourist areas. We are called Capital for a reason. We need to live up to that name and be proud. We can help Dover flourish if we rise to the occasion. The better our district is, the better Dover is.
“Oversight of the Delaware Department of Education and the United States Department of Education”
The time has never been greater to keep a very watchful eye on both the Delaware DOE and the US DOE. We have seen public education suffer under rules and regulations that have been highly controversial in the past twenty years. Our schools have suffered due to both federal and state mandate. I spend an inordinate time looking into these matters and I will continue to do so as a Capital board member. We need to put one foot forward and always be looking at what could happen next. We need to know what is going on. The ESSA allows for more state control, but in the current education environment our state acts in, this may not be the best thing in the world. We need to make our voice heard loud and clear and make sure we have the best representation on every single committee, task force, or education group out there. We need to make sure our teacher evaluations are the best for the district and not the DOE. Yes, we have to follow the law, but we can help shape the law. We need to collaborate with like-minded districts, charters, and vocational schools to make sure we are never left behind in the guise of educational excellence.
It is very easy to list all the problems in Capital School District, but it is also equally important to celebrate the successes and the leaders we already have. I believe Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton was an excellent choice for the district. He comes from a district where those celebrations and successes are not seen as strongly as Capital. He knows some of the pitfalls a district can fall into. He also knows how to deal with many of the issues Capital faces but at a more magnified level. We have great leaders in our schools as well. As a parent I have crossed paths with some of them. But I also respect them on many levels. They deal with things most parents can’t even imagine. They need our support too. We need to make sure that if the state wants to label their schools for reasons we may not agree with that we will fight for them and protect them to the fullest extent we are able to.
Students with disabilities, minority students, English language learners, talented and gifted students, and all students need a powerful voice. I want to be that voice in the Capital School District. My platform is very simple: Change. Change is needed at systemic and fundamental levels. Capital needs a stronger voice in the State of Delaware. We need more families moving to Dover. The first thing they look at is school districts. I want to help make Capital a school district everyone in the community is proud of. This means full financial transparency, more community involvement in our district, and to help make sure all students and parents have a voice in our schools. I want to make sure our educators are Capital proud at every school. I want the citizens in our district to feel like they are getting their money’s worth out of our schools. I know Capital is already in the midst of a Strategic Plan, which is excellent, but we need everyone at the table. Parents should not be afraid to use their very powerful voice for their children. I plan on using mine to make sure your voice is heard and no parent feels they are ever being ignored.
As a board, five volunteers oversee everything in the Capital School District. We hire the educators who guide our children to a better future. Our board makes decisions that have a tremendous amount of influence and impact not only on our schools but also our community. It is a huge responsibility and one that should not be taken lightly. I want that responsibility and I want to help make Capital evolve into a district we can all be proud of. This is our home and our children are counting on us!
I want to hear from all of you: parents, teachers, staff members, volunteers, board members, principals, administrators, district staff, Dover citizens, charter parents, charter educators, legislators, businesses in Dover, but most of all, I would love to hear from the students of Capital School District. I want to hear your concerns and questions. I want to know what you love about our district and where we can improve.
In closing, I am asking for your vote on May 10th. This is a crucial election year at all levels, and I want to represent all the people in Capital School District with a seat on our school board. I will be making announcements in the next few weeks where I will be available for meet and greets all over our district. In the meantime, feel free to contact me at any time. In the vein of public transparency, this is my contact information:
9 Crosley Ct.
Dover, DE 19904