First off, I want to apologize. I should have had the remaining surveys up on Friday morning. What happened? Life. It happens! But my apologies to the remaining respondents who took the time to diligently answer my 14 question survey. I do have one more district to cover after this one. I should have that up shortly. In this round, we have Appoquinimink. The candidates are incumbent board member Charlisa Edlin, Keinna McKnight, and Trevor Tucker. Only one of the candidates responded to my survey. Which one?If you guessed Keinna McKnight, you were right!
1) Do you support a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment? Why or why not?
Keinna McKnight: It is my opinion that we have become a society that are focused on test and test results. I believe that many of the test (standardized) fail to provide efficient and/or effective indicators on what our children have learned or retained. For example, if you have a child that does not test well and they fail a standardized test or score below average on the test, does this truly represent what the child knows or understands, no. My children participate in standardized testing; however, I do not rely on the results of the test to tell me how they are progressing. I rely on my child’s teachers. We work together to identify areas of concerns and were additional work is needed. At the end of the day many districts have their hands tied due to accepting state funds. We all know that when you take money from the state or federal government we are then required to meet certain requirements and state established measurements. In the end, poor results on standardized test and a child performing poorly are accompanied by heavy and in many cases unfair consequences for educators, students, schools, administrators, and districts. Since we have more efficient and effective methods to measure the educational development of our students, I support a parent’s right to opt their child out of state assessments.
2) Why are you running for a board seat in your district?
McKnight: It is my personal belief that school administrators and school board members are tasked with the responsibility of being responsive and accessible to staff, students, parents, and the community. Therefore, I am running for Appoquinimink school board to effectively address issues and concerns that directly impact the educational development of the students within our district. I am a problem solver and will work to reinforce the importance of collaboration and accountability. As a board member, my number one priority will be to address any concerns or issues that may have left a parent, child, or faculty member feeling like their voice was not heard. I will not only be responsive and receptive towards each matter, but I will also work hand and hand with all parties involved to seek permanent resolution. I strongly believe that effective change can only be achieved with open dialog and the willingness to take into consideration the facts that are presented before deciding on how to move forward or taking any action. As a leader, I will work to pull the best out of members within our community and educational system. I promise to be dedicated in ensuring that all students within the Appoquinimink School District needs are met and that teachers and staff have the resources and tools required to make our children successful students.
3) What are your thoughts on digital technology in the classroom?
McKnight: In 2017, we live in a world of technology which is a change from when I was in elementary. Based on this change and our developing culture I believe that digital technology when used appropriately is an effective resource and tool in our classrooms. I have found that my daughter who is in the second grade and now has access to mobile devices that connect her to classwork and programs while outside of the classroom, is excited about learning. With these resources my daughter has a better understanding that learning does not stop when she leaves school. The utilization of digital technology affords students with the ability to take control and responsibility of their individualized learning. With these resources and tools students are placed in a position where they can actively engage in their educational development. Digital resources also allow parents to monitor the progress of their children and stay even more connected with teachers. Although, I am supporter of digital technology, I do not believe that these resources or tools can ever replace the benefits and rewards a child receives from having one-on-one interaction with a teacher and interactions with other classmates. I believe that there is a need for a balance between digital technology and personal interaction.
4) With a massive state deficit for FY2018, what are things you think your district can do to save money during this crucial time?
McKnight: I can tell you that I don’t think we should cut funding for programs or educators. I highly recommend looking at expenses that do not directly impact the quality of education for our students. I recommend looking at allocated funds that are being set aside for future growth within the district and considering reallocating those funds and resources to cover our future deficit. I understand the importance of the preparing for future growth, but I do not support doing so at the expense of current students within the district. It is my priority to ensure that the distribution of state and local monies allocated to the district are used to fund/support the overall vision of the district. While at the same time ensuring that we reinforce our ability to sustain current and new initiatives at a local level.
5) The local teachers union plays a large part in school districts. How do you plan to engage this association in your district?
McKnight: I understand that local associations are set in place to, “Promote the general welfare and status of members, promote excellence in education for the children, and to advance the cause of public in Delaware.” As a former Labor Relations Regulatory Specialist for the State of Delaware, I have experience working closely with union officials and union members. Based on this experience, it is important to me that I hear and understand the concerns of our local teacher’s union while at the same time working toward permanent resolutions. In the end, I believe that for our district to be successful we must form effective partnerships and based on this belief as a board member I would focus on engaging our local associations and working towards forming an effective partnership to ensure that we can work together on future concerns and issues, while keeping our overall focus on the quality of education and the success of our educators and students.
6) Recently the Christina School District Board of Education passed a policy regarding safety zones in their schools. This gives a uniform process for federal immigration officials in the event they should question or contact an undocumented student whereby the feds would have to consult the Superintendent first. Are you in agreement with this policy? Should the policy go a step further for sanctuary schools?
McKnight: I have read the policy passed by the Christina School District Board and I agree with the policy and the uniform process. In situations of this nature, I believe that it’s in the best interest of any district to allow issues this this nature to be addressed away for schools and with administrators at the highest level. At the end of the day, the overall purpose of the policy as I read it, is to protect the rights of undocumented students as the protection relates to their right to a public education.
7) Are you in favor of Delaware going through a massive redistricting of their school districts? If it meant you would have to give up your board seat would you be in favor of this?
McKnight: As a member of the MOT community, I would not voluntarily agree to be included in a massive redistricting of our school districts. However, I can see partly how a redistricting may assist with financial resources, giving the fact that the Appoquinimink School District ranks lower on the tax assessment scale when compared to other Delaware School Districts. As a board member, it will be my responsibility to always make decisions with the interest of the district at the forefront of the decision-making process. Based on this responsibility, I want what’s best for the children within our district. If the decision was made that it was in the best interest of our district to complete a massive redistricting and I had to give up my board seat then that is what I would do. However, I would not to come this agreement without evidence that this was the best decision for our district. There would also have to be competent men and women being placed in the newly formed board who have similar beliefs, views, goals, and objectives that complement the overall environment of our MOT community.
8) Do you feel students should receive more unstructured learning time/play/recess?
McKnight: As a parent, I love to see my daughter’s imagination at work when she plays. During most of the school day, students are expected to follow instructions, rules, assignments, and remain somewhat quiet while in a classroom setting. So yes, I believe that students should receive additional unstructured learning time/play/recess. This additional time will benefit students by allowing kids to be physically active while strengthening interpersonal skills.
9) What are your thoughts on school vouchers where students attending private schools would receive state or federal funding from education budgets to help with tuition costs?
McKnight: I believe that parents and families have the right to send their child to any school they believe will provide their child with the best education possible. I believe that vouchers are effective for children in underperforming school systems and in cases where a district is not equipped to meet the needs of a student.
10) Many in Delaware feel school board members give what is known as a “rubber stamp” where they automatically vote yes on any action item the district suggests. Do you feel the role of a school board member is to serve the district or the students of the district? Please explain.
McKnight: The role of a board member should never be used to “rubber stamp” a decision. I strongly believe that the role of a board member is to serve students, parents, and educators within a district. As a board member, I believe that it is imperative to partner with members of the district, however, the focus must be placed on the overall needs of the students, educators, parents, and community. I understand that as a board member tough decision may need to be made, however, in this role you cannot be afraid to vote no, when no is the appropriate vote. I will not be afraid to take a stand to ensure that I am an effective voice for the children within our district.
11) Understanding of school finances and funding is crucial to serving on a school board. How much do you understand the different funding sources in education?
McKnight: I understand that Appoquinimink School District have several different funding sources in education, to include, state, federal, local funds.
12) What volunteer experience have you had in traditional Delaware public schools or in the school district you seek to serve?
McKnight: I served as Co-President for Spring Meadow. I actively participate in my daughters second grade class and event/ outreach programs within the MOT and local communities.
13) What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing Delaware students at this time?
McKnight: I believe that students in Delaware are facing similar challenges that students face across the USA. These challenges include, feeling accepted by peers, not giving into peer pressure, receiving/maintaining acceptable grades, while trying to effectively prepare for a future after high school. I also believe students in 2017 have an additional challenge of not falling into the path of drugs and addiction. This from a mother’s stand point is one of the biggest challenges that our student face and one that many parents and communities fail to even consider. Mainly because it’s a challenge that many of us think could never impact us. We read the stories, but the stories belong to someone else. It is important to me as a mother and community member that we educate our students on the negative and life changing impact of alcohol, drugs and addiction to ensure that our students have the knowledge, resources, and tools of avoid and/or successfully overcome a challenge of this nature.
14) Can you please discuss your thoughts on special programs and de facto segregation?
McKnight: I strongly believe that de facto segregation has a negative impact on society and our educational systems. Diversity is beautiful and allows us to learn different ways of life and engage in interactions with people from different backgrounds and cultures. A person’s difference is not something that should be feared, we should embrace our differences and accept the interaction as an opportunity to learn from each other and enhance acceptance.