Guest Post: Shelley Suchyj On School Choice In Delaware

Shelley Suchyj is an educator from the Christina School District.  She was also the Exceptional Delaware Hero Of The Year for 2016 for speaking out about the mold issues in her district.  As the School Choice window in Delaware will end tomorrow, Suchyj put up a Facebook post with some information that was left out of a recent Delaware Today article by Larry Nagengast.

This is a must read for every politician and parent in Delaware so please share. As the Talented and Gifted Educator for the Christina School District city schools; I have spent over 30 hours already this week, going to student’s houses and helping their parents fill out Choice forms on my personal computer. This is on top of the hours spent with a “carload of parents and students” that I attended open house with at the new Christina Honors Academy two weeks ago. There is a lot that this article doesn’t include, that most don’t even understand. Like the fact that the choice website is only in English and most city parents don’t realize that you only have from November- January of the previous year to apply for Choice in the following year. The biggest hurtle is a perception of what a “good school” is.

I have been an educator for over 23 years, 16 years as an 8th grade teacher helping parents navigate the high school choice decision. Having taught most of my years as an inner city teacher. I have had siblings in the first graduating classes of both Wilmington Charter and Newark Charter when they both opened. I have sons that have attended public, catholic, charter, magnet and choice schools in the state of Delaware since choice began in 1997 and currently. I have to say the biggest issue for everyone in the state of Delaware to understand that there are GREAT programs and things happening in every school.

My own mother thought I was crazy when I took my son out of the, believed to be best catholic school, and put him in a public school. But to this day Marbrook, and the friends, teachers and experiences he had there can not be matched. But that was for him. He learned to speak Spanish fluently not because he learned it in school, because he didn’t, it was because his best friends spoke Spanish when they arrived at school and he needed to be able to communicate when they played soccer at recess and hung out after school. He got to learn a new sport at Dickinson playing varsity lacrosse that he never would have been able to play at Sallies or Wilmington Charter because of the number of kids on the team.

My belief is that every school should have an engineering class, computer class, arts class, music classes, languages and personal finance class option for every child in grades 4-12. Lets figure out what kids are talented in and grow those talents. We have changed the location of where our children can go to school in Delaware through Choice and Charter. Shouldn’t we change what they are taught in school to be successful too? It isn’t 1950 any more.

With sincerest apologies to Suchyj, I promised her I would get this up when I saw it over the weekend, but due to weather and work constraints I was unable to do so.  Every parent interested in choicing their child to a different school should look at every possible option and not go solely by reputation.  Each child is different and has unique learning methods.

3000

Sometimes a landmark passes you by and you never take notice.  As I looked at my blog earlier today, I saw I had written 2,999 posts.  That is a heck of a lot of articles for a blog that isn’t even two and a half years old.  So I thought I would do something special for the 3,000 mark.  I want to talk about fear.

There is no crippling force greater than fear.  It can turn the most well-intentioned person into a bowl of jello in a heartbeat.  We have all been there.  Some live in this state constantly.  What is my greatest fear?  Probably that my son will have a hard life.  It is one of the reasons I fight.  With every bone in my body.  I see teacher fear constantly.  Those who are afraid to speak because they can’t lose their job.  Fear can paralyze you when you least expect it.  It gnaws at you and turns conviction into uncertainty.  Truth into doubt.  But there are those who fight the fear and do something with it.

Do you want to know who doesn’t seem to have any fear?  Rita Landgraf.  The News Journal announced today she will take a job at the University of Delaware.  The soon-to-be former Delaware Secretary of Health will have big things to do at the University of Delaware.

She will join UD’s College of Health Sciences as a professor of practice and distinguished health and social services administrator in residence. She also will direct the UD Partnership for Healthy Communities, a cross-state and college initiative that looks to address healthcare challenges in the community.

Landgraf has been fighting for those who aren’t able to fight for themselves for a long time now and I’m glad to see she will continue that tradition.

Sometimes fear means rising up out of your comfort chair and doing the right thing.  Shelley Suckyj spoke out at a Christina Board of Education meeting on September 20th.  This one action drew major attention to the mold issues plaguing Christina schools right now.

Then there is Kathleen DeNight.  Last week, she received Autism Delaware’s Volunteer Of The Year.  As a parent of a child with Autism, I have seen DeNight at meetings.  She is not one to mince words and she will fight for her child.

Next is my wife.  On Saturday, she participated in a 5k walk.  In the pouring rain, she completed the whole thing and came in 11th place.  She has worked very hard in the past year to get to this point and I am very proud of her.

We can’t forget Jerry Fickes and Chris Leach, the two Wilmington firefighters who sacrificed their own lives to save others last month.

Another is one of my sources who I can’t name because then they wouldn’t be a source.  But sometimes sticking your own neck out in order to do good for others can be tough.  But this source does it consistently, and has been doing this for years.

There is this guy at work.  He says some of the most outlandish stuff I’ve ever heard in my life.  But he always does it with a smile.  He has absolutely no fear at all in this world and will say whatever is on his mind.

The Chicago Cubs may have a lot of fear going to the World Series, their first in 71 years.  But fear doesn’t get a team that far.  It is hard work and dedication.  I’ll be rooting for the Cubs.

Take Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook.  The two are running for the President and Vice-President of the Delaware State Education Association next year.  But they are starting their grass-roots campaign now and have committed to holding 15 meetings throughout the state in the coming months to meet with teachers and hear their concerns.  They have no fear whatsoever in speaking their mind for what they believe in.

Some take their fear from younger days and turn it into something good.  Such is the case with the Dover High School Peer Group Connections members.  These seniors help new freshmen transition to the high school.

I want to give a shout-out to some other bloggers out there in this country.  Especially two of them who continue to astonish me with the level of investigative prowess they exhibit.  They are heroes in my mind, and what these two blog about is very frightening stuff.

One of my favorite artists, a bloke by the name of Steve Dillon, passed away recently.  He was one of the co-creators, along with Garth Ennis, of Preacher.  Before that, they had a fantastic run on a comic called Hellblazer.  Dillon lived life by his own terms, and he wasn’t afraid to stand by what he believed.

Or what about Scott Goward.  A Dover resident running for Governor on a 3rd party ticket.  I’m sure he knows he will most likely lose, but he runs anyway, announcing his candidacy long before candidates from the “major” parties did so.

Fear conquering is all around us.  We see it every time a baby takes its first steps.  When a dying person is finally ready to let go.  When a student walks into a school for the first time.  When a couple finds out they are expecting.  People who struggle with addiction who take those tentative steps to ask for help.  When someone goes into surgery not knowing what the outcome might be.  When a parent attends a board meeting to give public comment about issues with their child.  When an African-American tells the world no more.  Or it could be a teenager who ignores a bully and walks right past them with their head held high.  Or another teenager who tells his mother, “I did it”, knowing that confession is better than the guilt.  Those who wake up in immense pain every single day but find the courage to get out of bed and face the day.  The opposite of fear is courage.  In big ways or small ways, courage is overcoming fear.

For those who have been along this journey from the very beginning, thank you for the road to 3,000.  For those who came along in-between, thank you for sticking around.  For those who just read occasional articles, that’s cool too.

Things are changing fast in education right now.  It will take great courage to speak your truth.  But it has to happen.

Kevin, 10/24/16