New members join Milford School Board

A more diverse board of education is helping Milford School District continue its path forward.

Members Yvette Dennehy and Ron Evans both stepped down this year shortly before longtime member Marvin Shelhouse announced his “retirement” from the group.

The changes allowed for new members to come aboard like Kristopher Thompson and Rony Baltazar-Lopez.
Mr. Thompson took over Ms. Shelhouse’s seat upon his retirement earlier this year. Mr. Shelhouse gave 35 years of service to the Milford School Board, including time as the president of the group.

“Marvin is pretty remarkable with an enormous amount of dedication. He is a Viet Nam vet, Retired Marine of 20 years, a major Civil War historian, and is the initiator and fund raiser in establishing the statue of General Torbert in front of the Milford Museum. This is the tip of the iceberg,” Carolyn Price of Milford said after attending a ceremony in honor of his dedication to the school district.

Mr. Shelhouse was also a key playing in obtaining and refurbishing the Buccaneer Ship that now resides at Briggs Stadium at Milford High School, she added. He continues to help maintain the ship to this day.
During the event, he was given awards and gifts from local leaders like Delaware senators and representatives. He also received accolades from the Milford School District Board of Directors and administrators, to name a few.
“Mr. Shelhouse participated in his final Milford Board of Education meeting on June 17 and concluded his illustrious 35 years as a board member on June 30. Our research would suggest that no other person has ever served as many years as a school board member in the state of Delaware. An extraordinary feat and act of service,” Superintendent Dr. Kevin Dickerson said. “Mr. Shelhouse represented Milford School District and the Milford community with much dignity, professionalism, passion and dedication. He always had our district’s, our community’s and most importantly our student’s best interests at heart. His leadership was remarkable and will leave an everlasting impact on our district and community.”

Although Mr. Thompson was the only person to seek Mr. Shelhouse’s vacated seat via election, more than a dozen candidates applied for the board positions relinquished by Mr. Evans and Ms. Dennehy.
Applications for Ms. Dennehy’s seat will be heard soon, according to Dr. Dickerson. He added, “The district looks forward to a full board in place by August with the board’s temporary appointment of a seventh member. . . The board has been adamant in its desire to have all seven seats filled so that the community is fully and justly represented.”

Newcomers already placed on the board will continue the work of the school board, while offering a fresh outlook on education related issues.
Mr. Baltazar-Lopez joins the board after serving U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, for two years in Washington, D.C. as a legislative aide. He says his experiences will play a significant role in what he hopes to accomplish with the school board. His heritage will also help shape some of his decisions with his newest colleagues.
“No one fully understands the importance of having diverse members in elected positions unless you are a diverse member yourself. Whatever the reasons may be for the increasing diverse population of the Milford School District, we as a community must understand that in order to further enrich all students and allow them to prosper in the educational system, we must break down barriers that may prevent them from reaching their full potential. These barriers are often unknown to people who are not of the same culture, ethnicity or identity of the students or their families,” he insisted.

“To make this relevant, the Milford School District has become increasingly diverse as African-American students now represent 24 percent of the district population and Hispanics represent 20 percent. Combined, that is almost half of the student population of the district. However, even with these statistics, the diversity makeup in leadership roles including schoolteachers, administrators, and board members remains largely unrepresentative of the community it serves.
“When I went before the Milford Board of Education, I elaborated on the fact that we must commit in improving the graduation rates of the Milford High School which currently stands at 86 percent. Ways to do this include ensuring that the district has the support staff to support our economically disadvantaged students, and also, the recruiting of bilingual staff so that they are able to effectively communicate with parents and students. This is particularly important as 16 percent of students in the schools are English language learners.”

His own experiences growing up in the Milford School District will help lead his one-year seat with the board, hoping to make an impact on the students who now walk the halls of the district.
“We welcome Mr. Thompson and Mr. Baltazar-Lopez to the Milford Board of Education. They are excellent additions to an outstanding Board of Education,” Dr. Dickerson said.

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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