Denman, Puchalsky compete for CR at-large seat

Voters head to the polls — or mail in their absentee ballots by — July 21 for this year’s school board election. Downstate, there are seven contested elections. Learn a little bit more about the candidates below and check back for more districts this week.

To cast a ballot, voters must return an absentee affidavit four days before the election. The affidavit can be found at: elections.delaware.gov/services/voter/absentee/school.shtml.

The affidavit can be returned by mail, fax and an email to absenteekc@delaware.gov.

For Caesar Rodney School District, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Caesar Rodney High School, 239 Old North Road, Camden, and Postlethwait Middle School, 2841 S State St., Camden.

Caesar Rodney school board incumbent Joyce Denman will face off Justin Puchalsky for an at-large seat in the district for a five year term.

JOYCE DENMAN

Why did you decide to run for school board?

Joyce Denman

Being a lifelong educator (retired in 2018), it has always been my privilege to work in the field and contribute in ways that create ongoing improvements that make quality education accessible to all. I am just completing Year 1 on the school board and have spent this time attending meetings, visiting schools and becoming acclimated to the protocols and proceedings that make this district work. I feel that with my background in education (43.7 yrs) and my sincere and genuine interest in the students and staff in my community, I am uniquely poised to help the district move forward as we think of, create and develop equitable and innovative ways to provide educational opportunities for our students.

What’s the biggest challenge facing your district, and how would you address it?

There are two major challenges that both need our ongoing and immediate attention. “Black Lives Matter” is important to the health and future of our district. Ensuring that we are listening and responding to the voices of our minority students will strengthen everything that is already good about our district. The second challenge is to continue to deliver a world class education in the midst of this pandemic. We (the state and the districts) are actively working on different delivery models (remote and in person) that will enable districts to hit the ground running with whatever our reality is in August. We are committed to making sure that all students will have access to education as we move in to the 20-21 school year.

What are a few areas you’d like to focus on as a school board member?

The Caesar Rodney School board recently approved the formation of a new position in the district, Coordinator of Equity and Diversity. This position will do a deep dive into equity issues and any subconscious biases that may be present in the district. We will collaboratively devise strategies to address any areas that are found. I am also interested in working to alleviate the overcrowding we are experiencing at our middle schools. The teachers and administrators are being very creative with their schools, but we all know there is an urgent need to find more space this population.

What do you offer that your opponent may not?

As a retired educator, I have the time and the will to visit our schools and make a concerted effort to recognize the amazing events and accomplishments that our students, teachers and staff are doing every day! A few events I was personally able to attend/observe during the last school year were: Summer graduation 2019 at CRHS; John S. Charlton Prom; dedication of David E. Robinson Elementary School; ECO award in Washington DC for Green Ribbon Schools, 2019; National Honor Society Induction program; Riley Brown Spanish Immersion; John S. Charlton classroom (Utley); Rider Pride Day; Welch and Dover Air Force Base Elem. Veterans’ Day celebration; CRHS Girls’ Hockey Banquet; District Teacher of the Year Banquet at Wild Quail, State Teacher of the Year Banquet at Dover Downs; WB Simpson Student Council Induction Ceremony; Allen Frear Ribbon Cutting w/ Sen. Carper dedicating outdoor classroom space; Unified Sports events for Football/basketball with Jazz Band performance; Central Delaware’s Excellence in Education recognition to Caesar Rodney School District; MLK prayer breakfast where CR’s Monroe Hite IV received an achievement award; John S. Charlton 18-21 program at Wesley College; Star Hill classroom observations, CRHS’s Stage Crew and Thespians performance of “Cinderella”, and John S. Charlton’s remote graduation program.

What relevant experience prepares you for this role?

The thing that I bring to the board is my educational background. I have 31.7 years of classroom experience and 12 years of administrative experience. Conversations with students, parents, teachers and principals are easy for me since I have experiential background which helps me ask the right questions. I can recognize when really good things are happening in the buildings and classrooms. Talking to students of all ages is a strength for me. Watching them work and succeed brings me the greatest joy. I remember early last year visiting a third-grade classroom at Star Hill and observing the students entering comments in journals. One young lady was working very hard and shared her entry with me. The first thing I noticed was her proper use of quotation marks as she was giving the characters in her entry “voice”. Third grade! Proper use of quotation marks! I know adults that are insecure about this. Being able to engage meaningfully in conversations with students, parents, teachers and principals is an area of comfort for me.

JUSTIN PUCHALSKY

Justin Puchalsky

Why did you decide to run for school board?

I decided to run for election this year because I feel as though I can bring a different perspective to the board. I am fully invested in the district, as I have young children attending two different schools, and I want to make sure that the environment they grow in is the healthiest, most productive, and best possible learning environment. I feel that there are key areas where we can improve, but I feel that those areas need to be highlighted with a keen focus on improving and recognizing deficiencies. We have high expectations for the students to bring their best every day, and I feel that the same expectation needs to exist for the district backing those students.

What’s the biggest challenge facing your district, and how would you address it?

I believe the district needs to be more involved in the identification of deficiencies, and the collaboration in finding real world solutions that can be implemented now. Simultaneously, we need to start leading the state in innovation in our educational opportunities, and how we prepare our students for the world after public education. While our immersion program is one of the best, we need to continue bringing fresh ideas to the world of public education.

What are a few areas you’d like to focus on as a school board member?

One of the main areas is how we utilize our immersion program to benefit the students as they move through their education. Similarly to how the districts support their sports programs and academia, immersion and language should be supported in a way that may lead to greater educational/business/internship opportunities in the futures of those students who have been immersed in a language for the majority of their public education.

In addition, areas such as American Sign Language would be a language enrichment that would set Caesar Rodney apart from other public school districts. The ability for students to learn empathy and inclusion, during this unprecedented time, would be another area of focus that may bring new levels of inclusivity.

What do you offer that your opponent may not?

I am bringing the perspective of a single working parent, doing their best each day to provide for their children. I represent the parent that is fully invested in the district and the success of the district. I am motivated and driven to make positive changes within the district, and to strive to that end goal.

What relevant experience prepares you for this role?

My leadership experience has been primarily military. However, I believe that this is easily translatable to the civilian world. My military career has afforded me the opportunity to lead by example, which directly correlates to my platform of accountability. It is imperative that we hold ourselves, parents, school leaders, students, as well as our elected officials accountable in all the work that they perform or unfortunately, fail to perform.