Hallock and Marshall challenging incumbent DePrima for Capital school board seat

Voters head to the polls — or mail in their absentee ballots ahead of — July 21 for this year’s school board election. Downstate, there are seven contested elections. Learn a little bit more about the candidates below. Other races were highlighted earlier 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 absenteeskc@delaware.gov

For the Capital School District election, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at East Dover Elementary School, at 852 S. Little Creek Road, Dover and Dover High School, at 1 Dover High Dr., Dover.

Dennis Hallock Sr. and Leandra Casson Marshall are challenging incumbent Anthony DePrima for a five-year term. Dr. DePrima was appointed to the seat last year.

ANTHONY DEPRIMA

Why did you decide to run for school board?

People who know me know my love for Dover and the Capital School District. My wife, Janet, and I have lived in Dover for nearly 30 years and raised our daughters here. Janet retired as a Capital School Nurse after 18 years. Our three daughters were Senators from elementary school through Dover High, and they’re successful today thanks to their education. I owe a lot to the district, and I want to give back by continuing to serve on the board. The decisions the school board make have a big influence on the success of our community. I know that my experience will bring the best results to the Capital School District community.

Tony DePrima

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

The most immediate issue is hiring a new Superintendent; I am committed to doing a wide-reaching, thorough, and transparent search. And it is critical to collect the views of the community in advance. However, our biggest challenge is restructuring the grade level configuration. The current way grades are grouped in schools has been identified “as a primary factor adversely affecting school climate, culture, and academic achievement.” Solving this will require an extraordinary amount of capital spending on school facilities. Not only will it be necessary to build a middle school, we will need to renovate existing facilities as well. We only get one chance to get this major restructuring right. If these projects are not delivered on time and on budget, it will have decades of implications for our community.

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

Find a superior superintendent who will build on the progress made of the past several years

Ensure the planned grade level re-structuring happens; the current structure is a barrier to our children’s education. The key to this is having the new middle school(s) done on time and on budget.

Find more ways of encouraging and expecting student good behavior, civility, and tolerance.

Find more ways of improving student health and well being. Being married to a school nurse has taught me that too many kids come to school with physical and mental health problems.

Work toward a more environmentally green school district. Our kids are the key to a healthy planet. The district needs to lead by example.

What do you offer that your opponents may not?

Experience! I have served on the School Board for the last year and have made a number of positive impacts. As former Dover Planning Director, City Manager, and current Executive Director of Energize Delaware, I bring important firsthand experience in managing large budgets, maintaining good labor relations, maintaining public trust and public transparency, building design and construction, and saving money through energy efficiency. Finally I have proven to be a good steward of taxpayer’s money.

What relevant experience prepares you for this role?

First, the school district has a $125+ million budget; as city manager, this is similar to the city budget. Understanding and working with large budgets is not lost on me, and it does not go over my head. I am most suited to ensure that money is not wasted and goes where it can help the children most. Second, both as city manager and planning director I have extensive experience in planning, designing and constructing buildings. The next five years will be a unique period where we are building a $100+ million middle school, followed by completely renovating and purposing several other school buildings. These projects are critical to re-structuring the grades; they have to be done on time and on budget. I have served on the Middle School Construction committee for the last year and proven to have a positive impact on costs and design.

DENNIS HALLOCK

Why did you decide to run for school board?

As a former educator, employee of the Capital School District, and parent of 3 successful products of the Capital School District, it is imperative that I give back to the district and community that has invested so much in me and my family’s lives. I wholeheartedly have no intentions in gaining any political status or using the school board as a stepping stone, as many have done in the past. My sole purpose for running for the school board is to gain an opportunity to be an advocate for the students and families of the Capital School District.

Dennis Hallock

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

Though Capital School District has spearheaded major change with the teaching and learning model, ensuring various components of education are addressed, it is critical we continue to put an emphasis on providing a quality education that’s equitable, inclusive, and accessible to all students. We have a variety of issues to deal with in the district, in our community, at the state level, national level and globally. At the end, it all circles back around or impacts us here in little Dover, DE! As a father of 3 minority children, I know and understand the struggles some parents face. I think CSD has done a good job of educating the whole child, but we must still be aware of how outside influences can impact the stability of our district with such a unique and diverse population. From the pandemic and educating our children remotely, to building 2 new middle schools, and hiring a new superintendent- there is a lot going on. We also must ensure we are aware and responsive to how our school community may be impacted by what is going on nationally. We should be mindful of the support our minority community may need to handle the pressures and stressors they are dealing with due to the unrest taking place across the country. I am willing to put my experience towards these efforts, collaboratively, so we can re-build that sense of community, as we work through sensitive but crucial issues.

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

Having had in-depth conversations with various educators, it was reported that data suggests deficits in proficiency among many different subgroups. African American students continue to be victims of an achievement gap that also greatly impacts students with Disabilities. Our most important job is to ensure that 100% of our students can graduate from the CSD with the ability to attend college or enter some type of career preparation or training program without the need for remediation. An important place to start would be to have raw conversations with Capital families on their perspective on various ideas for improvement. Bringing the families into a solution-driven conversation about curriculum, the educational atmosphere, and how the CSD can help to bridge the gaps that exist so we can foster better communication with our families which in turn would increase success with the students. I also feel we have a great opportunity to continue building a district that can lead the charge in all things education by hiring the right Superintendent. Our middle schools project is also something I would want to be heavily involved in to make sure it happens on time, on or under budget, and meets the promises we made to the taxpayers.

What do you offer that your opponent may not? What relevant experience prepares you for this role?

I would say the biggest difference between my opponents and I would be my consistency in supporting the CSD. I have been involved in numerous committees, projects, events for over a decade. I have also attended board meetings for over a decade, something I can say neither of my opponents have consistently done. I have served as PTO President in the elementary, middle and high schools. I have also served in all positions with the athletic boosters at the high school. I started the transition nights as well as the moving up ceremonies at the middle school level. I served on the budget oversight committee as the first chairperson for 8 years, as well as the district’s strategic planning committee and superintendent search committee. During the years I have been asked to sit on many interview committees to hire principals, assistant principals, and district office staff including the superintendent, business manager and HR Director.

While I do give credit to Mrs. Marshall for being involved in the CSD Referendum and working with CMS on their free summer camps, I have not seen either of my opponents consistently involved in the district over the years. In fact, I am unsure as to the existence of Mr. DePrima’s involvement prior to him being selected to replace Ralph Taylor.

LEANDRA CASSON MARSHALL

Why did you decide to run for school board?

I worked hard to see that the Capital School District referendum was passed. I asked my colleagues, my friends and neighbors to trust my word and our district’s word that the money would be allocated to build the new schools and to address the current needs of the district. I now feel like I should ensure that I am at the table making decisions to ensure that all of the promises we made are kept. I also think because of my unique experiences of studying and teaching in different academic settings nationally and globally, I could add a fresh perspective in this unprecedented time.

Leandra Casson Marshall

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

The biggest challenge facing the district is how to keep our children, families and teachers safe from the spread of the Coronavirus and ensure that our students are properly educated. Online Instruction is important but it has some challenges. So, ideally I would prefer a hybrid model. I would rely on the school administrators, teachers and staff to advise us on what would be appropriate. I also would include our public health officials and school nurses in these conversations. So we can ensure a doable, comprehensive plan. I would not take this approach lightly. I have two children in the district that will be affected by my decisions.

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

I would like to focus first on improving our technological capacity by granting professional development opportunities to staff that would like to increase their skills and then train their colleagues-a train the trainer model. Further in this area, I would like to also ensure Capital School District has the latest technology to enhance our online classroom experiences. I would also suggest a task force be created to study “best practices” in distance learning especially discovering what an effective hybrid approach would look like. Second, I would like to focus on global learning and language immersion for all students to equip our students for this era of globalization. Third, I would like to strengthen the Career and Technical pathways for our students. I would like to see apprentice programs more integrated in our high school offerings.

Finally, I want all students to have an exceptional academic experience so an equitable environment in all Capital School District schools is something I would champion.

What do you offer that your opponent may not?

I have taught for over 20 years. I have worked in the Capital School District in varying capacities. I currently teach at Delaware State University. I was born and raised in Dover, Delaware. I went to school in the Capital School District. I am a Rhodes Scholar Nominee. I have taught and been an administrator in Taipei, Taiwan, the Republic of China at an English language School. I also have gone to school in England. I bring a unique set of experiences to the board. I can, for example, talk firsthand about study abroad and total immersion programs. I can also talk about Capital School District from different perspectives as an educator, a parent and a student.

What relevant experience prepares you for this role?

I am prepared for this role because first, I have been an educator all of my adult life. I have taught all kinds of children and adult learners with all kinds of challenges, mostly in Capital School District. Second, I have received my education from the following institutions: Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware and the University of Kent at Canterbury in the United Kingdom. In the Capital School District as a child, I was in the gifted and talented program. Third, I have worked and created academic and substance abuse prevention programming for Capital School District and other districts in Delaware for over a decade in my capacity as the Vice President of External Relations, Development and Outreach for the Delaware Multicultural and Civic Organization, Inc. (DEMCO). My company has partnered with Capital School District even in the writing of grants to expand the academic experiences afforded by the district to the students such as 21st Century. Fourth, I am very active in the community and have a track record of working with all types of people, regardless of ethnicity or gender to get results.

Lastly, I love Capital School District and the members of the Dover community. It has helped to make me who I am and I have not forgotten where I came from. I am from Capital Green and it was my education that allowed me to travel the world and have opportunities in which most people could only dream. “Education is indeed the Great Equalizer!”