Safety, funding among top issues for school board elections in Kent

DOVER — Promoting stronger education, financial responsibility and safety in the classrooms are some of the top issues as candidates run for seats on school boards throughout Kent County.

School board elections are set to take place today, May 8, for the Caesar Rodney, Lake Forest and Smyrna school districts. Polls will be open from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Caesar Rodney is the busiest district in Kent County as four different candidates are going for one member at-large spot, which is a five-year term.

Tracey Miller, John Moore Sr., Bill Victory Sr. and Scott Wilson are running for the CR board position. Polls will be held at Allen Frear, W. Reilly Brown and W.B. Simpson elementary schools.

“I am trying really hard to ‘get out the vote,’” Ms. Miller said. “Only upwards of five or so percent of folks come out to vote for these elections. There are four of us running for one seat, so every vote really counts.”

John Moyer III and James Parsons are running for one member at-large five-year term at Lake Forest. Polling places will be at Lake Forest East, Lake Forest North and Lake Forest South elementary schools, as well as Lake Forest High School.

In the Smyrna School District, Gary R. Dodge and Kristi Lloyd are both trying to claim one member at-large five-year term. Votes can be cast at the Kenton Ruritan Club, Smyrna Elementary School and Smyrna Middle School.

Voters must be a resident of the school district, a United States citizen and 18-years-old and older. Proof of identity will be required.

Sean Christiansen is running unopposed in the Capital School District and is guaranteed another five-year term, as are Jason Miller and David Vezmar in the Milford School District.

The following is a glance at all the candidates and their thoughts on the issues and why they decided to run:

Caesar Rodney candidates

Tracey M. Miller

Age: 49

From: Virginia (via Massachusetts)

Education: BS in Social Science

Why did you decide to run for election to the school board?

I have a passion and commitment to make sure every child has an opportunity to receive a sound and complete educational experience. This experience should be enough to propel them to the next phase of their career whether it be a college student, a trades person or a farmer.

Tracey Miller

What do you believe are the most important issues facing the school district?

There are several issues that will challenge the district and we must be able to function as a team to create a road map for the future. They are how to keep our children and staff safe as well as facing the challenge of budgetary cuts for education coming from the state and federal governments.

We can’t teach, feed and keep people safe if you don’t have the funds to make it happen.

What would your experience bring to the school board?

I feel my prior municipal finance experience working with the superintendent of schools would be most helpful to the board. I also believe being a parent of two young children within the school system, my experience in educational and municipal budgeting, my substitute teaching background as well as my experience as a volunteer parent within the school system would be a huge addition to the board.

John Moore Sr.

Age: 56

From: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Education: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Western New England University, Master of Business Administration from Delaware State University and a Doctorate of Ministry Degree from the Friends International Christian University

John Moore Sr.

Why did you decide to run for election to the school board?

School Board members are one of the most important elected positions that an individual can hold. Their decisions are immediate and life changing as it relates to the lives of children and families. Having the honor to serve and support the community through education as an advocate for children, families and educators and facilitating community engagement, influencing policy, and ensuring accountability for all children are my highest priorities. As a first generation college graduate from the inner city, I know firsthand the difference a sound education can make on one’s life. As a member of the school board, I will to be strong advocate for educational equity because an individual’s level of education directly correlates to future quality of life. Therefore, an academic system that practices educational equity is a strong foundation of a society that is fair and thriving for “ALL” students.

What do you believe are the most important issues facing the school district?

School safety and ensuring school staff is properly trained and equipped to deal with the increasing needs of children and families so every child has meaningful relationships with caring adults and building a sense of community that connects children, families and educators. Funding and resources that support teachers and principals to meet the needs of students and having facilities that support learning via technology and social growth through the arts, sports, and extracurricular activities.

What would your experience bring to the school board?

I’m a community champion and military veteran with excellent leadership skills. As VP for a major nonprofit I’m a fundraising professional managing multi-million dollar campaigns. That skill will be used to raise funds in the district to lessen local tax payer burden. I’ve lived in this district 20 years and watched my two sons graduate and mentored hundreds of students and provided facilitation to hundreds of teachers, staff and administrators which exemplifies my unique ability to engage people from diversified walks of life.

Bill Victory Sr.

Age: 65

From: Dover

Education: Has served as an educator in the CR district for 26 years and as a Riders coach for 34 years.

Why did you decide to run for election to the school board?

As an educator, parent and grandparent in the District, I believe I have a unique perspective to bring to the School Board. These roles help me evaluate weaknesses and strengths in the District and community. If good people in our community don’t run for offices like this, then who does? I believe I am one of those good people who wants to give back to the community I grew up in.

Bill Victory

What do you believe are the most important issues facing the school district?

Monitoring the safety of our children in the community and schools. Connecting the parents, educators, administrators, and students together with a united front for the betterment of all students. Stabilizing the education process financially so that we can continue to push the District forward as one of the best in the state and providing all District employees equal value for their part in the process of educating our students. What would your experience bring to the school board?

I would bring my experience and strength as a teacher and a paraprofessional, along with a great sense of teamwork. I would also bring the ability to communicate with people who share a common cause to work together for a better education process.

P. Scott Wilson

Age: 49

From: Camden

Education: Graduated from Dickinson School of Law; University of Delaware; Caesar Rodney High

Why did you decide to run for re-election to the school board?

I am running for re-election to the Caesar Rodney School Board, because I am proud of the many accomplishments of our students, teachers, coaches, administrators, and other staff of our district. During the last five years, our students have continued to improve and excel in academics, athletics arts, and the community. The combines efforts of our students and staff convinces me the next five years will be even better.

P. Scott Wilson

Having benefited from a Caesar Rodney education myself, I am the proud parent of three CR students, and even my wife teaches in the district. I have a vested interest in the success of Caesar Rodney.

What do you believe are the most important issues facing the school district?

The most important topics facing our district are our children’s safety, providing a well-rounded educational experience, and fiscal solvency. The safety of our children is paramount. We must ensure that parents trust us to keep their children safe or everything else is moot. School is primarily about learning and best preparing our students for their brightest futures; however, it is also important to provide as many extra opportunities as is possible, in order to produce future well rounded and contributing citizens. Finally, I have a responsibility to taxpayers to ensure fiscal responsibly and the long-term viability of Caesar Rodney.

What would your experience bring to the school board?

In addition to my experience on this Board, I have spent my career as an attorney serving Delaware. I have unique knowledge regarding the legal and political issues facing our District. As a parent, a lifelong district resident, and a graduate of CR, I also have a unique passion for our district. These combined will continue to allow me to make decisions that benefit the best interests of our District.

Lake Forest candidates

John Moyer

Age: 45

From: Harrington

Education: Doctoral Degree in Educational Leadership from Wilmington University; Master’s Degree in Physics Education from Delaware State University; Bachelor’s Degree in Physics Education from Delaware State University

Why did you decide to run for election to the school board?

I want to see the district continue on the path of continuous improvement, but there is still much to do in a variety of areas. As a district we are good, but not great. I want us to be great. This all starts with leadership at the board of education level and I believe that as a lifelong educator I can contribute to moving the district from good to great. I am a big proponent of community involvement and shared decision making.

John Moyer

What do you believe are the most important issues facing the school district?

There are many challenges in a district, but there are a few that I think the community has highlighted as especially important. Improving academic performance and being fiscally responsible are always at the top of the list, but many look at the bigger picture as well. We have too many students transferring out and we have too many teachers leaving our district. This presents a troubling trend. We have promised the community improved athletic facilities, but several years after the referendum we are still not finished. Communication and consistency across schools also continues to be a challenge.

What would your experience bring to the board?

I am a Lake Forest graduate and first generation college student. I bring classroom teacher, administrative, and school board experience to the board of education. I am active at the local, state, and national level in education, giving me a unique insight into education as a whole. As a coach in the district for more than two decades, I also know the challenges faced by educators outside of the classroom. As a parent of three LFSD students and two graduates, I also understand the perspective of a parent as well.

James Parsons

Age: 51

Education: AAS Aerospace Propulsion Systems (Community College of the Air Force); AAS – Instructor of Technology and Military Sciences (Community College of the Air Force); BS – Professional Aeronautics (Wilmington College, 2004); M,Ed – Applied Educational Technology (Wilmington University, 2011); M, Ed – Career and Technical Education (Wilmington University, 2012)

Why did you decide to run for election to the school board?

As a veteran of the United States Air Force, community service and leadership are important values that were instilled in me. It is that value system and my leadership skills that brought me to the decision. I feel as an active teacher, I can bring a voice of reason about what schools, teachers, students, and parents are facing on a daily basis and understand some of the questions posed about these issues.

James Parsons

What do you believe are the most important issues facing the school district?

Surrounding districts have offerings for language immersion programs that have been proven to increase student achievement. Our students need to be afforded the same opportunities instead of having to choice out of the district to take advantage of these types of opportunities.

At the April board meeting, a 35 percent increase was reported for this year with special needs students being sent out of district. This issue needs to be addressed so that our tuition tax is not increased.

What would your experience bring to the school board?

As a teacher and DSEA member I understand that teachers who are empowered in a positive work environment will produce results that benefit our students. I will be the voice of the students to make sure that equitable opportunities are available through innovative programs and I will represent our taxpayers and community to ensure that funding is utilized in a responsible way.

Smyrna candidates

Gary Dodge

Age: 62

From: Smyrna

Education: Franklin and Marshall College (1977), B.A. as a double major in Economics and Government; Delaware Law School of Widener University, class of 1980, with a JD (Juris Doctor).

Why did you decide to run for election to the school board?

My children attended from first grade through high school, and received an excellent education. My wife retired as a teacher from the District in 2012. Yet, throughout those years, I believed that there were systemic problems that prevented the District from achieving even better results.

Gary R. Dodge

“I felt so strongly about that belief that I often vowed to do what I’m doing now for the purpose of seeking change. I regret not having done so earlier. Since I decided to run, I’ve met with many of the District’s teachers. They not only confirm my concerns have validity, but that I’ve underestimated the degree of the problems.

What do you believe are the most important issues facing the school district?

Major among those issues is the disconnect between the School Board and its administrators, and its teachers. My perception, and the teachers’ perception, is that the teachers’ views on how to best improve the quality of education is not only not sought, it isn’t welcome. A measure of their frustration can be found in their endorsement of me by their representatives (over the current School Board President), by a wide margin (25-5). No one knows better than these teachers what’s going on in those classrooms. How can informed, well reasoned policies designed to achieve even greater excellence in education be made in the vacuum created by an administration that doesn’t communicate with its teachers? Yet I’m led to believe that, in the few weeks since I filed, I’ve had more substantive interaction with the teachers than has occurred in the last five years. I can’t simply continue to complain about this without being pro-active in seeking a solution.

In addition to the concerns discussed above, student discipline needs to be addressed. There is a strange, and unfortunate, dynamic at work here.

The teachers perceive that the administration doesn’t have their backs in disciplinary matters, yet the Smyrna District’s expulsion rate is the highest in the State. Something has to change.

Perhaps more restorative measures early on is part of the answer, both to support the teachers and to lower the expulsion rate. To accomplish that, all involved, parents, students, administrators, and the teachers need to be accountable.

School safety needs to be improved. Putting guns in the schools isn’t the answer. This requires a review not only of security systems and personnel, but of the factors leading to these tragedies (bullying as an example) to proactively defuse as many as possible before they erupt.

What would your experience bring to the school board?

By profession and training, I’m experienced in resolving disputes, including but not limited to mediation. The key is to at times simply stop talking and start listening. And, by profession, I bring an understanding of legal principles that no other member of the Smyrna School Board can offer.

Kristi Lloyd

Age: 40

From: Lifelong resident of the Smyrna School District

Education: Smyrna High School, Class of 1996; Wilmington University, Bachelor of Science in Accounting, 2001 Aspen University, Master of Science in Information Management, 2012

Why did you decide to run for election to the school board?

Serving on the Smyrna School District board of education over the past five years has been a natural extension for me, melding my love of community and education. As a former employee of the Smyrna School District in the Technology Department, I learned quickly that the prosperous work of education cannot be achieved without every custodian, child nutrition worker, paraprofessional, nurse, secretary, teacher, school counselor, substitute, administrator, special services staff, bus driver, coach, technology staff, and many more.

Kristi Lloyd

It takes a complete team of dedicated people to run a school district; educate, transport, feed our children; and provide a safe and clean environment in which all students can learn.

It is within the halls of the great schools of the Smyrna School District that I learned the value of commitment and dedication to my community.

The ability to run for the very school board that shaped my educational career is a full-circle opportunity to give back and provide that same nurturing and rewarding environment I once received to the next generation.

What do you believe are the most important issues facing the school district?

Growth and planning. There has been a recent increase in housing development activity; which leads to more families moving into our area. As a board and district office we have begun planning and asking questions like: What new schools do we need? Where do we build them? What will our geographical feeder patterns look like?

What do we want our grade levels for each school to be? The key to making these decisions is to work collaboratively and not in isolation. If re-elected, I am excited to continue these conversations and be part of the decision making process.

Accountability. There are many facets of accountability within the public school system. At the state level we are federally mandated through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to close achievement gaps, increase equity, improve the quality of instruction, and increase outcomes for all students.

The State of Delaware has laid out an accountability plan through the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF).

At the district, school, staff, and student level, we must hold each other accountable to carry out our mission which is to “ensure that the students of the community are prepared as effectively and as efficiently as possible to become responsible and productive citizens processing the knowledge, the problem-solving skills, and the positive attitudes necessary to successfully adapt to and function in an ever changing environment”.

At the school board level, it is the duty of the board to hold our students and staff accountable to carry out our mission and to hold them accountable for their conduct.

Over the past five years, I have had to make very tough decisions in regards to student and staff misconduct.

Each decision I made was in the best interest of all students, all staff members, and the community.

What would your experience bring to the school board?

During my tenure on the Smyrna School Board, I have learned a lot about the roles and responsibilities of a school board member.

“I have attended several Delaware School Board Association (DSBA) presentations about the legal fiduciary duties of a board member where I have learned that as a school board member I am held to the following standards: duty of care, duty of loyalty, and duty of obedience.

I take this position very seriously. I know that I am a member, where the authority rests with the board as a whole and not individually with me.

Some of the most challenging aspects of being a school board member is trying to balance the various roles of: representative, steward, leader, negotiator, adjudicator, and advocate at the same time. I have always and will continue to have the following mindset: ‘be part of the solution – not part of the problem’.

I believe some of the major responsibilities of a school board member are to provide checks and balances, ensure fiscal responsibility to our citizens, and hold everyone accountable to the Smyrna School District’s mission.

“If re-elected I pledge to serve all members of the Smyrna School District and the Smyrna-Clayton community. I will continue to be visible, active, and approachable.

I will continue to volunteer my time, I will continue to be a problem-solver, I will continue to invest in the next generation, I will continue to mentor, and live a life of service. I pledge to continue to have a common-sense approach to solutions and provide our district employees with the necessary tools needed to educate our students.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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