School board races decided around Delaware

Incumbents and new faces will be at the helm of school boards across the state following Tuesday’s election.

Thousands cast their ballots for school board seats across the state.

Appoquinimink

Incumbent Michelle Wall will continue to serve on Appoquinimink’s school board, beating out contender Wayne Meadows.

Ms. Wall won in an 1,367-805 victory.

Ms. Wall, who has served one term on the board, ran for re-election to “to continue to champion education funding reform, work to close the salary gap for district staff, and to expand opportunities for all students.”

In her five years on the board, Ms. Wall has served on the Delaware Early Childhood Council and the Delaware School Boards legislative committee. She first ran for school board with the goal of promoting parent involvement to support teachers.

“The biggest issue facing the Appoquinimink school district is constantly finding the delicate balance between the resources of our community and doing what is best for kids,” she said previously. “To do what is best for kids, a school board member, needs to be committed to continually working with members of the community and key stakeholders in the district to find this balance.”

As her time on the board continues, she said that she hopes to address education funding reform, expanding opportunities for students and equitable staff compensation. 

Caesar Rodney

Incumbent Joyce Denman was elected over challenger Justin Puchalsky for Caesar Rodney’s school board.

Dr. Denman won with 722 votes, to Mr. Puchalsky’s 180.

Dr. Denman is a retired educator and has served one year on Caesar Rodney’s school board. 

“I feel that with my background in education (43.7 years) 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,” she said previously.

Going into this year, she said that there are two major concerns the district must face: Black Lives Matter and the coronavirus pandemic. With the district recently creating a new position — a coordinator of equity and diversity — Dr. Denman hopes to address equity, as well as addressing overcrowding in the middle schools. Her term is five years.

Capital

Incumbent Tony DePrima will continue serving on Capital’s school board after a challenge from Dennis Hallock and Leandra Casson Marshall.

Dr. DePrima won by 502 votes, to Ms. Marshall’s 463 votes and Mr. Hallock’s 463 votes.

“I owe a lot to the district, and I want to give back by continuing to serve on the board,” he said previously. “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.”

He currently serves as executive director of Energize Delaware, with previous experience as a former Dover planning director and city manager. 

Looking ahead to his five year term, Dr. DePrima noted that the district’s most immediate challenge is hiring a new superintendent. Farther out, he sees restructuring grade level configuration as another pressing issue for the district. 

Indian River 

Connie Pryor will represent Indian River school board’s District 4, voters decided Tuesday.

Ms. Pryor was elected 537-457, against challenger Greg Goldman.

“I decided to run to represent District 4 because I will speak up to make our district better for our students and for the staff that gives so much,” she said previously.

She noted that heading into the one-year term, she’d like to focus on spending, transparency and student safety. 

She served as a school secretary for the district for 28 years, and has dealt with all stakeholders in the district: administrators, students, parents, teachers, bus drivers, nurses, paras, campus monitors and visitors.

Laurel 

Jana Pugh beat out incumbent Brent Nichols and challenger Barbara Erskine for the seat in Laurel’s school board.

Ms. Pugh won in a 352-193-29 victory against Mr. Nichols and Ms. Erskine, respectively.

“I’ve always thought that having a teacher on the school board would be beneficial. After all, it is the classroom teachers that know the students and their needs the best,” she said previously. 

Ms. Pugh served as a teacher in the district for 24 years, retiring in 2019. From her experience in the classroom, she said student-buy in and motivation is a challenge. Stepping into this five-year term, she hopes to visit classrooms and help teachers, while also focusing on discipline, curriculum and community involvement. 

Milford

Incumbent Rony Baltazar-Lopez will continue serving on Milford’s school board, after Tuesday’s victory over Scott Willey.

Mr. Baltazar-Lopez won by 463 votes to Mr. Willey’s 340.

“…I will continue to make our school district more transparent and accountable while ensuring that all our students and families—regardless of socioeconomic background—have a voice,” he said previously.

He cited COVID-19 as the most pressing challenge to the district, and emphasized a need to improve and expand mental health services for students. Looking ahead to his two year term, he would also like to improve graduation rates, prepare high schoolers for college and trade schools and address overcrowding in the schools.

Mr. Baltazar-Lopez currently serves as a public information officer for the Delaware Department of Justice.

Also in Milford, incumbent Jean Wylie was automatically elected to serve a five-year term as she ran uncontested.

Woodbridge

Jullenna Seely will join Woodbridge’s school board, voters decided Tuesday. 

Ms. Seely won 199-83 over Darrynn Harris.

“I have three children who attend Woodbridge schools and I believe in the value of strong education for the growth and development of our community,” she said previously.

Ms. Seely noted that the coronavirus pandemic will be a challenge for the district and that partnership between administration, staff and teachers is key to addressing it. She emphasized a need for improved communication with parents.

Other districts

Lake Forest, Smyrna, Cape Henlopen, Delmar, Seaford, Indian River and Milford districts had uncontested elections. 

In Lake Forest, incumbent James Rau will serve another five-year term and Jordan McCloskey will join the board for three years to finish the term for a vacated seat. 

Christine Malec will continue serving on Smyrna’s school board for another five-year term. 

In Delmar, Raymond Vincent will continue serving for another five-year term. 

Incumbent Jeffrey Benson will join Seaford’s school board for a five-year term, while school board newcomer Troy Parnell will begin his first term and serve for two years. 

In Indian River, Anthony Cannon, Leo Darmstadter III and Gerald Peden will serve five-year terms.

In Cape Henlopen, William Collick and Jason Bradley will serve five-year terms.

In Milford, Jean Wylie will serve a five-year term.