Shelton excited to take over Capital superintendent post

New Capital School District superintendent Dan Shelton said he hopes to continue the “great work” that’s been done in Capital and to take it “even to the next level.”  (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

New Capital School District superintendent Dan Shelton said he hopes to continue the “great work” that’s been done in Capital and to take it “even to the next level.” (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — As the new superintendent in the Capital School District, Dan Shelton has one important goal in August — “to make sure that we have a fantastic start to the school year,” he said.

“That’s what we’re all working towards.”

With the first day of school looming Aug. 24, it’s been a busy several weeks for Dr. Shelton since he started working this month.

The school board approved him in a 3-1 vote at their June 17 meeting; he replaced Dr. Michael Thomas, who retired June 30 after 14 years in the district.

A Delaware native, Dr. Shelton, 43, has served as a principal in the Christina School District for more than a decade, most recently at Kirk Middle School.

He lives in Newark with his wife Cara, who teaches special education in the Christina School District, and his three children, 6-year-old twins Tyler and Brady, and 10-year-old daughter, Kylie.

He received his bachelor’s, and later a master’s in education and a doctorate in education, research and public policy, from the University of Delaware.

Dr. Shelton said that he hopes to continue the “great work” that’s been done in Capital and to take it “even to the next level.”

“The things that have been done in recent years have been amazing. Dr. Thomas has done an amazing job of really getting community support and Dover High School is by far the best high school in the state of Delaware,” he said Tuesday.

“How can you not want to be a superintendent in a district that would build a high school like that?”

Dr. Shelton started college as a computer science major, but he reconsidered his career after he began coaching swimming at the YMCA.

He realized that he enjoyed seeing the kids learn; his mother, Dorothy Shelton, who was once the curriculum director at Capital, encouraged him to think about teaching computer science instead.

“I decided that I loved (coaching) and that’s what I wanted to do, work with kids, so I changed my major my junior year and went into education,” he remembered.

After he graduated, he started teaching in Wilmington.

“The greatest thing about teaching kids in general is the amount of growth you can see, the difference you can make in a kid’s life,” Dr. Shelton said.

“And as a teacher…I was working with kids in the inner city and giving them skills and teaching them how to read and make good decisions…There’s nothing more rewarding than that.”

Dr. Shelton first became principal in the Christina School District in 1998; although he wasn’t teaching students to read anymore, he said he was still teaching them life skills ―— to make good decisions, to accept responsibility.

While he was a principal, he was involved in both the Delaware Association of School Principals, he said, and Delaware Association of School Administrators. Since he’s served as president of both organizations, Dr. Shelton has already spent plenty of time in Dover.

Now, as a superintendent at Capital, he said he hopes to share his years of experience and make a difference on a larger level.

He’s already started the process of building a long-range strategic plan, he said, gathering input to map out where Capital School District is headed.

“I don’t want it to be…Dr. Shelton’s vision of Capital,” he added.

Dr. Shelton said he plans to not only call on teachers, parents and students, but the community at large, to help shape the future of the district. After all, Capital’s outlook affects everyone.

“If we have a better education —―if we have the best education — this is where people are going to want to have their businesses, this is where people are going to want to live and that’s going to make the town better.”

One of Dover’s strengths is that it has a “great diversity,” he said.

“You get to see what America’s all about here. It has a little bit of an urban flavor, it has a little bit of a country flavor, I think that’s fantastic.”

“There’s all kinds of different opportunities here, right? Kids get to be part of and participate in so many different things,” he said.

Dover is also a close community, “…which is nice, so I’ve gotten to meet the individual people instead of groups. I get to talk to the people so that’s been fantastic.”

Dr. Shelton is finishing up the “listen and learn” phase of his plan for his first months as superintendent.

He’s been busy reviewing data and details, identifying needs in the district. And in the past few weeks, he’s met with community leaders and local groups, talked to parents and visited each school in the district, getting to know administrators.

“The beauty of having been in the building, and recently in the building, you kind of know the issues, you know what people are worried about,” he said.

“Hopefully I’m able to head off some of that stuff.”

This year, Dr. Shelton’s job will include overseeing construction at Booker T. Washington Elementary School and wrapping up work at the new Dover High School.

Academically, the district is rolling out a new math curriculum and looking at new ways to monitor kids’ progress, he said. East Dover Elementary School, which was identified as a focus school by the state for its performance, will also be a concentration.

And like every educator, his mission each year is to confront the same challenge — helping kids achieve.

“How are we going to make sure our students, whether it’s students in poverty, whether it’s students with disabilities, whether it’s, you know, students that have struggled academically, how are we going to get them to achieve? How are we going to bring them up?

“I’m a big equity guy. I want to make sure that all kids are growing. Do all kids grow at the same rate? No. But all kids need to be growing. I think that’s critically important.”

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