What’s the biggest issue currently facing the district?
A diligent and thoughtful inclusive stakeholders’ involvement is essential to prudent decision making process in any organization. For public organizations such as school districts, it is even more important that parents, teachers, and community members are involved through a consultative process. The current system of public board meetings does not provide a mechanism for a dialog among the stakeholders to take place. This leads to dissatisfaction and misperceptions, and deprives the school district of the constructive feedback from the teachers who are at the forefronts of imparting education, or the parents who have to live with consequences of the district’s decision, and the community members who pay for these decisions through property taxes. Therefore the lack of communication and stakeholders’ involvement in the decision making process is among the biggest solvable issues facing the district.
How can Christina best recover from learning loss suffered during the pandemic? Do you agree with the recent credit recovery expansion or should other techniques be used?
Many of our children have fallen behind and lost educational instruction during the pandemic will need counseling and remediation. We need a creative curriculum to address, support and encourage those students and their parents to follow a comprehensive recovery plan. Credit recovery expansion is a logical and necessary step and can be further strengthened through afterschool and summer learning programs. Funding of those programs will be crucial as well as identifying those students who have fallen behind not just through the failing grades but who also have emotional and counseling needs.
Some students have benefited from completely virtual learning. Should a virtual option exist for students even after the pandemic? If so, what should it look like?
I have spoken about the need for a virtual school option long before the pandemic started. We are among the only few states that do not have any virtual education options in our state. It is only a matter of time before someone would file and receive a charter to offer virtual education through the Delaware Department of Education. It presents an opportunity to Christina to be the first school district in Delaware to offer such as program state-wide. With a dedicated virtual education program, we can not only continue to offer the program to those who thrive in online education environment, we may be able to choice students in from every nook and cranny of the state. We may even be able to attract home schooling students and parents and boost the enrollment numbers.
The district is about to receive an influx of federal funds from the latest stimulus bill. How would you vote to spend that money?
Christina stands to receive upward of $53 million in Biden’s stimulus bill. This money comes with an expiration date and therefore it is important to plan to utilize this money to build resources that will last for generations to come. Using part of the money to scale the virtual education option for students who want to use that option and expand it to others across the state will improve enrollment rate. The existing buildings need further enhancements in the HVAC and other systems to enable schools to suppress the spread of diseases.
We also need to seriously consider options to reduce our reliance on the fossil fuel based energy use and electrify our bussing fleet. Exploration of the use of the vast roof top space and unused large spaces of land that Christina owns for community solar to not just become energy independent but also a net generator of power to reduce its reliance on traditional sources of funding.
Christina currently has the lowest graduation rate in Delaware. What would you do to try to improve that statistic?
The “one size fits all” approach has led to a situation where regard for the individualized educational attention is ignored in our current system of education. For Christina, it is important to understand its students individually and focus on teacher’s involvement in the decision making process. The teachers are the most important asset for any school district and the higher than usual turnover rate for Christina has resulted in the loss of many good teachers. The need to attract qualified teachers and staff through the process of concerted retention efforts as well as teachers’ training and development can address some of these issues. The individualized instruction and focus on students who do not fit the “normal” and “traditional” graduation requirements also need to be understood and addressed. The dual enrollment programs can also help in challenging advanced students while freeing up resources for students who might benefit from increased attention.
With increased competition from charter schools, how would you try to improve enrollment rate and public perception?
Charter schools are a reality of our times and it is unlikely that the expansion of Charters will stop anytime soon. Charters are born out of many reasons and the frustration of the parents with the rigidity of public schools is among the major reasons. As a public school, Christina needs to adapt to the changing environment and be innovative in its offerings. The Chinese emersion program, the honors academy, and several other specialized programs have been able to attract and retain students but it’s not enough. We need to offer focused programs in arts, science, technology, engineering and math and offer online only education options for those programs. These options can be pursued as Christina offered Charters or new traditionally funded schools and will resolve the issue of enrollment rates and public perception.