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Dover Post
  • Meet the candidates running for Capital School District Board of Education

  • On May 14, residents of the Capital School District will head to the polls to elect one person to the Capital School District Board of Education. One seat is open due to the decision of incumbent Raymond Paylor not to run for an additional term. This election is for a five-year term.The candidates for this election are Se...
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  • Name Sean P.M. Christiansen
    Age 34
    Resides Dover
    Family Wife: Elizabeth "Beth" Christiansen; Sons: Troy Christiansen (9); Chase Christiansen (6)
    Education Dover High School class of 1996; attended Delaware Technical & Community College, Stanton
    Civic organizations Past fire chief and life member, Dover Fire Department; Dover Little League board of directors, safety officer, manager and coach; South Dover Elementary Parents, Teachers and Friends (PTF)
    Q Why are you running for a seat on the school board
    A I am running for the Capital School Board to make a difference. I know that is the "expected" answer, but I feel there is a major disconnect between the board of education, the district administration and what is really going on within our schools. We need a board of education that has the ability to understand and can work with the employees of the Capital School District, while remembering they work and represent the taxpayers of the district, with the common goal of providing the best for our children. As a product of the Capital School District K-12, graduating Dover High School in 1996, and a proud parent of two currently enrolled at South Dover Elementary School I believe in the public school system. The board of education must be fiscally responsible during these trying economic times, and maintain the district's infrastructure and programs offered to the students, giving them the opportunity to succeed. The Capital School District has the best educators, staff and students this area has to offer, we need to showcase what is great within our district and move forward providing quality education, with our future in mind.
    Q What would you propose to do to improve safety in schools?
    A Being a parent of two elementary school students within the Capital School District the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. hit close to home. We were all challenged to answer our children's questions, giving some understanding of why and how something like this could happen. We stood by their sides that Monday morning as they returned to school knowing with confidence the administrators, educators and staff of the Capital School District would watch and protect our children as those who did in Newtown.
    School districts are now met with a new challenge of school safety, starting a national debate of gun control, mental health issues, arming school staff and more police officers within the schools. We can address this challenge locally with the resources we have available to us and with minimal cost.
    The Capital School District has established relationships with our local and state law enforcement agencies which can be used to educate district employees in situational awareness and how to deal with threats on the schools. Action plans need to be developed with our local police, fire, and EMS agencies so the school district understands what roll they will play and what is expected of them during an incident. We need to continue to invest in the security of the buildings, making this the first stand against unwelcomed visitors until help can arrive. The Capital School District needs to be proactive in protecting our students and staff while maintaining an innocent and safe learning environment.
    Page 2 of 5 - Q How would you go about improving school programs while maintaining a balanced budget and, if necessary, would you support a tax increase?
    A Improving school programs should be an ongoing process to ensure our students are prepared for a successful future in college or a career. Collective input for all programs is needed from the teachers and support staff who deliver the lessons and have insight on how the students respond to the curriculum. These programs should be based on giving our students the best education to compete in the world, not to take a test. We need to have more parent participation at seminars/classes offered by the district. Teachers and staff are able to interact with parents and explain what is going on within the classrooms. Parents are brought up to speed on new lessons and teaching techniques so learning may continue at home.
    Maintaining a balanced budget is paramount when dealing with taxpayer money. A school district must run efficiently, cost-effectively, and with accountability. Transparency of all finances must be made available to the public. The Capital School District must live within its means and continue to provide the highest level of education and programs for our students. Recent state and federally mandated programs added additional cost to the district. When the allocated funds run dry the district will be challenged with what can stay and what must go. With the challenging economic times I would only support a tax increase after all other avenues of enhancing revenue and/or spending decreases have been exhausted to maintain the quality education/programs offered to the students of the Capital School District.
    Q Other school districts in the state have implemented a school uniform dress policy. What is your stance on school uniforms?
    A School uniforms and dress codes have always been a topic of discussion in the public schools. Key points of safety, peer pressure, social acceptance, individuality, and most importantly bringing the focus of learning back to the classroom and not what you are wearing.
    The Capital School District had two (2) elementary schools implement a uniform policy in the late 1990s; one continues to have success of 70 percent compliance.
    As a parent I would support school uniforms within the Capital School District to promote a better and safer learning environment for our children. During these economic times we all have to watch how we spend. We have families in our district who have a hard time putting food on the table, let alone go out and buy brand name clothes. Unfortunately this can lead to social acceptance issues, bullying, and, ultimately, a disengaged student. With a school uniform policy we would have the ability to purchase in bulk with other parents in the district saving money. A school uniform to include a shirt and pants or skirt/jumper can be purchased for less than your average pair of blue jeans. Swap meets or school yard sales can be held with the opportunity for the parent to exchange sizes or purchase gently used uniforms for even less. I would welcome input from the students, parents and staff with design and policy of the uniform.
    Page 3 of 5 - I believe school uniforms will assist in less disciplinary issues and bringing the focus of learning back to the classroom.
    Q Attendance at school board meetings is historically low, unless a controversial topic is under consideration. How would you reach out to your constituents to ensure their views are represented in your vote?
    A Communication is the base of any successful organization. Lack in communication results in a breakdown or disconnect to end in failure. The board of education, like other elected officials, have become disconnected from the constituents they serve and why they serve.
    As parents we find ourselves overwhelmed, juggling work, our children's demands of school or sports activities, and other commitments we may have. Residents and taxpayers in the district also have other obligations where attending a school board meeting might not fit into their schedule, but that doesn't mean they don't care. Members of the Capital School Board have several avenues to meet with parents and residents within the district on a monthly basis if they choose. Organization meetings such as PTA, PTF, PTO, and local civic associations are just a few, but members do not attend, missing the opportunity to hear concerns, answer questions and even hear praises. Social media has become an informal way to communicate with board members at your leisure.
    On this small scale of government keeping in touch with those who elected you is not that hard.
    Decisions made by school board members must be made with input from the people they represent, and not by deals made behind closed doors.
    Members of the board of education need to remember they work for a public made up of parents, residents and taxpayers of the Capital School District. Their goal is the success of each student, while running the district efficiently, cost-effectively and with accountability.
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    Name Dennis S. Hallock Sr.
    Age 43
    Resides Dover
    Family Wife: Nancy; Sons: Dennis II (17), Devonn (16), Derek (12)
    Education 50-plus college credits in education and criminal justice
    Civic organizations Court Appointed Special Advocate for Kent County Family Court; Central Middle School PTO president for last six years; former educational surrogate parent
    Q Why are you running for a seat on the school board?
    A I am running for the school board in Capital because not only do I have three children in the district but I love being an advocate for children, all children. I feel every child should have a voice and too often children do not have someone to speak up for them. Every decision that is made hits home for me and I want my children to see and understand that it is important to give back and that every person can and does make a difference. Capital School District is part of my community and there are many things that I love about the district but there are some areas that I feel need additional oversight. I have been attending school board meetings for more than six years and by doing so it has given me a better understanding of the district as well as being a board member in Delaware. I want to help the district become the best that it can be for our children, for us as parents and for us as taxpayers. You can have a great district with great programs and great employees without raising taxes to do it. I believe in transparency and accountability at all levels; starting with the school board, all district staff, students, parents and guardians. Students should be ready for college, armed services or ready to enter the work force. Our children are our future and we are all stakeholders in their education to success.
    Page 4 of 5 - Q What would you propose to do to improve safety in schools?
    A With the unfortunate increase in school violence I believe that the Capital School District has taken an active approach to improving school safety in all of our buildings. At a recent board meeting information was given as to what steps the district is taking to improve safety and I do believe they are steps in the right direction. With the addition of the wall built at Central Middle School when you walk in to having each door numbered in every building for emergency personnel to providing substitute teachers the necessary information when covering a class for fire drills, lockdowns etc., these are great first steps. I believe that additional drills and activities for staff and students and the community are in need. I think additional training for our staff as to what to look for in students and to help those students in need, including those who may be getting bullied, is needed. I don't believe that an enormous amount of money needs to be spent to increase security; working within our community we have valuable resources from Dover Police, fire, emergency management and the Fire Marshal's Office and we need to utilize their professionalism and experience to make our schools even safer. We need to include our community in school safety, including our local colleges, private and parochial schools. We are all in this together.
    Q How would you go about improving school programs while maintaining a balanced budget and, if necessary, would you support a tax increase?
    A I have served on the district's budget oversight committee for the last two years along with two other parents and this has been an eye opener for all of us, and I encourage more district parents and taxpayers to join or attend to be more familiar with the district budget.
    The district is moving in the right direction with the formation of this committee and by adding programs to the high school that allow students to be hands on (i.e. the HVAC, the Print Shop & the CNA program to name a few) so that students stay interested and can start to make a living upon graduating from high school. I would ask the superintendent, district staff and principals to continue to monitor programs for effectiveness and participation, if the program needs to be improved then improve it, if it needs to be changed then cut it but find another program to replace it with. Many of the programs we have depend on funding at the state and federal levels. If this money continues to be cut then we will need to evaluate programs for this reason, as well. As far as an increase in taxes, if it is needed in the future, there are many things that can and should be done before this occurs and this is looked at yearly to see how much the district has in reserves so that it is not a shock to anyone.
    Page 5 of 5 - We are all in this together. Input is needed from taxpayers/parents, students and staff in order for CSD to continue to move in the right direction.
    Q Other school districts in the state have implemented a school uniform dress policy. What is your stance on school uniforms?
    A I am open to the idea of school uniforms because I have seen it work, but I also believe that we need to get feedback from the students, parents/guardians and staff. I was introduced to school uniforms when we lived in Annapolis, Md. initially I was not in favor of them. Our school asked parents and staff to vote on the use of school uniforms, it passed and was implemented for the following year. On the first day of school everyone had on their uniform and the overall tone was very different from previous years. As the year progressed we noticed the test scores were up, disciplinary incidents were down, more learning was occurring and the overall tone of the building from students and staff was more positive. The end of the year data was reviewed; it showed that the uniform policy was a positive move. While I was not for the uniform policy in the beginning, I went along with it because it was the policy of the school, so I was pleasantly surprised. I don't think people have to agree with everyone 100 percent of the time but as long as they go into a situation with an open mind only great things can come of it and I went in with an open mind and my mind was changed. However, I also know that every school is different and just because it worked in one place doesn't mean it will work everywhere. We are all in this together.
    Q Attendance at school board meetings is historically low, unless a controversial topic is under consideration. How would you reach out to your constituents to ensure their views are represented in your vote?
    A I believe that school board meetings in some ways are just like parent group meetings; they're attended well when there is a topic of interest – controversial or not. The board needs to be more transparent and approachable. I believe the district should find out why more staff, students, parents/taxpayers and businessmen don't attend and then go above and beyond to inform people on board meetings and what happens at them and how they operate and make it known when the monthly meetings are. I would create an email list of parent groups, civic organizations, taxpayers, businesses, etc. interested in receiving the agenda monthly, including any policy or attachments under review. I also believe that there should be a section on the website for people to be able to give their input on policies and even a section for general comments to the board. In addition to sending the agenda and policy to the different parent groups etc and having it appear online as it does now, it should also be sent electronically to all staff and input allowed on policies from staff as well. Input from staff is very important since policies may affect staff in their position or as a parent/taxpayer depending on whether they live in the district. I also believe that the district should have a computer set up at the district office for parents/guardians/taxpayers to use (like in our parent resource centers) to look at district information including home access, jobs or offering input on meetings, policies or general input.
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