Candidates from different school districts told audience members how they would run things

Candidates for three Kent County school boards answered questions from a small audience gathered at the Dover Elks Lodge on Saulsbury Road. The April 28 event was sponsored by the 9-12 Delaware Patriots and all school board candidates up for election May 12 had been invited to participate. Five of them – two from Lake Forest, two from Capital and one from Milford – participated. Here are their answers to two questions.

What do you think about Common Core and can you educate parents about Common Core?

Earle Dempsey, Lake Forest candidate

I think the premise behind Common Core is a good one. We should be looking for a national level or a broad level to ensure that our nation’s education is up to par from national standards from global standards. Can I educate parents on Common Core — currently sitting here right here today, no, because I myself am a parent and I am learning my way through it currently, as well.

Peter Servon, Capital candidate

As I understand Common Core it’s a national level decision on what should be taught in the subject matter. In my belief it should be general topics, general ideas. The decision on how to teach those ideas and topics is made by the states and by the districts. It’s a minimal requirement that every kid should know in the country. I don’t see anything wrong with having those types of standards. As far as educating the parents I think it needs to be stated simply—it’s just a minimal standard parents need to understand what the school is requiring to implement those Common Core standards.

Ralph Taylor, Capital candidate

No, I’m not in favor of Common Core. I believe that the standard itself, nobody’s really able to understand it, nobody’s able to articulate it to families. It was put in place so quickly. If you got something that so many people have so many questions about why don’t we review it a little bit more, why don’t we slow our roll a little bit. We have kids in classrooms that are week after week preparing for the standardized tests so we can show the world that we have standards. If we’re showing the world that we have standards, if we’re teaching the tests, are we educating? And I think that’s where the flaw is with this standard.

Austin Auen, Lake Forest candidate

I’m not okay with Common Core. I don’t believe we are teaching kids what they need to know. We are teaching them what the tests need to know. We’re not letting them be kids, we’re not letting them learn the way they need to learn, to grow up and function as adults.

Ronald Evans, Milford candidate

It’s the way we go about meeting those standards. We’re testing children to meet these standards and if they don’t meet the standards—what then? We’re saying you’re supposed to meet certain standards and if they’re not met then nothing happens, there’s no additional information. The problem lies in teachers teaching to the test because you’re saying, if you’re class doesn’t meet those standards you’re not a good teacher.

A lot of those standards are not in the teacher’s control. These children are going home to different home environments.

What can you do change the interaction between parents [and board members]? We want parents engaged, so let’s engage. How do you plan on making that happen?

Evans: I’m a strong believer that you have to be in the schools. You have to be actively engaging the parents saying, “What do you think we could be doing better? What do you think we’re doing good? What issues are you having? What issues is your child having? Is this a good idea?” If it’s a good idea let’s not just dismiss it and say “nothing I can do.”

 

Auen: As a member of the school board I wouldn’t shy away from it [interaction]. I would tell parents exactly how I feel.

Dempsey: My concern is not so much what is occurring when you address the board. My concern is what has led you to need to address the board at that time and any failures that have occurred. The school board is the ultimate authority, but the school board should not be the initial authority. They [parents] are typically there because they feel they have been shut down or shut out at various levels beneath the board, and that’s a concern to me. I also believe in being available outside of the school board, so addressing school board members should not happen, as in my district, [only] every other Thursday night.

Servon: I’d like to give the community a voice. I want to be open to any and all information.

Taylor: I believe a school board member should be an active member of the community. A school board member should be approachable. People get there [the meetings] early they want to talk to the members and they’re not available. We need to get there early. We [should] stay a little late. A lot of times they [parents] want someone to listen.