Q&A with Michele Marinucci

After working in education for 21 years, Michele Marinucci said that she has never been more excited to start a job.

“If you walk in the hallways, you can feel the energy and excitement,” she said.

Marinucci began her role as Academy of Dover’s head of school early this week, shortly before the first day of school on Thursday. The free K-5 charter school is located in Dover and first opened in 2003.

Marinucci tells more about her vision for Academy of Dover, and her passion for meeting the needs of every student, in the following Q&A interview.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Can you tell me a little about your background and how you got your start in education?

Marinucci: I am very proud to be a product of the Delaware public education system.

It was my fond memories of my educational experiences that drew me to a career in education. I began my career in 1998 with Capital School District as a middle school special education teacher.

I taught middle school for five years before becoming an elementary school teacher. I had the opportunity to create a pre-second grade classroom with the Milford School District for struggling first graders to allow them the chance to gain the necessary skills without being retained.

From my first year as a teacher, I was leading professional development for my colleagues within the district and speaking statewide about the successes I found.

In 2005, I began teaching college courses as an adjunct instructor and, shortly after, was offered a position with Delaware’s Office of Management and Budget as a statewide training administrator.

Through the years with the state agency, I was able to learn a vast number of skills and abilities that I would not have had the opportunity to develop had I remained in the public education domain.I spearheaded the creation of an eLearning program used statewide, and many of the classes I developed remain available today.

One of the most meaningful experiences I had while out of the K-12 system was when I was able to teach a grown man how to read. I believe to my core that one is never too old to learn and that all it takes is the desire and someone with the right tools to build the missing foundational skills. I live by a few mottos including: “if you can reach them, you can teach them” and “if not you, then who; if not now, then when.”

In 2010, I realized how much I missed being part of the K-12 public school community and sought reentry.

I was able to acquire a temporary position as a high school special education teacher prior to joining Woodbridge School District as a Section 504 Plan and special education coordinator. A year later, I began pursuit of my Doctorate in Educational Leadership while also becoming the supervisor of student services and then being promoted to the director of student services.

Why did you decide to join Academy of Dover Charter School as head of school?

Becoming head of school for the Academy of Dover Charter School allows me to serve in the role of Superintendent and Principal all in one. I am able to fully lead the school and implement the vision for learning that is truly child-centered. That is an opportunity that is so incredible to me!

My vision is to take this small K-5 academy and truly focus on meeting the needs of each and every child, both academically and socially-emotionally, where we represent the proverbial village and build the connections with our students, their families, and our community.

I believe that Delaware public education should be the best choice for our students and be competitive with the nation, and I seek to make a broader difference for our state.

My husband and I own a small horse farm in Southern Kent County, and Delaware will always be my home. I believe the time is now and that we have the momentum in our state to really make some significant growth.I am so thankful for the opportunity to be the head of school for the Academy of Dover and plan to continue making Delaware a great place to learn and live.

I strongly believe that the culture of an organization is most strongly influenced by the leaders. It is critical to find the positive and ensure that it becomes the compass of the district. Our “true North” will always be focused on doing what’s right for our students. All decisions should be made by asking if it is the best way to advance education and further develop the talents within our students in our Academy.

There is also a need to showcase the great things that are happening—this causes the focus to remain on the positive and more and more opportunities to shine, to be realized.

What are a couple of things you are looking forward to this school year?

Everything! There are so many exciting things we are going to do for our students and their families! We may be a small academy, but we really do have the most dedicated educators here, and their love for teaching truly shows.

The energy in this building is truly contagious and when you walk our halls you see us smiling and encouraging one another. With our enthusiasm, high expectations, personalized attention, student-centered instruction, small class sizes, along with the regular review of our data, we will quickly rise to being one of the highest achieving schools in our state—and, more important, our hearts will be full knowing we are making a difference in the lives of our children.

What do you want students and parents to know as they start school this week?

Any parent who is looking for a school where children want to come and love to learn need to look no further—we are right here!

Our school is free, and also includes breakfast and lunch for all of our students at no cost. The student hours are from 7:45 a.m. until 3:15 p.m.

You can follow us on our Facebook page or see updates on our school website. We have a back to school night on Wednesday, Sept. 18. We also are looking for our parents to engage in our PTO. The PTO meets on the first Monday of every month right here at the school at 6 p.m. Lastly, we are using the Class DoJo app school-wide as a way to communicate with our families.