School board elec­tion to be held Tues­day

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

Res­i­dents of the Christina School District will go to the polls Tues­day to cast their vote for two school board seats.

Polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 17 district schools – Ban­croft, Ba­yard, Brook­side, Chris­tiana, Downes, El­bertPalmer, Gal­la­her, Glas­gow, Jones, Keene, Maclary, Mar­shall, McVey, Ne­wark, Oberle, Shue-Medill and Wil­son – as well as Quaker Hill Place Apart­ments in Wilm­ing­ton.

In the Nom­i­nat­ing District C race, in­cum­bent Fred Po­laski will face off

against Rich Jester and V.J. Leonard. In Nom­i­nat­ing District E, Christy Man­ner­ing and Kee­ley Pow­ell will bat­tle for the seat be­ing va­cated by Har­rie Ellen Min­nehan, who is not seek­ing a sec­ond term.

While the school board is com­prised of one mem­ber from each of the seven elec­toral ar­eas in the school district, ev­ery vot­ing-age res­i­dent of the district can vote in both races.

Who­ever wins will play an in­te­gral role set­ting ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy in the district, but the elec­tion re­sults likely will be de­ter­mined by only a small frac­tion of res­i­dents. Last year, only 1.2 per­cent of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers both­ered to cast a bal­lot, a turnout even depart­ment of elec­tion of­fi­cials called “abysmal.”

The win­ning can­di­dates will be­gin their five-year terms in July.

Nom­i­nat­ing District C

Jester, who lives in Beech Hill, is a data sci­en­tist for JPMor­gan Chase and also serves on the board of the Delaware chap­ter of Busi­ness Pro­fes­sion­als of Amer­ica, a ca­reer and tech­no­log­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion for stu­dents.

Dur­ing a can­di­date fo­rum at Downes El­e­men­tary ear­lier this week, he held up a large poster fea­tur­ing a photo of a rusty, bro­ken door at Chris­tiana High School. Poor fa­cil­i­ties are one of the rea­sons fam­i­lies are leav­ing the district, he said.

“We need to have safe doors,” Jester said. “We need to have things where kids can ac­tu­ally touch them with­out wor­ry­ing whether they need a tetanus shot.”

He said his other pri­or­ity would be in­creas­ing and im­prov­ing the district’s use of tech­nol­ogy in the class­room.

“A lack of re­sources has left Christina be­hind when it comes to the dig­i­tal age,” he said. “The tech­nol­ogy in a lot of our schools is out of date or non-func­tion­ing. I’ve watched smart boards with bulbs that are wait­ing five months to be re­placed.”

Jester added that he wants Christina to be known as a “tal­ent fac­tory” with suc­cess­ful pro­grams in culi­nary arts, agri­cul­ture, etc.

“I want our district to be the district ev­ery­one goes to for new em­ploy­ees,” he said.

Leonard, who lives in Wil­liams­burg Vil­lage, is a grad­u­ate of Glas­gow High School and teaches high school English in a neigh­bor­ing district. He served on the district’s su­per­in­ten­dent search com­mit­tee and is look­ing to be­come even more in­volved with Christina.

He ex­pressed lofty goals for the district.

“I want to be the best school district in the coun­try, and I want to start by be­ing the best in the state,” Leonard said.

The key, he added, is fig­ur­ing out how to de­fine “best.”

He wants to con­tin­u­ally ask stake­hold­ers what they think the prob­lems are and hear their sug­ges­tions, adding that he wants to es­tab­lish an elec­tronic “sug­ges­tion box” to hear from the pub­lic. The best or­ga­ni­za­tions fre­quently ask front-line em­ploy­ees for in­put, he said.

“We’re al­most to­tally op­po­site in that re­gard,” Leonard said.

Po­laski, a res­i­dent of Christine Manor, is seek­ing his sec­ond full term af­ter al­ready serv­ing seven years on the board. A re­tired en­gi­neer, he cur­rently serves as the board’s vice pres­i­dent.

Po­laski said his pri­or­ity if re-elected would be con­tin­u­ing to work with the state to con­tinue to im­prove the district’s Wilm­ing­ton schools.

He also noted that the board re­cently ap­proved a strate­gic plan for the district, but there is more work to be done.

“Take that strate­gic plan and work out the de­tailed im­ple­men­ta­tion steps for each of those items, bud­get them, pri­or­i­tize them,” Po­laski said.

He added that the board and ad­min­is­tra­tion need to do a bet­ter job pub­li­ciz­ing the good things hap­pen­ing in Christina.

“The district is a lot bet­ter than peo­ple think it is,” he said.

Nom­i­nat­ing District E

Man­ner­ing works at the Univer­sity of Delaware as a com­mu­ni­ca­tions spe­cial­ist and lives in the For­est Glen neigh­bor­hood in Bear.

She has two stu­dents in Christina schools and an­other en­ter­ing kinder­garten next year, and has been in­volved for years, serv­ing on ref­er­en­dum com­mit­tees, as well as the Keene El­e­men­tary and Gauger-Cobbs Mid­dle PTAs. She also serves as the chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer for Brae’s Brown Bags, a non­profit her 14-year-old son started five years ago to pro­vide healthy snacks to the home­less and oth­ers in need.

“My pas­sion is work­ing with low-in­come peo­ple and un­der-per­form­ing stu­dents who peo­ple just don’t see their po­ten­tial,” Man­ner­ing said. “I see their po­ten­tial and I’m pas­sion­ate about it and I love these peo­ple and I want to help them.”

She called for es­tab­lish­ing “ex­ploratory” pro­grams – es­sen­tially elec­tive cour­ses – in the district’s mid­dle schools, adding it would help with stu­dent re­ten­tion.

“Maybe that will get them in­ter­ested in go­ing to a high school that has those pro­grams if you can make it some­thing that evolves and adapts into that,” she said.

Man­ner­ing also wants to see bet­ter art and mu­sic of­fer­ings.

“We have mid­dle schools with­out art,” she said. “We have schools shar­ing the same orches­tra teacher five dif­fer­ent places.”

Pow­ell holds a doc­tor­ate in ed­u­ca­tional lead­er­ship from UD, where she works as an as­sis­tant dean in the univer­sity’s Col­lege of Earth, Ocean and En­vi­ron­ment. A res­i­dent of Academy Hills, she has one child at West Park El­e­men­tary School and two-year-old twins that will fol­low in a few years.

She views her­self as a con­sen­sus builder.

“I don’t want to be some­one who’s a com­plainer; I want to be some­one who’s a change agent,” Pow­ell said.

She said she is run­ning be­cause she is con­cerned about the high per­cent­age of stu­dents who leave Christina for char­ter schools or other op­tions. She hopes to find ways to bet­ter pro­mote the good things Christina is do­ing and “win stu­dents back.”

“I want peo­ple to be proud of what we’re do­ing, and I think our com­mu­ni­ca­tion and telling them the good news about our district can help with that,” Pow­ell said.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

School board can­di­dates par­tic­i­pate in a fo­rum at Downes El­e­men­tary. From left: Christy Man­ner­ing, Kee­ley Pow­ell, Rich Jester, V.J. Leonard and Fred Po­laski.

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