**The polls will be open Tuesday, May 14 from 10am until 8pm at Benjamin Banneker Elementary – 449 North Street; Milford Evelyn I. Morris Early Childhood Center – 8609 Third Street, Lincoln; and Lulu Ross Elementary – 310 Lovers Lane, Milford.**
After the filing deadline for the Milford Board of Education on Friday, March 1, it was determined that six candidate were running for the At-large position. Candidates seeking the At-Large seat for the Milford School District Board of Education include Hunter Emory, Kevin W. Marshall Jr., Natalie R. Shockley, Alan R. Southard, Robert B. Vincelette Jr. and Michael Wells. School Board Elections will be held on Tuesday, May 14, and the winner of the election will serve a five year term. Milford LIVE sat down with candidates and asked them questions regarding our community schools, children and parents.
Natalie R. Shockley and her husband J. Daniel have been married for 38 years and have two children, Michele who now lives in California and Daniel who currently resides in Milford. Mrs. Shockley, her husband, and two children are all graduates of the Milford School District. Mrs. Shockley, also, attended the University of Delaware graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Business Education and continued her graduate studies at Salisbury University graduating with a Masters of Education in Curriculum & Instruction. In addition, Mrs. Shockley is certified in Adult Education and holds 45+ post graduate credits in the areas of curriculum, guidance, instruction, leadership, and technology. In 2007, Mrs. Shockley acquired National Board Certification in Career & Technical Education. She currently holds a State of Delaware Advanced Teaching License in Comprehensive Business Education and Adult Education. Mrs. Shockley has 38 years of teaching experience, 8 with the Caesar Rodney School District (1973-1981) and 30 years with the Cape Henlopen School District (1981-2011). In addition to teaching, Mrs. Shockley has served as Business Professionals of America advisor; Business, Marketing, & Finance chairman; new teacher mentor; junior/senior class advisor; and an active participant of multiple building committees.
Why did you decide to run for the Milford School Board?
I have a lifelong commitment to educational excellence in my profession. Being a veteran educator as well the mother of a current educator, I have witnessed firsthand how teachers are being asked to do more with less each year, yet being held to increased performance standards. In addition, I have seen an increase in the number of highly qualified and experienced educators opting to either retire or leave the profession due to a lack of much needed support. Thus, I believe it is our responsibility to provide for the education of the youth in our community, to prepare them for both their and our future. It takes the efforts of many different people, parents, teachers, administrators and the community as a whole to provide the right setting for our students to have a proper learning environment. Therefore, as an experienced educator, I am running for the Milford School Board in order to act as an advocate for the faculty/staff, students, and community interests.
What do you think are the greatest challenges the Milford School Board faces?
The greatest challenges facing the Milford School District today (like surrounding school districts) are the transition to Common Core Standards, the lack of instructional materials/resources, decrease in money being provided from the federal and state levels, teacher retention, growing class sizes, and school safety.
With the transition from the State of Delaware prioritized curriculum to the Common Core Standards, there is a lack of aligned/needed curriculum and resources necessary for ensuring the very best instruction is taking place. Teachers are being asked to do more with less.
With the loss of Race to the Top (RTTT) as well as other federal and state monies, the board of education, the MEA, and the community will need to work together to determine what programs can be cut or reduced in size in order to ensure there is no loss of money being provided for each individual student and classroom.
With the onset of Component 5, teachers are now being held accountable for student growth and performance throughout the school year. As a school board, we must work together with the faculty to ensure their needs are being met so the Component 5 is a more realistic measure of their ability. In addition, we must look at the school climate in each building as well as at the district level and address issues where morale is a concern. When negotiating the next MSD agreement, it is also crucial that we look at teacher and paraprofessional salaries as they compare to surrounding school districts and to make them more comparable in the long run so we have the ability to retain experienced educators. Finally, the school board needs to better recognize the accomplishments of its staff and students. Not only publishing this information in the monthly board minutes but with highlights/successes made available to the local media.
Milford, like surrounding communities, continues to grow. This equates to larger class sizes. In addition, with the closing of Milford Middle School, the relocating of grade 9 to the high school and grades 6 and 7 to the Milford Central Academy, both MHS and MCA will be near, at, or over capacity. As a school board, we need to determine and act proactively to ensure the appropriate space is provided and that staff is available to ensure manageable and acceptable class sizes.
In light of recent tragedies, every district is concerned about the safety of its students. Board members and district administrators must work with local first responders to ensure safety and security plans are comprehensive and up-to-date.
What would you like to see done with the Milford Middle School building that was recently closed?
The Milford Middle School building has played a rich and vital role in the history of our community. Therefore, it is no surprise that many members of the community have heavy hearts when thinking about the school’s closing. Unfortunately, the facility is in need of extensive renovations in order to be more fiscally viable. For costs purposes, I understand why the building has been slated for closure; however, I oppose its demolition. Instead, the board needs to examine alternative uses for the soon to be former Milford Middle School. This includes leasing the property to either Wilmington University, University of Delaware, or another post-secondary institution for their use; maintaining the central structure as a district office; eliminating the Lakeview and Hall Place wings followed by the construction of a new school keeping the original center section of the existing building intact; and/or relocating our community’s youngest Buccaneers from Lincoln to Milford in order to decrease bus times. I would, also, encourage the possibility of using the Milford Middle School structure (if only a portion) as an intensive learning center for district students in need of significant behavioral/academic interventions. This would reduce money currently being spent on tuition for students to attend such schools as Kent Intensive Learning Center/Elementary School in the Caesar Rodney School District and the Sussex Consortium in Lewes. The entire community deserves to provide input as to the school’s use before demolition is considered. Furthermore, the Lakeview land should be kept for future school expansion rather than being sold for development.
How do you feel about the implementation of three additional School Resource Officers in the District?
At the March 2013 Milford School Board Meeting, the current board agreed to hire three additional resource officers to improve district safety at a projected cost of $100,000 each. While I support the belief that additional police/security presence is needed, I feel this is not cost effective as planned. As it stands, these three additional school resource officers will share responsibilities between multiple buildings. One officer will be housed at Morris Early Childhood Center while a second officer will float between Mispillion and Lulu Ross Elementary schools. The third officer will travel between Benjamin Banneker Elementary and Milford High School. The district’s current School Resource Officer will be located at the Milford Central Academy. Under this shared building approach, if an issue arises, it is possible that the officer assigned to a particular building may not be present. This defeats the purpose of having a designated school resource officer. Therefore, the school board needs to revisit this issue and determine how additional police/security presence can be made available to each building for the entire school day. I would propose the hiring of retired police/military personnel to serve as building security to be paid at a casual/seasonal paraprofessional rate. This would not only be cost effective but would allow for each school to have their own school officer. This individual would be expected to not only ensure security but to train faculty in identifying and handling potentially threatening situations as well as allow the officer to become familiar with members of the school community. He/she would, also, be better able to identify otherwise questionable individuals on school grounds.
What are your thoughts surrounding DCAS testing?
In two years, the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System will be replaced with the Smarter Balance Assessment aligned with National Common Core Standards. Until then, however, students will continue to take the DCAS assessment three times each year. This takes away from valuable instruction time that is crucial for ensuring students meet and exceed content standards. In addition, it is unfathomable that an assessment designed to measure student growth over a school year can be given in February, three months before the conclusion of the school year. How can a test accurately measure student growth when the academic year is not even close to ending? I, also, know there are many questions surrounding how such growth is measured and the formula used by the Department of Education to determine student growth goals. Nevertheless, the Milford School Board needs to not only ensure that faculty/staff have the instructional resources needed to provide the necessary skills/strategies our students need to succeed in the 21st Century but to do well on the assessment. In addition, the board needs to examine the amount of time spent administering the DCAS test and to develop/explore methods of increasing uninterrupted classroom instruction time. The DCAS assessment does not take into consideration a student’s unique strengths and weaknesses, nor does it take into consideration factors that impact a student’s performance outside the regular school day. While it is designed to adapt to a student’s level based upon the number of questions answered correctly, DCAS cannot be a standalone assessment used to determine a student’s growth or overall success nor can it be used to determine a teacher’s performance and whether or not to retain our educators based on the performance of their students.
Why should voters choose you on election day?
Serving as a school board member is one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs one will ever undertake. It is, also, an enormous responsibility. As an experienced educator with 38 years of experience in the field of teaching, I know that public education is successful when schools, parents, and the community all work together. Furthermore, I know the importance of transparency amongst the board as the decisions they make will affect children and their parents, the livelihood of school system employees, and the economic well-being of the community. Service to a board requires time, energy, a willingness to learn about issues affecting your schools, and a passion for a public education system committed to providing the best and most appropriate education for all children entrusted to its care. Thus, if elected to serve, I will work with my fellow board members to establish educational goals that will help shape the future of our community and society. In addition, I will be more visible within our schools by attending faculty meetings and in-service days as well as conducting regular walk throughs. Furthermore, I will work closely with the Milford Education Association to ensure the needs of the faculty/staff are being met and exceeded. Moreover, I will maintain and accept feedback from the community as it relates to the best interests of our students. Finally, I will use my knowledge of high achieving schools to help ensure Milford remains a vibrant and superior Delaware school system. A vote for Natalie Shockley is a vote for the right experience needed to help lead the Milford School District into the future.