by Terry Rogers
On Monday, June 17, Milford School District Board of Education appointed Rony Baltazar-Lopez to an at-large seat vacated by Ron Evans when he resigned due to an employment opportunity. Baltazar-Lopez will sit on the board for one year and will be eligible to file to run for the seat in 2020.
“I am a firm believer that service to others is the rent we pay for our space here on Earth,” Baltazar-Lopez said in an address to the board on June 3. “That’s why I am standing before you today. It will be one of the greatest honors of my life to work for, support and ensure that every family in this school district has the tools and resources to succeed. As a former graduate of Milford schools and having two brothers attending school, I know very well the importance of having a strong public school system with the mechanisms to meet every student’s needs regardless of their socio-economic background.”
Baltazar-Lopez’s parents left their home countries almost three decades ago. They met in Delaware and had Baltazar-Lopez a year later. Both his parents arrived in the United States with less than a high school education and worked blue-collar jobs to support their family. For 11 years, Baltazar-Lopez was an only child, saying that his parents were strict with him as they wanted the best for him. His brother, Steven was born when he was 11 and his brother, Omar, when he was 13. While attending Milford School District, he participated in soccer, band and martial arts to keep him busy and involved. He excelled in school but knew his family could not afford to send him to an expensive college. He chose to attend the University of Delaware Associate of Arts program at Del-Tech. After two years of study, he began attending classes on the Newark campus.
“At 24 years of age, I have led a life of firsts in my family,” Baltazar-Lopez said. First high school and college graduate, first to obtain a white collar job and the first to seek a graduate degree. The road that led me here was not an easy one, it was only possible through the community that fostered my development. While the school district has greatly improved its standards in educational resources for non-English speaking families, I still think there are ways the Milford School District can and should expand on it. One of these areas include encouraging and hiring of diverse teachers. In particular, bilingual teachers in the district.” Baltazar-Lopez pointed out that although the district is made up of 24 percent African-American and 20 percent Hispanic students, leadership roles, including school board members, administrators and teachers do not represent those percentages.
Baltazar-Lopez worked, volunteered and interned while commuting an hour one way to attend school. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree political science and joined the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) as an Hispanic Programs Coordinator for the state. In this position, he educated, supported and advocated for people who live with severe mental illness, helping to expand programs offered by NAMI. While working with NAMI, a former colleague told him there was an opening in Senator Tom Carper’s office and convinced him to interview. He currently serves as a legislative aide to the Senator.
As a school board member, Baltazar-Lopez hopes to advocate for those who do not speak English and act as a liaison between those families and the board. He believes that school board members should have experience working with school-aged children, something he did when he worked at Kids First Academy and tutoring at Mispillion Elementary School. He also believes that a school board member should insure that the board is responsive to the values of the community.
“The member must be able to cooperate with other members of the board, school district staff and other government entities,” Baltazar-Lopez said. “A school board member must always act with integrity and represent the district in a professional manner. I hope to advocate and pursue the recruitment of a diverse staff, help to create a mentoring program that would allow high school students to mentor in the elementary schools for volunteer credit. I believe this is particularly important as studies have shown that mentoring improves communication and social skills. I would also like to help develop additional mental resources in Milford schools and engage high school students in internship and volunteer opportunities.”
Baltazar-Lopez will be sworn into his seat on the board at the July reorganization meeting.
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