On what was to be his last meeting as a school board member, Rony Baltazar-Lopez was recognized by the Milford School District Board of Education for his three years of service to the district. Baltazar-Lopez did not run for reelection and his seat will be taken by Matt Bucher who won election in May, defeating Jalyn Powell. The meeting held on June 20 was to be the last for Baltazar-Lopez, but the board voted to hold a special meeting on June 27 to discuss the tax rate for the upcoming year.
“Before I ask for adjournment this evening, prior to this evening this was to be our last meeting,” Board President Jason Miller said. “We would normally convene in July and, at that time, a new board would be sworn in for 2022-23. But, I will just get on my soapbox for a second. The position of a school board elected position is very challenging. It can sometimes be difficult, the decisions we are asked to make require quite a bit of thinking and pondering. And we also are challenged morally in how we are going to best serve our city. With that being said, we are very lucky to have input that provides a constant commentary that makes us think and is thought provoking. And this evening, Mr. Baltazar-Lopez would have been sitting in his last meeting but we have one more, so we are not letting him off that easy. But it is our pleasure, my honor, to present him with a plaque for his distinguished recognition for his service to the board of education for the Milford School District.”
Baltazar-Lopez, who served as vice-president of the board, agreed that he thought the meeting would be his last meeting so he had prepared a statement.
“It has been a privilege and honor to serve as a school board member representing the school district at large. Three years ago, a young 24 year old who had just returned to Delaware from working in our nation’s capital to enroll in graduate school came before this board to make the case as candidate with a seat left vacant by a former member,” Baltazar Lopez said. “Out of eight other qualified candidates. I was nominated to serve a one year term making me the youngest as well as the first Hispanic to serve on this body. A year later, in 2020, the community entrusted me to be their voice for the next two years as I won reelection to this governing body. That same year, I became the vice president of the board.”
Serving as a board member has been both challenging and rewarding, Baltazar-Lopez stated. He explained that as Miller alluded to, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced upon the board a complex responsibility of ensuring the safety and health of students while continuing to provide them with some type of education.
“As a board, we were tasked with decisions such as whether to start the 2020-2021 school year in a remote or hybrid format. Most recently, deciding whether to continue wearing face masks in schools,” Baltazar-Lopez said. “At times, each of us might have had differences of opinion on the best course of action for certain decisions, but I know that each of us was guided on the same principle of ensuring that each student receives the best public education possible. Our mission on this board was to ensure that there was increased transparency and accountability in our governing process as well as to strengthen our community-school relationship, particularly with our black and brown families whose needs may go unheard. So, to that end, as a board, we’ve been able to make progress on some of those goals.”
The board upheld the rights and privacy of students by passing policies that protected them, Baltazar-Lopez continued. They strengthened external communications by creating a public information office and the board committed themselves to addressing racial equity and improving disparities in the education system by creating a Supervisor of Equity and Support Services position, Baltazar-Lopez commented.
“We began the process of re-visioning our district goals and objectives by working with stakeholders to create a strategic plan, which will ensure our accountability moving forward. We committed ourselves as board members from engaging in improper behavior a conflict of interest policy,” Baltazar-Lopez said. “We establish a graduation advisory committee to address graduation and dropout rates and, equally as important, we successfully passed the much needed Milford Middle School referendum with 67% of the vote. Though we have made strides there’s still more work to be done, especially as we fully recover from the pandemic. This board must continue to address disparities caused by the pandemic, particularly as it relates to social and emotional components of a student’s education. It must also ensure that students and families feel represented on the board as well as in leadership positions within the district.”
The board must continue to empower teachers and staff who are on the frontlines and have been since the start of the pandemic, Baltazar-Lopez stated. In addition, Baltazar-Lopez believes that the board must recognize that a positive learning environment can only be fostered when all students, families and staff, regardless of socioeconomic status, are able to thrive.
“Our schools must continue to be free from any political influence, whether it is in leadership or at the bottom of the hierarchy. The board’s allegiance should only be to the well-being of every student,” Baltazar-Lopez said. “And, as I conclude, Marian Wright Edelman once said, ‘service is the rent we pay for living on this Earth.’ So, being a school board member may not be a glamorous title, and it is a thankless job that we don’t receive any financial compensation. For the countless hours we spend outside of these official meetings, we are rewarded by knowing that we made a difference in the lives of students. That’s what has made this journey worth it. I’m grateful personally and professionally to each and every one of you as a result of this experience. So, thank you to my friends and family who continue to empower me even when I’m at my lowest. Thank you to Superintendent Dr. Dickerson for your leadership these past few years. Thank you to each and every one of my colleagues for rewarding me with your perspectives at each board meeting. And thank you to the community for trusting me to be your champion.”
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