On May 9, 2023, Milford School District residents will go to the polls to vote for open seats on school board. Currently, only one seat, representing the district At-Large, has more than one candidate. This seat is being vacated by Dave Vezmar who chose not to run for another term. Candidate Danielle Deinert answered questions about what her vision was for the district and what she hoped to accomplish as a school board member. The questions and answers are posted in their entirety with no editing.
My name is Danielle Deinert but some of you may know me by my maiden name, Danielle Walls. I am deeply connected to the Milford School District. Not only did I graduate from Milford School District, but both my parents and grandparents also graduated from Milford. Currently, I am raising three children in the Milford School District. My experiences will allow me to view issues from many perspectives. I have 10+ years of experience in education including working as a paraprofessional, a teacher, and an administrator. I have a master’s degree in special education and certification in administration, severe disabilities and autism. I have worked in multiple school districts including Cape Henlopen, Caesar Rodney, and most recently I taught here in Milford, at Mispillion Elementary.
Currently, my full time job is “mom.” This role includes serving as the PTP president at Morris Early Childhood Center and on the PTP at Ross Elementary School. I have chaperoned field trips, helped with class parties, and helped run the school book fair. I also have volunteered for the last five years as a Little League coach. These experiences have equipped me to be an asset to the school district and community. If elected, I look forward to the opportunity to work alongside the school board focusing on putting our students first to build a successful future for the Milford school district.
Q: Why did you decide to run for school board?
During my career in education, I had the opportunity to see education from many lenses. I have ridden school buses with kids, had tough conversations with parents around discipline, and taught classes with kids that are well above and below grade level. As a parent I have seen firsthand what school looks and feels like through the eyes of my children. When the opportunity arose to run for school board, I felt compelled to run to have the opportunity to give back to the community and school district that I care so much about. My experiences have equipped me to bring another perspective to our current board. I am passionate about the success of the Milford School District and the success of our students. If elected my goals are to focus on putting our students first, safe and supportive schools and increasing our family engagement.
Q: How will you help Milford become a more successful and desired district in Delaware?
My Milford roots, as well as my children currently attending Milford Schools, makes me extremely passionate about the success of the Milford School District. I think there are a lot of amazing things happening in our district, and there are also areas for growth. A more successful district occurs when you have community, parent, student, and staff buy-in. This buy-in begins from the top down, starting with the school board. Creating a school board that is passionate and focused upon our success and that can put aside differences to focus on a common goal is imperative. When this occurs, it trickles down into improving staff morale, and student achievement. My strengths include the ability to listen, communicate and collaborate with others. If elected I will work with the school board members towards this common goal of a more successful and desired district.
Q: School districts across the country have been issuing restrictions regarding what is taught in the classroom, especially with respect to historical and contemporary conditions in the United States. How will you handle requests for curriculum changes from parents in the community?
I welcome families to ask questions and engage in discussion around the content and curriculum taught in our district. I think that we have to be willing to have tough conversations and hear everyone’s point of view. Board members should then take these concerns through our curriculum review process. Per current board policy, curriculum is reviewed every 5 years. The Curriculum Director shared with me recently that this review includes curriculum committees that collaborate and use a program called “Equity and Beyond” to focus on positive student outcomes and best practices. Utilizing a curriculum committee that is composed of many stakeholders is imperative to ensure curriculum changes are taking place through a process and multiple perspectives and opinions are used. My belief is that we have to use highly qualified, historically accurate, diverse and inclusive materials. I am an advocate for increased professional development and community outreach to stress the importance of teaching with a curriculum that meets the ever-evolving needs of a 21st century learner.
Q: Do you anticipate policing of the arts and literature that students are assigned or create? How far to do you feel the First Amendment extends to students?
I believe that students need access to a historically accurate education. My goal is that we are producing students that are able to adapt to our ever evolving world, use critical thinking and problem solving skills, and collaborate with others. This can only be accomplished through providing our students access to high quality literature and reading materials that challenge them to think critically. I believe all students need access to educational materials free from censorship and that leads to open dialogue about our history. I welcome training and support for our staff in order to help them feel supported and comfortable having tough conversations with students.
Q: Do you anticipate any political group, lobbyist or business influencing decisions you make as a board member?
When you file to run for school board, unlike other elected offices you do not file with a specific political party. This is because the role of the school board member is to serve the students in a non-partisan manner. I feel that I make a great school board candidate because I am not influenced by a political party and instead am running with the focus of what is in the best interest of our students. The group that will be influencing the decisions I make are the citizens of the Milford School District, the families, and the students.
Q: During the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents were angry at school boards for following mandates issued by the governor. What is your opinion on governmental mandates and how school boards should handle them in the future?
When you are elected into the office of school board member you are officially sworn in under oath under Delaware Code, Title 14. Below is the link to the code and a copy of the oath of office. School board members are responsible for upholding the law as set forth and are not given the authority or power to break that law regardless of our opinions of those government mandates. My opinion is that as school board members we should focus on the areas that we are responsible for: setting overarching policy, evaluating and overseeing the superintendent, and putting our students first in all decision making. Our opinions on government mandates should be handled in the same way as other citizens, by reaching out to our legislators with our concerns and views.
https://delcode.delaware.gov/title14/c010/sc03/index.html – “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States of America, the Constitution of the State of Delaware, and the laws of Delaware governing public education, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of school board member according to the best of my ability; and I do further solemnly swear (or affirm) that I have not directly or indirectly paid, offered or promised to pay, contributed, or offered to or promised to contribute, any money or other valuable thing as consideration or reward for the giving or withholding a vote at the election at which I was elected to said office, so help me God (or I so affirm).”
Q: As a board member, you will likely approve the final plans for the former Milford Middle School renovation. What will you be looking for in the renovation plan and what would you not want to see included?
As a Milfordian I am very excited about the Milford Middle School renovation. I, like so many in our community, have fond memories of the old middle school. I remember walking to the third floor on a hot spring day, and sweating through Mrs. Brown’s English class. My parents look back and remember watching previews of the high school musicals in 1969/70 from the balcony seats in the auditorium. These memories could go on and on around our community which is why honoring our history in the renovation is important to me. If structurally possible I would like to see the facade, especially the pillars in front of the old high school portion preserved. I think it is important to have a building that is modern with state of the art technology while preserving as much of the architecture as possible. I also think that with a renovation comes the opportunity to look at current buildings and designs that are and are not working. We have the opportunity to create a great structure that can be a hub of community action central to the town of Milford and I want to make sure we embrace that.
Q: What types of activities would you like to see offered to students to keep them active and learning when school is not in session?
The experience we had during COVID was challenging. However, out of it teachers adapted and became blended learning experts overnight. We have the opportunity to utilize this new skill set and create opportunities for students and families to have access to learning when school is not in session or when students have extended absences. I am in support of maximizing instruction for students to avoid extended gaps in education. For instance, we have some students with chronic illnesses or that take extended vacations. This leads to major gaps in learning. I support having tools available for students to learn and minimize instructional gaps. With that said, I also support kids being kids and I do not want to eliminate the excitement of a snow day that is a right of passage as a child. This is why I think that we have to balance ensuring the opportunities are there. Another consideration to be taken into account when planning activities for students is the infrastructure at our local daycares and families homes. We have to support them with access and training to the tools we are using in order to work with our community partners successfully.
Q: Teachers are expressing concerns that discipline policies are causing issues in the classroom with student attendance dropping, tardiness rising and what appears to be a lack of disrespect toward authority. As a board member, how do you plan to address some of these complaints from teachers?
Many parents’, teachers’, and community members’ biggest concern is discipline and bullying. Inappropriate student behavior leads to adverse effects on student learning, staff morale, and school culture. As a school board member, my role will be to review the district’s discipline and bullying policies to determine what is, and is not working, and why. We have to be willing to talk and listen to what is occurring in our buildings. I will advocate for equipping our students with the tools to become more successful citizens by teaching them to leverage mental health services, counseling, and coping strategies. I will advocate for equipping our staff with best practices in restorative discipline so that they can support their students. I believe we need to be in the business of teaching, which includes teaching appropriate behavioral expectations in school.
Q: There is a significant teacher and substitute teacher shortage throughout the state currently. What ideas do you have to encourage people to enter the teaching or substitute teaching profession?
As I said previously, the success of an organization begins from the top down. Creating a school board that supports, celebrates and empowers their staff leads to the development of a strong staff morale. Retaining and attracting quality educators begins with celebrating the successes of our educators and providing them with the training, tools and autonomy to do the great work they do in their classrooms each day. We have to hire professionals we trust to do their best with our communities most precious commodity, our children. We have to advertise and actively recruit at Universities both in Delaware and in our neighboring states. I support working with teacher preparation programs to engage teachers that are beginning their career to show them why they should want to be a lifelong Buccaneer. The more we create this environment, the more we will attract the individuals that are best for the high achieving standards we set for our students.
Q: Now that virtual learning is an option, would you support expanding that option to parents and students in the district as a permanent option, especially for high school students who may need to work to help support their families?
Expanding virtual learning opportunities to parents and students in the Milford School District needs to be done on a case by case basis. For example, if we have a scenario where a medical condition prohibits a child from coming to school, I think it absolutely makes sense to consider virtual learning. While there are many pros to virtual learning including flexibility for our students and families, we also have seen the adverse effects in relation to our test scores and graduation rates in the last few years. Our ultimate goal is student success and academic achievement. So, while virtual learning may be convenient, we have to ensure that we are focusing upon options that lead to high student gains and have a direct correlation to student growth. In my role on the school board, I would focus upon what policies put our students in the best position to succeed.
School Board Elections are important because the leaders of our school district have a direct effect on the students who will one day be active citizens in our community. If elected, the critical issues that I will focus on are safe and supportive schools, academic achievement, and increasing family and community engagement. I would love your support and your vote in the election on May 9th. To set up a time to chat with me, please reach out via [email protected]
Any resident in Milford School District may vote for the at-large seat. Polling places for the Milford School District Board of Education election are Benjamin Banneker Elementary School (449 North Street), Evelyn I. Morris Early Childhood Center (8609 Third Street, Lincoln), Lulu M. Ross Elementary School (310 Lovers Lane) and Milford High School (1019 North Walnut Street). Polls will open at 7 AM and close at 8 PM. All voters must have proof of identity and address which includes a driver’s license, Delaware ID card, work ID card with photo and home address or U.S. postal material with street address. Anyone with questions about what they need to prove their identity can contact the Department of Election in Kent County at 302-739-4498.
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