Jalyn Powell, running for Milford School District’s at-large seat, said Thursday night that board members should be open-minded, all students should be seen as gifted, critical race theory is not an issue, charter schools and choice are good, and that ethnicity of school workers should reflect the community.
Also running for that seat is Matt Bucher, a conservative who declined to participate in a forum sponsored by a coalition of 10 groups who want to raise public involvement in school board elections and attendance.
The forum was one of six being held around Delaware through May 3.
Powell, who graduated in 2014 from Milford High School, holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Delaware State University and a master’s in human rights law from Regents School of Law. She is now working on a Ph.D. in transformative social change. Powell works with the Delaware Racial Justice Collaborative’s Youth and Young Adult Development Workstream, assisting students with mental health, wellness and peer support.
She said she helps other groups “with strategic translation to ensure that communities and organizations are working together in the most comprehensive and efficient way possible.”
Powell was asked the same list of questions by moderator Teri Quinn Gray that candidates in Red Clay and Capital districts were earlier this week.
The questions were formulated by the 10 groups sponsoring the forums. They include Delaware NAACP, Network Delaware, ACLU Delaware, and Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence.
She said a school board member should be curious, open, community minded and committed to transparency and accountability. Board members set the standard for their schools and should be the voice of the community, she said.
“When I say community, I mean parents, students, families, staff and local taxpayers as well,” she said.
“It’s a service position,” she said. “I believe that my commitment to community and youth will allow me to effectively serve as a school board member.”
Pressed further, she said the school board is the visionary group and it’s the superintendent’s job to formulate policies and procedures to make that vision happen.
Powell said she believes implicit bias exists in everyone, and that the board, teachers, staff and students need to be trained in what it is.
She pointed out that to her knowledge critical race theory had never been taught in the Milford School District and is not intended to be, so it didn’t make sense to talk about it.
But, she said, schools must teach American history as it is, and that includes black history.
Powell said that all students should be considered gifted and talented and not just those taking honors or advanced placement classes.
“We should be ensuring that our students reach their best selves in their respective ways at their individual levels, holistically,” she said. The school district can achieve that by looking at the needs of all students and where they need support, and giving it to them, she said.
For example, she said, looking at English language learners as multicultural and talented can be helpful in changing the view of those students.
Powell said she believes unconscious bias results in a disproportionate amount of Black and Brown students being disciplined compared to Whites, and training could help that.
She believes school boards should continue to livestream their meetings to help busy family members watch, participate and be educated about what’s going on in schools.
Powell pointed out that she was a program manager for the Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence and favored common sense laws, such as storage rules, that ensured the safety of children.
At the same time, she favors having police officers in schools as resource officers whose roles are advisory and to support students. She loved the one in her high school, she said.
“Shout out to Officer Melbourne,” she said.
Powell also said she favored charter schools being allowed to multiply.
“I don’t have anything against charter schools at all, nor public schools,” she said. “I believe in the power of choice. I believe in the power of choice. I believe in the power of choice. I believe in the power of choice. I believe that we can all learn from each other, whether that be charter, public or private.”
While pointing out that the Milford School District is one of the most diverse in the state, with 51% of its students being minorities, she said representation matters and more of the teachers and staff should be people of color.
The forums continue Monday. Here are the dates and times:
- Appoquinimink – Monday, May 2, 6 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.
- Caesar Rodney – Monday, May 2, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
- Colonial – Tuesday, May 3, 6p.m. to 7:15 p.m.
Attendees must register. To register, click on any of the districts above.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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