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Meet the candidates running for Appo board

Amanda Parrish * Delaware
aparrish@doverpost.com
Middletown Transcript

Two candidates are running for an open seat on the Appoquinimink Board of Education in the July 21 election.

Incumbent Michelle Wall, 42, of Odessa, is seeking a second, five-year term on the school board. She is facing a challenge from political newcomer Wayne Meadows, 44, of Middletown.

Wayne Meadows

Years living in the Appoquinimink School District: 44

Children in the district: None

Education: BA in English literature, University of Delaware

Work history: President of Professional Technicians, a regional clinical laboratory serving patients from Delaware to New York.

Prior political experience: None

Why are you running?

Like any organization, the school board needs people with diverse experiences and viewpoints. Many in our district, including me, did not support the last referendum. The reason I did not support it was because I could not figure out why, over the previous ten years, enrollment in our schools increased by 27%, but spending went up 107%! Even if we take out all capital expenditures, spending growth far outpaced enrollment growth.

My family and I are lucky that we can afford the tax increases. However, I am mindful of those in our district, including seniors on fixed incomes, who aren’t as lucky and cannot afford to get continual tax increases. I have heard from many seniors, who have been lifelong residents, that they are considering moving out of the district because they can’t afford to have their school tax raised continually.

Voters deserve to feel comfortable that the resources they have already provided to the district were used wisely to achieve our goal – graduating kids who are ready for college or the workforce – before being asked for additional resources. I believe it is not only the community’s right but their responsibility to question how their hard-earned money is being spent. However, the school board and the administration seemed to act with indignation and smugness that they were being questioned by members of the community.

I’m an entrepreneur who has had to make spending decisions and be creative to achieve goals. I believe I can be a valuable voice on the board to show we don’t need to choose between a great education, paying teachers and other staff fairly, and keeping costs under control.

What are the three most pressing issues in the next five years?

Keeping up with enrollment growth and finally fixing teacher compensation are certainly issues at the top of the list. However, I believe our biggest problem is we have lost sight of the real reason we have public schools. The schools are there to prepare kids for college or the workforce. Everything else the district does is ancillary to that goal.

According to the state, we only accomplish that 62.1% of the time. That means we are pushing 38% of our kids out of the school system without setting them up for success. That should make us all feel terrible. So should the fact that 35% of our 8th graders aren’t proficient in English, and 50% of our kids aren’t proficient in Math.

If your child is one of the 62% of children who are thriving, that is wonderful. However, we need to make sure that all children are being prepared for future success.

Sometimes we make ourselves feel better by telling ourselves we are doing better compared to other districts. However, that is little comfort to the 38% of 12th graders going out into the world unprepared. Recently US News and World Report ranked all High Schools in America. Our High Schools didn’t rank in the top 4,000 nationwide. Only one of them ranked in the top ten in Delaware (at number ten).

We must refocus on what’s important to not leave any child behind.

How would you address those issues?

The most important things I can try to accomplish on the school board is to refocus the board and the administration on what’s important to accomplish our goal, help to implement some fiscal restraint (not every problem is solved by throwing more money at it), and push the district to learn from the experiences of those schools who are doing a better job than we are.

Michelle Wall

Years living in the Appoquinimink School District: 11

Children in the District: 2

Education: BA, James Madison University; Leadership Delaware

Work History: Make-A-Wish Delaware, The Simpler Campaign LLC, The Appoquinimink School District, The Arizona Republic, The Raleigh News & Observer, Friends of the Library NC State University, and the Virginia Governor’s Office

Prior Political Experience: Appoquinimink School Board Member: 2015 to Present

Delaware’s Early Childhood Council: 2019 to Present

The Women’s Campaign School at Yale: 2019

Virginia Governor’s Fellow: 1999

Endorsements: Appoquinimink Education Association, Appoquinimink Educational Support Professionals

Why are you running?

I am running for re-election to the school board to continue to champion education funding reform, work to close the salary gap for district staff, and to expand opportunities for all students.

When I ran for the school board five years ago, I ran to be a voice at the table promoting parent involvement to support teachers for the success of all students and my approach remains the same.

What are the three most pressing issues in the next five years?

Currently, we are navigating completely uncharted waters amid dealing with the global pandemic of COVID-19. However, even during this uncertain time the most pressing issues facing the school board remain the same.

Finding Balance, Encouraging Involvement, Increasing Communication.

The biggest issue facing the Appoquinimink school district is constantly finding the delicate balance between the resources of our community and doing what is best for kids. To do what is best for kids, a school board member, needs to be committed to continually working with members of the community and key stakeholders in the district to find this balance.

The school board is five volunteer elected representatives, but this is only one way to be involved in our school district. There are numerous volunteer roles in our schools and at the district level. You could be a mentor, a classroom volunteer, or a committee member. The success of our district is based on a positive relationship between community members, teachers, parents, and students working together to achieve greatness.

As a board member I am constantly trying to share with the community what is happening in our district. I hold Bagels with a Board Member monthly, make efforts to have informational sessions about current issues and make myself available to meet with those who have concerns about the district. These are the steps that I have made in this volunteer role over the last five years, but I know that more can be done.

How would you address those issues?

As a member of the school board I have learned that my role is to work with community members, key stakeholders, and the rest of the board to shape policy for our district. To do this effectively a school board member needs to be knowledgeable about the district, respectful of diverse points of view, and have the willingness to invest the time in the position.

For the last five years, I have worked hard to engage parents, support teachers, and expand opportunities for all kids in our district and this is what I plan to do as long as I have the opportunity to be a member of the Appoquinimink School Board.