Guest Commentary: Visit a school before making a choice on board candidates

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Steven Fackenthall is a music teacher at Richey Elementary School in Wilmington and president of the Red Clay Education Association. He resides in Wilmington.

Spring has finally rolled around. Ahhhh. Do you smell that?

Oh, wait.

No, not the flowers, but the dueling voices of candidates for Delaware’s local school boards because that is what spring really means around here.

School board races in our state have been interesting the last few years. This could be echoed nationwide. Candidates, and their supporters, screaming about what they think is wrong with our schools and how they will make them better.

Recognizing the position itself as volunteer, I truly believe the intent of all that make the run are for the right reasons, at least in their eyes. The disconnect may come when misinformation, lies or the blame game start to take place.

Let’s take a look nationally for a moment. Last month, the House of Representatives passed, along party lines, a parents’ bill of rights. The bill would require schools to publish course studies and a list of books kept in libraries, as well as affirm a parent’s ability to meet with educators, speak at school board meetings and examine school budgets.

Please share with me when none of those opportunities were afforded to parents.

I can affirm that opportunities for collaboration, input and understanding were always there. Our school board meetings have always been public. In my home district of Red Clay, our school board meetings take place in person and virtual, with up to 30 minutes for public comment (that time can be extended). Every district in Delaware has a community finance committee.

Parents have always had the opportunity to speak to their child’s educators. It’s called parent-teacher conferences, ClassDojo, email and phone calls. I promise you: Educators want to engage with parents, sometimes to the extent that it takes away from teacher’s personal lives.

Educators work countless hours outside the school day to make sure their lessons are engaging, communications with families are answered, assessments are graded and whatever else they could not finish during the day is done. Why? For the students. For your children.

The type of bill mentioned above not only disrespects that tireless work educators put forth, but it’s making folks leave the profession. Just take a look at Join Delaware Schools. There are countless jobs across the state in every aspect of education. Our school communities need to recognize that and be honest about the candidates running for their local school board and be wary of similar rhetoric.

With all of that said, here is my ask of you, the school community:

Before elections take place on May 9, I am asking you to visit your local schools. If able, sign on to be a substitute teacher! Attend a school board candidate forum that may be happening for your district and listen to their words. Listen to a school board meeting and give public comment.

I am asking you to seek out what is actually happening in our buildings.

Lots of misinformation may be shared this election cycle regarding what is happening in our schools, but I promise, you will see amazing things happening in classrooms. You will be impressed.

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