Why so few school board forums? Candidates wouldn’t respond

Jarek Rutz Education, Headlines

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Many school board candidates approached about participating in forums never responded, organizers say.

 

While the six school board forums organized to allow community members to meet their candidates wrap up tomorrow, some have asked why there aren’t forums being held in every  contentious district. 

Smyrna, for example, has seven candidates campaigning for just two seats. 

Woodbridge, Lake Forest, Seaford, Indian River, Laurel and Delmar also all have competitive races where two or three candidates are running for a single seat, but no forum. 

Organizers began trying to contact school districts and candidates months ago.

“We reached out to every district that had a contest and we didn’t hear from most of them,” said Sade’ Truiett, director of advocacy and partnerships at First State Action Fund. “So for Smyrna, we tried to reach out to some of those candidates. We did not hear back, or they told us to stop communicating with them.”

The candidates were contacted three times: once just after the filing deadline, another a month prior to the forums, and a final attempt two weeks ago.

First State Action Fund along with Grow the Good, S.A.F.E. Schools Delaware, The National Coalition of 100 Black Women (Delaware), Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence, NAACP (Central Delaware), Network Delaware, Delaware PTA, ACLU Delaware and League of Women Voters collaborated to create the questions and conduct the virtual forums. 

One of the seven Smyrna candidates, Brian Clements, told Delaware LIVE News that  he was game. 

“I would have no problem participating in a forum and for some reason, this is the only school district that seems like it’s not having a forum,” said Clements.

He said he has no clue why some candidates refused to participate in a forum. 

“With this being such a contentious race and so many candidates running for only two seats, you think more people would be anxious to talk,” he said, “but unfortunately, our campaign has been the only one that’s been forward with information and forward with responses to everybody’s questions.”

Clement declined to describe himself as a Republican or Democrat, saying he wanted to remain independent.

Jim Casper, running for a seat in Red Clay and supported by the GOP, last week critiqued the questions asked during that district forum. Matt Bucher, a Milford school board candidate supported by the GOP, last week declined to participate in last week’s Milford forum.

Truiett hinted that many candidates who have been in office a long time simply aren’t willing to participate or address possible changes.

“People are sitting in seats for 20 or 30 years, so of course they’re going to be unresponsive at this point,” said Truiett. “We are disrupting a system in a very intentional way and so sometimes when you’re coming to shake things up, people don’t want to comply with it because it’s always been done a certain type of way.” 

John Marinucci, executive director of the Delaware School Boards Association, declined to comment. He said the association is an apolitical group, and he can’t comment on why people might not want to participate, he said. 

The remaining school board forums are: 

Attendees must register. To register, click on any of the districts above. 

Polls open May 10 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and polling places for each district can be found here. 

 

 

 

 

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