Seaford school board to hold election in May

By Scott Bleile

Seaford School board elections will be held Tuesday, May 9. Incumbent board member Mike Kraft is being challenged by former board member John Hanenfeld. Both candidates, who are vying for a five year term, have answered questions given to them about their thoughts and reasons for running for the school board position.

Name: Michael Wayne Kraft Family: Wife, Suzette Kraft (Seaford alumni and classmate); son, Austin Kraft 2015 Seaford graduate and a sophomore at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina; son, Mark Saathoff - attended Seaford schools first thru ninth grades, served in the United States Coast Guard, and currently lives in Mobile, Ala., working in the oil industry. Background: (College, High School, etc.) Delaware Technical & Community College/ electrical engineering; Seaford Senior High School, Class of 1985; works for Delmarva Power as an engineering fieldman for distribution design.

1. Why are you running for the Seaford School Board? Give reasons and any perceived problems you would want to address if elected. To continue to advocate and work hard for the youth of our community. We are seeing immediate gains and a positive impact as a result of our recent grade reconfiguration. We are better able to focus our curriculum to better serve our students, where they are. It has streamlined some of our transportation challenges as well, and weve seen immediate results there. But thats not to say that this process is easy or will not need continued review and fine tuning as it evolves, and we identify ourselves as a K-2, 3-5 Elementary District. And as such Id love to continue to be part of the solution for our community and help ensure a sustainable future for public education in Seaford.

2. Statewide, there is concern over the financial situation of education.The State of Delaware is facing a $386 million dollar deficit. If the state makes cuts in the education budget, and funds are cut to the district would you support making cuts in what particular areas, and what would you propose cutting or eliminating or another way to save money for the district without making cuts? Certainly the biggest challenge we face for sure. The concern is real, but the impact still remains unclear as to its affects at the local level. The states deficit will have a lasting impact on public education in Delaware. Locally, our budget does revolve around and is heavily dependent on state funding, and drives the way we allocate and budget for our folks here in Seaford. As far as cuts in programming or services, its a little early for me to say I believe that we are currently providing the BEST possible programming for our students. Our career paths, AP, and honors offerings, as well as dual enrollment opportunities, are strong and well thought out. Not to mention our Spanish emersion offerings at the elementary level. So any one cut would affect the focus and direction of our district. I would say that Seaford is fiscally sound and we are very good stewards of the monies we do receive. Seaford has a rich history of financial leadership, and this is still the case today. Our leadership in this department is certainly well proven and well sought after. And I am convinced that the recommendations brought to us will be sound, well thought out and certainly whats in the best interest for our students and community, given the funding we have to work with once the states budget cuts shake out. I will note that our grade reconfiguration did provide cost savings as were intended and anticipated. Local control and local decisions will always be the best choice for our local schools - hard decisions yes, but local is still whats best for our community.

3. The Seaford School District has been gaining momentum with increased test scores, increased attendance rates, and improved positive awareness of the district.How do you intend to continue this positive energy and growth during your term? Great question and thanks for noticing our momentum. You know, the Seaford School District was recently recognized by Delaware Department of Education for the second largest amount of growth on state assessments, and Seaford was the only district in the state that had ALL of its elementary schools in the top tier of growth with three of our schools in the top 10. Communication, good leadership, and continued hard work are the keys to our success. Also being fair and honest and continually communicating with our students, parents, teachers, staff, administrators, the Seaford community and keeping all these folks actively involved in our schools. It all starts with good leadership - in the classroom, in the buildings, and at the district level. Our teams at each of these levels are doing an amazing job, and its no accident that we have been gaining momentum and are being recognized statewide. A lot of moving parts and pieces to all this, but there is a ton of hard work going on at every level to get us where we are. But we are not resting there, these people are committed to continued sustainable growth and momentum, and are putting the work in to ensure our students success.

4. There have been several groups within the Seaford area talking about how to bring Seaford Schools and Seaford Athletics back to their heyday. One of the main reasons for the discussion is the fact students leave because of perceived problems within the district. Your thoughts on how to keep students from leaving the Seaford School District due to the perception of problems within the schools and convince them to keep their children in the district? Yes, a very proud town and community, when it comes to our schools and athletics, with a long history of success. Families stay or leave based on what they feel is best for their children for sure. I would say that when you look at and compare Seaford to any other choice, we provide the better education K-12 than our neighboring districts. Leaving sometimes is the easier thing to do, but staying and being part of your local school districts successes is so much more rewarding and beneficial to the community as whole. When viewed openly and equally, Seaford is the better choice for our families and even a very attractive as a choice for others. Athletically even more so. Our student athletes are doing a fantastic job. They work just as hard as anyone else and are competing at a high level with many success stories. These are the ones that take the brunt of the sometimes negative comments, and that is so unfortunate and unfair. They work hard, show up and compete every day while building lifelong friends and learning lifelong skills. Our athletic director is second to none, something we were very used to back in the heyday or the good ole days that folks refer to. Im not much on comparing eras or generations, for the sake of comparing, but our history is a great one - academically and athletically and as such there are a ton of best practices and things that we can be sure to model and use to keep our programs strong and continue to increase participation. We have seen a great amount of community support and increased attendance at our events, and it is making a huge difference for our student athletes and our sports programs over all. Please continue to come out and support our students, and bring a friend too!

5. Do you have children who presently attend Seaford Schools? If not, explain why they are at another district and how you feel you can make decisions for other students when you have chosen to send yours to another district? My son is a 2015 graduate of Seaford High School and is currently attending college.

6. What will you do to reduce the inaccurate, adverse gossips and opinions in our community about Seaford Schools? Currently, constantly, and continually I tell our story. Sharing our achievements with accuracy and truth. Seaford has a great story to tell and we are making huge strides in closing the achievement gap, improved test scores, and academic excellence as a whole. We have a diverse group of students and a hard working staff that reflects that as well. From the classroom to the building level to the district level, Seaford has some of the best folks out there, doing an amazing job educating the youth of this community. I would encourage everyone to get involved. Attend a school or district event, volunteer, mentor, come in and read to our students, a whole host of opportunities are available on a daily, weekly, and monthly schedule. Find out what our story is, that way the adverse gossip and opinions become first-hand accounts and much more accurate, and tends to eliminate simply repeating someone elses second or third hand account or opinion, of what is probably inaccurate talk more times than not.

7. How do you currently involve yourself in the community? Over the years, I have been actively involved with many of our community programs and organizations such as Nanticoke Little League, Boy Scouts of America, Seaford Parks & Recreation Department, and occasionally attend Seaford City Council meetings. Also by getting to know my neighbors and maintaining a relationship with those that live around me and in the greater Seaford area. But I would say that in more recent times, my commitment to my board service and position has taken the lions share of my available time and is where I am involved the most.

The second candidate running for the school board position is John Hanenfeld. His answers to the same questions are below.

Name: John Hanenfeld Background: Hunterdon Central High School Flemington, N.J., University of Delaware, BS, economics/football Family: Wife, Julie, faculty member Seaford School District; son, Nate, 19, college; daughter, Sophie, 15, Sussex Tech

1. Why are you running for the Seaford School Board? Give reasons and any perceived problems you would want to address if elected. When I served on the school board (20052010), many folks would approach me while I was board president with concerns, recommendations and complaints. Each time, I would encourage those individuals to RUN for a spot on the school board. No one ever did. Unopposed board elections are too commonplace. A school board can affect your tax rate, property values and job creation, so it is far too important of an election NOT to have an open public dialogue each year. I registered to run for school board so our community would have a choice and be able to raise questions and concerns during the election process versus just having one person run unopposed with no public discussion. Reasons for change: During my tenure on the school board we implemented the following:

  • a. Dress Code: This was a tenuous process and implemented during my term. This policy was abandoned and Seaford School District is the only district in Western Sussex without either a uniform or strict dress code.
  • b. Cell Phone Restrictions: There was a cell phone policy in place that specifically set limits for students during the school day.
  • c. Board Level Interviews: It was my board directive to meet and interview all finalists for administrative candidate positions.
  • d. Directive for the superintendent to reside in our district along with a doctorate degree.
Issues:
  • a. Alternative placement in district for discipline problems.
  • b. Limit staff turnover and those who leave would undergo an exit interview.
  • c. Maintain a strong substitute pool to draw from.
  • d. Professional 12 months Salary Schedule (Policy GCBA-R) established 1997 and revised 2009. I would recommend the district determines a posted salary schedule for administration to include supplemented income based on degree level and years of experience served. Current determination is based on market average which has flaws. In fact, new administrative hires earn at a same or higher compensation level of the vacated individual with years of experience and achieved degree. The market average rewards our administrative staff supplemental income without merit.
  • e. Importance and support for athletics and the arts.
  • 2. Statewide, there is concern over the financial situation of education.The State of Delaware is facing a $386 million dollar deficit. If the state makes cuts in the education budget, and funds are cut to the district would you support making cuts in what particular areas, and what would you propose cutting or eliminating or another way to save money for the district without making cuts? State mandated non-funded programs have been challenges for the district long before me. Todays leadership in Dover believes their created shortfall will be solved by those who produce (taxpayers) in our state. Many districts believing this will occur are chattering about referendums to offset the shortfall. Since the last referendum in our district under Dr. Joseph and Dr. Kevin Carson was a lopsided defeat, I would be hesitant to open discussions from the onset. I would analyze from the top down with cost saving measures to include critical accounting of spending and funding well before any decisions which will affect our classroom teachers. Many districts will threaten to take away freshmen and JV sports, art and music, teachers, after school activities and so on. Frankly, the state may have created a mess and when the final outcome hits our district, prudent well informed and EQUITABLE actions will be taken.

    3. The Seaford School District has been gaining momentum with increased test scores, increased attendance rates, and improved positive awareness of the district.How do you intend to continue this positive energy and growth during your term? Yes, it is encouraging to hear of improvements in test scores and attendance. However, I would be anxious to read the results for this year to see if this trend continues and exceeds State Standard for each grade level.

    4. There have been several groups within the Seaford area talking about how to bring Seaford Schools and Seaford Athletics back to their heyday. One of the main reasons for the discussion is the fact students leave because of perceived problems within the district. Your thoughts on how to keep students from leaving the Seaford School District due to the perception of problems within the schools and convince them to keep their children in the district? During my tenure, Sussex Academy and Sussex Technical High School were the go to schools some students fled to. What is truly surprising now, is that our neighboring districts - Woodbridge and Delmar - capture some students as well. Education is a competitive business and Seaford must be able to compete and keep our students. How to change. This is the question of the day. Seaford has dug itself a very deep hole. The only way to climb out is to stop digging. How does one do that? Student and parent accountability. Since our student population spends 89 percent of their lives outside the classroom, the home environment must participate with instilling the value of an education to their children. Hire administration who understands the past efforts of previous boards put in place and the reasons why. Hopefully, our administration will choose to live in our district and become part of our community. I would make that a talking point at each subsequent administrative hire. Bring back the pride of ownership which our district has lost over the years with competitive sport programs. Work with Seafords Parks and Recreation to rebuild our feeder programs. Hire staff with coaching/college playing experience. Rebuild our JV programs, so not to place inexperienced players on the varsity teams.

    5. Do you have children who presently attend Seaford Schools? If not, explain why they are at another district and how you feel you can make decisions for other students when you have chosen to send yours to another district?

    Both of my children attended Frederick Douglass and Seaford Middle School. My son Nate then went to Sussex Tech 20122016, and my daughter Sophie is a 10th grader there. (Proud of both of them.) Both are lacrosse players; Nate received an NCAA scholarship to play. Awhile back, I was part of the start-up lacrosse program in Seaford at the Seaford Boys and Girls Club. Unfortunately, Seaford School District chose not to adopt, leaving Seaford and Laurel the only two districts without lacrosse. Hence, the reason my children attend Sussex Tech. Now your question is how can I make a decision relevant to Seaford School District if my daughter goes to Sussex Tech? As a commercial real estate broker who recently brought redevelopment to Seafords downtown, I do appreciate and understand reasons why homeowners and businesses choose a specific market to reside. Schools, housing, health care and entertainment are always top of the list. It is easy to believe that our economy and way of life hinge on our schools success. But even as important as schools are, city leadership throughout the state has skin in the game with economic growth and how their decisions affect your schools. For example, Seafords population today nears 65 percent renters. Transient communities do play a role in school results. So to answer your question, where anyone chooses to send their children truly will have no adverse effect on how one would manage and advise the body which they serve. The stakeholders in our district are my main priority. If I truly felt otherwise, my home address would have changed long ago.

    6. What will you do to reduce the inaccurate, adverse gossips and opinions in our community about Seaford Schools? I have always believed that good bedside manners will soften the negative gossip about any one individual or organization. Public open door outreach for parents and students is critical. Casual meet and greet forums to include staff and our stakeholders without prejudice or repercussions are needed. Years back, I attempted to start a community coalition which was to engage public and private sectors, who have a direct effect on our students. This coalitions goal was to address a students challenges before they entered our schools.

    7. How do you currently involve yourself in the community? I have lived in Seaford since 1983 and been married for 25 years. I served on Seafords School Board from 20052010, three years as president. I was appointed to Seaford School Districts Community Economic Advisory Committee. I have coached each and every sport my kids have played (Seaford Parks and Recreation) to include five years at Sussex Tech coaching lacrosse. Now with my boy in college, I travel to watch him play and attend my daughters lacrosse games.

    News tips wanted
    Call us with ideas for news and features. We're always looking for good stories to share with readers. Call Bryant Richardson at 629-9788.