1. Please tell us a little about yourself (family, children, where you grew up, educational background, career path, etc).
Hello! My name is Rachel Mitchell and I am a candidate for the Upper Darby School Board. I live with my husband, Matthew, of 15 years and we have two children, both of whom attend school in the Upper Darby School District (UDSD). I grew up in New Jersey, moving to Drexel Hill 7 years ago. I hold a Bachelors of Social Work from Eastern University and a Masters of Social Work from Rutgers University and previously worked as a Social Worker focused on solving problems and advocating the best possible plan for my clients. I am now a Stay at Home Parent who manages the household and many volunteer activities at my children’s schools.
2. Why are you running for School Board?
I have a sincere desire to help Upper Darby School District continue to be a great place to raise our children and the children of this Township. A few years ago, the Red Cross Blood Drive Representative, said that the schools here are the “community”. I didn’t agree with her then, but now that my children are a little older and their world revolves around school, I can see what she meant.
As you know, the community of Upper Darby and the Upper Darby School District is under attack. Many of us have been attending the school district and school board meetings faithfully in an effort to help save our schools and community. My hope is to help rebuild our school and community. I believe the future of our children, value of our property and the strength of our community is directly impacted by good quality public schools.
Good public schools attract home buyers and raise home values, support an excellent educational platform for all schools in the area, and engage children in the community. My dream is for Upper Darby School District to continue to provide a world class education to the students it serves. I do believe there is a lot of hard work ahead and I am ready, willing and able to roll up my sleeves and make it happen.
3. What do you see as the strengths of the Upper Darby community, and separately, the School District?
The Upper Darby Community has many many strengths, from our rich diversity to our neighborhood schools and walkable neighborhoods, corner stores and public transportation.
The Upper Darby School District is the home of award winning programs, schools, programs, teams, students and faculty. As a parent in the school district I am continually impressed by our Art and Music programs from our youngest children to our high school programs. My children have had the distinct privilege of being part of both programs. These programs have stretched them as learners and I believe they are an integral part of the educational program offered in our public schools. Our high school offers a wide array of programing that appeals to all different interests.
4. What do you see as areas of concern or needed growth of the Upper Darby community, and separately, the School District?
I would like to see growth in the community in regards to thriving successful businesses and a safe and attractive retail center, community gardens and recreation. This community has so much potential and as a school board member I hope to promote community involvement within our schools and community.
Some areas of concern in the school district include safety and student achievement. The guidelines that were laid out in No Child Left Behind (NCLB) have always been a concern of mine and throughout my children’s educational career I have been questioning and researching the validity of those requirements. Both of my children are students in the Upper Darby School District, a 6th grader at DHMS and a 3rd grader at Hillcrest. Despite the requirements of NCLB I feel that my children have been receiving an excellent education. The data driven instruction is concerning at times, but I understand in these times how important it is. Unfortunately, NCLB has given our District a bad name. On this issue alone I believe we need to grow as community of learners and to promote student success.
5. Please talk briefly about what you see as three important priorities for education reform at a policy level and your position on these issues.
- I believe our most important priority in Pennsylvania is to solve the Education Funding Formula. Currently Pennsylvania is one of the least progressive states in education funding, one of three states without such formula. I believe strongly in the need for a fair funding formula and have been and will continue to advocate on the state level for such a formula.
- Special Education Funding Reforms, like House Bill 2 should be an important priority in the state. This Bill establishes a Special Education Funding Commission and is planning to work on reimbursements by the Commonwealth and between school districts, further providing for definitions; and providing for the distribution of special education funding for student achievement and instruction of eligible students and for special education accountability. I have and will continue to advocate for a funding formula that provides adequate funding for our special education population.
- School Improvement, the end to NCLB and the New Race to the Top program are concerns of mine in education reform. NCLB made state wide assessments the only way our schools were judged in the eyes of the public. NCLB did provide school improvement grants to our lowest performing schools. Race to the Top continues this reliance on test scores, but does not provide funds to the lowest achieving schools only grants to our top performing schools. I believe as a country we need to look more closely at the needs of the future of our country our children and enact common sense legislation and funding formula’s that will work to close the achievement gap for all students. There is a lot of work to be done here on a local, state and federal level.
6. Please talk about three critical issues you would like to see the School District address over the next couple of years. I would like our School District to address school safety, parental and community involvement, and a planned well rounded curriculum that meets the needs of every student in the Upper Darby School District.
7. Is there anything else you would like the voting community to know about you?
I am committed to maintaining our community’s educational excellence within fiscal constraints.
As a homeowner in the community, I will advocate for fiscally smart strategies and spending tax dollars wisely.
As a parent of two Upper Darby School District students, I will promote maintaining and strengthening a planned well-rounded curriculum focused on preparing our children for the future.
As a member of the community, I will seek to give Upper Darby stakeholders a voice by opening lines of communication and restoring confidence in the School Board and Administration.
As a school board member, I will work to support a safe and successful school environment for the children of the Upper Darby schools.
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