CHESTERTOWN — As a parent and an engaged community member, Kent County Board of Education candidate Francoise Sullivan wants to make a difference.
Sullivan is one of four candidates running for the three seats up for election this year on the school board. If elected, she will serve a four-year term.
While this is her first bid for public office, she has been in the public eye in recent years as an advocate for schools. She was a member of the district’s Strategic Planning Committee and is a cofounder of the grassroots advocacy group Support Our Schools.
A Worton resident, Sullivan and her husband have lived in Kent County for 16 years. They have two children, one attending Friendship Montessori School in Worton and the other is a third-grader at Galena Elementary School. She owns the website design company Moo Productions.
“I have kids in the school currently so I have skin in the game, as they call it,” Sullivan said. “I think that I can help. I think that I have ideas and whether or not my ideas happen, I’d like the opportunity to present them and try them. I think that I can make a difference.”
SOS launched several years ago, when the Board of Education began discussing consolidating the district’s five elementary schools to three.
Sullivan said the group initially opposed Superintendent Karen Couch’s consolidation plan that ended up going into effect last year with the closure of Millington and Worton elementary schools. She said the group changed direction as members began to learn more about the district’s financial issues.
Sullivan said that, through consolidation, the district became eligible for maintenance funding from the state that it previously did not qualify for because buildings were underpopulated.
She said consolidation also preserved educational programs SOS did not want to see dropped due to a lacking of school funding.
“Generally, the first things that will get cut when there are funding issues are the things like arts and athletics,” Sullivan said. “And we were able to maintain our programming.”
Sullivan said the work of the Strategic Planning Committee started out with some very “pie-in-the-sky” ideas, such as building a middle school on the district’s Worton campus.
While the final report the committee delivered to the Board of Education focused more on current maintenance needs, Sullivan hopes a new state-of-art school is still in the district’s future.
The Board of Education has agreed to surplus the vacant Millington Elementary School property, but Sullivan wants to see the district hold on to Worton Elementary School. She said the space could be shared with government agencies, though she is not “100 percent comfortable” with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office being one of the tenants as some have suggested.
“I do have some concerns about the sheriff’s office being there only because it is right smack dab next to our community center and parks. And so there are always going to be families and kids around, and I think about whether they (deputies) have to leave the building quickly or bring people back to the building,” Sullivan said, while noting that having a centrally located sheriff’s office is otherwise a good idea.
Sullivan said school funding and teacher recruitment are two of the biggest issues the district faces. She also wants to look into after-school programming and teaching a foreign language in elementary school.
Sullivan also wants to see the online community SOS started translate into more in-person involvement among parents. She said parents are becoming aware of what is going on in the district thanks to the increased sharing of information.
“And I feel like I want to help the decisions that are going on with the Board of Ed. My kids are young enough that we are in it for the duration. So we are here for their entire school career and if there’s something that I can do to help improve that for them and other kids in the county, I want to do what I can,” Sullivan said.
This article part of a series of interviews with the 2018 candidates for Kent County Board of Education. The primary is June 26; the general election is Nov. 6.