School board hopefuls know the system, fighting for education

Dianne Heath, of Warwick, is running for Cecil Public School board for the District 1 seat, which represents the Elkton area south of U.S. Route 40 and all of the southern county.

WARWICK — Dianne Heath, a mother of three Bohemia Manor High School graduates and one current student with a professional background in business, is running to represent District 1 on the Cecil County Public Schools (CCPS) Board of Education.

Heath, who grew up in the county and graduated from Elkton High School, said her experience as a CCPS parent has given her first hand experience with the challenges facing the district. She hopes to join the board to help students follow their own paths and succeed.

“We need to make sure that all our kids have the opportunity to get a good education, no matter what path they choose in life — whether they want to go to college, whether they want to do a trade,” Heath said. “Every child should have the opportunity to get to where they want to be, and we need to help them do that.”

As a parent and now aspiring member, Heath tuned in to CCPS Board of Education meetings, joined the board’s Citizens Advisory Committee and has participated in parent associations to bring the perspectives of her community to the district.

This work has helped her get to know the current board members and district administrators.

“If I do get elected, I can just hit the ground running,” she said. “As a school board, we need to look at each child and find out what we can do best for that child. Every child learns differently, and we need to make sure that all our students have access to the best education possible.”

After Heath kicked off her campaign, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the normal business of the board. With CCPS bringing students back at 25 percent capacity starting this week, some parents want schools to bring more students back sooner, while others prefer a more cautious strategy.

She acknowledged the challenges facing administrators and teachers, and applauded them for doing their best to meet the moment.

“There’s been bumps in the road, and there’s going to be even more as we transition back to face-to-face. But overall, it’s pretty impressive, with the timeframe the school has had, what they’ve done,” she said. “We need to get back to face-to-face, because students learn better that way, and teachers are most comfortable and probably most effective in teaching that way.”

While she hopes more students will be back in classrooms soon, she said she is sensitive to the valid health concerns of a number of families. Reopening, she emphasized, should follow state and federal safety guidelines.

For Heath, the pandemic has presented new opportunities to integrate technology into the classroom in unique ways. She encouraged educators around the district to think about how to continue using their new tech skills even after returning to in-person instruction.

“I’m really proud of how our school system has adapted this whole new learning style,” she said. “We’ve learned to use some new technology. Let’s not let that go.”

She also said she’s seen the district’s communication improve as it connects regularly with families to make sure students are getting the support they need.

“I used to feel like communication was something we didn’t do that well,” she said. “The pandemic has actually helped us to really make sure that we’re communicating well, so I think that would be one thing that we just need to continue to do an even better job of.”

Heath, who was endorsed by the Cecil County Classroom Teachers Association, said that her approach to the board will build on lessons she learned as a coach for Bohemia Manor High School’s softball team.

“As a coach, you have to really get to know each player, what’s important to each person, how everybody works and how to get the most out of everybody,” she said. “That’s how you build a successful team.”

For Heath, it’s important that the board prioritize the individual health and welfare of students and teachers to make sure they get the most out of the classroom. Now more than ever amid the pandemic, she said it was important to make sure they have what they need to navigate the school year safely and confidently.

“Our teachers and our support staff need to feel supported,” she said. “As a school board, we need to make sure that they’re feeling supported and valued, and that they have the resources in their classroom that they need.”

Dianne Heath is running to represent District 1 on the Cecil County Public Schools Board of Education. Her opponent, Sam Davis, did not respond to multiple requests for an interview.

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