DeMilta: Candidate pushes for more parent power in schools

Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2001

Michele DeMilta said the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District lets problems slide, and she wants to get on the school board to fix them.

Teachers and administrators are not listening to parents, and the district needs serious change, she said.

Her background as a business consultant, a former director of the Kenai Peninsula Better Business Bureau and now as organizer of the SPCA of the Kenai Peninsula Inc., an animal welfare group, prepared her to work as a trouble-shooter for the public, she said.

"I handled hundreds and hundreds of complaints," she said. "I don't believe in letting things get pushed off to the side."

DeMilta and her friend, Linda Reynolds, were inspired to run by people's stories of problems with the district and their frustrations in trying to resolve them. DeMilta's own frustrations drove her to turn to home schooling, although she now has a daughter in elementary school, too.

"I believe they have really lost sight of what public education is about," she said.

"I am tired of the same old scenario. ... Nothing ever gets changed."

The district has some wonderful teachers, but it lacks effective ways to weed out problem employees, she said.

It needs to give parents more power in disputes and to make teachers prove their worth. She favors giving teachers competency tests, analogous to the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam the state is requiring of students.

"I guarantee half of them are going to fail with flying colors," she said of the teachers.

DeMilta criticized the schools for dealing with matters she feels are better left to families, such as sex education.

She cited horror stories of callous treatment of ill or injured students and said parents feel it is futile to get involved in organizations such as the PTA or to approach the school board because district employees dominate those bodies at the parents' expense.

DeMilta said she has attended several school board meetings and hearings over the years, although none recently. She was there to work on situations where families had problems with school employees, and the results disappointed her.

The district and its teachers do not need more funding, but need to use the resources they have better and give parents more control, she said.

DeMilta expressed concern about potential cuts in services to students and also about potential government requirements for home schoolers. The district is trying to force families to bring their children back to school, she said.

"I see more and more families home schooling," she said.

"They already took vouchers away from us. ... They need to back off the home schoolers. ...

"The home schoolers outnumber the teachers and the administrators. ... We are not going to allow the district to take our home-school rights away from us."

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