Website aims to increase abysmal school board election turnout in Del.

Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now has created a website that educates the public about school board candidates and aims to boost what WHYY found has been absymal turnout for board elections in recent years. (Courtesy of Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now)

Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now has created a website that educates the public about school board candidates and aims to boost what WHYY found has been absymal turnout for board elections in recent years. (Courtesy of Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now)

There are 25 seats up for grabs on Delaware’s school boards on Tuesday.

But if history is any guide, fewer than 2 percent of the eligible voters will cast ballots. That’s what WHYY found last year while analyzing five years of election results from the state’s 16 districts where the public chooses the members. Delaware’s three vocational districts have appointed boards.

Education officials knew turnout was traditionally low but many were shocked by WHYY’s findings.

The revelation led Atnreakn Alleyne, a former state Department of Education official who last year founded the Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now, to take action.

The mission of his fledgling agency is to sound a clarion call for a higher-quality education system that works for all students, especially the poor. A key part of that mission is to have high-caliber school boards.

Seeing WHYY’s findings was “really staggering,” Alleyne said this week. So he created a new website, whorunsourschools.com, in an attempt to get more residents to vote.

“I think people forget that having the right people on the board is critical to making sure we have a high-quality education system,’’ Alleyne said.

“Those school board members are making decisions about curriculum. They are looking at budgets. They are looking at the leadership of the district and deciding on the superintendent and evaluating the superintendent.”

The website includes thumbnails of every candidate on Tuesday’s ballots, and urges people to share information about candidates and their qualifications. Alleyne stresses that residents’ money and children and Delaware’s economic future are at stake.

“Think about some of our upstate districts,’’ he said. “They are managing a $250 million budget.

“So we have people who have very minimal experience with fiscal management. You might have people with very limited experience with education.”

Scrutiny and more public involvement will lead to better candidates and a better school system, he said.

“Because the bar to entry [to a school board] is so low you might have someone that either is really involved or tangentially involved, or just has a good idea they want to serve, which is a great thing we should applaud.

“But we want to make sure that they are thoroughly vetted, and that will make sure that they are taking their game up in preparation to get on this board, and also after.”

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