By MADDY VITALE
Catherine Panico, of Ocean City, is a business owner in the community and married mother of four.
She is also a certified teacher who would like to see more transparency on the Board of Education.
Panico, 50, is running in the Nov. 2 election. There are 11 candidates vying for three, three-year seats.
How long have you lived in Ocean City?
We have lived in Ocean City for over 9 years. We relocated to Ocean City specifically for the good schools.
Do you have children in the district or were they in the district?
We have two daughters that graduated from Ocean City High School and are now in college. We have an eighth-grader at the Intermediate School and a senior at the High School.
What is your role and your husband’s role in the business community?
My husband, William Huntley Panico, DMD, and I expanded our family dental practice in Ocean City, (panicodental.com) in 2019. We were approached by Dr. Albert Porreca, a trusted professional who’s been an integral part of the community, to take over his practice and care for his patients. We are thrilled to be in Ocean City, to make a positive impact and connect with members of the community.
Why are you running for School Board?
Transparency, accountability and to build cohesion. I would like to provide a voice for stakeholders. Research shows that communication between schools and parents is necessary for student success.
Too often, parents feel left out of the equation. Taxpayers also would like to know how their dollars are being spent. Schools were once a source of pride and collaboration which took advantage of all that our community has to offer.
Now, it seems like decisions are made behind closed doors and communicated in a way that those who aren’t in education do not understand. Things like budget, how the resources are allocated as well as curriculum design all need to be communicated publicly. I want to provide accountability and oversight.
Our children do not have lobbyists or unions to push their agenda. They have parents and caregivers who want to be partners in their children’s education.
An effective curriculum needs to ensure that all students have the opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the standards set by the state and align with Ocean City’s educational standards.
This should be a priority and it should be free from political bias. We need to build cohesion between board members, parents and community. I think this is one of the most important things that we need to do as a community.
Ocean City is a special place and a great place to raise a family. We need to unify to get things done in the best interest of these kids. We need to work together to ensure that all of our children’s needs are being met and we are setting them up for success.
What do you hope to do if elected and what do you think is working/not working currently on the board?
I feel there is a lack of transparency, communication and unity between the board members and the community at large.
According to the National Education Association, “when schools, parents, families and communities work together to support learning, students tend to earn higher grades, attend school more regularly, stay in school longer and enroll in higher level programs.” (May 6, 2016).
Personally, I think money matters should also be public and displayed for stakeholders to see.
If elected, I will keep the curriculum aligned with the values in our community, while abiding by state mandates. I will make sure money is spent wisely and kids are given a strong foundation.
For instance, what can we do with the resources that we already have to improve our graduation rate and the number of students that attend college?
What would you like to change/achieve, new programs, different way of handling the COVID pandemic?
The pandemic changed the way we think about education, including the role of technology and remote learning. It has expanded access for students and provided a window into the classroom for the parents. There are some things that the school system did well, including expanded access to college credits and some things that we need to work on as a district.
One thing is certain, the goal is to work together and collaborate with parents and the community to provide a path forward for these kids. For example, meaningful career experiences can be fostered by developing relationships with community businesses.
Additionally, we need to bridge the gap in our community outreach through technology, arts and history in an effort to restore respect for one another.
Have you held office before or do you have anything else in your background that you believe lends itself to being a board member? Do you work or have you worked in the education field?
I am a certified physical education teacher for grades K-12 and have spent my entire adult life working with kids. I have coached, taught and volunteered in many capacities and still teach religious education, primarily to middle schoolers preparing for confirmation.
I am also a small business owner and a mother of four. Soon, I hope to be a member of the Ocean City Board of Education.
Do you feel that being a business owner in the community, as well as a resident, creates more of an interest in making Ocean City a better place for the students, parents and the business community as a whole?
Absolutely! Good, effective schools empower students, strengthen educators and improve the community. I have met so many people that aspire to make Ocean City a better place for all. We are united on that front and perhaps that is why so many are running for the Board of Education.
Support my candidacy by sharing this on Facebook and voting for me on Nov. 2.
Here is the list of candidates confirmed by the school district Thursday, for the Nov. 2 election:
Dale F. Braun Jr.
Henry (Disston) Vanderslice
Three incumbents, H. James Bauer, Jacqueline McAlister and Suzanne Morgan, are seeking reelection.