IR school board candidates have their final say


Residents get to help decide the future of the Indian River School District this month, as the IRSD school board election will be held Tuesday, May 8, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Only two of the district’s five geographic voting districts have contested seats for 2018. Three of the school board’s 10 seats were up for election this year.

Candidates Dana Probert and Leolga T. Wright are competing to serve a five-year term representing District 3, which includes south Millsboro and north Dagsboro on both sides of Route 113. The District 3 polling locations are East Millsboro Elementary School at 29346 Iron Branch Road and Long Neck Elementary School at 26064 School Road.

Candidates Derek E. Cathell and Carla M. Ziegler hope to represent Selbyville, Gumboro and parts of Frankford. (Jeffrey W. Evans has withdrawn from the race.) In District 5, the winning candidate will just serve one year, finishing the full term for another board member who had moved away this winter. The District 5 polling location is Selbyville Middle School at 80 Bethany Road.

Board Vice President Rodney M. Layfield will automatically serve a five-year term, as there were no challengers for his seat representing District 2 (northern Millsboro and southern Georgetown).

All terms begin on July 1. Board member terms are staggered, so the second representative seat in each of the districts will be up for election in 2019.

Residents do not need to register to vote. Eligible voters must be 18 or older; a U.S. citizen; a Delaware citizen; and a resident of the voting district for which they’re casting a ballot. Proof of identity is required in order to vote.

Absentee voting will be permitted at the Department of Elections until noon on Monday, May 7. For more information, email absenteesc@state.de.us, call (302) 856-5367) or visit Department of Elections Sussex County Office, 119 N. Race Street, Georgetown.

All election details are online at https://electionssc.delaware.gov/school_absentee.shtml.

Editor’s note: Per our longstanding policy, in order to give candidates the last word before the election, Coastal Point is not publishing letters-to-the-editor regarding the IRSD election in this issue. Following are the question-and-answer series the candidates agreed to take part in, featuring District 3 candidates first, in alphabetical order:

 

District 3

Dana Probert

Q. How are you qualified for this position?

A. First and foremost, I am qualified to become a member of the school board because I care deeply about the future of our community and the role that education plays in ensuring that future. Our area needs educated young people for a sustainable future. We will always need small-business owners, skilled tradespeople, medical professionals, educators, caregivers and more. Through my work as an engineer and businesswoman, I have developed skills in analyzing the returns from an investment. A big part of our job as the school board is to ensure that the public is receiving solid returns for their tax investment.

Q. What is your perception of the board’s relationship with the public? How would you personally improve public relations and garner public support for a likely upcoming referendum for capital building projects?

A. On the whole, the current school board is perceived as being out of touch with the day-to-day challenges faced by teachers, staff, students and parents. While most meetings are open to the public, many residents feel the board is unapproachable and lacks transparency.

I believe that school board members should immerse themselves into Indian River School District culture as much as possible. I am currently working on developing relationships with all of the principals and teachers in District 3 schools, and I will work to expand that to all of IRSD. I will continue to visit schools, classrooms, special events and PTO meetings. I have had good success using social media as a communication tool in the past.

I’d like to work with the board and my constituents to find a platform that helps busy people stay informed. We’d also include some ways to foster constructive conversation and a two-way dialog between board members and the public.

As the capital building projects develop, it will become even more important to involve the public. Many residents of the school district are juggling work, children, elder-care, volunteer responsibilities and more. It is not always possible for folks to drop everything and come to a workshop or board meeting. Without some sort of virtual portal, we are missing out on many opportunities to gather feedback and tap into the creative ideas of our residents.

Q. What other issues do you hope to address? What new initiatives would you like to bring to the table if elected?

A. As far as issues I’d hope to address, I’d like to see the school district and school board do a better job of clearly defining success. What types of outcomes are we looking for, and what are the most effective ways to drive those outcomes?

As a school board member, I will be relentless on the subject of success metrics and return on investment. I believe strongly in evidence-based decision-making. It is not enough that something “seems” effective — let’s dig in and see what has been proven to work. I’m interested in learning more about what the community sees as issues and then working to find solutions.

I’d like to find creative ways to balance school choice between our elementary and middle schools as a way to help both improve outcomes and make the best use of our current school buildings. I’d like to improve the outcomes and perceptions of our middle and high schools to keep more IRSD students in-district. I am passionate about STEM education, skilled trade education and hands-on learning. I will work to strengthen and expand current programs that have proven results.

Q. What else would you like to tell voters before Election Day?

A. My husband and I settled down in this area because we loved the small-town feel, rural setting and low taxes. We certainly want to ensure that our three school-aged children have a quality education, but any investment in our schools should be done carefully. I am not interested in simply throwing money at problems. Let’s work together to ensure the entire community is seeing measurable results from your tax dollars.

 

Leolga T. Wright

Q. How are you qualified for this position?

A. I have been a member of the IRSD Board of Education for six years. In those six years, I have gained a wealth of knowledge into the operations of the district with regards to finances, student enrollment and various requirements that are issued by the Delaware State Board of Education.

Q. What is your perception of the board’s relationship with the public? How would you personally improve public relations and garner public support for a likely upcoming referendum for capital building projects?

A. Mr. Mark Steele has done a commendable job in keeping the public abreast of various issues, i.e., our financial situations, the past referendum and the concerns of our overcrowding within some of our schools. Transparency and honesty is key to garnering public support. We will need to be able to sit down with parents, organizations and other stakeholders and listen to their ideas and concerns.

Q. What other issues do you hope to address? What new initiatives would you like to bring to the table if elected?

A. We continue to have difficulty is getting bus drivers, resulting in some buses picking up students at different times.  While I have no really new initiatives, I would like to see us continue to address the needs of all of our students and afford them an environment conducive to learning.

Q. What else would you like to tell voters before Election Day?

A. I hope I can get the support to be re-elected, and I will always make myself available to discuss any concerns one might have with the IRSD.

 

District 5

Derek E. Cathell

Q. How are you qualified for this position?

A. Some of the qualities I feel that I bring to the board are common sense, a true concern for the best interests of both our students and employees, and some leadership qualities that I have developed from serving with the Delaware State Police for the last 20-plus years. I also realize that I don’t have the answer to all the issues that arise in the school district and am always eager to hear what other board members, school administration and the public we serve have to offer.

Q. What is your perception of the board’s relationship with the public? How would you personally improve public relations and garner public support for a likely upcoming referendum for capital building projects?

A. I feel that the relationship is improving and, to continue to do so, I think the board and the district as a whole need to maintain a transparent relationship with the public with all decisions that we make.

Q. What other issues do you hope to address? What new initiatives would you like to bring to the table if elected?

A. I feel we need to continue to address the issues we have with the growth in the district and try to provide the best solutions possible to handle the growth. I also want to ensure that the district continues to maintain our safety measures we have in place as far as our constables and school resource officers. The safety of the children we are entrusted to educate is one of my top priorities.

Q. What else would you like to tell voters before Election Day?

A. I care about our district and its students. My children attend schools in the district, and my wife is employed by the district, so decisions we make as a district affect my household. It has been a pleasure to serve on the board since January of this year. I have really enjoyed my time on the board and have learned a great deal about the operations of the district. I hope to get the opportunity to serve on the board for another year and do the best job I can do for the Indian River School District.

 

Carla M. Ziegler

Q. How are you qualified for this position?

A. Occupation: owner/operator Traveling Tutorz; owner/operator Carla Ziegler Multi-family Homeschool; teacher in the Delaware Public School System for 16 years (5th, 6th and 8th grade) Certified Reading Specialist. My undergrad is in education and my master’s is in reading. I am currently DOE-certified in Reading K-12, Primary K-4, Elementary K-6, Exceptional Children K-12, Middle Level English 6-8, Teacher of Middle Grades 5-8 and Teacher of Social Studies 6-8.

Because I tutor in the district, as well as in other districts, I have a knowledge of the current benchmarks and curriculum still being used in the district. Throughout my teaching career I have participated within the district, and on the state and federal level in regard to curriculum writing as well as benchmark and assessment alignment with the prior state standards and now the common core standards.

I was a member of the Smarter Balanced Consortium Committee in which we vetted assessments, curriculum, teacher development workshops that were submitted throughout the nation. This participation was for the ongoing development and operation of the assessment system. We worked together with other national experts to ensure the assessments accurately measure student progress and growth toward college and career readiness.

Q. What is your perception of the board’s relationship with the public? How would you personally improve public relations and garner public support for a likely upcoming referendum for capital building projects?

A. We need to continue to increase voter trust in the superintendent, as well as the school board, administrators, and teachers and staff.

The Mission of the Indian River School District is to assure that students attain the knowledge, skills, and attitudes, needed to realize their potential, meet the challenges of their life choices, and fulfill their responsibilities as citizens of the State of Delaware, United States and world through a partnership of students, parents, staff, administrators, Board of Education and community.

We need to utilize a variety of media and perform a survey process to find out how our community feels we are doing regarding this Mission. We need to find out what the specific gaps are with our community and the district. We need to listen empathetically to the needs of the concerned parents and students regarding the curriculum we use to teach the common core standards. I would personally help to initiate these.

Q. What other issues do you hope to address?

A. Teachers “packing” guns.

Q. What new initiatives would you like to bring to the table if elected?

A. Curriculum modifications.

Q. What else would you like to tell voters before Election Day?

A. I am not interested in becoming a board member for my own self-gratification or any “free” handouts or advantages for my own children, as they are not in the school district. There is no monetary gain in becoming a board member as I am quite happy in my current educational career.

So, what is it? It is clear it is to be an empathetic and inspirational advocate for students, parents and teachers. It is an un-wavering volunteer service on how I can give back to my community.

Let us get involved again!

By Coastal Point staff