School board elections for District 5 set for May 13

Date Published: 
May 9, 2014

Elections for District 5 seats on the Indian River School District’s School Board are set for Tuesday, May 13. Three candidates are vying for two seats: incumbents W. Scott Collins and Doug Hudson, and challenger Bobbi Barends.

Terms begin on July 1 and now last five years. There is no contest this year for Nina R. Bunting in District 3 (Millsboro area) and Donald Hattier in District 4 (Millville, Bethany Beach and Fenwick), who will both keep their seats.

Polls will open at Selbyville Middle School from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. for District 5 residents only.

District 5 covers most areas west of Route 20 and south of Nine Foot Road, including western Roxana, unincorporated Frankford, Selbyville and Gumboro. The IRSD district maps can be found online at http://electionssc.delaware.gov, by clicking “School District Maps.”

Proof of voters’ identity will be required at the polls. Voters must be bona fide residents of Indian River School District, United States citizens and at least 18 years old.

May 12 at noon is the deadline to vote in person by absentee ballot at the Department of Elections office.

For more information, contact the Sussex County Department of Elections at 119 North Race Street in Georgetown; call (302) 856-5367; or visit www.electionssc.delaware.gov.

The candidates in the District 5 race were asked to respond to a series of questions from the Coastal Point, designed to help readers make an informed decision at the polls on Tuesday. Here are their replies, in alphabetical order.

Bobbi Barends

Q. How are you qualified for this position?

A. As a parent of a 2013 IRHS graduate and current eighth-grader at SDSA, I believe that I understand many of the current strengths and needs of our district and am focused on improving the educational experience for all of our children. My experience as a school-based occupational therapist provided me the opportunity to work with children with special needs and their teachers to ensure the success of these students. From this experience, I learned that all students can be successful, if provided the right learning environment/supports.

As a Community College educator and administrator, I understand the importance of college and career readiness, budgeting, supporting faculty and staff and focusing on student success. Lastly, as a former school board member for Lower Dauphin School District, I understand the roles and responsibilities of a board member and the importance of maintaining transparency and clear communication with all stakeholders.

Q. What do you feel is the most important issue for the IRSD, and what will you do to address it?

A. Expanding pathway opportunities for our students so that when they graduate they are career- and/or college-ready is an area of critical need. Ideally, this should start in elementary school. As a member of the board, I will encourage and support the IRSD administration/faculty/staff in identifying promising/best practices related to pathway development and implementation in other districts within our state and in neighboring states, for implementation within our own district. I will support funding of such initiatives. Creating additional pathways will require the district to make data-driven decisions about new and existing programs.

Q. With all the work on school security, should the IRSD shift focus to preventing incidents in bullying and other mental/emotional health issues?

A. We must continue to focus on school security to ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff. However, school security is more than just secured entrances and background checks for those who work with our students. School security must include prevention of bullying and addressing mental/emotional issues with our students and staff. Although our district does provide some preventative programs and supports in the areas of bullying and mental health issues, more can and should be done to ensure that our students have an optimal learning environment for their education.

Q. How do you think the IRSD should address retention and recruiting?

A. The district needs to determine why students are choosing other districts/schools over Indian River School District. Once we have data that provides us information about the “why,” we, as a district, will be able to take a closer look at the gaps in what attracted the student/family to the other district/school and what we offer to our students at Indian River School District.

For example, if the gap is related to specific career pathways or academic offerings, then the district needs to evaluate the need to and feasibility of implementing new pathways and offerings to support these students within our district, so that they do not leave our district.

Q. Do you see another magnet school for arts or STEM in the future?

A. I believe that there are ways that we, as a district, can effectively incorporate the arts and STEM education into our existing schools within our district. As a board member, I would need to understand the rationale for the need to teach these areas to a select few in a magnet school environment prior to considering this path forward.

Q. Why do you want to be part of the IRSD school board?

A. I am passionate about and dedicated to education. I hope to use my prior and current experiences to support growth and change within our district.

W. Scott Collins

Q. How are you qualified for this position?

A. The job of the school board is to set policy and support the education system and staff. I have extensive experience with policy writing, due to my current occupation, and my work with legislative issues is certainly helpful when promoting educational initiatives at the State level.

I have long history with the district, as a student, as an athletic coach, as a parent of three students currently in the district and as a spouse of a teacher.

Q. What do you feel is the most important issue for the IRSD, and what will you do to address it?

A. The issue of Common Core Standards implementation, and the sustainment of programs initially funded by the Race to the Top grant, are two of the top attention-getting issues. I strongly feel that the communications between the board and the public, and the district as a whole, and the parents/guardians of our students needs to be more open.

Q. With all the work on school security, should the IRSD shift focus to preventing incidents in bullying and other mental/emotional health issues?

A. Not only should we, but we are mandated by the State to do so. Bullying not only affects the school climate but can have tragic effects on students and families. For many students, a school is a place of consistency and normalcy, where they can escape from other issues, and we need to continue to strive to keep our children safe from both the outside threats, as well as those within the school.

Q. How do you think the IRSD should address retention and recruiting?

A. I like the track we have been taking in recruiting staff, showing the incredible area in which we live, the programs we have in place for the students and the work we are doing to provide exceptional educational facilities.

I also support our efforts to keep and retain our local students within the district. The district provides some exceptional programs for both those students that may be struggling and those students that are excelling. We need to keep our students in the Indian River School District.

Q. Do you see another magnet school for arts or STEM in the future?

A. I do not see another district-supported magnet school in the near future. I see the STEM programs growing within the middle schools and in the high schools’ career pathways.

Q. Why do you want to be part of the IRSD school board?

A. I have always worked to support my community, both professionally and as a volunteer. I feel my education, training and experience can provide a positive, supportive and somewhat unique perspective to the board.

I am very proud of the area in which we live. I am proud of the District which I attended. I am proud of the number of alumni that are employed within the district, serving the community which we have always been part of.

Doug Hudson

Q. How are you qualified for this position?

A. I have served on the board for three years. I have been a director for the Delaware School Board Association and served on several school board committees during my past term. I have been extensively involved in training and educational opportunities to improve my skills and knowledge. I have a degree in construction management and have worked in construction areas for 30 years. I would like to offer input on the construction of our new classroom additions and Building & Grounds issues that confront our schools.

Q. What do you feel is the most important issue for the IRSD, and what will you do to address it?

A. Present: Overcrowding in our buildings. Growth in our area is not slowing, and it is an issue that’s not going to go away. As a member of the board, I will be diligent ensuring taxpayer dollars are used wisely and put toward expansion projects as promised during the referendum.

Future: Common Core is being mandated by the State, and we are aware our students are going to take state/national assessments based on Common Core, but I want to do it the IRSD way, by taking a more conservative approach. It’s the board’s job to approve curriculum, and I want to be involved in this process.

Q. With all the work done on school security, should the IRSD shift focus to preventing incidents in bullying and other mental/emotional health issues?

A. I do not necessarily advocate a shift in focus, but rather a dual focus on school safety and prevention of violence in school. We already have programs and policies in place to help prevent bullying. School administration, counselors and mental health professionals are constantly working to improve our programs to meet needs of students, and I will continue to give them my full support.

Q. How do you think the IRSD should address retention and recruiting?

A. We already do extensive recruiting. Our director of personnel attended 17 different college job fairs last year. We utilize our national online application system, as well as Department of Education website. We have a high retention rate, which I believe comes from a competitive salary and benefits package, our new teacher training, in-service days and assigning a teacher mentor for all of our new teachers. We promote a safe and supportive work place and hire our local graduates for para and teacher jobs.

Q. Do you see another magnet school for arts or STEM in the future?

A. Not at this time. With overcrowding in our district, we don’t have space available for separate schools. I do support programs within our buildings that act almost as schools within schools — example: STEM at Indian River, STEM at Selbyville Middle, Centre for Performing Arts and International Baccalaureate at Sussex Central. I’m in full support of the Southern Delaware School of the Arts.

Q. Why do you want to be part of the IRSD school board?

A. As a stakeholder in the community, I have experience as a student, parent and grandparent of the Indian River School District and understand the community’s concerns. Our district is in great shape financially and one of the top districts in the state; however, we must always strive to be better academically, better in the arts, better athletically. We must make continual improvements and never be satisfied with the status quo.