Connie Pryor IRSD candidate

Connie Pryor is vying for a seat on the Indian River School Board after a lifetime as an IRSD student, employee and parent.

After a lifetime with Indian River School District, Constance T. “Connie” Pryor of Millville feels she has much to offer. She is one of two candidates for the July 21 IRSD Board of Education in voting District 4.

“I’ve been a student, I’ve been an employee, and I’ve been a parent of the district, and I feel like I know something about all of it,” Pryor said. “I know the day-in and day-out workings of the district, I know what goes in the schools. I’m not afraid to speak up, everybody knows that and I think I could represent the people of this area very well.”

There were four IRSD seats up for reelection in 2020, but the only contested election is in District 4 (covering parts of Frankford, Dagsboro, Millville, Ocean View, Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island). As longtime board member Charles Bireley retires, Connie Pryor and Gregory “Greg” Goldman are vying for the seat. The five-year term begins in August.

She was a longtime school secretary who started in 1991 at the IRSD central administrative office in Roxana, spent seven years at Selbyville Middle School and eventually retired from Philip C. Showell Elementary School. Pryor also became a leader in the employees’ union.

She’s running for school board because she wants the best for both students and employees.

As for implementing new ideas at the board level, “I’m not going to make any promises because it takes the whole board [to make decisions]. I just think that I can represent the employees well and that things are done fair.”

As an elected official, “I would answer my phone at any time. I understand everybody has an issue. Whether they have kids are an employee of the district, …I would hear them out. I think that’s the first step — to listen to your constituents.”

She hopes the public would feel comfortable coming to her. She’s used to taking such calls after nine years as vice president of the secretaries’ unit of the teachers’ union (Indian River Educational Association).

Pryor also feels district proceedings could be “a little more transparent. I think transparency is key,” from board members speaking audibly into their microphones, to which topics are discussed in executive session, to constituents feeling comfortable enough to speak their mind. “I just think that’s it very hard for people to express their opinion at board meetings … I think the public should feel that the board should be more accessible than they feel right now.”

So, “If they want their voice heard, I’m the person that can do it. I will certainly be glad to listen to anyone, and I will take their concerns anywhere it needs to go,” she said. “I’m not afraid to call other people, like legislators and stuff. If you don’t call them, they don’t know that you’re concerned. You need to stay in touch.”

Besides being a student mentor at PCS, she also served on the school’s safety team. Pryor complimented the district’s school safety plans and early hiring of safety monitors/constables for each building.

“They do a good job, but it’s something they need to be working on all the time because things change so quickly … I know it’s an expensive thing to do, but it’s not too expensive to save somebody’s life,” Pryor said. “When I started there, the doors were open, but things have changed, when you’re in the front office, you’re the first person” a potential intruder might see.

That’s why Pryor says the campus safety monitors a “money well spent” in making the students and front office staff feel safe.

She also believes in keeping a close eye on district finances.

Originally from Ocean View, she graduated from Indian River High School and earned an associate’s degree at Delaware Technical Community College in secretarial technology, although “sometimes I think that common sense is as good as all kinds of degrees.”

She also raised two children through the IRSD system, and she now volunteers with the Ladies’ Auxiliary of Millville Volunteer Fire Company.

Newly retired one year ago, she used to joke about joining the board, and people have begun taking her up on it.

“I’ve seen things that were done and how they need to be done,” she said. “We’ve had [board members] on the business end and now I think we need someone who knows the employee end … because if you have happy employees then they do a better job.”

A lot has changed since Pryor first interviewed with Coastal Point in March. Since then, schools were closed, Delaware entered a State of Emergency for the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and nationwide demonstrations, protests and riots were spurred by the killing of George Floyd during an arrest in Minneapolis.

Pryor followed up on these safety issues via email. Regarding the pandemic, “I feel that students should be back in school as soon as it is safe. The school board/district will follow the direction of the governor and the Delaware Department of Education.”

Regarding social unrest and the Black Lives Matter movement, “Our district is non-discriminatory. Therefore I don’t feel BLM is an issue for the school board election.”

The school board election will be Tuesday, July 21, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Indian River High School and Lord Baltimore Elementary School.

Voter registration is not required for school elections. Voters must be a resident of IRSD, District 4; a U.S. citizen; and age 18 years or older on Election Day. Proof of identity and proof of residence will be required.

Safety precautions will be used due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. During the current State of Emergency, voters are permitted to vote by absentee for the reason: “I am sick, or physically disabled,” including those who are practicing self-quarantining or social distancing for COVID-19.

Voting absentee is a two-part process that can take several days, so people should begin the process early. Affidavits must be submitted before absentee ballots will be mailed out. Details are available by calling Sussex County Department of Elections at (302) 856-5367 or online at https://electionssc.delaware.gov/school_absentee.shtml.

School district maps, calendars, eligibility rules and candidate lists are also online.

People can also vote absentee at Sussex County Department of Elections at 119 North Race Street, Georgetown.

Staff Reporter

Laura Walter is an award-winning reporter on schools, environment, people and history. A graduate of Indian River High School and Washington College, she has rappelled off a building and assisted a magician, and encourages readers to act on local issues.