Brand new school welcomes new staff

Big changes around the Indian River School District (IRSD) this year — 47 new teachers in all, according to district Superintendent Lois Hobbs, and a new assistant principal at the new Indian River High School.

Mike King has stepped in as Principal Mark Steele’s second in command, after working for the IRSD for the past 14 years (since 1991) as a health and physical education teacher.

Originally from the Williamsport, Penn. area (the birthplace of Little League baseball), King attended Lock Haven University, studying “health, phys ed, recreation and dance,” he said (sports kinetics, basically — King admitted he wasn’t the greatest dancer). He earned his degree in 1986.

He remembered his early days as an “itinerant” physical education teacher, along Virginia’s eastern shore. “It’s growing now, but it was still pretty desolate at that time,” King pointed out. He worked at various somewhat dilapidated schools, several of which were condemned shortly after his time there (they were consolidated and replaced by the Kiptopeke Elementary School), and then moved to Accomack County.

He coached football, wrestling and track at Nandua High School from 1989 to 1991, before moving to the IRSD. In all, King figured he’d coached better than 40 teams during his career to date, including most recently special teams for Indian River’s own resurgent Indians football team (returning this fall as reigning champs in the Henlopen South, three years running).

Special teams don’t get a lot of play time, and so they don’t typically get much credit, but King commended them for taking their contribution seriously.

He noted the connection between physical education and solid performance in other aspects of life — the development of an ‘efficiency of motion,’ for instance, and parallels in efficient thinking and decision-making.

“Research shows that a physical fit person will be a more productive person in all aspects of their life, physically, mentally and emotionally,” he said.

“And any time you’re a member of a team — you often hear coaches refer to a ‘family,’ King pointed out. “I honestly believe one of the reasons we’re so successful at this school — in all areas — is because we’re family-oriented.

“We like to watch our kids be successful in the same way a parent likes to watch a child be successful,” he said. “We consider our student body here as part of our family — and the staff, the same way.”

King gave Band Director Mark Marvel the highest praise for his accomplishments. “Back in 91, our band was very small,” he recalled. “Now, I’ve not seen a band in the state that compares to ours. Not to say there’s not, but I haven’t seen one, and I’m a football coach.”

And he spread a few compliments elsewhere. “We have very dedicated teachers, a very dedicated staff,” he said. “Which I think all comes back to our school leader, Mark Steele.”

Perhaps the only thing he’d change would be the percentage of Indian River High School graduates who go on to college. Last year’s statistics pegged that at 60 percent — although, as King pointed out, that didn’t include the young men and women who spent a year or two in the workforce before continuing their education.

“But if it was up to me, I’d like to see that at 100 percent,” he said. “Not necessarily a four-year college, but we’re at a time in our society when education is the silver bullet.

“We try to prepare them to at least be able to make that decision, and most of them want to at least have that opportunity,” King said. “Academically, our kids are usually pretty successful in college.”

He expressed optimism that many students would pick up a little enthusiasm from their teachers.

King is replacing Duncan Smith, who has moved over to Frankford Elementary to take over for former Principal Sharon Brittingham, who retired in the spring. He noted newcomer Chris Megee as his own replacement at health and physical education (although he hoped to continue his involvement with the football team).

King said Megee had been a student teacher under his supervision, years back. The IRSD stole him away from Ocean City (Md.) Parks and Rec this year.

Other newcomers at Indian River High will include King’s very first hire as an administrator, English teacher Lisa Kay Stevens, plus Corey Raieta and Mark Moore in the biology department, John Matriccino in special education and new student advisor Orlando Kelley.

Everyone will have an opportunity to check out the brand new staff and the brand new Indian River High School at an open house on Tuesday, Aug. 30.

The address is 29772 Armory Road (Route 20), Dagsboro, and the general public is invited from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. From 7 p.m. on will be reserved for students and parents.