IRSD candidates offer final comments for May 14 election


Indian River School District is split into five voting districts. Districts 4 and 5 have contested elections in 2019.

Image Courtesy of Delaware Department of Elections

After voting on Tuesday in the district’s construction funding referendum, local residents will return to the polls once more this month — this time, for the Indian River School District’s school board elections. Polls will open on Tuesday, May 14, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Four of 10 seats on the board are up for election in 2019. The terms are five years each.

Donald G. Hattier and Scott W. Smith are competing for one seat in District 4, representing Frankford, western Dagsboro and eastern towns toward the beach.

Derek E. Cathell, W. Scott Collins and Jeffrey W. Evans will compete for two seats in District 5, representing Selbyville, Gumboro and parts of Frankford.

Heather Statler is running unopposed in District 3, representing southern Millsboro and northern Dagsboro.

Voters must be residents of the district and residents of the voting district up for election; at least 18; and a U.S. citizen. Proof of identity will be required. Property ownership is not a requirement.

Polling places will depend on election zone: District 4 residents at Indian River High School and Lord Baltimore Elementary School, and District 5 residents at Selbyville Middle School.

Absentee voting will be allowed until May 13 at noon, at the Department of Elections in Georgetown.

For more details and election maps, contact the Department of Elections, Sussex County Office at 119 N. Race Street, Georgetown. Call (302) 856-5367, fax (302) 856-5082, or visit https://electionssc.delaware.gov.

As is traditional in the issue preceding an election, the Coastal Point invited the candidates in the 2019 Board of Education elections to share their thoughts and (re)introduce themselves to the community. Jeffrey W. Evans, candidate in District 5, did not respond by the Coastal Point’s press deadline.

(Per our editorial policy, in order to give candidates the last word, the Coastal Point will not publish Letters to the Editor this week regarding the May 14 election.)

 

District 4 — Donald Hattier

Q. What impact do you hope to make as a new/returning board member?

A. We are in the middle of expanding the schools and adding capacity. Having a long understanding of what can work and what can’t is an advantage. There is a steep learning curve for state finances, and since being on the Finance Committee since 2000 I think I get most of it. Second, we are continuing to expand educational opportunities in ways that are not college-oriented and are more practical. Again, I have long understanding now of what that entails. I also hope to maintain a certain stability on the board. I am now the second longest-serving board member over an 18-year period.

I have an understanding of the institutional history of the board and the district to be able to compare what has worked, what might work and what can’t work.

Q. Besides growth, what is IRSD’s biggest challenge for the next two years, and how will you address it?

A. Attracting teachers. We are approaching a nationwide teacher shortage. Trying to get the local legislators on board with some kind of a builder/buyer impact fee that goes to future schools and even roads, for that matter. Beyond our pay grade, but needs constant follow up.

Expanding educational opportunities for non-college-bound kids. It is in all of our best interests to consider placing our graduates in the work force and being able to start work immediately in trades that we all use. These offer many job and lifelong opportunities for some of our graduates and won’t leave them in huge debt for the first five years or more of business life.

We need to prepare for the next growth wave as well. The county will not stop growing. This new building set we are aiming for covers us for a three- to five-year period once in place and, remember, that it takes three to four years to build a school once the money comes available. And then adding enough qualified teachers to handle all of those students.

We will have the issue of temporary housing for a two- to three-year period even if the referendum passes. If not, we have the challenge of adding 25 portable classrooms and trying to make them safe for all, and then still trying for new schools at some time.

This area is known for low taxes compared to New Jersey and Pennsylvania and Maryland. Plus we are known for good schools — again, compared to urban city areas for one. That is why we will continue to grow. There is an effort under way to get developers to kick in a fee of some type to help with this, but that we can suggest but may take a state law change. It would certainly be fair.

There is a move out right now to allow boards to raise taxes for schools without asking the legislators. I am opposed to this idea. Local residents should be making local decisions and we as board members have to get the right information out there. Raising someone’s taxes is not something I want board control over.

Q. What else should people know about your goals and qualifications?

A. As a long-term serving board member, my record is for all to see. I lost my first election attempt to Mr. Bireley on a Saturday and the next Monday was in the Finance Committee meeting anyway. I have not left since. From that time onwards I have learned about the school finances, curricula, staffing, buildings and grounds needs, and limitations of what board member can do and how much he or she can if they really try. To mention the short list.

I am proud of what the IR has done over the years. My children certainly benefited and are all very successful academic types as result of what was offered. All students have that opportunity. The challenge is to get them to see it as well. I have watched the district improve and develop and have been fortunate enough to be a part of that, adding some ideas and learning many new ones as well.

 

District 4 — Scott W. Smith

Q. What impact do you hope to make as a new/returning board member?

A. Being a new candidate, I hope to bring a fresh approach and thought process to the board.

Q. Besides growth, what is IRSD’s biggest challenge for the next two years, and how will you address it?

A. The biggest challenge is to try and navigate fiscal resources with growth.

Q. What else should people know about your goals and qualifications?

A. My goals will be to look at the community as a whole and learn what our responsibilities are to it as school board members.

 

District 5 — Derek Cathell

Q. What impact do you hope to make as a new/returning board member?

A. I want to continue to help keep our district moving in a positive direction. We need to focus on continuing to be fiscally responsible while still providing our students with the best education possible.

I am also very passionate about the security measures the school district has in place to ensure the safety of both out students and staff. I want to ensure that these measures stay in place and look at any ideas we can to further improve the safety and security in the district.

Q. Besides growth, what is IRSD’s biggest challenge for the next two years, and how will you address it?

A. One of the district’s biggest challenges outside of growth is the recruitment, hiring and retention of highly qualified personnel. I feel that Indian River is one of the premier districts within our state and the reason for that is our leadership at district office down through our educators in the buildings. To retain these employees, we have offer salaries that are competitive with other districts.

Q. What else should people know about your goals and qualifications?

A. As far as qualifications, I have served on the school board since January of 2018 and have learned a great deal about how the district operates from attending board meetings and different events within the district. My goal is to continue to serve on the board for the next five years and help to keep our district as one of the best in the state and provide all of our students with a great education.

 

District 5 — W. Scott Collins

Q. What impact do you hope to make as a new/returning board member?

A. I hope I can bring my experience and working knowledge of the district’s policies, procedures and personnel. I feel a sense of continuity is a good thing, especially with all of the current projects in the works.

Q. Besides growth, what is IRSD’s biggest challenge for the next two years, and how will you address it?

A. Growth is certainly the major issue, but so are recruiting and retaining good personnel — staff and teachers that can provide the services that our diverse student population needs.

Q. What else should people know about your goals and qualifications?

A. I am a lifelong citizen of Sussex County, I have raised my family here, and all of my children either are attending or have graduated from the Indian River High School, just as I did. I have worked to serve my community for many years, professionally with the town of Selbyville for over 25 years, and as a volunteer with the Selbyville Fire Co., and in several area youth sports programs.

I feel my training and experience with law enforcement, emergency services and community outreach offers an outside view and, hopefully, a common-sense approach to decision making. Likewise, my experience working with the State legislature and other legislative bodies can be useful when working to find additional funding or when dealing with possible State-mandated requirements.

 

By Laura Walter

Staff Reporter