Indian River School District
One letter at a time, local students made history at the first Southern Sussex Rotary Third Grade Spelling Bee on Nov. 10. In all, 30 students (two per classroom) were invited to represent their elementary schools: Phillip C. Showell, Lord Baltimore, John M. Clayton and Southern Delaware School of the Arts.
First place went to Rosnell Lewis of JMC (teacher Yanira Stoker). Second place was Katelyn Wingate, and third place was Gabriel Young (both from Olivia Lein’s classroom at LB).
For years, the Southern Sussex Rotary has provided a dictionary to every third-grader in the area. This year, these books prepped students for the first annual Southern Sussex Rotary Third Grade Spelling Bee.
The evening started with words like “birthday,” “young,” “across,” “leave” and “true.” Although it was single elimination for the first round, they were allowed to restart a word after an error, since they’re younger than the usual Spelling Bee age.
An educator’s job is to support his or her students. But this month, Sussex Central High School’s student government lobbied for their staff, which is feeling the weight of a growing student population.
Student council president, senior Charlie Megginson described a recent meeting between State Rep. Ruth Briggs King and a cross-section of Sussex Central High School students.
Halloween is upon us, and no one is more excited that the children of southeastern Sussex County. The Coastal Point spoke with four youngsters at John M. Clayton Elementary School in Dagsboro this week to find out just who or what they are planning to be when they hit the streets in search of treats this weekend.
Second-grader Angelo Retzos is planning to dress up as a police officer. When asked why he wants to don the uniform of such a community superhero, he declared that “me and my friend always go trick-or-treating together and we always dress up as the same thing” — ever since they were little kids, in fact, added 7-year-old Retzos.
At the ripe old age of 10, fifth-grader Harold Toomey declared, “I don’t really trick-or-treat.”
“I’m just going to wear a mask and scare people,” he said, although he admitted that he and his scary mask might just find their way onto a front porch or two on Halloween night in search of candy. With all those years of Halloween fun behind him, Toomey said the year he was a zombie was probably his favorite.
Mail-in voting could improve elections in Delaware, according to state Sen. Karen Peterson (D-Stanton), as public discussion begins over her bill proposing mail-in ballots for school-related elections. Introduced in July, SB 165 is titled “An act to amend the Delaware Code relating to public school elections.”
The Indian River School District’s student population has unofficially hit the 10,000 mark.
The State of Delaware doesn’t take its official tally until Sept. 30, so there is still time for students to enroll or leave the district. But as of Sept. 21, the count was 10,208, which is 366 more than last year’s 9,842 students.
Board swears in new member
There are no documented reports of a drug overdose occurring in Indian River School District. And with a free donation of emergency response medicine, the district’s high schools aim to keep it that way.
The Delaware Department of Health & Social Services (DHSS) received a massive donation of 2,000 naloxone units from drug manufacturer Kaléo, based in Richmond, Va.
When a referee makes a questionable call, or the other team makes a snide remark, what does the athlete do? Just walk away? Or throw down their hockey stick and pounce?
When it comes to good sportsmanship, Sussex Central High School tries to walk the walk. That’s a step in the right direction, according to the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association (DIAA), which just awarded SCHS with its second consecutive DIAA Sportsmanship Award.
The school received its new banner from DIAA Executive Director Kevin Charles at the Aug. 24 Indian River School District school board meeting.
From a four-page application, SCHS’s submission was a portfolio 3 inches thick.
“It’s a competition against … a rigorous set of standards,” Charles said, which asks about school policy, heated rivalry games, investigations, athletic handbooks, monthly sportsmanship meetings and more.
“This program … is intended to establish a school culture where sportsmanship is the culture … so when the chips are down …we automatically respond in the Sussex Central way,” Charles said.
After 10 years with the same leadership, the Indian River School Board recently elected a new member to serve as president, as Georgetown’s James “Jim” Hudson leads the board into a new school year.
Hudson inherited the board presidency from Charles Bireley, who stepped down from that role after holding it for 15 years, including the last 10, consecutively. (Bireley, a 38-year board member, continues to represent his district on the board, having also won re-election this year.)
This June, Hudson said, he was asked to consider leading the board. The board elects its leadership positions from its own members, and Hudson was unanimously elected. Rodney Layfield remains vice president.
“I think the major goal is to address in our population growth. I think that’s going to be a major thing,” Hudson said. “We’re really growing — especially in the Georgetown, Millsboro areas. We’ve really got to tackle that; hopefully, come up with some solutions.”
Students attending Indian River High School for the first time are being invited to New Student Orientation on Thursday, Aug. 27. Parents and students meet in the auditorium at 6 p.m.
“For the next two hours, I have all the parents, and all the kids are with the assistant principals, staff members, and students,” said Principal Bennett Murray of plans for that night. “They do a scavenger hunt, learning all the different places of the school and some secrets to being successful in high school.”
The students will not only become familiar with the layout of the high school — they’ll get a chance to meet other incoming freshmen. Through team-building activities, they’ll get ready to see a few familiar faces on the first day of school.
Several schools getting new leadership
Indian River School District is getting a little shake-up in the administrations of several schools. Here are the most recent changes:
• Char Hopkins is moving from principal of John M. Clayton Elementary to become the district’s director of Leadership Development.
• Heather Cramer is moving from assistant principal at Georgetown Elementary to become principal at John M. Clayton. (The Georgetown assistant principal position is open for applications.)
• Judi Brittingham is moving from assistant principal at Sussex Central High to principal at the G.W. Carver Academy.
• Karen Oliphant is moving from assistant principal at Sussex Central High to assistant principal at the G.W. Carver Academy.
Once again, all 10 chairs on the Board of Education dais for the Indian River School District will be filled. At a special meeting on Aug. 10, the board voted to appoint Heather L. Statler, Ed.D., to the lone empty seat on the board. Statler will be sworn in at the regular school board meeting on Aug. 24, representing IRSD’s District 3 (south Millsboro and northern Dagsboro).
“I’ve lived here my entire life,” said the Indian River High School grad. “I’ve devoted my whole career to education and really care about the things that are happening in the district on many levels.”
Raised on a farm in Roxana, Statler now lives in Millsboro with her husband of nearly 20 years, Keith. Their children are slated to follow his footsteps, attending Sussex Central High School.
“We spend a lot of our time involved in the community,” including Little League and travel ball for their sons, ages 10 and 14, she noted. “We’re very devoted parents. Family brings us a lot of joy.”
But her life’s work is education.
“I think if you really want to dig into the concerns and have an impact, the school board is a great way to do that,” Statler said. “That’s where we can really facilitate changes, really understand the district.”
The Indian River School District has made a series of adjustments to its daily school schedules for the 2015-2016 school year. IRSD officials said the minor modifications are the result of the school day being extended by four minutes to compensate for possible weather-related cancellations. The daily starting and ending times for each school have changed slightly from last year.
The district will continue to utilize a tiered transportation system under which schools will be divided into “First Start” and “Second Start” categories, with different starting and ending times for each group.
The school day for “First Start” schools will run from 7:40 a.m. until 2:45 p.m. Buses will arrive at the school between 7:20 and 7:30 a.m. and depart about 2:50 p.m. Schools in that group are Sussex Central High School, Indian River High School, Georgetown Middle School, Millsboro Middle School, Selbyville Middle School, Phillip C. Showell Elementary School, North Georgetown Elementary School and East Millsboro Elementary School.
The school day for “Second Start” schools will run from 8:30 a.m. until 3:35 p.m. Buses will arrive between 8:10 and 8:20 a.m. and depart about 3:41 p.m. Schools in that group are Georgetown Elementary School, Georgetown Kindergarten Center, Lord Baltimore Elementary School, Long Neck Elementary School and John M. Clayton Elementary School.
The Indian River School District’s Board of Education has approved a balanced budget of $49,922,101 for the 2016 fiscal year. That is a slight increase, of about $400,000, from the 2015 budget, reflecting both population growth (more taxpayers) and some reduction in the overall tax rate.
More than $39 million is from locally collected taxes, and $10 million is discretionary general-fund dollars. Of the taxes collected, $311,000 were penalties from delinquent accounts, which Sussex County had worked harder to chase this fiscal year — meaning IRSD got 101.7 percent of its anticipated taxes.
This is the first year the district didn’t exceed its budget for regular substitute teachers and staff, due to better monitoring of employee hours, officials said.
The Indian River School Board has picked a parent with a finance background to join the board, filling a seat recently vacated by controversial board member Shaun Fink. Gerald “Jerry” Peden Jr. was appointed on July 27 to represent District 2 (north Millsboro and southern Georgetown).
“I take a lot of pride in the district, because both my wife and I graduated from Sussex Central High School,” he said. “My father was a longtime teacher and coach in the district.”
Peden (“PAY-den”) and his wife now have three children in the district.
The Southern Sussex Rotary Club and Hocker’s Super Center are once again teaming up to host a school supply fundraiser for the G.W. Carver Academy.
The event will take place on Sunday, Aug. 16, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Hocker’s Super Center on Route 26 in Clarksville (near the intersection of Route 17). Volunteers will be passing out lists of school supplies, such composition books, loose leaf paper, pencils, highlighters, tissues and hand sanitizer, that shoppers can purchase and then donate upon leaving the store. There will also be a cash donation jar, with the proceeds being used to purchase book bags.
Last year, this event garnered nearly $1,000 worth of supplies for GWC students.
Dana Lambert is so dedicated to teaching that she was truly stumped by the question “What would you do if you weren’t a teacher?” But this fifth-grade teacher is happy where she is, having just been named Lord Baltimore Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year for 2015-2016.
With 22 years in education, Lambert has spent three years at this grade, where classes are departmentalized. That means students rotate to different teachers, like they do at the middle school level. Lambert teaches writing daily, plus science or social studies.
“When I began teaching in ’94, I feel like you’d stand in front of them all day. … Now, it’s different,” Lambert said. “My approach to teaching is: I have to give the students the background that they need, but I have to give them the opportunity to explore for themselves.”
After winning their second straight state championship, the Lower Sussex Junior League All-Stars are headed to the regional tournament in Connecticut — that is, if they can raise enough money first.
Last year, at the Major League level, after becoming the first LSLL softball team in program history to win a state title, some of the girls’ expenses were covered when they got to Bristol, Conn., for tournament play. But this year, at the Junior League level, they’re going to need a little more help.
“Last year, all the girls’ lodging, all the girls’ meals, all the girls’ laundry was all done by Bristol — none of it is this year,” explained LSLL head coach Mike Patille. “We gotta get the girls hotel rooms; we gotta get transportation back and forth to the parks; we gotta feed them; we gotta get their uniforms laundered every day — everything is on us this year.”
Patille estimated that, including travel expenses and lodging, the team need could need to raise upwards of $10,000 to make it to regionals to battle for a chance to get to the Little League World Series in Washington.
Nina Lou Bunting is taking her lifetime of educational experience to the Delaware State Board of Education. She recently resigned her seat on Indian River School District’s Board of Education to take a spot on the state board.
“This is a prestigious honor for Nina Lou, who served on the Indian River board for 13 years,” wrote David Maull, IRSD spokesperson.
The Howard T. Ennis School was evacuated on Wednesday, July 1, due to a propane leak behind the building, the Indian River School District reported in an automated phone call.
Despite canceling scoring sections of the June 6 SAT test, the College Board reported that students would still get fairly accurate scores. As if the aptitude test weren’t stressful enough, a printing error may have affected around 1,300 Delaware students who registered for the standard SAT offered on June 6.
Student grade-point averages (GPAs) will get a bit perkier next year, but the change will actually keep them on a level playing field, according to Indian River School District officials.
Beginning this fall, grading scales will be a bit more generous at Sussex Central and Indian River high schools, after a unanimous vote June 22 by the IRSD Board of Education.
The Howard T. Ennis School was evacuated on Wednesday, July 1, due to a propane leak behind the building, the Indian River School District reported in an automated phone call.
This spring, outgoing fifth-grader Brynn McCabe was named a 2015 Carson Scholar, capping her experience at Phillip C. Showell Elementary School.
The Carson Scholars Fund awards $1,000 college scholarships to students in grades 4 to 11.
Hayden McWilliams and Griffin McCormick, students at Indian River High School, recently attended the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Seminar held at Wesley College in Dover. They joined more than 70 other young high school leaders from the region June 5-7.
Denise Adkins is sometimes blown away by her eldest vocal students at Southern Delaware School of the Arts.
“They have a great ear,” Adkins said of the students in grades 7 and 8. “You can sing a melody, and they just make up harmonies to go with it.”
Whether working with elementary students once weekly or the music majors three times weekly, SDSA’s Teacher of the Year for 2015-2016 loves when the students’ music comes together: “When the kids get really, really excited about something, and they’re surprised that they do it,” Adkins said, “and they get that great sound.”
Now in her 11th year of teaching at SDSA, Adkins spent the last decade as the vocal music teacher. Although she trained and spent 15 years in special education, her passion blossomed in music education.
Charlynne Hopkins of John M. Clayton Elementary School in Frankford has been named Delaware’s Elementary School Principal of the Year for 2015.
The announcement was made during a special assembly at the school on Friday, May 29. Hopkins was presented the award by Indian River School District officials and representatives from the Delaware Association of School Administrators (DASA).
Indian River High School recently announced its honor roll students for the third marking period in the 2014-2015 school year.
Students receiving High Honors (grades 93 to 100) were:
The Academic Challenge Program at Delaware Technical Community College’s Owens Campus recently held its annual awards ceremony for the 2014-2015 academic year.
The Indian River School District’s school board is down one member after Shaun Fink resigned last week. Fink submitted a letter of resignation to the superintendent and the board president on Wednesday, May 27, the day after Sussex Central High School’s graduation.
Graduation caps were flying before the graduation ceremony even ended at Indian River High School on May 27. The Class of 2015 held frantically onto their mortarboards as the wind gusted on an otherwise beautiful evening in the school’s football stadium.
“If somebody asked me ‘rain or wind,’ I’ll take wind any day,” Principal Bennett Murray said, beginning the 46th commencement at IRHS.
“What a group of young adults we have this evening, and we are proud of each and every one of them,” he said of the 199 grads.
Murray estimated that about 82 percent of the class will continue their education at colleges in Delaware, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Tennessee, California and more. Another 5 percent are going into the military, and 15 percent will directly enter the workforce.