IRSD board decides to hire assistant superintendent

District preps for board member appointment and elections

Date Published: 
Jan. 25, 2018

Everyone in the Indian River School District was forced to make cuts this year due to state budget cuts, and even the administration has been working with a skeleton crew. But that’s about to change, as a position for district assistant superintendent will now be reopened.

Based on student population, the district is actually eligible for two assistant superintendents, with salaries paid by a combination of state and local funding. But the IRSD Board of Education has opted to save their local money by leaving those (and other) positions open since Mark Steele was promoted to superintendent in early 2017.

It is the only administrative position the district is adding right now.

After working what he said was his toughest year of work in a 37-year career, Steele said he is happy to get a new administrator.

“We’ve made a lot of sacrifices. My four directors and I have put a ton of stuff on our plates, and we got it done,” Steele said, commending district staff for working hard, despite this year’s budget cuts. “I think [the new position] is needed. … Right now, we are maxed, timewise. Most of my days start at 6:30 in the morning.”

“Mark Steele took on an awful lot on his own,” said Board President Charles Bireley, referencing rapid school growth, a new Howard T. Ennis School building, the 2016-2018 budget crisis, district-wide energy audit, a discrimination lawsuit at G.W. Carver Academy, plus all the regular duties of district’s head honcho.

“There’s just not enough time in the day to go around — because I’m the board president, there’s just so much more I’m expected to do because of all that we need.”

Also, if Steele plans to retire soon, with 40 years of service, an assistant could potentially move smoothly into that leadership role in a few years.

Bireley told the Coastal Point he expected the job to be posted by Wednesday, Jan. 24. The IRSD will advertise primarily in Delaware, but anyone may apply, including candidates from other regions. Applicants have about two weeks to respond.

The new hire wouldn’t officially begin until July 1, when the funding is confirmed with the new fiscal year.

The IRSD Human Resources site is

Board member to be appointed

A school board vacancy may already be filled. The school board planned to meet Wednesday night, Jan. 24, just after the Coastal Point’s press deadline, to interview candidates for a board seat in District 5.

District 5 covers the southwest corner of the district, including Selbyville, Gumboro and parts of Frankford. The seat was vacated in late November of 2017, after Douglas Hudson moved outside his representative district to a nearby town. W. Scott Collins still holds the second of the district’s two seats on the board.

The board was set to interview the two women and three men who had submitted eligible applications.

Bireley said he hoped the board would also vote and swear in the new candidate that night. But as of Wednesday at noon, the official agenda only listed the candidate interviews, not action to appoint anyone.

“If we have an agreement, we can do it,” Bireley said.

The appointment will only last a few months, until June 30. After that, the remainder of Hudson’s original term (through June 30, 2019) is up for election. So, the temporary candidate would still need to file for election to serve beyond this summer.

Bireley said about 20 additional people from other parts of the district (and the whole county) had applied for the seat. Although they perhaps didn’t read the vacancy notice close enough to note it was only for “District 5” and what that district’s boundaries are, some of them could run in the regular school board election this spring, when three seats (including the one vacated by Hudson) will be up for grabs.

School board elections coming this spring

Candidates may now apply for three of the 10 school board positions. The election will be Tuesday, May 8. All terms begin July 1.

The positions and terms are:

• District 2 (northern Millsboro and southern Georgetown), currently held by Rodney M. Layfield. That term ends June 30, 2023.

• District 3 (east and west of Route 113 in south Millsboro and north Dagsboro), currently held by Leolga T. Wright. That term ends June 30, 2023.

• District 5 (Selbyville, Gumboro and parts of Frankford), currently vacant. That term ends June 30, 2019.

Any candidate must be a qualified voter in the school district, which means he or she must be 18 or older and a resident of both the state of Delaware and the school district. They must also be a resident of the IRSD district for whose seat they are running. Voters need not be registered to vote in statewide elections in order to vote in school district elections. They need only to reside inside an IRSD district with a seat being contested.

By state law, district employees may not serve on the Board of Education.

Students are not prohibited from serving on the board, apart from the age requirement.

School Board Member Candidate Filing Forms must be submitted by Friday, March 2, at 4:30 p.m. to the Department of Elections’ Sussex County Office, in person, by mail, by fax or online at

For more information, people can contact the Sussex County office at (302) 856-5367 or at 119 N. Race Street, Georgetown.

Term talks for future

Meanwhile, the IRSD will keep an eye on proposed legislation that has passed through committee but hasn’t been scheduled for a floor vote in the Delaware State Legislature.

House Bill 278 would change the term of a school board member from five years to four years. The idea is to make school board terms a more attractive length, while still giving ample time for board members to build experience.

“I think five [years] is good. I guess I’m prejudiced that way. … Running a campaign is the hardest part of being a school board member,” Birely said, regarding advertising costs. “I think everything should be consistent.”

The IRSD used five-year terms when Bireley firsts joined the board in 1974. It switched to three-year terms for many years, before IRSD joined the rest of the state, around 2013, with five-year terms again.