Voters pick school board leaders in First State Tuesday


Overhaul and tweaking of curriculum, school safety and security and addressing the shortage of teachers were among the issues on the minds of voters as they went to the polls Tuesday in board of education elections in the First State. 

Of the 11 school districts in Kent and Sussex Counties, voters decided the winners in only the eight districts with contested races. 

In alphabetical order, Caesar Rodney, Cape Henlopen, Delmar, Indian River, Laurel, Milford, Seaford, and Smyrna had contests on Tuesday.

“And they truly need more teachers, No. 1. And they need more pay, the teachers do — for the job that they have to do each day with those children. That’s my major concern,” said Millsboro resident Cora Turner, who voted in the Indian River School District’s election. “I have a family member who teaches, and the pay doesn’t live up to what she has to go through.”

One resident who cast her ballot at Georgetown Elementary School prioritizes curriculum, saying schools need to “be teaching the right stuff. They (students) are falling behind and we need to get them back on track.”

Before casting her vote in Seaford’s three-candidate race, Wanda Bacon said her priority issues are school safety and security, parental rights, and access to resources so all students have an equal opportunity to achieve.  

School discipline was another offered as a prevalent topic.

Leading up to election, the Smyrna candidates pointed to what they believed were the biggest issues within the school district.

Among other things, Marie Fontaine St. Pierre said it was important to provided students education that would prepare them “for today’s competitive labor market.”

For Bobbie Jo Webber, safety in schools was a key priority and “the amount of misconduct in our schools is a growing concern.”

Both candidates pointed to bullying among students as a concern. They also pointed to their children’s time in the district as inspiration for seeking a board seat.

The at-large four-year term expires June 30, 2027.

Only one seat was contested in this year’s Milford school board election.

Ashlee Connell and Danielle Deinert both ran for one of the district’s at-large seats. 

Victor “Butch” Elzey, one of two unopposed candidates, secured the District A seat after the only other candidate withdrew from the race in March. Jennifer Massotti won her race as the sole candidate for District B.

While board members serve four-year terms, Ms. Massotti will be serving only through the end of June next year because she will be serving out the remainder of the term of Kris Thompson, who vacated the District B seat last year. The other members will serve through June 2027.

The Indian River School District, geographically one of the largest districts in the state with student enrollment around 10,600, is undergoing facility expansion to address over-capacity. The new 2,200-student Sussex Central High School is in the early stage of construction. Once that new high school opens, the current Sussex Central High School will become Millsboro Middle School, and current middle school building in Millsboro will transform to another elementary school. 

While incumbent Leolga Wright, Indian River’s current board vice president, was unopposed in District 3, three candidates – Michael Bellerose, Leo Darmstadter and Ivan Neal – were seeking the seat in District 2 currently held by Rodney Layfield. The current board president, Mr. Layfield did not seek another term.

Voting in Seaford’s election was reported brisk by candidates Dr. Stephanie Smith and Armore Rice, who were challenging 10-year board member David Tull, the current board president. 

“One of my goals was to increase voter turnout, whether win or lose. That, I think, we have accomplished,” said Dr. Smith. 

“We’ve got three good candidates. I’m hearing a lot of people coming out to vote today that had never voted before,” said Mr. Rice. “So already the election to me is a win. We shared this morning together, all three candidates, talking about how important it was for us to have a good turnout, and show that the city is concerned about what is happening in school, and Seaford in general that we want to make things better.”

“The problems we have are pretty much the same as anywhere else. We’ve just got to take it one day at a time and achieve our goal,” said Mr. Tull. “I’ve been on here for 10 years. Seaford has come from the bottom to one of the best in the state.”

Editor’s Note: Reporters Craig Anderson, Matt McDonald, Glenn Rolfe and Managing Editor Logan B. Anderson contributed to this report. 

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