WILMINGTON — Gov. John Carney on Wednesday announced that Dr. Susan Bunting will leave her position as secretary of the Delaware Department of Education in December, after nearly five decades of service in public education in the state.
Dr. Bunting, who was confirmed as secretary by the Delaware Senate in January 2017, spent the previous four decades in the Indian River School District.
She began her Indian River career in 1977 as a language arts teacher and later led the district as superintendent from 2006-17, including being named Delaware Superintendent of the Year.
She has not announced her next steps but intends to remain involved in educator training and development.
Her successor has not yet been named.
“Dr. Bunting is respected across our state, and no one was better suited to lead the Department of Education over these past five years,” said Gov. Carney. “Susan has spent a lifetime dedicated to public education in Delaware, and the people of our state have been lucky to have her at the helm. No one has made a bigger impact than Susan on preparing the next generation of Delaware educators and helping them grow into effective teacher-leaders. Most importantly, I want to thank Susan for her tireless dedication to Delaware’s students, especially those most in need. Her public service and dedication to the success of all Delaware children is unmatched.”
Mark Steele, who succeeded Dr. Bunting as IRSD’s superintendent, said she will be greatly missed.
“Education is going to be missing one of the strongest advocates ... for kids that we could possibly have. She is without a doubt one of the most knowledgeable people I have ever worked with and, at the same time, one of the nicest people I have ever worked with,” said Mr. Steele, who retired from IRSD in late June 2020.
Current IRSD Superintendent Dr. Jay Owens said he has had “the pleasure of working with Dr. Susan Bunting during my entire career in public education. She is not only a colleague but also a mentor and friend. Her 40 years of service to the Indian River School District as a teacher, administrator and superintendent played a pivotal role in making us one of the finest public school systems in Delaware. I have never worked with anyone who possesses her level of knowledge and expertise.”
A request to DOE to speak with Dr. Bunting on Wednesday was unable to be granted, according to public information officer Alison May.
“It is hard anytime you are leaving a job you love,” said Ms. May. “When Secretary Bunting shared the news with staff today, she noted how proud she was of the work we have accomplished together over the past five years. She said she knows this team will continue to move the work forward in the years ahead and thanked everyone for all they have done to support our students, educators and her. She loves her staff, and her staff loves her, so there was heartfelt emotion all around.”
During her tenure at DOE, Dr. Bunting oversaw the creation and expansion of Opportunity Funding, Delaware’s first weighted student funding program. The initiative targets support for low-income and English-learner students.
She transformed DOE into an agency focused on supporting educators and schools. Over the past 19 months, she led its efforts to vaccinate thousands of educators and child care providers, while helping districts and charter schools continue to educate children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In her role as Delaware secretary of education, she has helped guide our public schools through a very challenging time and has done so with kindness and humility,” Dr. Owens said. “We are extremely grateful for her service to both the Indian River School District and the state of Delaware and wish her all the best in the future.”
While sad to see Dr. Bunting leave DOE, Mr. Steele will always treasure their friendship, he said.
“I can tell you this: I am hoping that she takes the opportunity to retire and enjoy life with her family and get that opportunity to do that,” he said.
Before her confirmation in 2017, Dr. Bunting led IRSD’s nearly 11,000 students, one of the state’s largest district populations. After teaching in Maryland for several years, she joined Indian River in 1977 as a middle school language arts teacher.
Dr. Bunting, who resides in Selbyville, was named Indian River’s Teacher of the Year in 1985. She served as supervisor of elementary instruction and later as director of instruction before being named superintendent in 2006. As Delaware’s 2012 Superintendent of the Year, Dr. Bunting was one of four finalists for the American Association of School Administrators’ National Superintendent of the Year award.
“I worked with Susan my whole career. When I first came on, she was a supervisor. When I went on up to administration, she was a director,” Mr. Steele said. “Then, she went up to superintendent, and I was her assistant superintendent. She is just a fantastic woman to work with — fantastic.”