Five candidates are running for the at-large seat on the Cape Henlopen school board. Meanwhile, incumbent Andy Lewis remains the only candidate for the Area C seat as of Cape Gazette's press time.
The filing deadline is 4:30 p.m. Friday, March 7, for the election that will be held Tuesday, May 13.
Candidates Juan Saez and Alison Myers were the first to file for the at-large seat followed by Robert C. Bennett, Meyer J. Persow and Teresa C. Carey.
Bennett, 42, of Whaling Court, Lewes, said he is running on the recommendation of people who told him he should run.
“I want to make sure the kids have what they need,” he said.
Bennett and his wife, Lynn, have three children in the district – a daughter in 11th-grade at the high school, a freshman son and a second-grade daughter at Shields Elementary. Lynn works as a nurse for Beebe Healthcare.
Bennett is a shift supervisor at Marcus Hook Industrial Complex, just north of the Delaware border with Pennsylvania. The family moved to Sussex County 10 years ago from New Castle County where he graduated from Claymont High School in 1989 and later enlisted in the U.S. Army as an infantry medic.
In the Cape Region, Bennett has served on the board of directors for Cape Vikings Pop Warner Football and Cheer for eight years – three years as president, one year as vice president, one year as scholastics vice president and two seasons as team vice president and manager. He has been a member of the Cape Henlopen High School Football boosters and he is a member and supporter of Cape Henlopen High Lacrosse Boosters, Cape Cheerleading and Cape Chorale Boosters.
As a district parent, Bennett said he has experienced the overcrowding at the elementary schools first-hand, and he supports the referendum to build a new elementary school.
“It's definitely needed,” he said. “I believe whether you're at work or school an environment is important.”
Bennett said he would like to hear more from the community before he weighs in on whether the district should redraw school boundaries to solve the socio-economic and racial inequities between Milton and H.O. Brittingham elementaries.
“I would have to see what the drawing would look like,” he said. “Without seeing the dividing line and what the demographics will be, it's hard to say.”
If elected to the board, Bennett said, he would work to set policy and not micromanage district employees.
“The district has managers; the board is more of a caretaker,” he said.
This is particularly salient as the district works toward implementing Common Core Standards and using a new state test, Bennett said.
“Our job is to make sure the administration is doing it,” he said.
Although Bennett lives in Area C, where board member Lewis's seat is up, he said, he never considered running against Lewis because Lewis is doing a great job.
Candidate Meyer Persow also lives in Area C, but chose not to run against Lewis because Lewis has done a fantastic job, he said.
Persow moved to the Cape Region in 2005 after retiring from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. He has no children; he's currently general manager of Hobos Restaurant & Bar in Rehoboth Beach.
He is a board member for Seaside Jewish Community, served as advisor for the Sussex Family YMCA's Youth in Government program and is a member of American Legion Post 5 and NARFE Chapter 1690.
He said he supports building a new elementary, but the district should have addressed capacity issues at the high school in the upcoming referendum.
“I think that was short-sighted on the part of the board,” he said.
Persow also said he agrees with balancing student populations at Milton and H.O. Brittingham elementaries.
“We need a good mix of students from different socio-economic backgrounds,” he said. “Kids learn from each other.”
The current situation is untenable, he said, “It gives some families a separate but equal mentality.”
Funding is a major concern for Persow, who said the district must decide what it is going to do when Race to the Top funding disappears.
“We may lose funding for reading and math specialists, a college counselor and programming. Where are we going to get the funds to continue these programs? The state? Highly unlikely. We saw last week that the voters in Seaford rejected a referendum to raise taxes to replace RTTT funds that are going to disappear. What are our plans to replace those funds?” he said.
State testing is another issue that prevents teachers from educating students, Persow said.
“While we need to evaluate the performance of our teaching staff, we need to free them to actually teach our kids to think, to reason, to problem solve, to innovate, instead of trying to get a good score on a test,” he said.
Persow also said he believes the board's role is to set policy and let district administrators manage the district.
Candidate Terri Betts Carey, 50, of Milton said members of the community have been asking her to run for school board since December, so she decided to file for the at-large seat.
Carey and her husband, Richard, have three sons – twins in ninth-grade at Cape High and a fifth-grader at H.O. Brittingham Elementary.
She was born and raised in Milton, living on the same street her entire life. Carey attended Cape schools until eighth-grade when her parents sent her to Georgetown Christian High School where she graduated in 1981.
After graduation she worked at her father's business, Clyde Betts and Son, until 1991 when she started working for the state. She worked in child development with the Department of Public Health and then got a job in Family Court in 1995. In 2006, she moved to the Public Defender's Office in Georgetown where she is currently an administrative specialist.
With three active sons, Carey is busy with local sports but also finds time for community work.
She volunteered with the Milton Jaycees from 1981 to 1986, was a board member of Milton Little League from 2003 to 2013 and she currently is a district III Little League board member, a Sr./Big League Softball World Series board member and an ladies auxiliary member of the Milton Fire Department.
Carey said she supports building a new school and the Route 24 location is a good spot for it.
“To me everything would be right there together,” she said.
As the parent of an H.O.B. student, Carey said, she believes the staff and school are wonderful. However, she said, both Milton elementaries would benefit from greater diversity.
“I agree with that,” she said. “But school choice would have to be taken away or else it wouldn't work.”
Carey said she is talking with residents and reading up on issues such as Race to the Top and Common Core Standards.
“I'm listening to both sides of it,” she said.
Despite her experience on the football, soccer and baseball fields, Carey said, she understands the need for a top education.
“I want to see athletes and academics, too,” she said. “I want to see them go on and become established. I want them to go on and get a career.”
Anyone living in the Cape Henlopen school district who is at least 18 years old is eligible to vote in the election.