Cape school board candidates fielded questions ranging from climate-change education to extracurricular activities at a final public forum in Lewes May 3.
Incumbent Andy Lewis and Janet Maull-Martin are vying for the Area C seat. Calvin Jackson, who was unable to attend, has challenged incumbent Alison Myers for an at-large seat; both are five-year terms.
Chuck Mowll and Bill Collick are running to fill the last year of board member Roni Posner’s at-large seat.
The forum was held at Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware. All candidates were asked about preparing students to combat climate change and educating non-college-bound students; following these, each individual candidate answered audience-submitted questions.
Lewis said educating students to respond to climate change did not apply to public school boards. He said the board’s responsibilities are to set district policies and supervise the superintendent.
“We have mandates from the state on what we need to teach students, and this is not one of them,” Lewis said. “This level of detail should be handled by administrators. Instruction in critical thinking and use of technology, which we do, will lead to citizens who can address these issues.”
Mowll said he couldn’t disagree with Lewis more; he said students need fact-based education on conservancy initiatives. Maull-Martin said administrators should encourage students to take an active role in environmental issues.
Collick said the dangers of flooding are apparent in the district and the effects of global warming should be taught at all grade levels. Myers said the district has a strong STEM curriculum that starts at the elementary level.
On preparing non-college-track students for jobs in construction, culinary, hospitality and healthcare trades, Mowll said students should be counseled early on career choices.
“Trying to fit every student into a college-bound track is not realistic,” Mowll said.
Collick and Myers noted Cape High pathways in agriculture, business, audio/radio/video, engineering, culinary/hospitality, textiles, medical assistant and teaching prepare students for school-to-work transitions.
“This gives students a wide variety of career technical education,” said Myers, who suggested working collaboratively with Sussex Tech to provide more options for students.
Maull-Martin said the district should offer training in trades such as construction and auto body so students don’t have to go to Sussex Tech. Lewis said the school board’s power is limited.
“Cape is labeled by the state as an academic high school,” Lewis said. “The state restriction limits the amount of preparation and certifications we can provide. The state has designed Sussex Tech as the technical school in the county, which allows their pathways to have six courses.”
Lewis said the district’s growth will necessitate additional high school capacity. He said he envisions a technical school that would allow the district to serve students locally and allow them to find their niche.
When asked what extracurricular activity she would cut facing a budget deficit, Maull-Martin said it would be a difficult choice because athletics and the arts are as important as academics in student development.
“It should be the last thing we want to do, because we would want to make sure those vehicles are available for our kids,” Maull-Martin said.
To help close the achievement gap, Collick said the district should tap into the knowledge of new and retired residents, and ask them to serve as mentors starting at the elementary level.
“With respect to disparity in discipline,” Collick added, “administrators are responsible [for ensuring] that consequences are leveled fairly.”
CHEA endorses Maull-Martin, Myers; approves both Collick and Mowll
The Cape Henlopen Education Association, which represents hundreds of the district’s professional staff, endorsed Maull-Martin and Myers on May 9. The union stated it found both Collick and Mowll to be well-qualified candidates.
All residents 18 years and older living within the Cape district can vote, and voters do not need to register. Voters must be U.S. citizens and show proof of residence in the district such as a driver's license, auto registration or utility bill with a person's name and address. While candidates must reside in various areas of the district to seek a seat, all district residents may vote in all three races.
The school board election will be held 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, May 14, at Rehoboth Elementary, Mariner Middle and Cape High.