Fred Best named Delaware Secondary Principal of the Year

Mariner Middle School leader now vying for national honors
May 2, 2024

For the second straight year, Delaware’s Secondary Principal of the Year has hailed from Cape Henlopen School District, with the surprise announcement of Mariner Middle’s Fred Best receiving the honor April 29.

During a school staff meeting, Best was presented his award by Tammy Croce, Delaware Association of School Principals executive director, and Equetta Jones, Delaware Association of School Principals president and Love Creek Elementary principal, along with district officials.

Best will now represent Delaware in the National Principal of the Year program. The national honoree will be announced in October in coordination with National Principals Month. 

To be considered for the award, Best had to complete a 14-page application containing information about his educational philosophy, school demographics, state test scores, data that depicts a closing of the opportunity gap, and professional letters of recommendation.

During an interview after the ceremony, Best said having back-to-back Cape winners is pretty cool; Dave Frederick received the honor in 2023 as principal of Beacon Middle School.

“We were principals of twin middle schools, both Cape grads, both our dads worked for the district, and we both have children working in the district,” Best said of the similarities between himself and Frederick, who is now principal of Frederick D. Thomas Middle School, set to open in September.

Best said he originally wanted to be an architect, but he didn’t want to live in a city. Not for me, he said. 

He wanted to coach, so father Alfred Best, a longtime Cape educator and administrator, suggested teaching so he could do both. Although it wasn’t planned, Best has followed in his father’s footsteps ever since.

“I figured if I could do half as much as he did, I’d be successful,” Best said.

The Best family has a long history with the district, he said.

His father and grandfather graduated from Lewes High School. He is a 1993 Cape High grad. His wife, Nicole, is a paraeducator at Cape High. Three of his four children have graduated from Cape – daughter Regan is currently a sophomore, and daughter Cassidy is a Love Creek Elementary second-grade teacher who will transition to Frederick D. Thomas Middle School this fall.

“I’m Cape through and through,” he said. “If you cut me, I’ll probably bleed blue and gold.”

After earning his bachelor’s degree in education from Salisbury University, Best accepted a sixth-grade math and science teaching position at Milford High in 1997, when he met his wife, who was hired the same year as a fifth-grade math and science teacher.

Five years later, Best took on the role of discipline dean for two years before accepting a position at Mariner, where he taught social studies for two years before being promoted to assistant principal, a position he held for six years. Best is now in his 12th year as principal. He earned his master’s degree of education in school leadership from Wilmington University.

“I thought I could have a bigger impact on more students as an administrator than on the 20 to 25 students in my classroom,” Best said. 

Best said he enjoys spending time with kids who need extra support.

“It’s why I like it here so much,” he said. “We are real world. We have kids who wake up in million-dollar homes, and we have kids who wake up in their cars. We need to reach them in different ways.”

Every day is different in a middle school, Best said, joking that sometimes the best-laid plans are out the window by 8 a.m.

“We’ve got 700 great kids here,” he said. “Sometimes, they don’t make good choices, so it’s our job to help them learn from that. That’s the cool part of my job – watching kids grow.”

Best said he appreciated the recognition, but it wouldn’t be possible without the support of his office team, which sets the standards that trickle down to teachers, and through them to students.

“It’s a recognition for the Mariner Middle School,” he said, emphasizing “the,” as he is known to do. “I’m also very lucky to have the support at home from my wife and kids.”


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