Cape Henlopen school board unanimously voted July 23 to continue membership in the Delaware School Board Association, 10 days after neighboring Indian River School District voted to withdraw.
Indian River School District Board of Education withdrew July 13 from the Delaware School Board Association, saying $13,000 the district would have paid in dues could be better spent elsewhere.
In a statement, board President James Hudson said DSBA no longer has the capacity to represent district interests statewide and in the Delaware legislature.
Cape Henlopen school board member Jen Burton serves as first vice chairman for the DSBA. She said membership is worth the $9,000 a year Cape pays, even though the association is going through some changes.
“It is worth the money especially in this pivotal time,” she said. “We need to figure out how we're going to reorganize this entity.”
DSBA Executive Director Sue Francis recently announced she is retiring at the end of 2015. Burton said DSBA will discuss her replacement and reorganziation of the group to operate more effectively in the future.
“Times have changed. We believe DSBA needs to do more lobbying. We don't feel board members get the respect that they deserve,” Burton said, particulary from officials at the Department of Education. “We need to be a stronger force and voice in Dover.”
Superintendent Robert Fulton said he believes DSBA reorganization will benefit the association.
“There is transition going on, but through the transition DSBA will land on its feet,” he said.
The DSBA has an office in Dover with an executive director who attends meetings at the Department of Education and Legislative Hall. The DSBA is a voting body that weighs in with opinions on educational matters. It also has a legislative committee that reviews bills and other legislation related to education.
Cape Henlopen school board President Andy Lewis said DSBA provides training for school board members, helps organize an annual conference and provides representation at Legislative Hall.
“There's nothing I've been unhappy with,” he said. “I'm glad to see there will be a reevaluation of DSBA.”
Burton said she has learned a great deal serving on both DSBA and the legislative committee.
She said her participation with the groups have allowed her to consult with board members of other school districts on issues that affect Cape, such as school start times and state testing. New board members receive training on Sunshine law, Robert's Rules of municipal service and the role of board president and other board members.
A resolution asking the state to prevent charter and vo-tech schools from poaching only top students from traditional districts came out of DSBA, she said.
Staying with DSBA is important to keep communication open on key education issues, especially when the state spends little time gathering school board opinion, Burton said.
Cape school board Vice President Alison Myers said staying involved with state decisions is important.
“It would be a big mistake to let go the piece that keep us involved in this,” she said.
Indian River had been a member of DSBA for 30 and several board members have served on the DSBA Board of Directors and the legislative committee. Indian River joins Christina, Delmar and Milford school districts, which have withdrawn from DSBA, about a quarter of school districts in the state.
Overall, Indian River officials said DSBA is not worth the money.
“The Board came to the conclusion that its DSBA membership was no longer productive and that continuing to pay thousands of dollars in dues to the organization was not a responsible use of taxpayers’ money,” Hudson said.