District to regroup, move forward

By Lynn R. Parks

Jim Thompson, who served on the committee to help get the recent Seaford School District current-expense referendum passed, wasnt surprised that it failed.

I thought that the kids needed some of that money, said Thompson, who lives near Woodland. But I thought that what happened would happen. The district didnt do a proper job of spending money that it got in the last referendum and people arent happy about it.

The current-expense referendum, held last Thursday, asked people to approve a 74-cent increase in current-expense taxes, from $2.02 per $100 of the assessed value of a property to $2.76 per $100. It was turned down overwhelmingly, with 1,918 against and only 574 for. This came after the district held two public forums to explain the need for the additional money, and after representatives of the district spoke about the tax increase with more than 30 community groups.

Following the vote, interim superintendent Kevin Carson promised that the district will regroup, get stronger and move forward. He said that the results have prompted many questions among district personnel. Our intention is to maintain the momentum which has been started, make some course corrections and begin the process of regaining our communitys confidence and support, he said.

Last nights results will impact all of our district and building operations, he added. Decisions will be made following a great deal of deliberation and budget review.

Thompson said that people in the community are unhappy with how money was used in the renovation and construction at Seaford High School.

Voters approved a capital expense referendum in 2011, giving permission for the district to proceed with a $36 million expansion at the high school, including the eye-catching wings at the front of the school that accommodate the Delaware New Tech academy. Local funding for that project is $9 million. Thompson said that instead of building the 50,000-square foot addition, the district could have better spent its money by building a simpler addition, or by renovating the existing building.

Seaford High School is now a beautiful place, he said. But did we need those two big wings? I dont know that we should have spent so much money on building, rather than on programs.

Weve poured a ton of money into the school system over the last 10 years, he added. Why are its students less successful than they were 10 or 20 years ago?

In addition to misspending, Thompson said that another problem that worked against the referendum is the communitys perception that the districts students arent well disciplined.

He suggested that the district designate a room or two, where recalcitrant students would be taught. We need to make a place available for disruptive students and thats where they need to go, he said.

Tom Wimbrow was also a member of the referendum committee and served as moderator for the two community forums. He said that the spending that the district was proposing would have helped to solve some of the problems about which the community complains.

For example, some of the additional spending was to go to pay salaries of hall monitors in the middle and high schools. Monitors who are there now are contract workers; you get more out of employees than you do out of contract workers, Carson said at the second community forum.

Wimbrow said that he was disappointed in the referendum results. I had my own questions when I started out with the committee, but I was satisfied with the answers that I received, he said. The district felt that they needed to improve the schools, and they laid out a plan to do that. I think that they made the case that they needed more money to improve the schools.

Wimbrow said that he is not sure what the districts next step should be. The people have spoken and the school district has to deal with it, he said.

Thompson said that he believes that the district needs to sit tight for now and work to address the concerns that the community has, in particular poor discipline.

Carson asked that the community take a deep breath and give us a chance to put a rational and prudent path forward together.

He added, I look forward to the work in front of us as we develop our path forward.

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