Ziegler, Cathell seeking IRSD’s District 5 board seat

SELBYVILLE — A one-year board of education term in Indian River School District’s District 5 is at stake in the May 8 school board elections.

Carla Ziegler

Derek Cathell

Frankford resident Derek Cathell, who was appointed to the board in January to fill a vacancy, and Selbyville resident Carla Ziegler are vying for the board position.

Mr. Cathell, a 1992 Indian River High School graduate, says he has a vested interest in the district.

“Both of my children are students. My son is in the pre-kindergarten program at Howard T. Ennis as a mentor. My daughter is in second grade at John M. Clayton Elementary in the Spanish Immersion. My wife is a guidance counselor at Sussex Central High School and is the ELL (English Language Learners) coordinator,” said Mr. Cathell. “I have a sister-in-law that has been with the district for close to 26 years as a teacher at Lord Baltimore. I have a lot of family and friends that I know that work in the district. And a lot of family and friends that have children in the district. So, I am obviously concerned with the overall well-being of our students and our faculty and staff. I have a vested interest in the well-being of the district as a whole.”

Ms. Ziegler, who taught in Delaware public schools for 15 years including several schools within the IRSD, now has a tutoring company and a multi-family home-school. Her oldest son graduated from Indian River High School; her youngest son and daughter have or are being home-schooled.

She does not have family ties to the district. And that she says is why she is running.

“I am still in education, just not in the school system. I am asked, ‘Well, you don’t have kids in the school system, so why do you want to be on the board?’ Well, there you go. That should even be more imitative for someone on the outside to look at that and say, ‘Well, wait a minute, she doesn’t have kids in there.’ When I was in the school system, it was the whole cliché thing: ‘You better be careful with Johnny because Johnny’s dad is on the board, or Johnny’s grandfather is on the board …’”

“With me I don’t have that. I have no children in there. And the reason my daughter is not going to be put in public schools is because I don’t need to put her in public school. I have a home-school,” said Ms. Ziegler.

The District 5 winner will complete the term of former board member Doug Hudson, who resigned from the board after he moved out of District 5, which includes the greater Selbyville area.

Selbyville Middle School on Bethany Road is the polling place for the District 5 election. Polls May 8 are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Carla Ziegler

Ms. Ziegler enters the race with what she calls a “pretty extensive” background in education with Department of Education certification in various levels of reading, English, social studies and others.

“I taught in the Delaware public school system for 15 years. As far as my qualifications, I am still certified. I am a certified reading specialist. My undergrad is in education. My master’s is in reading,” she said.

She taught at Selbyville Middle School, her last teaching position before retiring, and also taught at Georgetown Middle School, Millsboro Middle School as well as in Milford.

“I come in with a really strong background in curriculum. When I was teaching, first of all within our district and on the state and on the federal level, I have always been involved with curriculum writing as well as benchmark and assessment alignment,” Ms. Ziegler said. “I was a member of the Smarter Balance Consortium Committee, which has vetted assessments, curriculum, teacher development workshops. We vetted everything from lessons, development to teacher staff development days.”

“To sum that all up, when it comes to curriculum I have extremely high knowledge of what works. I am used to vetting curriculum,” said Ms. Ziegler. “That is what our board needs. We need somebody strong on course curriculum. It seems to be low on the priority list right now because I know we need a new school.”

She believes classroom instruction needs to have a mix of the old and the new Common Core.

“What I see because I work in the public and I work with these parents and the kids that I work with are kids that are struggling in the school. It’s throughout the state. These parents are frustrated. They are frustrated with the Common Core. They are frustrated because they can’t help their children, and we are talking elementary-age children not middle not high school,” Ms. Ziegler said. “I have looked at these standards. I know the Common Core standards. The curriculum that we currently use — I just think there needs to be more teacher autonomy in the classroom. If there were, the curriculum that we currently use could have some flexibility where parents can still help their children. I’ve been a tutor. I help these children. I teach them the Common Core way, of course. But I always teach them the way that their parents understand it.”

“There is so much flexibility that can be done in the classroom, but the teachers are set with such stringent guidelines. My point is if the teacher had a little more autonomy. We really don’t need this Common Core curriculum that we have. Of course, we have to abide by it, because we are federally funded, the school system is. But there are ways around it, by making it a little bit easier,” said Ms. Ziegler. “Right now, we have a disconnect with our families, our parents with their students, and our parents with students and teachers and principals.”

She says trust is paramount.

“Of course, we need new buildings and schools but in order for that to happen we have to gain the trust from our voters. They have to have trust in the superintendent, trust in the school board,” said Ms. Ziegler. “Not speaking for everyone, but there is a disconnect, with some of the voters, the community members, the parents.”

“My priority would be to gain voter trust again, and focus on the children, focus on the parents — not that we are not doing focus on the children now. But instead of offering these Common Core classes to put out there where parents are already busy — ‘Come learn this Common Core and how to do it.’ That is not the answer. We can still have the ways that our parents have done and learned in the past integrated in with this new system, instead of saying, ‘Nope, we’re not doing it,’” said Ms. Ziegler. “My expertise is definitely going to be in curriculum. That is what I am going to bring to the board. I’m not a cop. We need a teacher on that board.”

Ms. Ziegler says she is putting her heart into the campaign.

“I’m not really campaigning too much because I feel if God wants this to happen. I’m going to give it my heart and soul. It would be heartfelt. Plus, I love our community. I’m very good with people. I am empathic. I listen to the parents and listen to the teachers. I’ve been there,” said Ms. Ziegler. “To be honest, I had parents in the community, they have asked me to be a part of it. I put a lot of prayer into it, thinking about it and the reason I am doing it to basically be kind of an emphatic and inspirational advocate for the teachers, for the parents, and for the students.”

Derek Cathell

In his 20th year with Delaware State Police, Mr. Cathell is a detective in the major crimes unit based at Troop 4 in Georgetown. He is a lifelong resident of the area.

“I was born and lived my entire life in the either Frankford, Dagsboro, Gumboro area,” he said. “I’ve got roots in the community.”

His top priority over the upcoming year is increasing student enrollment and ways to address it.

“The growth in district, at this point I don’t see it slowing down. Obviously, we’ve had some meetings and there has been discussions about referendums and ideas about what we are going to do to combat and deal with the growth. Is it going to be additional buildings? Is it going to be some changes to some existing buildings?” Mr. Cathell said. “We are welcoming any ideas or suggestions from the public. I am very eager to hear what the public has to say because to me if you are asking for this money for a referendum, they have a vested interest in that.”

“We’re going to have to get our heads together. We’re going to have to really discuss what our best options are,” he said.

With this initiative comes another of his priorities.

“We need to be 100-percent transparent with the tax payers that you are asking money from. We need to tell them what our plan is, what this money is going to be used for and, also, they need to know the statistics on the growth of our schools and the reasons why we are asking for this money for this referendum,” Mr. Cathell said. “These children have to be educated so we have to have facilities to educate them. The growth is moving at a rate that is outgrowing our buildings. So, we need to get ahead of this. Asking for more money isn’t necessarily the most popular thing, but it is something that we have to do. We’ve got to house these students. We have to have facilities. We have to have faculty to educate these students and give them best start in life that we can.”

With the school board and district embarking on the certificate of necessity phase for a potential major capital referendum, Mr. Cathell wants to stay on board and be part of the process.

“Our school district is the largest in the county and that number almost doubles from the next largest school district. It is the third largest in the state population-wise,” he said. “This district, the enrollment is growing by the day. It is something we’ve got to get ahead of. We can’t wait until the last minute. We need to start planning for the future, from the growth of this district. And I think we have a responsibility to be good stewards of this money when we are asking for it to make sure it is being used for the proper things and is going in the right direction.”

“I want to try to have the best possible education for all of our kids,” Mr. Cathell said.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.