Race is on for Seaford School Board Three candidates in race, including retiring principal

By Lynn R. Parks

The principal at Seaford High School is running for a seat on the district's operating board. Mike Smith will retire from his job on June 30 and if elected, would assume his board seat July 1.

"With my retirement, I still want to be involved in some way," Smith said. "Especially with a lot of the plans we have put in place for the high school for next year, I'd like to still be involved."

The high school is planning to offer five leadership academies to its students. The first, the Delaware New Tech Academy, which will focus on project-based learning, will be start up next year. The school district is also planning an expansion of the high school to add 66,000 square feet to accommodate the academies.

Smith is challenging current board member Carlton Cannon, who is running for his second term. Also running is 1999 Woodbridge High School graduate Matthew MacCoy. School board members serve five-year terms.

Cannon, 62, was elected to the school board in 2006, defeating incumbent Jim Van Vleck. Since October 2004, he has served as minister at the Clarence Street Church of God. He and his wife, Lettie, have three adult children.

He graduated from Bridgeville High School in 1967. He joined the Marine Corps and retired from the military after 25 years. Seaford is his 10th pastorate.

Cannon said that he believes, as changes are made in the high school and in light of several anticipated retirements of principals, including Smith, and other administrators, that the board should remain as it is. "I think it's absolutely imperative that we have continuity, especially with all the things we have going on," he said. "It wouldn't be a good time for me to bail out."

There are still issues that he wants to address, he said. He is interested in vocation education: "We still need to look at a way of getting the kids who are not going to college a skill," he said. And he is concerned about the number of Seaford children who opt to attend Sussex Tech. "We need to be aware of the recruitment practices on the part of Sussex Tech, something that is really coming to light," he said. Cannon, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer last March, was unable to attend several meetings in 2010. "I had to devote all of my time and effort to healing," he said.

But now, "I feel good," he said. "I'm up and at it and have good energy." MacCoy, 29, worked for the Western Sussex Boys and Girls Club in Laurel and Seaford following graduation from Woodbridge. After 18 months there, he went to the University of Delaware, Newark, where he studied English education. He returned to Sussex County before graduation to take a job with the Boys and Girls Club, where he remained for two and a half years. Now, he is a salesman with Ryder truck rental centers in Salisbury, Federalsburg and Harrington. He is not married.

MacCoy said that he has always been interested in education. "That's what I studied in college," he said. "I've always had a desire to help kids of all ages and this sounded like the perfect opportunity to do that."

There are no particular issues that he would like to address. Instead, "I will be talking to the community to see what issues they are thinking about," he said.

He added, "I don't want anybody in the community to feel that people aren't listening to them. Sometimes it seems like they aren't being heard. Nothing seems to materialize from what they say. I'm going to listen to everything you have to say."

MacCoy, who attends Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church, said that he has been inspired by school board member Frank Parks and his fight to merge public education and religion. "He is trying to reconnect children to church and that caught my eye," he said. "Frank is an example of what can be done by one person in a community."

Smith, 55, grew up in Rockville, Md., and graduated from Robert E. Perry High School in 1974. He graduated from Frostburg State College (now University) in 1979 with a bachelor of science degree in health and physical education. He also has two master's degrees (leadership and administration, 1998, and special education, 2006) and a doctorate (education, 2002) from Wilmington University.

Following graduation from Frostburg State, Smith taught school and coached in the Laurel and Cape Henlopen school districts. He came to the Seaford district in 1990 as a special education teacher and coach at the Seaford Middle School. He has also been a teacher and coach (football, wrestling and softball) at the high school, assistant athletic director, athletic director, dean of students, assistant high school principal and district director of special programs and services. He was named interim high school principal this year when the person the district hired to take the place of Clarence Davis resigned suddenly.

He and his wife, Stephanie, who is principal at Seaford Middle School, have four children, three of whom attend school in the district. Smith said that there are no specific issues that he is interested in tackling as a member of the school board. He said that he would listen to members of the community on topics of interest to them and then would work with the board to address those topics.

"I would approach all decisions with an open mind and after consulting all stakeholders, including students, parents and the community, work with the board toward everybody's best interests," he said.

Smith believes that his background with the district would make him a valued member of the school board. "I have a pretty good knowledge about how the district works, an insight that comes from my work here," he said.

For your information The Seaford School Board election will be Tuesday, May 10. Voting will be in the board room in the district's administration building, 390 N. Market St. Ext., from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. For details, call the district, 629-4587. The Western Sussex Branch of AAUW will hold a School Board Candidate Forum on Wednesday, May 4, for the candidates.

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