Seaford School Board approves personnel actions, will reveal decisions at a later date

By Lynn R. Parks

At its meeting Monday night, the Seaford School Board approved several personnel actions that were recommended by superintendent David Perrington, but details of the recommendations were not released during the meeting. As of press time Tuesday, the district office had not said what those recommendations were.

In an email, Perrington said that details about the personnel vote would not be released "until we have an opportunity to contact personnel on the action that took place." The district typically posts personnel action within two to three days after it is taken, he said.

People were packed into the board room Monday night in the wake of the board's vote at its June 18 meeting to accept the resignation of high school principal Terry Carson. During the meeting's public participation section, the Rev. Marianne Ell, minister at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Seaford, presented the board with a petition, signed by about 320 people, asking members to rescind that decision.

The petition also asked the board not to accept the resignation of Kevin Carson, Terry's husband and the district's director of administrative services as well as its chief of buildings and grounds. Kevin Carson submitted his resignation on the same evening that the board voted to accept his wife's resignation.

The board did not discuss either resignation in its public session. Members took two votes following an hour-long executive session to discuss personnel. The first vote, to accept several recommendations, was unanimous. The second vote, to accept just one recommendation, was 4 to 1, with board member David Tull abstaining.

As the paper was going to press, it was not known whether the board's vote included action on either of the Carson's resignations. When asked specifically about those resignations, Perrington repeated that the district was not ready to confirm any personnel action.

If they stand as submitted, both Terry Carson's and Kevin Carson's resignations will be effective Aug. 31.

Ell was one of a dozen people who spoke at Monday's meeting about the board's June 18 vote to accept Terry Carson's resignation, a resignation that she believes was forced. "I implore you to reconsider," Ell told the board. "More than 300 people who sent you to this office to represent them are asking you to do that. That's a lot of people who are concerned about the future of the school. You have a responsibility to really pay attention and listen to your community."

Ell said that the 320 signatories of the petition included more than 30 district staff members who are identified only by number. "They were afraid to sign, afraid of retaliation," Ell said. "That is not OK Ñ that is dysfunction."

Ell repeated the petition's request that the board hire a mediator to work through the situation. "I've taught my daughter that when you make a mistake, you have to make it right," she added. "Please make this right. Tonight, I'm going to go to bed full of integrity, because I stood up for our school and its staff. My hope is that when you lay your head in bed tonight, you will have the same feeling."

Nancy Harper, who taught in Seaford High School and who was the district's and the state's teacher of the year in 1965, told the board that before Terry Carson came on board, Seaford High was a very different place from what it is today. "Five or six years ago, it was pathetic to see the loss of spirit in the high school," she said. "Teachers were afraid to come out of their classrooms because of fighting in the halls. Then along came new leadership, and things started turning around. There were fewer hall fights, more participation in school sports, and teachers were willing to stay and work for a better life for our kids. The leadership was thinking outside of the box, thank God! In fact, there wasn't even a box."

Harper told the board that as the school goes, so goes the community.

"This town will dry up if you don't keep the changes going," she said. "My plea is for you all to really start thinking, 'Where are we going?' Right now, that question doesn't have a very good answer, and who's going to suffer? Our children."

SHS English teacher Melissa Pinkerton told the board that under Terry Carson's leadership, the school "was going in a positive direction." She also expressed concern about effects of the change on students who are already under stress because of situations in their private lives.

"This will shake up the kids," she said. "Many of them are very resistant to change, and I am really worried that any major change in school leadership will cause them to take steps back."

"The community supports Seaford High School, its teachers, its administration and its students," horticultural sciences teacher Matt Cohee said. "But it doesn't support the actions that have been taken by the district office."

Richard Reinhart, whose daughter attends Seaford High, said that the school has improved under Carson's leadership. "You have a good school now, but it had a terrible reputation for years," he said. "The high school is getting better Ñ let's keep it that way and keep the people who have made it that way."

SHS 2017 graduate Sierra Snigier told the board that during her sophomore year at the school, she "didn't feel comfortable there." But then Carson took an interest in her and "changed my experience there."

Fellow graduate Michaela Brodie-Willey (2016) said that Carson "only spoke positively to us. That was not something that we were used to."

"For many years, something in Seaford High was lacking," she added. "Carson is worth so much, for what she has done for that school."

Mackenzie Brown will be a senior at SHS next year. "I had the choice to go to any high school, and I chose Seaford because I saw the change going on there," she said. She cautioned the board that if it didn't change its decision on Terry Carson's resignation, "you will lose the community."

Dan Henderson, whose daughter graduated from Seaford High in June, also warned that the community is not behind the board's decision. "You should revote as soon as possible to return any good will that has been lost by this bewildering decision," he said. He asked the board to work to correct "the damage that this decision has inflicted on the school and on the community."

Kaitlyn McKinney, a 2018 graduate, said that she was "distraught" when she learned that Terry Carson would not be returning as SHS principal. "Under her leadership, we no longer looked at being a Blue Jay as a consequence, but as a positive influence," she said.

New board president- The Seaford School Board has a new president. Mike Kraft, who is in year two of his second five-year term, was elected board leader on Monday night. He received three votes from the five-person body.

Jeffery Benson, who has served on the board since 2015, received two votes in the election.

David Tull was chosen by the board to serve as its vice president. Tull was first elected to the board in 2013. On Monday night, he was sworn into his second five-year term on the board. He faced no opposition in May's school board election.

Board members made three nominations, Kraft, Benson and Tull, for president. Rebecca Adams, who was president at the opening of the meeting, was not among the nominees.

The election of officers was held near the start of the meeting. After carrying the vote, Kraft took over the gavel from Adams and presided over the remainder of the meeting.

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