Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – June 24, 2016

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – June 24, 2016

The Delaware legislature — or at least half of it — wants all school systems to return after Labor Day.

By an 11-10 vote, the Delaware Senate voted Wednesday to approve legislation mandating school districts must start school after Labor Day. The vote comes after a state-appointed task force endorsed the change, despite school officials opposing the move. The issue now moves to the House in Delaware where it’s expected to face further scrutiny.

During this year’s legislative session in Maryland, a similar bill, which also came about from a task force recommendation, narrowly failed to get out of committee and to the Senate or House floor for the second consecutive year.

In addition to the start date, this issue also comes down to whether you want kids out of school in mid-June or early-June. School systems that start before Labor Day generally close earlier. For example, here on the shore, Wicomico started the Monday before Labor Day and the last day for most students was June 14. In Worcester, the only jurisdiction in the state to start after Labor Day, students were in school until June 17. The better example, however, would be from a school system in Pennsylvania that went back on Monday, Aug. 17 and wrapped up school June 8.

To me, this is an economic and tradition issue for the most part. It’s also about the weather. The climate is better in late August around here than it is in early June, and I would rather have a couple more weeks of no school in late summer than late spring. That’s not an argument, however, I would expect to see being used in the legislature anytime soon.

There are four months until the Berlin Mayor and Council election, but the picture cleared considerably this week when Councilwoman Lisa Hall made her intentions official. She will vacate her district council seat in order to challenge incumbent Mayor Gee Williams.

This is going to be an interesting matchup of polar opposites. Hall has been talking to everyone about running for mayor for months, and maybe even years, making last week’s filing anti-climactic to a degree. The timing of it was interesting, however, as it came around the same time as Zackary Tyndall filed for the seat she will be leaving behind to challenge Williams. I don’t think that was a coincidence.

I expect the Hall-Williams race to be an interesting one, but at this point there are lots of murmurs in the community about another individual jumping in the mayor’s race. When asked this week, the person, who wished to not be identified, agreed it’s under consideration. If three people file to run for mayor, that will make it anyone’s race because voter turnout is always poor in Berlin.

In 2012, Williams was unopposed, but a robust write-in effort for Ellen Lang made things interesting. Williams earned 335 votes to Lang’s 122 votes.

Williams hasn’t filed for re-election yet, but he said in February his name will be on the ballot.

“In respect for the longstanding tradition of our town elections, I will not be making an official announcement to file for re-election until sometime this summer during the formal filing period, but let there be no doubt, I have every intention to do so at the appropriate time,” he wrote in a letter to the editor that took some shots at Hall in response to criticism she lobbed at him the week before over the town’s handling of a utility mistake late last year.

“Unfortunately, the way she has presented this message, repeated during her multiple visits to Town Hall nearly every week for months, has given some Berlin employees the false impression that I will not be seeking re-election. Council Member Hall’s Town Hall campaigning along with repeated interrogations of town employees demanding they tell her ‘what’s really going on’ strongly implying that there must be some political dirt they can share. As a result, the town administrator, the managing director and some department heads have been dealing with a measurable drop in morale among many town employees,” Williams wrote.

For her part this week, Hall didn’t go after the mayor with any on the record criticism, but it has to be assumed that will be coming in the weeks leading up to the fall election.

For the last couple years, I have enjoyed Staff Writer Charlene Sharpe’s ongoing series on long-time employees’ retirements, particularly those in the field of education. This week she spotlighted Irma Herbert, who is retiring after a 64-year career as a public school bus driver.

Herbert started driving when she was 19 years old for the school system, becoming the first female bus driver. The year was 1952, gasoline cost 19 cents a gallon and she earned $340 a month. Her recollection of her many years behind the wheel was quite impressive, especially her memory of the individual students she hauled to and from school.

Delegate Mary Beth Carozza was one of those kids and presented her with a proclamation last week at her retirement dinner.

Herbert said, “She’d forgotten where I picked her up but I remembered. It was the Pacific Avenue stop.”

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.