Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – December 8, 2023

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – December 8, 2023

It was a no brainer for the Worcester County Commissioners to strike a $37 million central office building for the Board of Education from the county’s capital improvement plan submitted to the state. It’s puzzling why it was even listed on the plan, considering current conversations about aging school facilities and the capital projects needed as well as the current strained relations between the commissioners and school officials.

While it’s true the project could simply be viewed as a “wish list” item, there is no need to include the concept if the chances of it being supported at the county or state level are remote, as was stated this week. This administration office project being included in the capital plan became an opportunity for at least one commissioner to raise similar concerns expressed during the budget discussion earlier this year. It was almost as if the school board teed up a political football for those commissioners concerned with how county dollars are spent within the school system.

“There are so many more pressing issues such as building Buckingham, our teachers being significantly underpaid, as well as the support staff, and bus contractors,” Commissioner Eric Fiori said in a Facebook post. “To allocate $37 million for a new administration building for a five-year plan, I just have to disagree with it, and I needed that to be struck off the CIP so we can move some of these funds over to getting our teachers the pay they deserve … My primary concern is ensuring fair compensation for dedicated teachers, support staff, and bus drivers. …”

Earlier during the meeting in Snow Hill, Commissioner Joe Mitrecic told his fellow commissioners they were looking at the capital improvement plan the wrong way.  It’s no secret Mitrecic, the former commission president until the 2022 election, does not see most matters the same as Fiori and the other commissioners in an unofficial voting block — Chip Bertino, Jim Bunting and Caryn Abbott. It’s been a year since the last election and it’s clear Bertino, Bunting, Abbott and Fiori have a majority hold on most county matters.

“I’d just like to remind my colleagues here this is a wish list,” Mitrecic said. “Every one of these projects would have to be voted on at a separate time and place. To include some of these things, I’m not exactly thrilled about the $5 million for the broadband but it is part of a wish list for the county so I include it. The central office is on the wish list for the board of education doesn’t mean we’re ever going to do it. I don’t think striking it off completely is the right thing to do …”

In response to that point, Bertino, the current commission president who was reappointed to the position this week in a 6-1 vote (Mitrecic opposed), said after the meeting, “The CIP is a planning document. The reality is in the next five years it’s very unlikely we’re going to move forward on a new administrative building.”

It’s been tremendous to observe the Stephen Decatur High School’s football program in recent years under Coach Jake Coleman and his coaching staff. It’s safe to say this was the most talented football team Decatur has ever had and the culmination of a perfect season came last week with the state championship crown in Annapolis. The atmosphere at the game was electric and the community support on hand was inspiring. From the field, it looked like Decatur’s side of the stadium was at least three times the number of fans present for Huntingtown, which was just 30 miles away from the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis. The local crowd’s support throughout the game was amazing to witness.

It has been special to watch the community wrap its collective arms around this team all season, especially during the playoff games at home. Most impressive may be the fact Decatur’s team won the sportsman ship award given to one of the six state championship teams for the fall season.

Coach Coleman and his son, star quarterback Brycen Coleman, spoke about the ride this team has been on and the state championship during an interview with Bill Baker on Power 101.7 yesterday. The coach was full of praise for his players as well as the community that has supported them all season. “It has been overwhelming, all of it. We want to be true champions, be humble and thankful. We want to thank everyone for all their support. It has been amazing,” Coleman said. “We are just regular people living a dream right now and we are so thankful for everyone. Throughout all this year, we are so grateful. Our kids are likable. They are not jerks. They are good, humble kids who don’t think they are better than anyone else. I think that’s why we became Delmarva’s team. They came from good parents, and we are grateful.”

Brycen Coleman, who has committed to play Division I football at Vanderbilt University in Nashville next year, made history on an individual basis, becoming the first player in the state to accumulate over 1,000 yards receiving, rushing and passing in a career. On this year’s special team, Brycen Coleman, who started basketball season immediately after the state title win, said, “Everybody had the same goal all season. I think when you have a bunch of guys working toward the same goal it’s really hard to stop that. We were all working together and pushing each other going back to last year. Plus, this is a very talented team and will be next year, too. There is a brotherhood here now that will always be there. Winning is now the culture here.”

Looking ahead, Coach Coleman said the team is only losing two starters on offense from the high-powered unit that put up 554 points (giving up just 148). He said, “the quest is to go back-to-back. Anything else will be disappointing.”

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.