MSD Faces Changes, Challenges with New Year

73

By Terry Rogers

As Milford School District gears up for the 2015-’16 school year, students and parents will notice several changes in district schools. The first change is that Kindergarten through ninth grade students will start school on Monday, August 31 while tenth through twelfth grade students will begin school on Tuesday, September 1.

“The split start at the high school level is designed to give teachers, counselors and administrators the opportunity to focus solely on ninth graders as they acclimate to a new building with schedule changes and a few new challenges,” said Dr. Phyllis Kohel, Superintendent of Milford School District. “However, this is not the only change parents and students will see when the new school year begins.”

According to Dr. Kohel, Milford has lost a little over eight percent of their staff to retirement and resignation. Since the end of the school year, 26 teachers, two custodians, five administrators, two child nutrition workers, three paraprofessionals and an athletic director have either resigned or retired. Dr. Kohel said that the district has seen many teachers and administrators taking positions with Cape Henlopen and Indian River, both districts that offer significantly higher salaries than Milford.

“We are also losing staff to Caesar Rodney, Capital and Lake Forest,” Dr. Kohel explained. “Regardless of where they went, we have to acknowledge the fact that a number of them are leaving due to the uncertainty of being able to make a comparable salary to other districts. This comes on the heels of two failed referendums. We have got to do something to be sure that we keep quality teachers here. Our students and teachers deserve the best from their school district and this community is a part of the school district. We need the community’s support in passing an operations referendum on October 6, 2015.”

Dr. Kohel said that passage of the referendum would address the current deficit of approximately $1.2 million and support school security by providing salaries for the two additional School Resource Officers that the district contracted for with the city. In addition, the referendum would allow the district to pay for the matching funds required by the Department of Education for bus transportation for students and allow the district to reinstate programs that have been cut due to the budget deficit. The district would be able to raise teacher salaries in an effort to compete with neighboring districts who are paying between $7,500 and $10,000 more per year. The district could also replace outdated technology, manage increased costs of energy, align curriculum with required state standards and potentially expand career pathways at the high school level.

“If the October 6 referendum does not pass, there will be further cuts in extra-curricular activities, we will be forced to implement a ‘pay-to-play’ policy for athletics,” Dr. Kohel said. “There will be more staff reductions. The School Resource Officer program will be eliminated and we risk a State takeover of the school district through a financial recovery team.” Dr. Kohel said that the district was hoping to add programs, not eliminate them, which is why the upcoming referendum is critical so that students are provided the quality education Milford is known for.

Several community events are planned over the next two months in order to inform the public about the operations referendum. Times and locations for the public meetings will be released in the near future, according to Dr. Kohel.