Candidates compete May 11 for school board posts

Betsy Price Don't Miss, Education, Headlines

(Photo by CDC on Unsplash)

(Photo by CDC on Unsplash)


Voters in all three Delaware counties will elect school board members May 11.

While there are some hot contests, many candidates have no opposition.

Polls are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The League of Women Voters, as part of its Vote411 project, sent questionnaires to the candidates. Here’s who’s running and highlights of what they told the league.



Char Edelin announced April 13 that she would be relocating at the end of the current school year and must resign her position.

The board will appoint a replacement to fulfill the final 11 months of her term: Aug. 1 through June 30, 2022. A form and letter of interest of interested candidates are due May 28.

Incumbent Richard A. Forsten is running unopposed for an at-large term.


Three candidates are running in District F: Scott A. Gesty, Tanya Hettler and Kimberly Stock.

Gesty is a CPA and adjunct at four colleges. Her and his wife have a daughter at Talley. “I envision an educational system that enables our children to be successful after graduation,” he wrote. “Whether going to college or entering the workforce, the education they receive should provide them with the knowledge and experiences necessary to achieve their life goals.”

Hettler describes herself as a blogger, writer and psychologist. She and her husband have two children in district schools. “My goal is for the Brandywine school district to meet the educational needs of all of our students,” she wrote. “This includes those with special needs as well as those who are from low-income families.”

Stock is a teacher at McKean. She and her husband have a daughter at Brandywine. “Since I am a parent and teacher, I take education very seriously,” she wrote. “I want to create schools and districts that are equitable in opportunities and are culturally responsive for all students and staff.”  She is Delaware’s Teacher of the Year for 2021.


Incumbent Monica Moriak is running unopposed in District B.

Two candidates are running in District F: Naveed Baqir and incumbent Warren K. Howell.

Baqir is a systems architect and software engineer. “It takes a village to raise a child!!!” he wrote. “My vision of education in our community is a focus on the community coming together to support schools, and teachers, and students to develop shared beliefs and a common language of learning and progress.”

Howell works at the New Castle County Vo-Tech District. “My vision is: To have a Christina School District that meets the expectations of the families, Teachers and Students,” he wrote.

Three candidates are running in District G: incumbent Susan V. Mitchell, Donald B. Patton and Delilah Starcks.

Mitchell is a retired Christina teacher. “I am somewhat disappointed that Delaware refers to Local Education Agencies (LEAs) as school districts and not school systems because a trusted, functioning system is my vision,” she wrote. “To me, a district is more of a geographic or political entity.”

Patton is a retired administrator. “My vision is to provide every student with a quality education that supports their interest, abilities, and goals, while bridging the gap between home and school,” he wrote. “Ensuring careful attention is given to collaboratively creating a healthy, safe, and emotionally supportive learning environment. It is our responsibility to ensure our educational system is equitable and inclusive for ALL learners.”

Starcks is an educator. “Leadership must be dedicated to equity and inclusion for students, staff, and families,” she wrote. “New or updated polices and procedures must be done to ensure that all students, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity, religion, socio-economic status, or disability are offered opportunities to succeed in a welcoming and equitable environment.”

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Two candidates are running in District C: incumbent Richard W. Schiller Jr. and Grandville Brown. Neither responded to the league.

Board president Joseph T. Laws is running unopposed in District F, after Helena Y. Alkhatib withdrew.

Red Clay

Three candidates are running in District F: Janyce Ann Gill Calmery (who didn’t respond to the league), Kecia Nesmith and Rafael Ochoa.

Nesmith is a school principal. “Education within the Red Clay Schools is characterized by Excellence & Equity!” she wrote. “All students, staff, families, and community members work together to provide support for the diverse needs within the schools, create positive, welcoming, and safe learning and working environments, and have high expectations for achievement!”

Ochoa describes himself as a global business leader. “I believe our learning centers (schools) exist to provide a safe, developmentally, inclusive environment for ‘all’ students; in addition, foster an environment in which the culture encourages each child to try new and exciting things and gives them a solid foundation to build on to be their best version on themselves,” he wrote.

Caesar Rodney

Only Michael A. Marasco filed to run, so he’ll automatically assume the at-large seat.

Cape Henlopen

Incumbent Janis P. Hanwell is running against Ashley Murray for an at-large seat.

Hanwell describes herself as a retired educator and consultant. “My platform is Diversity, Inclusion, Equity – Together We Can Achieve More,” she wrote. “Over the last 5 years, I have been part of implementing a successful Spanish Immersion program, re-opening communication with minority communities, improving state test scores, transitioning to restorative practices, expanding participation in AP and Honors classes, strengthening mental health and crisis intervention services, aligning Math, ELA, and Technology curricula across 5 elem. schools, expanding wellness services, and engaging in strategic planning.”

Murray is an insurance agent. Two of her children attend district schools. “However, due to noticing the district going in a direction I was a little uncomfortable about, we elected to enroll our daughter, Oasis, in private school,” she wrote. “Our immediate priority is to open the schools for in-person learning,” she wrote. “I’m a parent who understands that it’s complex to run a school district.”


Only Chanda Jackson filed to run, so she’ll automatically assume an at-large seat.


Three candidates are running for an at-large seat: Carol Ann Harrington, incumbent Farrah Morelli and Lawrence Sinagra.

Harrington is an accounting clerk at Delmar Elementary. “I have sought this candidacy to bring fresh ideas to our district,” she wrote. “I envision a time, in the near future, where our children return to school four days a week.”

Morelli describes herself as a full-time mother. “My vision is improved and expanded Career and Technical Education programs for students who choose to enter the workforce directly after graduation,” she wrote. “Helping my four children navigate the college and scholarship application process during the past four years has provided me with a thorough understanding of how to help our students.”

Sinagra is a crime analyst. “I want to see all children acquire and develop the life skills they will need to accomplish their goals at all stages of their education and continue to learn throughout their lives,” he wrote. “Children are the lifeblood of our communities and need to be invested in.”

Two candidates are running for the last two years of a five-year term for an at large seat: Russell Smart and Dawn M. Turner. Neither responded to the league.

Lake Forest

Incumbent Earle Dempsey and Camuron Young are running for an at-large seat. Neither responded to the league.


Ivy T. Bonk, Joseph Deiter and David B. Nichols are running for an at-large seat. Deiter and Nichols did not respond to the league.

Bonk is an educational consultant. “My vision for education in my community and others is that we give children an equitable foundation to build a future on,” she wrote. “This means the individual student becomes the focus, not the political agenda, teachers are supported, parents are welcomed, businesses and community are drawn in and leaders are courageous servants.”


Adam Brownstein is running unopposed for the Area C seat, and incumbent Scott L. Fitzgerald is unopposed for a one-year term for the Area D seat. Both will assume their positions automatically.


Only incumbent Kimberly Hopkins filed to run, so she’ll automatically assume the at-large seat.


Diane Eastburn and Charlie D. Wilson are running for an at-large seat.

Eastburn describes herself as an advocate for students with special needs. “My vision for the Smyrna School District is to provide a strong basis to judge where we are and what direction we need to move towards regarding our student’s education,” she wrote. “As an advocate that works with families in every district in the state, I am fully aware of what services are available, what programs should be made available, and how and when they need to to implemented.”

Wilson is an associate dean at Delaware State University, and his four sons are all district graduates. “I envision an active and dynamic educational environment in which the Smyrna School District plays a critical and wide-reaching role,” he wrote. “Of course, improving the effectiveness of educational processes and strategies in the schools should be of most immediate concern. There is certainly room for improvement … in several metrics of the District’s performance.”


Elaine Gallant and incumbent Danielle Taylor are running for an at-large seat.

Gallant is a retired senior project manager. “My vision is a strong partnership between the schoolboard, the parents, the school staff and communities so we provide every student the education and support needed to reach their full potential and to do so with the confidence to be successful; that our students are committed to graduating and are prepared to face the challenges of work and/or college in an ever-changing world, she wrote.

Taylor manages a medical practice. “My vision for education in our community is to ensure all students in our district are educated to become highly successful, healthy, and contributing citizens,” she wrote.

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