Meet the two candidates vying for a five-year term on the Appoqunimink school board in the May 13 election.

Two candidates are running for an at-large seat on the Appoquinimink school board in the May 13 election.

Incumbent Norm Abrams of Townsend, who is seeking a second, five-year term on the school board, is facing a challenge from political newcomer Debbie Harrington of Middletown.

We asked both candidates why they are running, what they see as the most pressing issues facing the district and how they would address those issues, if elected.

Q Why are you running for a seat on the Appoquinimink school board?

ABRAMS: I want Appoquinimink School District to be the top-performing school district not only in the state, but in the country. I have set the bar higher than most people would, but I believe with everyone working together for the betterment of our students, anything we put our minds to is possible. Appoquinimink is Delaware’s highest performing public school district, where the graduation rate is 93 percent, the college acceptance rate is 9 percentage points above the national average, and college persistence rate is 87 percent. Furthermore, our dropout rate of high school students has dropped from 4.07 percent to 0.68 percent in the last four years. We are working harder and smarter every day to deliver your children with a world class education. These are exciting times for our school district, but we must not rest as there is still work to do.

HARRINGTON: I am running for Appoquinimink school board to address the issues that impact the development of all our children. I will apply innovation, courage of conviction and “know how” from a standpoint of collaboration and shared vision. We must be inclusive and transparent with our students, teachers, parents, staffs, families, community organizations, and other school districts even from the inception of new ideas if we are to accomplish the vision that we set for ourselves to deliver a world-class education.

Q What do you see as the three most pressing issues the school board will face in the next five years?

ABRAMS: Budget, innovation and Race to the Top

HARRINGTON: The three most pressing issues facing Appoquinimink over the next five years are community expansion, funding constraints and technology growth. Housing developments are coming up throughout the communities. The school district claims a 7- to 10-percent annual growth pattern. We must expand in facilities for fear that we would be faced with overcrowded classrooms that lead to increased disciplinary problems, teacher dissatisfaction and diminished learning.  We have to build a personnel structure that is culturally responsive and prepares our children to relate in a nation where minorities are the fastest growing population. U.S. Census reported in 2012 that 50.4 percent of American children under age 1 belonged to minority groups. We cannot have one solution, tax increase, to our funding issues, nor can our children afford to lose programs such as early childhood education. I believe that neither is acceptable to the community. We must be proactive in designing funding solutions. Considering its exponential growth, we must provide a technology-based education that begins for every student as early as pre-K. Although we have to manage it so that our kids are safe from the drawbacks of negative social media, we must not be shy about moving forward.

Q What would you do as a school board member to address those issues?

ABRAMS: Budget – As a school board member and a member of the Financial Advisory Committee, it is my job to ensure that the district is being as frugal as possible with your hard-earned tax dollars. Appoquinimink finds itself in a tough situation in the next few years. If we do not come up with a creative, workable, livable solution then our district eventually could lose the ability to retain and hire experienced and qualified teachers and district office personnel.
Innovation – Many people believe that to be innovative, you must be a genius with a lot of great ideas. Few truly understand it is a collaborative process where groups who come from many different parts of an organization contribute to the creation and implementation of new ideas. Appoquinimink School District is no different. The goal is to make this district accessible for anyone who needs our services while striving to be the best we can be.
Race to the Top – This is the last year for Race to the Top funding. Fortunately, we did not receive much money in the beginning, so there is not a huge dollar amount needed once the funding of the program discontinues. But, the state can move these requirements into other categories with no way to pay for. I would work with fellow board members, district employees, and parents to help keep our elected officials up to date on our stance and look for a positive solution to avoid a potential backlash from our taxpayers.

HARRINGTON: The key to resolving the pressing issues facing Appoquinimink is to affect our funding and personnel resources. I would want us to seek more grant opportunities from foundations, philanthropists and government agencies. Increased taxes would not be sufficient to add facilities or technology solutions such as computers, IOS devices, eReaders, smart boards and robotics. I would be eager to be a part of a team to establish a diversity program that would review not only our recruitment process, but retention, as well. Changes are exciting. It means that we are growing and new things are occurring. We decidedly want a world-class education for all of our children. It will not be easy, but through shared vision, let’s make it happen.



AGE 49



EDUCATION John Dickinson High School, Class of 1982; associate degree in business from Goldey-Beacom College, 1984

WORK HISTORY Power System Controller for Delmarva Power where employed for 23 years

ENDORSEMENTS Appoquinimink Education Association, Appoquinimink Education Paraprofessional Support Association, Appoquinimink Food Service Workers Association

PRIOR POLITCAL EXPERIENCE Appoquinimink school board member, 2009 to present; Currently serving as school board president



AGE 57



EDUCATION Manor High School in Portsmouth, Va., Class of 1975; bachelor’s degree in psychology from Norfolk State University, 1980; master’s degree in national resource strategy from National Defense University, 2003; working toward a doctorate in organizational leadership from Wilmington University

WORK HISTORY U.S. Army, retired at the rank of colonel after 25 years of service; senior church administrator for The Resurrection Center in Wilmington, 2008 to 2013


PRIOR POLITCAL EXPERIENCE Appointed by Gov. Jack Markell to serve on the state State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind and Visually Impaired, 2009 to present