Indian River School District, located in central Sussex County, has the least amount of administrators per student out of all the school districts in Delaware. The district has 1,000 more students than they did four years ago. With a growing population and over 10,400 students in the district, Indian River had to cut back on administrators back in the Fall of 2016 to avoid the state having to bail them out during a financial crisis. Their former leader, Susan Bunting, is now the Delaware Secretary of Education. Mark Steele leads the district now and has to deal with doing more with less. Compared to similar districts with student enrollment at that size, such as Appoquinimink and Brandywine, Indian River runs a tight ship these days. Indian River has a large number of English Language learners in the district and with a current lack of extra funding for those students, it can be tough. The district faced an investigative audit by the State Auditor’s Office at the same time they tried to pass a referendum. While the referendum did eventually pass, it caused the district to get their finances together fast!
The Indian River School District passed their referendum today. According to The News Journal, voters passed the expense measure with 7,095 yes votes. 5,394 voted no.
The vote comes exactly 100 days after the district’s first attempt to pass a current expense referendum failed by a mere 30 votes back on Nov. 22, 2016.
The referendum came as a result of unprecedented growth within the district, interim superintendent Mark Steele said.
Earlier this week, voters in the Colonial School District did not pass their referendum measures. Like Christina, Brandywine, and Indian River in the past couple of years, Colonial will assuredly take another stab at it. For the Indian River, the district is no doubt breathing a sigh of relief after a contentious year which saw their Chief Financial Officer resign in controversy and a painful audit investigation which showed a great deal of financial issues in the district.
The Delaware State Auditor, Tom Wagner, released a follow-up today to the Indian River School District audit investigation. The original report, released days before the district’s December referendum, showed very damning allegations against the district’s former Chief Financial Officer Patrick Miller. Today’s memorandum from Wagner came out before another referendum the district will be holding on March 2nd. While the follow-up shows significant improvement there are still some areas of concern as shown in the below report.