Del-Mar-Va Boy Scouts to celebrate 2017 Kent Distinguished Citizen, Deborah Wicks

Deborah Wicks

DOVER — For the first time in 19 years, Smyrna School district started the school year without former superintendent Deborah Wicks at the helm. The new superintendent, Patrik Williams, noted her absence at the recent Back to School breakfast for district staff in late August:

“Just so we can say what everyone is thinking, it was quite odd today to walk though the door and not see former ‘Eagle One’ in her gray business suit with her hair immaculately pulled back, color coordinated barrette, earrings and bangles, right?” Mr. Williams joked, addressing several hundred staff members at the breakfast. “What’s wonderful about this opportunity though is that it demonstrates what we’ve learned from Ms. Wicks. It’s the ultimate compliment that we’re able to carry on with the message she reinforced over 19 years as our leader.”

After a 40-year career with the district, Deborah Wicks, the former superintendent retired on June 1 and was replaced by Mr. Patrik Williams. He has stepped up from his position as assistant superintendent — a post he’d served for seven years.

Such was the splash that Ms. Wicks made in her tenure as the district’s superintendent, that even the Del-Mar-Va Council, Boy Scouts of America (BSA), want to salute her. Ms. Wicks was selected to receive their 2017 Kent Distinguished Citizen Award at their annual awards dinner on Sept. 21 at Dover Downs Hotel and Conference Center.

For 33 years, the Distinguished Citizen Award event has been one of the Council’s premiere events, said the BSA. The award is an annual recognition of those who give freely of their time and talents to improve the quality of life in Kent County. Honorees are selected based on how the community has benefited from the individual’s contributions and the lasting effects those contributions have left on the community. Past recipients have included Gregory V. Moore, Jennings and Lisa Hastings, D. Wayne Holden, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Denis McGlynn, W. Charles Paradee, John Burris, Bill and Mary Jane Willis, Bill Andrew, Ed Dulin, Brooks Banta and Jennifer Cohan.

The 71-year-old Ms. Wicks represents the fourth generation of her family living in Smyrna. She was a district student herself long before becoming its primary overseer. Her husband, George, was actually her high school sweetheart. With Mr. Wicks, she built a family of three children and nine grandchildren — many of whom stayed local and represent the fifth and sixth generations of her family to do so.

When Ms. Wicks took the top seat in the district, she recalls that the population in the area was starting to grow quickly and up until that point, it was coping with that growth by adding trailers that functioned as temporary classrooms.

“We had about 16 of them, some of them were actually old construction trailers,” she told this paper earlier this year. “It wasn’t a great situation.”

Resolving to change that as soon as possible, she started with the Smyrna Middle School.

“We hadn’t built a new school for 30 years at that point,” Ms. Wicks said.

Six referendums later, the district has built several new schools, made many upgrades and updates to facilities and infrastructure and, crucially, done away with trailers.

“We also took special pains to ensure that we designed our projects in a way that they could be reconfigured later to accommodate growth which is coming again,” she said.

According to the 2016 state of the district report, it now serves 5,233 students. The staff consists of 712 employees, 377 educational staff, 16 specialists, 31 administrators, 12 guidance counselors, 36 secretaries, 60 custodians, 88 child nutrition employees, 68 paraprofessionals, seven psychologists, nine nurses, seven software technologists, one grant writer, eight cows and one guidance dog named Frank. The district has eight schools in full operation and a school board that includes five members and one student representative.

Ms. Wicks said she decided to retire mostly because she’s starting to feel the call of a few personal projects that she’s put on the back burners over the years.

“I have a few projects like working on a family history that I’d like to start, and I didn’t want to work up to a point where I wasn’t healthy enough to do anything after retirement,” she said.
Thankful that she still has her health, she says that she’ll probably take a full year to adjust to retired life, and then stay open to being involved with the district thereafter.

The distinguished citizen event will include an open bar reception at 6:30 p.m. with dinner and a program starting at 7 p.m. Tickets to the event are $125 each, which includes a donation to the Boy Scouts. To reserve a table, learn more about sponsorship opportunities to support the dinner or purchase an advertisement in the program, visit dmvc.org/kentdcad, call (443) 523-7639 or email klescallette@dmvc.org. The RSVP deadline is Sept. 14.

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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