Students Encouraged To Enter Webapp Competition

The Delaware Department of Education, in conjunction with the state’s geospatial education community, encourages Delaware middle and high school students to join in Esri’s 2021 ArcGIS online competition. Students are challenged to create and share interactive mapping projects using ESRI ArcGIS software. Delaware entrants to this national competition must create a digital map or Storymap that highlights facts and features unique to Delaware.

Esri’s 2021 ArcGIS US School Competition is open to high school (grades 9-12) and middle school (grades 6-8) students in the United States. Assistance is available to teachers and students who have limited knowledge of how to create an ArcGIS Storymap or web app. Delaware’s top 5 middle and top 5 high school students each will be awarded a $100 cash prize. The state also will select one middle school and one high school entrant to compete nationally. Winners at the national level each will earn a trip to the 2021 Esri Education Summit in San Diego, CA.

“We’re excited to be part of a competition that gives our students a chance to practice real-world skills in both an enjoyable and a meaningful way,” Secretary of Education Susan Bunting said.

The competition closes May 10.  Find more information online here. Email maps@doe.k12.de.us with questions.

Media contact: Alison May, alison.may@doe.k12.de.us, 302-735-4006


Governor Carney, Secretary Bunting Announce One-Time Enrollment Funding for Schools

Additional $9 million will help districts and charters prevent layoffs 

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney and the Delaware Department of Education (DOE) announced on Thursday that the State of Delaware will provide $9 million in one-time funding to Delaware school districts and charter schools to prevent educator and staff layoffs due to enrollment reductions.

To access the one-time funding, districts and charters must certify they will not lay off educators or staff, and that the funds will go toward student instruction, focused on those students who have been most negatively impacted by the loss of in-person instruction. Based on enrollment levels, districts and charters will receive as much as $1.1 million in additional state funding to prevent layoffs.

“Our educators, school personnel, and school leaders have taken on the challenges of this pandemic and ensured children remain fed, educated, and supported,” said Governor Carney. “We are pleased to make this funding available to districts and charter schools to ensure no staff members are laid off because of enrollment declines during the pandemic. We look forward to seeing students back in classrooms in a hybrid format in January, and I thank our schools for all the work they are doing to bring children back safely.”

“This funding will give our educators and students the stability they need as they finish this unprecedented school year,” said Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education. “Whether our children have chosen hybrid or remote learning for the spring semester, they will highly profit from the instructional consistency and learning support that the current staff offers.”

“We thank the Governor and Secretary of Education for this funding, which will avoid the negative impact of the decline in enrollment due to this pandemic. At a time when educators have so much to worry about, this solution means they won’t have to worry about layoffs this year,” said Stephanie Ingram, President of the Delaware State Education Association. “Instead, educators can continue to focus on safety, health, instruction and student learning.”

“Enrollment this year has been particularly transient due to the harsh realities our families have faced due to COVID-19,” said Dan Shelton, Ed.D., Superintendent of Christina School District and President of the Chief School Officers’ Association. “We are pleased that the Governor and Secretary Bunting have supported our educators with the funding needed to maintain our services and supports at their current levels. Our educators are working tirelessly to engage students in new ways, under changing conditions. This recognition goes a long way in helping to meet the needs of our students, staff and families as we navigate this pandemic together.”

“The funds received through this agreement will be used to maintain critical jobs and best support students in our district communities,” said Jason S. Hale, Ed.D., CPA,  Chief Financial Officer for Brandywine School District. “On behalf of school districts across the state, I would like to thank the Governor for his support and recognize the efforts of the Secretary of Education, Director of the Office of Management and Budget and all those who worked to come to this resolution. This collaborative effort shows the collective commitment to the students of Delaware and those that serve them. This is a great day for education in the State of Delaware.”

“I am overwhelmed by this recognition of the issues facing schools. This critical support for our school will help ensure that we can continue to provide the increased assistance for our students that has been necessary during this unprecedented time,” said Ed Emmett, Head of School at Positive Outcomes Charter School. “By providing for the unique challenges this pandemic has brought to our school’s budget, the State and Department of Education recognize that our faculty and staff are our most precious resource.”

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Message from Governor Carney on COVID-19

A few weeks ago, I visited Stubbs Early Education Center in the Christina School District. I saw students who were headed to their first day of in-person school, excited to make friends, learn, and be in school. They were wearing masks, and socially distant.

In one classroom, one teacher was working with a few students, while another was comforting a little girl who missed her parents.  Meanwhile in a nearby classroom, another teacher was connected to Zoom. She was reading a story to her class virtually, stopping to ask them questions along the way.

Throughout this pandemic, we have asked educators to throw out the playbook, to move away from years of classroom mainstays and procedures. And to develop an entirely new way of educating and engaging their students.

And they’ve done it.

They’ve provided a sense of calm and comfort for students, parents, and each other. They’ve adapted to changing information and changing protocols.

It has not been easy. And in many cases, it has not been pretty. I know there has been incredible stress, and feelings of frustration and fear. We all should express our appreciation to our educators, school nurses, and school and district leaders.  

Here is the good news. 

Since September, 576 students and staff in public and private schools have tested positive. There are over 60,000 students participating in some form of in-person learning in Delaware.  It’s a testament to the hard work of students, educators and staff that the number is so low. And data from our epidemiologists shows that the vast majority of those 576 cases originated outside of the school building.  

So students are learning. And they are doing so safely. That’s thanks to our educators.

Over the summer, we put together working groups of teachers, administrators, parents, community members, and legislators to come up with a plan to reopen schools safely. Back then, in July and August, we didn’t know what we know now. Based on what we knew then, we made our best estimate of what conditions would have to look like in order for us to recommend a school closure. And we designed a data dashboard to reflect that.

I know that educators and parents have been following that dashboard closely, and many believe we should stick to what we understood over the summer and close schools once hospitalizations and percent positive go into the red zone – a threshold we are fast approaching.

I take very seriously the perils of changing course here, as it relates to the public’s confidence in our approach.

But I take equally seriously the implications of ignoring the science.

We can’t hang on to old facts that don’t meet current realities. 

We have to adapt and adjust, just like we’ve asked educators to do.

The data here in Delaware and our lived experience with the many schools that have successfully reopened, combined with what we’ve seen across the country and in Europe, indicates that the risk of transmission in school when social distancing protocols are followed is not significant. The harm of keeping students out of school, as we all know, is. 

Given those facts, there is not really a public health reason to close schools right now. And I believe strongly that students learn better in person.

However, we live in a complicated world and a complicated time, and it’s clear to me that there are operational needs that make considering a brief pause a good idea.  

Educators, school nurses, and administrators need a chance to figure those challenges out and regroup. And the Division of Public Health can use this time to retool and streamline its school-related procedures. 

School personnel are not immune to the effects of rising community spread, and as more school personnel are forced to quarantine, it becomes increasingly difficult for schools to operate. 

For these reasons, I’m recommending that schools pause and take an extended winter break to reset: 

These are still local decisions. Some districts may choose to stay open, and we will support them in doing so.

But for schools that choose to follow this recommendation, I’m suggesting they make next week the final week of in-person learning this calendar year. 

  • Starting Monday, December 14, those schools should transition to remote learning for the final week or so until the holiday break. 
  • Remote learning should continue until Friday, January 8.  
  • On Monday, January 11, schools should return to their in-person hybrid instruction.  
  • Sports practices may continue, provided social distancing and masking guidelines are followed, but no competitions will be permitted until January 11 at the earliest.  

We are also implementing a Household Stay-at-Home Advisory from December 14 to January 11. We’re asking Delawareans to avoid gathering indoors with anyone outside their household.  

We are implementing a universal indoor mask mandate for the same time period. 

And we are considering additional restrictions. 

Over the break, we will be replacing the data dashboard with data more specific and relevant to the public health conditions affecting schools. 

We’ve learned that schools are a low-risk environment. We need to do more to give school personnel the information and reassurance they need to confidently reenter the classrooms in January. 

Next week I plan to meet with local teachers’ union leaders, to discuss their experiences with hybrid learning, and how we can support them to get children back in January.  Our Department of Education will stand ready to meet with them and their district leadership to discuss any concerns or questions they may have.  We will do the same with representatives from charter schools across our state. We also created an email address (Educator.Feedback@doe.k12.de.us) specifically for educators who want to share their experiences with us. 

Based on what we hear, the Department will work with the Division of Public Health to recommend any operational changes needed to give educators a greater level of comfort in the classroom.

This virus is scary. And dealing with it every day for nine months has been emotionally fatiguing. Educators didn’t sign up to be on the front lines of a global pandemic. And I know this has certainly been a lot to bear for them.

I’m asking you to hold on just a little bit longer. A vaccine is coming, and it’s coming soon. Educators will be among the first to receive the vaccine. And God willing, we will bend the curve of this virus once and for all. 

Before closing, I have a message for parents. We need your help. Our teachers are keeping your children safe in school. We need you to keep them safe outside of school. That means avoid indoor playdates. Avoid sleepovers. Avoid birthday parties outside your family. Avoid carpooling without masks.

We’re entrusting our educators with the health and safety of our children. It is a weighty responsibility. It’s a big job. They’re working extremely hard in extremely difficult conditions. They need our support and your help. Please be patient.  And most important of all, please join me in thanking them.

 


Delaware students thrive during in-person learning

Note: This article originally appeared in the Delaware Department of Education’s November Take Note E-Newsletter. For more information on the great things happening in schools across Delaware, sign up to receive Take Note: Education in the First State at http://www.doe.k12.de.us/takenote. Take Note is published the final Wednesday of each month.

 

Thanks to the hard work of educators and school staff across the state, including careful planning and conscientious following of needed safety measures and protocols, students in most schools across Delaware have been given the option to return to some form of in-person learning if their families so choose. The Delaware Division of Public Health reports that school faculty and staff’s hard work has paid off with low COVID-19 case numbers in schools and –  similar to what has been found nationally and internationally – no significant spread in schools.

Delaware educators have been working hard to provide rigorous, relevant instruction regardless of students’ learning format. We asked them to help us share some of the good stories happening in our schools. Have another story to share? Email it to Take.Note@doe.k12.de.us so we can feature it in a future newsletter.

 

Christina School District Shue-Medill Middle School music teacher Bill Storck starts each class period with a meditation practice and discussion of mindfulness-related concepts. “Many students are finding it tremendously helpful for dealing with stress and heavy emotions, especially during crazy 2020,” said Storck. Check out these student testimonials.

 


Shue-Medill Middle School‘s 6th Grade Chinese immersion teacher Andrea Li’s led presentations for students on this year’s presidential election. “Students have been doing good work during in-person learning,” she said.

 


EastSide Charter School in Wilmington has been offering a weekly COVID-19 testing program for all staff and students.

EastSide Charter has also been hosting safe events for students and families, providing a way to continue engaging their school community during hybrid learning.

 

 


New Castle County Vocational-Technical School District has been offering in-person instruction to its high school students since Oct 19.  NCCVT’s hybrid plan is built around career and technical education instruction, with students who choose to do so attending in-person classes one day a week and virtual instruction the remaining four days. “No hybrid schedule is going to be ideal,” said Superintendent Joe Jones, “but we were committed to developing a plan that would offer our students valuable in-person instruction with their teachers at least one day a week.” Jones said students remain in the same learning pod and do not mix groups which, in addition to following all safety practices, has helped keep the district’s students and staff safe.

 

Media contact: Alison May, alison.may@doe.k12.de.us, 302-735-4006


Christina senior secretary named Delaware’s first Educational Support Professional of the Year

A senior administrative secretary from Christina School District’s Jennie E. Smith Elementary School is the state’s first Delaware Educational Support Professional of the Year.

 

Secretary of Education Susan Bunting surprised Alice Williams by presenting her with the award at her school this morning. Williams, who has 24 years of experience including eight with the state, originally planned to become a teacher. Instead, life eventually brought her into a position working as a secretary in a high poverty school in Wilmington.

 

“It was here that I learned to look past the first impressions of each family and to attempt to remove the obstacles that prevent student success,” Williams said.

 

“I have witnessed hidden and overt criticism of parents when students are unprepared for school or when the adults appear unsupportive. I quickly learned that hygiene issues can be the result of transient living situations, unavailable washers or dryers or non-working utilities. Parents or guardians may not be able to produce the necessary documents to register their child for school because they’re behind in paying the utility bills that are required to verify the address or have utilities in the name of another person due to past balance. A parent who uses public transportation will take hours to come pick up a sick child or may have to walk if they don’t have bus fare,” Williams said. “My experience has helped me recognize the balancing act that parents have between their job and family responsibilities. Sending a parent away and asking them to come back to school with the required documents can force a choice between keeping their job or not registering their child for school.”

 

Williams said she learned the state requirements and policies and found ways to be flexible with parents: “Doing so ultimately puts the child first, which is always the goal.”

 

Jennie E. Smith Elementary Assistant Principal Mabel Boutte said Williams has an unwavering commitment to her school and greater community.

 

“Our school has an influx of new residents as a result of population growth in our area. Many times, our new families have difficulty navigating the new surroundings. Mrs. Williams has made it her mission to ensure they have a smooth transition to our school and its surrounding community,” Boutte said. “She quickly discerns their needs and works diligently to provide clarification to ensure they have a great first impression of the Christina School District.”

 

Bunting congratulated Williams, thanking her for her outstanding support of students, families and staff that led to her recognition.

 

“Mrs. Williams serves as a vital bridge between the school and community. Her dedication to the people she serves helps families and students feel welcomed and staff feel supported. Work such as hers often is behind the scenes but is so vital to our students’ success,” Bunting said.

 

Christina Superintendent Dan Shelton said, “Watching Alice interact with the students at Jennie E. Smith Elementary is a true delight.  Her upbeat nature and true desire to help our students and families is evident in everything she does.  Having Alice as the first face of the school sets the tone for a positive experience for all who enter the school.”

 

Williams is one of 20 educational support professionals honored this year. Each was chosen to represent their districts or the Delaware Charter School Network in the state’s first Delaware Educational Support Professional of the Year Program.

 

Launching this year, the Delaware State Educational Support Professional of the Year (ESPY) program recognizes outstanding service by school employees who provide direct or indirect services to students and their families. The Delaware Charter School Network also is invited to participate. Employees considered for the award include:

  • Paraprofessionals
  • Custodial staff
  • Secretaries
  • Nutritional staff
  • School- and district-employed bus drivers
  • School- and district-employed bus aides

 

From those nominated at a building level, one educational support professional of the year moves forward to represent each district or the charter school community in the state program. Each district/charter network winner receives a $1,000 personal award from the winner’s district or charter school. The state program then chooses one person annually to serve as Delaware’s Educational Support Professional of the Year. State winners receive an additional $1,500 personal award from DDOE as well as $2,500 to be used for the educational benefit of his or her students.

 

A selection committee reviewed the local winners’ state applications to select the 2021 Delaware Educational Support Professional of the Year.

 

DDOE is excited to recognize Williams and all of these outstanding professionals whose work is vital to students’ success.

 

The 20 nominees are:

 

Appoquinimink: Middletown High paraprofessional Valerie Raab (awarded posthumously)

 

Brandywine:  P.S. duPont Middle paraprofessional Ryan Matthews

 

Caesar Rodney: W.B. Simpson Elementary paraprofessional Paula Kohout

 

Cape Henlopen: Richard Shields Elementary paraprofessional Chantal Smith

 

Capital: William Henry Middle School paraprofessional Jamel Trott

 

Delaware Charter School Network: Charter School of Wilmington Assistant to the President/Admissions Director Suzanne Musacchio

 

Christina: Jennie E. Smith Elementary senior administrative secretary Alice Williams

 

Colonial: Southern Elementary paraprofessional Holly Wiedenmann

 

Delmar: Delmar High School Intensive Learning Center assistant Odell Jones Jr.

 

Indian River: Indian River High IT technician David Clark

 

Lake Forest: Lake Forest North Elementary Child Nutrition Services Manager Karen Mast

 

Laurel: Laurel High School custodian Justin Saulsbury

 

Milford: Lulu Ross Elementary paraprofessional Robert Newsome

 

NCCVT: Hodgson Vo-Tech paraprofessional Megan McClelland

 

POLYTECH: POLYECH High Technician Plant Operator& Maintenance James Demko

 

Red Clay Consolidated: A.I. duPont High paraprofessional Kathryn Ellis

 

Seaford: Central Elementary school behavioral interventionist LuAnn Holden

 

Smyrna: North Smyrna Elementary paraprofessional Nadine Collins

 

Sussex Tech: Sussex Tech High School Technology Coordinator Philip Wilson

 

Woodbridge: Woodbridge Middle School chief custodian Thomas “Pete” Faulk

 

Find photos of the nominees and learn more about the program here.