Gov. Carney Visits Alfred G. Waters Middle School - Feb. 27

Delaware Governor John Carney paid a visit to Alfred G. Waters Middle School in Middletown on Tuesday, Feb. 27 and talked with sixth grade science teachers during their professional learning community meeting. Joining the governor and the teachers were Appoquinimink School District Superintendent Matt Burrows, Waters Middle School principal Tom Poehlmann and State Representative Kevin Hensley. This visit was a part of Gov. Carney’s visits to several schools around the state to highlight proposed investments in teachers, needs for high-needs schools and early learning.

Gov. Carney talked about the changes in education and that many of the jobs that historically schools have prepared students for will not be around in the future. Gov. Carney asked how the teachers are using new technology and the teachers said that students are now provided I-Pads and because of the technology and access to information, there’s now a challenge to take learning even farther and letting students learn on their own. The teachers added that sixth grade students are often learning science and social studies for the first time and the access to more information via technology allows them to learn more on their own. Gov. Carney asked the teachers what they do if students fall behind and the teachers said they try to work with students one on one, especially students who miss a class and need to catch up. The teachers said they will group kids by ability so the stronger students can help students who need more help. The teachers also talked about students who have different sets of learning skills with some who are good at remembering facts while others learn by problem solving. Pairing up students with differing learning skills means they can learn from each other. Gov, Carney asked how the teachers deal with “high fliers” and Principal Poehlmann said they do a lot of monitoring on individual students and they will push those students into projects that go beyond the classroom, like robotics.

The teachers discussed some of the challenges of growth and the effect that has on funding the schools, especially in the Appoquinimink School District where they have to go to voters with referendums to increase funding for new schools. Governor Carney replied that “everybody wants to be in your district”. Gov, Carney went on to highlight the area property values, lower taxes and strong reputation of the school system as the reasons for the growth. The governor asked where the current A.G. Waters students will attend high school and about two-thirds will attend Appoquinimink High School with the rest attending Middletown High School according to Superintendent Matt Burrows. Burrows said that Middletown High has grown by over 100 students in recent years. The governor and the teachers talked about the perceived public stigma about public school funding, especially from those who do not have kids in the school system. Gov, Carney said that public officials “respond to who they work for” and that a good economy often reduces how much money is asked for. Rep. Kevin Hensley said we need to increase the value of education. 

After meeting with the teachers, Middletown Radio briefly had the opportunity to talk to Gov, Carney. In response to a discussion about the differing needs of school systems, the governor was asked about allowing more local control of spending by school districts. Gov, Carney said he supports the idea of empowering school districts to have more control of spending, but the funding mechanisms in place by the state favor giving to all school systems equally. He also said that some of the funding involves local matching which limits the flexibility of the spending. Gov. Carney was asked about the idea of basing state funding on enrollment in both September and January, especially since Appoquinimink Schools almost always has enrollment increases after the official September unit count date which then limits the state funding per student. Gov. Carney replied that this is a hard problem to solve saying that it makes it harder to attract teachers for the following school year when the unit count changes during the school year. Finally in response to calls from some legislators to arm teachers after the Florida school shooting, Gov. Carney said he is not in favor of the idea.

Photo credits: Keith Thompson

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