Gov. Jack Markell became the first person to sign up online for Delaware's Principal for a Day program Tuesday at his alma mater, Newark High School.
In doing so, he joined other government officials such as Lt. Gov. Matt Denn and Secretary of State Jeff Bullock, who served as guest principals in previous years.
But it's not just government officials who are choosing to leave their offices to become guest principals. Business leaders, such as Hinton Lucas, have also served as principals for a day.Lucas works at DuPont and is the Chairman of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce (DSCC). He spoke at Tuesday's press conference.
Since 2005, he said, there have been more than 36 DuPont personnel who have participated in the program. That averages out to about five participants per year.
Before he publicly signed up for the program in front of an audience, Markell urged continued business support for statewide education reforms.
"The business community has been very supportive of the fact that we've raised our standards significantly," he said. "And now we're implementing the Common Core [State] Standards here in Delaware."
Markell added that as a result of "our collective efforts" over the last three years, the ratio of low-income children in Delaware enrolled in preschool has improved from one in 20 children to one in three. He expects that number to continue to improve.
Markell also said that the business community has also been supportive of world language instruction, among other initiatives. He pointed out that close to 1,000 kindergartners and first graders across the state of Delaware are spending half their school day learning science, social studies, and math in either Chinese or Spanish. Kindergartners are learning those three school subjects in Chinese at the John R. Downes Elementary School, while students at Pulaski Elementary School are learning them in Spanish. Both schools are in the Christina School District, which includes Newark High School.
Joan Verplank, president of the DSCC, sees the Delaware Principal for a Day Program as a way businesses can show their support, especially as the program moves to an online registration format.
"Bringing the Delaware Principal for a Day program to an online format…is not only the smart thing to do—given our capabilities in today's technology—but it creates an environment where businesspeople and principals can share details about the visits and raise awareness of the challenges and achievements of today's education system." Verplank continued, "Hopefully, this will be a spring-board for an all-new approach to business becoming engaged as well."
Page 2 of 2 - Since 2005, the DSCC has facilitated 1,283 school visits. Last year, more than 100 government leaders and businesspeople participated in the program. Guest principals spend at least half a day doing "all the stuff that principals do," said Verplank, such as greeting students in the morning, meeting with parents, and discussing issues such as budget management and workforce development with faculty and administrative staff.
"The goal is to unite business and education people to make schools better by working together and educate people on what is going on [in Delaware's educationalsystems]," said Verplank.
Since 1993, the Delaware Principal for a Day program has been open to all Delaware public, private, and charter schools. Catholic schools, such as St. Anthony of Padua Grade School and St. Elizabeth High School, are included in the list of around 101 registered schools. The program, which runs every October, is administered by The Partnership, Inc., which is the DSCC educational affiliate.
Other speakers at the kickoff press conference included Newark High School Principal Curtis Bedford, Secretary of Education Mark Murphy of the Delaware Department of Education, Superintendent Merv Daugherty of the Red Clay Consolidated School District, and Superintendent Freeman Williams of the Christina School District.