A bill that would establish a 17-person task force to focus on mentoring and improving literacy rates for Delaware’s youth unanimously passed the House Education Committee Wednesday.
“We believe that the 18,222 children in charter schools across our state benefit not just from the educators in the building, but from the village that helps educate them,” said Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network. “Mentors are a huge part of that.”
House Joint Resolution 1, sponsored by education committee chairs Rep. Kim Williams, D-Marshallton, and Sen. Laura Sturgeon, D-Hockessin, says the task force will mainstream public school mentoring systems.
“It will look at ways that the state could expand the number of mentors, and improve the use of information technology to make improvements to recruitment, training and retention of mentors,” Williams said.
This might include a single statewide website for school mentoring and necessary infrastructure that will be needed to run a top-quality mentoring program, she said.
Rep. Mike Smith, R-Pike Creek, told the committee that he and his wife have been mentoring two young boys.
One experienced a rather traumatic divorce, Smith said.
“He comes over three nights a week and we play, we do homework together, we do schoolwork together,” Smith said, “and he’s now a stud baseball player and now he’s able to play on the baseball team because he got his grades up.”
Smith said the other child has a background similar to himself, with a family consumed by drug addiction.
“I just encourage everybody to step up and look to see in their own groups and their own communities what people are going through,” Smith said. “Give your time when you can.”
If the bill passed, it would include:
- Two members of the House of Representatives – one member of the majority party who is appointed by the speaker of the house, and one member of the minority party who is appointed by the House minority leader.
- Two members of the Senate – one member of the majority party who is appointed by the president pro tempore of the Senate, and one member of the minority party who is appointed by the Senate minority leader.
- The governor.
- The secretary of education.
- The secretary of the Department of Services for Children, Youth, and their Families.
- The secretary of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
- The secretary of the Department of Technology and Information.
- A representative of the governor’s Advisory Council on Exceptional Citizens.
- A representative of the Delaware Association of School Administrators, nominated by the association’s president.
- A representative of the Delaware State Education Association, nominated by the association’s president.
- Three members of the public.
- A representative of a Delaware charter school.
- A literacy coach at a Delaware school district.
The bill said there was no need for a fiscal report.
Under the bill, the task force must submit an annual report to the General Assembly, the governor, the director and the librarian of the Division of Research of Legislative Council and the Delaware Public Archives.
The report must contain updates to the mentoring efforts, recommendations to increase the number of mentors for the next school year, proof of evidence-based literacy efforts, funding requests and more.
Rep. Jeff Hilovsky, R-Millsboro, said the involvement of community members in the school system will help them see the positives of Delaware’s schools as well as the various cultures that are represented within them.
The bill now heads to the House floor.
“It’s a valuable opportunity for us all and I think that this legislation will go a long way toward encouraging the public to become more involved in their schools,” Hilovsky said, “and therefore in their children, and I think that society will be better for it.
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
Jarek can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (215) 450-9982. Follow him on Twitter @jarekrutz
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