Gov. Jack Markell signs the bill at UD's Bob Carpenter Center. Photo by Ambre Alexander

Bill signed at UD job fair

New law reduces hiring obstacles for Delaware schools

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1:44 p.m., April 18, 2011--Delaware Gov. Jack Markell says he’s been hearing about the “September 30th problem” regarding teachers’ contracts for years and was eager to address the issue. On April 13, during a teachers’ job fair at the University of Delaware, he signed Senate Bill 16 (SB 16), allowing schools in Delaware to issue job offers to teachers earlier in the year.

Previously, districts were not guaranteed their full share of state funding for teacher salaries until the official Sept. 30 student count was issued by the state. That meant most new Delaware teachers received job offers in the late summer and early fall, after other states and other districts had made offers. That resulted in late hiring, causing Delaware to lose talent to other states and made some teachers enter their classroom with limited time to prepare their lessons.

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The new law establishes an “estimated unit count” for the state’s school districts in April of each school year. This estimated unit count provides school districts greater confidence in the amount of state funding they will receive to pay new teachers, allowing them to extend earlier hiring offers.

A press conference for the bill signing was held during the Teach in Delaware Day and Project Search job fair at the Bob Carpenter Sports Center.  Nancy Brickhouse, interim dean of UD’s College of Education and Human Development, hosted the event, with presentations by Markell, Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, State Senator David Sokola and a special guest speaker, Maria Paredes, who will be graduating from UD with a master’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language in May.

“Delaware has so many reasons to be proud of the hard work done by our teachers in our state’s public schools. This legislation means our districts will be able to recruit and retain top teaching talent into our public schools much earlier in the process. It gives them the chance to make clear to teachers that our schools are as committed to them as those teachers will be to their students,” said Sokola, who chairs the Senate Education Committee. Senate Bill 16 was the direct result of the Teacher Hiring Task Force created by Sokola and Denn in 2010.

Jeffrey A. Raffel, Charles P. Messick Professor of Public Administration in the School of Public Policy and Administration, was an adviser on the task force.  “I am delighted that the applied research and public service work conducted in the Institute for Public Administration and the School of Public Policy and Administration laid the foundation for the Teacher Hiring Task Force's report and this reform legislation,” he said. 

Raffel said, “This late hiring has restricted the pool of available candidates, led to too many teachers starting their positions after their school’s orientation, delayed their ability to set up their classrooms, and sent a negative message to teachers about their value to society. The passage of this legislation should put Delaware's school districts in a more competitive situation to hire the best teachers in the nation. Our children deserve nothing less.”

Brickhouse said, "This bill not only provides financial support for districts to hire teachers during a timeframe that facilitates their hiring the best teachers, it also sends the message that hiring well-prepared teachers is of critical significance to the goal of dramatically improving student learning in Delaware schools. New standards, longitudinal data systems, data coaches, new assessments -- all of these initiatives rely on strong implementation by capable and wise teachers.”

The press conference was held at the University of Delaware in coordination with Teach in Delaware Day and Project Search. This two-day event, sponsored by UD’s Career Services Center and the University Council on Teacher Education, allows representatives from school districts in surrounding states to meet with graduating seniors and alumni from the University.

Hundreds of students attended to meet with recruiters from seven states, interested in prospective positions as teachers, counselors, administrators, and specialists for fall 2011.

The recruiters from the school districts were very pleased with the candidates.

“The education students coming out of the University of Delaware have excellent credentials.  Everyone I’ve talked to has been very bright, very motivated,” said Denise Schwartz, principal of Downes Elementary School in Newark, part of the Christina School District. “I haven’t spoken to anyone I wouldn’t be happy to hire.” Now, as the law takes effect, her wish may come true.

Article by Alison Burris

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