Education in the First State
August 26, 2020

Free, high-quality children's books available to families

Expanding Dolly Parton's Imagination Library Statewide
Delaware is partnering with Dolly Parton's Imagination Library to bring more children's books to families across Delaware.
Governor John Carney and First Lady Tracey Quillen Carney today joined American icon Dolly Parton to announce the statewide expansion of her namesake Imagination Library book gifting program and to encourage parents of young children across Delaware to participate.
"I am so excited to be working with Governor and First Lady Carney to bring my Imagination Library to children and families across Delaware!" said Ms. Parton. "It takes visionary leaders to make this possible, and I can't thank them enough. It is such an important time to share the gift of books and reading with as many children as we can, and I know Delaware families will love receiving a specially selected book in the mail each month."
Children whose parents enroll them with Dolly Parton's Imagination Library through Delaware libraries receive one new book in the mail each month from birth until the child's fifth birthday at no cost to the family, creating a personal library of as many as 60 books that can help form the foundation of a child's early reading experience. Information and registration are available online through the Delaware Division of Libraries.
Books are selected by a national panel of early childhood literacy experts who review hundreds of children's books each year and choose those that best fit the needs of children as they learn and grow.

DEMA, DPH coordinate COVID-19 student testing
U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Devon Headley, a medical service officer with the Delaware National Guard, talks with a patient at a drive-thru testing site for COVID-19. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Brendan Mackie)

The Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) and the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) are coordinating COVID-19 testing for Delaware students returning to in-person instruction this fall. DEMA and DPH will organize community testing opportunities and offer more ways for school communities to access testing. Students are strongly encouraged to undergo testing for COVID-19 in the 7-10 days prior to their return to a school building as well as periodically thereafter. Districts and charter schools are working with DEMA and DPH to communicate testing opportunities with families as they become available. 
Wellbeing, resilience especially important this year  
Capital School District students adhere to social distancing and mask requirements during this year's Summer Boost 2020 program. 
Editor's Note: This guest piece is written by Teri Lawler in DDOE's Office of Equity and Innovation.  

And How Are the Children? This Maasai tribal greeting pricked my heart when I heard it many years ago.  It has been top of mind as I reflect on the unsettling events of the last five months and intensify preparations for the school year ahead.   In times of joy and pain, peace and war, the Maasai men and women approached with the greeting, "Casserian Engeri" - translated "And how are the children?"  Regardless of the circumstances, they expected the traditional return response, "All the children are well."  Their personal lives, worldly circumstances, nor politics altered the high value placed on their children's wellbeing.  While their simple inquiry and response encompassed so much more about their tribal society and culture, what is evident at the core is their belief that how they cared for the needs of children mattered for the future.  As go the children, so go the tribe.  The Maasai were legacy minded and recognized that their youth represented seeds of greatness for future prosperity and sustainability of their people. 

This message has become central to Delaware's approach to social and emotional learning as a strategic intent for building whole child wellbeing and ultimately community resilience.  We have adopted an ecological model to build concentric circles of support around children and youth to create a culture of care.  Central to our culture of care is the neuroscience of development, attachment theory, emotion regulation, and educator self-care.  We focus on what relationships and coping skills look like when derailed by developmental trauma and toxic stress and respond with a resilience-informed approach that relies on trust-based relationships for healing-centered engagement.  Recognizing that adults cannot pour from an empty well, we place a high priority on recognizing vicarious trauma and burnout to support educator retention. 

We have stretched our "resilience muscles" to combat these challenges with an aggressive capacity-building model that is loaded with professional learning, book studies, and simulations to engage the heart, shift mindsets, and inform professional practices.  Themes include social and emotional learning and mindfulness as universal supports, restorative practices, culturally responsive teaching, equitable and just schools, as well as trauma-informed practices, positive childhood experiences, and protective factors to tip the scales of adversity.  Our offerings are differentiated so educators are encouraged to reflect and exercise autonomy over their readiness and capacity for challenge.  We have also woven professional learning throughout to assure that everyone in our community who has the opportunity to engage with children and youth has the capacity to do so.  Professional development for educators has been extended to parents, out-of-school time partners, and community centers. 

Every educator in our state was provided subscriptions to the Headspace app in June of 2019.  We had no idea at that time how much we would need them.  Since mid-March, we have hosted 16 weeks of mindfulness sessions that focused on the SEL competencies through our partnership with Pure Edge, Inc.  We have included weekly sessions for families and caregivers who had taken on the responsibilities of full-time care and virtual learning.  We pivoted to host our whole child summer learning institute online.  Offerings included a 12-hour training for trainers on trauma-informed practices, a 15-hour data use for school improvement series entitled Analysis to Action, a 20-hour Bootcamp to move our school communities from trauma-sensitive to trauma-responsive, AND a 4-hour, self-paced learning opportunity called Neuro Logic Classrooms to assure that brain-based strategies to facilitate engagement were incorporated throughout.  Lastly, we are hosting 12 differentiated book studies facilitated by teacher leaders from August until October to support the transition into the school year.  There is truly something offered for everyone.  We made a special effort to meet people where they are - just as we expect for students - and we are evaluating for impact including shifts in mindset.

We believe that we are BETTER TOGETHER and infuse that running theme throughout our work. The Delaware SEL Core Team and Collaborative led the charge with the adoption of K-12 SEL competencies that aligned with our state's early childhood SEL standards.  This dedicated group of educators and committed stakeholders will facilitate workgroups to create implementation tools for SEL integration in academic content areas as well as in homes, out of school, and community spaces.  Educators and business leaders will come together for the CASEL Bridge project, "crosswalking" the SEL and CTE competencies to strengthen career pathways for Delaware youth.  Restart and recovery efforts will be fortified with the support of other youth-serving agency partners joining forces to host a statewide Whole Child Community of Practice facilitated by Transforming Education.  We will enhance strategic communications with the support of WestEd's Center to Improve Social and Emotional Learning and School Safety.  Moreover, Project THRIVE, our multi-year, trauma recovery demonstration project funded by the US Department of Education, will allow the Delaware Department of Education to fund trauma-specific therapeutic services for all students attending public and private schools, fortifying our MTSS framework.  It is our BIG DREAM that all of these efforts have mitigated the threat and prepared us for the battle ahead, allowing us to affirm like the mighty Maasai warriors that in spite of these unprecedented times, the community is safe, the future is secure, because Delaware's children are well! 

Partnership aimed at Kent, Sussex broadband desert

Delaware Department of Technology and Information (DTI) Chief Information Officer James Collins is joined by Bloosurf, LLC Founder and CEO Vincent Sabathier and team to announce a partnership to provide affordable wireless broadband in targeted, rural areas of Kent and Sussex Counties.
Last July, Governor John Carney and DTI issued a Request for Proposals to provide wireless broadband internet service to unserved and underserved residents and businesses in rural areas, and set a goal to eliminate broadband deserts in those regions within 24 months. DTI estimates target areas include approximately 127,700 homes and businesses in the rural parts of Sussex and Kent Counties. DTI will provide funding for startup costs of approximately $2 million to design, build, operate and commercialize a wireless network. DTI has placed prioritization on low-cost services for low-income families to enable them to take full advantage of the internet.
"Delawareans use the internet every day to search for jobs, acquire new skills, help their children do their homework, and run their businesses," said Governor Carney. "High-speed broadband connectivity is essential for all Delaware families to succeed in today's economy. This initiative will connect Delawareans in rural areas that have long been underserved by high-speed internet service - or not served at all. We are pleased to be moving forward with this partnership, and look forward to additional progress."

Newark Charter student a Doodle for Google finalist
Rising grade 6 student Teagan Cern represents Delaware with the above Doodle for Google drawing on kindness.
Congratulations to Newark Charter School student Teagan Cern, who was chosen by Google to represent Delaware in this year's Doodle for Google contest. Cern's art teacher, Natalia King Ciriaco, regularly has her classes participate in the contest. Ciriaco and Newark Charter Principal Jesse Wakeman suprised Cern with balloons on her front porch earlier this month to help give Cern the good news.  
Cerns artwork is titled, "Different People, Better World," and aligns with this year's Doodle for Google theme on showing kindness. Along with the design, Cern wrote the following:

Being Kind by Sharing Knowledge
I show kindness by helping my grandmother to learn computers. I show her how to search on google which can help her to learn many things and that makes her happy. We enjoy spending time together. 
Doodle for Google is a yearly competition that asks K-12 students to submit artwork for the chance to have featured on the Google home page. The annual winner receives a $30,000 scholarship as well as a $50,000 technology package for their school.

Americans across the country chose their favorite state and territory winners earlier this week. Google will tally the votes and announce the five national finalists on Monday, Aug. 31. Good luck, Teagan!  
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