by James DeChene
Last week news broke that the Diamond State Port Corporation has agreed to purchase the Edge Moor facility from Chemours in an effort to expand the Port of Wilmington, which is nearing its capacity. The State Chamber has supported expansion at the port to take advantage of Delaware’s attractive position in the mid-atlantic region—able to take advantage of the channel, close to the majority of the country’s population, proximity to rail and an interstate highway system that’s a direct pipeline to Chicago and points west. In fact, port expansion was featured prominently in the Delaware Business Roundtable’s Growth Agenda as a driver towards long term economic development and sustainability for the state.
by James DeChene
In the last week, I’ve heard two presentations from the Office of Management and Budget on how they’re starting to put together next year’s budget, the November public hearing schedule (they start on November 22nd, and can be found here), and how DEFAC’s forecasting will be critical at their December meeting.
To date, DEFAC has estimated a $167 million revenue shortfall for FY2017. What remains to be seen this fall are how “door openers” will impact that number. Door openers include the final student enrollment numbers public schools report to the state, the final Medicaid numbers and, this year, the prorated raise amount for state employees. The best guesstimate on these additional increases are in the $150 million range, meaning budget writers need to find between $300 and $400 million in order to meet budget.
Shifting to how the state spends its money – 73% of the FY2016 budget is allocated to employee salaries and health care, pensions, Medicaid and debt service. Without cuts to personnel or programs, these numbers will increase next year. The largest growth of public sector employees are in education, as student enrollment in public schools continues to rise as more kids are transitioned from private/parochial schools back to public (1,500 students are added on average per year). Over 228,000 are eligible for Medicaid (over 25% of Delaware’s population). Revenue growth in FY17 is expected to be 1.5%, and FY18 will see 0% growth as currently forecast.
These are all items the State Chamber has talked about for the last few years—specifically on the need for there to be structural changes to how the state collects and spends money. Many of these ideas were highlighted in the Delaware Business Roundtable’s Growth Agenda, and we support their immediate adoption. This next year will be another difficult money year, with no easy solutions, but the business community, including the State Chamber, has proposed ideas on how to invest in economic development, make Delaware more attractive to outside entities, and to help turn our economy around. We hope the 149th General Assembly will discuss and debate these issues recognizing that without action, our budget will continue to suffer.
by James DeChene
The Dog Days of Summer are upon us. The last two weeks have been filled with national party convention drama, heat waves making for great vacation/beach weather (see you next week, Lewes), and mixed in are polls for the City of Wilmington mayoral and Congressional races, with results showing that many people are not yet focused on local elections. Faster than some sunburns will fade, Fall and the September primaries will be here, and, as the State Chamber has mentioned (repeatedly), there are hot button issues on the horizon next year. Many of them have been outlined in the recent Delaware Business Roundtable’s Growth Agenda (available for your beach reading pleasure), and can help serve as an election guide for the business community to choose who is best served to help guide Delaware into the future. For now, we hope you enjoy your summer, that your AC is working, and that you’ll spend some time reading up on your specific candidates up for election.
by Mark Turner & Chip Rossi
The announcement that DuPont will be establishing the headquarters for its agriculture company in Wilmington is great news for DuPont, its workers, and all Delaware families whose livelihoods depend on a strong and thriving private sector.
But the work for Delaware’s future is far from done. The competition we face from other states and overseas is fierce, and state leaders must build on the vision, flexibility and spirit of cooperation that ensured the DuPont unit wouldn’t leave for competing states.
The News Journal succinctly laid out the daunting challenge Delaware faced in retaining a DuPont presence in its ancestral home:
“After two centuries of shared history between DuPont and Delaware, local officials had just 10 weeks to pull together a deal that would secure the company’s future in the state it helped to build.
That meant putting together an incentive deal with enough tax breaks, subsidies and capital improvement assistance to keep thousands of jobs in New Castle County.
It also required working together to present an unrelenting sales pitch that would beat out much larger states Iowa and Indiana, a feat many analysts and other outsiders considered unlikely, if not downright impossible.”
As Gov. Jack Markell noted, “It certainly wasn’t out of the question that we could lose all of it.” In the end, however, Delaware overcame the odds to keep a portion of DuPont at home through hard work, bipartisanship and a nimbleness that isn’t often seen in today’s fractured political and economic climate. Gov. Markell, the leaders of the General Assembly and the entire congressional delegation are to be commended for working together to keep DuPont in Delaware.
How did they do it?
Both political parties worked together. State and federal leaders engaged in a productive dialogue with DuPont and other business leaders about what was needed. Members of the General Assembly acted quickly and decisively by passing the Delaware Competes Act, signaling their interest in making Delaware more business friendly. Taken together, it created a winning package that reinforced Delaware’s long-standing reputation as a business friendly state – particularly since a number of states were competing to have these businesses located within their borders.
We believe some of the factors contributing to this decision were the state’s attractive business climate, the skilled and highly educated workforce and the close and constructive working relationship between government, business, and higher education in our state. In terms of future job growth, DuPont’s recent announcement that the company is creating a process to evaluate requests by former employees to gain access to DuPont patent property is another sign of how maintaining DuPont – and other major employers – in Delaware will foster the establishment of new entrepreneurial businesses and help create additional economic growth.
Looking forward to opportunities that lie ahead, we believe that the same collaborative approach that yielded success with DuPont can become a useful model on such important issues as improving sustainability of state revenues, carefully controlling state spending and creating an even more robust economic development effort to help Delaware businesses grow and create additional jobs attracting new businesses to our state.
The business community in Delaware is committed to working with state leaders to build on the solid foundation of existing and prior work that supports economic development in Delaware, including the work of the Delaware Economic Development Office.
We will provide resources and give voice to issues that need discussion while working collaboratively with state officials. The Roundtable took this approach with its recent study of state finances, and both the Roundtable and Chamber participated in the Delaware Expenditure Review Committee. Importantly, the Roundtable and Chamber also are working together to develop a growth agenda for Delaware so that Delawareans can benefit from increased availability of jobs and economic prosperity.
Once again, Delaware has shown that it is willing to do what it takes to create a more business-friendly environment – much to the credit of the Governor, the General Assembly and the congressional delegation. This is a message that is not lost on industry leaders both inside and outside the state when they are deciding where to invest, build and grow their businesses.
Now is the time for the public and private sectors to continue to build on this success to transition Delaware to an economy focused on growth, innovation, collaboration and flexibility to the benefit of our workers and taxpayers for generations to come.
Mark Turner is the chair of the Delaware Business Roundtable. Chip Rossi is the chair of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce.
By now most of you have seen or heard the good news: DuPont plans to locate the headquarters for its Agriculture company in Delaware.
Leaders of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce and The Delaware Business Roundtable worked with the Governor’s office and Delaware’s congressional delegation in this successful effort to have the corporate headquarters of the DuPont, Dow independent Agriculture company locate in Delaware.
Click here for the press release from DuPont Dow released today, below is the joint media statement from the DSCC and DBRT that was distributed earlier this week.
Joint Statement from Mark Turner, Chairman of Delaware Business Roundtable (President and CEO, WSFS Bank) and Chip Rossi, Chairman of Delaware State Chamber of Commerce Delaware Market President, Bank of America)
“Today’s announcement that DuPont will be establishing the headquarters for its Agriculture company in Wilmington is great news for Delaware. We are very excited that both the new Agriculture and Specialty Products companies will be headquartered in Wilmington, following the planned separation of DowDuPont into three separate companies.
This announcement reinforces Delaware’s long-standing reputation as a business friendly state, particularly since a number of states were competing to have these businesses located within their borders. We believe some of the factors contributing to this decision were the state’s attractive business climate, the skilled and highly educated workforce and the close and constructive working relationship between government, business, and higher education in our state.
In terms of future job growth, DuPont’s recent announcement that the company is creating a process to evaluate requests by former employees to gain access to DuPont patent property is another sign of how maintaining DuPont in Delaware will foster the establishment of new entrepreneurial businesses and help create additional economic growth.
We appreciate DuPont’s ongoing commitment to the state and the fact that the company and its thousands of employees will continue to be active in our community, including with civic and charitable organizations. This announcement is good news for Delaware, for all Delawareans and anyone connected with our state.
In particular, we applaud the fact that Governor Markell and his administration and our congressional delegation demonstrated exemplary leadership and collaboration in working together with DuPont and the business community to ensure that the company and its employees will remain a vital part of our economy and our communities.”
I am honored to have this opportunity to work with all of you, the leaders of Delaware’s business community, as we continue to move our organization forward over the next few years. Mark Stellini did a lot for Delaware during his time as chairman of this organization and together, we can keep that momentum going in the months to come.
Our role at the Chamber is to support businesses of all sizes by advocating on legislative issues like the state budget or the Coastal Zone Act, promoting local leaders through programs like Superstars in Business and Superstars in Education, and helping build important relationships through activities like the Delaware Networking Station. We work together with key leaders throughout the state to drive towards a better, brighter future … a future that offers good jobs, good schools, strong and safe communities, and a diversity of people and ability who together build one Delaware.
This is an important time for our state. Delaware is facing economic, social and political changes and challenges over the next few years that could affect the quality of life for future generations. As we progress through this election year, we must keep in mind that it takes strong leadership to manage through change. I am counting on us to have the courage to tackle the challenges head on.
I know you believe in what we do. I do too.
Together we can create a better Delaware.
On Wednesday, over 125 educators, administrators, business and non-profit leaders participated in the Vision Coalition’s Eighth Annual Conference on Education at Clayton Hall at the University of Delaware. The conference focused on how to best implement the recommendations Vision Coalition of Delaware’s Student Success 2025 – a 10-year plan to advance Delaware’s schools and education outcomes. Student Success 2025 is a multi-tiered plan developed through public collaboration and extensive state-wide engagement of community, student, business, nonprofit, and government stakeholders. The Student Success 2025 approach focuses on exploring personalizing learning for more students and improving career prep.
The conference also concentrated on how to address Delaware’s decades-old education funding model to integrate funding for schools that have high concentrations of poverty and provide additional resources for school districts at the state level for English Language Learners.
In addition to looking at funding, the conference looked at how to coordinate programs like the Success Pathways and Roads to Careers (SPaRC) initiative (a program spearheaded by United Way and the Delaware Business Roundtable’s Education Committee) with other school to career programs. Integrating programs like SPaRC into the Delaware education system will bring valuable workplace experiences to students in an effort to keep them engaged and to fully prepare them for work at Delaware businesses.
Fred Sears is a familiar name among members of the Delaware business community, most recently known for his 13 year tenure with the Delaware Community Foundation (DCF), Sears has accomplished a lot for the state of Delaware. Under his watch, the DCF has tripled its long-term charitable funds and increased assets under management to $285 million.
Sears is also a familiar face in the banking world where he worked for 38 years, most notably as President of Commerce Bank in Delaware.
Regardless of his intentions to retire at the end of the calendar year, Fred Sears will continue in his most comfortable role, serving the state he loves. He was recently appointed Chair of the Expenditure Review Commission by Governor Jack Markell and will continue to serve on at least nine or ten of the current boards and commissions he is currently on.
Delaware Business (DB) had the chance to catch up with Mr. Sears with a few questions and a trip back in time for a look at his illustrious career.
DB: Where are you from?
FS: I was born in Delaware in what used to be known as Wilmington Hospital, now a part of Christiana Care Health System. My family lived across the river from the Brandywine Zoo; my mother walked home with me from the hospital. My father was in the military in WWII so he was not around at the time. My education was through Mt. Pleasant elementary school, Alfred I. DuPont junior high and Wilmington Friends for high school. I continued at the University of Delaware for my under graduate and graduate degrees so I never ventured far from Wilmington.
In the 1800s my mother’s family had livery stores selling horse and carriage and agriculture supplies at the corner of Front and Orange, now Martin Luther King and Orange. We had one of the first car dealerships in the area on N. Market Street in the 1920s
My great uncle was a city councilman. I did not find that out until I became a councilman in Wilmington 1976. My wife was born in Delaware and both of our parents were born in Delaware. I can actually trace my mother’s side of the family in Delaware back to the mid 1700’s.
DB: How did your career start?
FS: I majored in business at the University of Delaware. I didn’t have a job when I graduated in 1964, but my father encouraged me to apply to the local banks.
Fortunately, Delaware Trust was looking to hire a management trainee with a business degree and I applied at the right time. After 18 years with Delaware Trust and becoming the bank’s first VP of Business Development, I moved to Wilmington Trust in a similar position, and then vice president of customer service-related products at Beneficial National Bank. My banking career culminated with my job at Commerce Bank as Delaware Market President.
DB: What kind of work were you involved with when you worked for the city of Wilmington?
FS: My good friend, Mayor Tom Maloney, asked me to take a leave of absence from the bank to serve as Director of Finance and later as Director of Economic Development from 1973-76. I followed up by running for City Council and served two terms from 1976 to 1984.
I continued working with the City on a volunteer basis after I left Council serving as chair of the Downtown Wilmington Improvement Corporation, the Wilmington Economic Development Corporation and the Wilmington Waterways Commission. I continue to serve today as chair of the Wilmington Economic Financial Advisory Council and as treasurer of the Wilmington Housing Partnership.
DB: How did you transition into the nonprofit world?
FS: Jim Gilliam Jr. called me while I was sitting in my office and said “I have a job for you.” I said “Jim, I already have a job, you are calling me at my office and you are a customer of mine.” He asked me to run the Delaware Community Foundation. I was hesitant at the time but accepted it after some serious contemplation. I called my good friend Peter Morrow, he said “Do it, Fred.” Jim teamed up with other DCF board leaders, Judy Hoopes and Don Kirtley and they convinced me to make the move.
What’s so great about working at the Delaware Community Foundation is that I am still able to do all the volunteer work I enjoy. In addition to the Expenditure Review Commission I also serve on the State Council for Development and the Port of Wilmington boards along with Christiana Care, Leadership Delaware, United Way, Rodel Foundation, Beau Biden Foundation and DANA boards of directors and as an advisor to TD Bank and Fraunhofer USA.
I’m privileged to work with a great staff and outstanding committed board of directors at the DCF.
DB: What would you say was your favorite project?
FS: It really is difficult to pick, but one of my favorites was starting the Next Generation Board. We had some young adults in their early to mid-thirties, they wanted to get involved with the community but did not know how to do it. The Board has about 35-40 members, they have their own fundraisers and their own grant making. They really know how to run their own foundation. One of them left to become head of Saint Michael’s, another is on the board of the Opera House and one of them is on the Girls on the Run Board. They do site visits with the applicants and have had the opportunity to learn about Delaware. They said “Wow Mr. Sears, we went to this orphanage in Delaware, we didn’t even know there was one here.”
Every three years they pick a different funding focus. In past years they have focused on infant mortality, after school programs for kids at risk, childhood obesity but currently their focus is on STEM programs. We are on our fourth chair, his name is David Arthur. Dave works at the University of Delaware.
Keep an open mind, always look for opportunities.
DB: As I’m sure you know, there are many young professionals out there that look up to you. What kind of advice would you give?
FS: Keep an open mind, always look for opportunities. Part of what I’ve accomplished has happened because I’ve been out there involved in the community. Running golf tournaments, dinners and breakfasts, you can see who’s committed and who you can count on. You can pick and choose what you really want to do, what makes you feel good about life. I loved being a banker for many years but this job is unbelievable. I’ve found the secret that so many people look for. That secret is really enjoying work, not being dragged to work, but waking up looking forward to going to work.
Sometimes it is hard on the home front because I pretty much start every day with an 8am breakfast meeting and my day is not usually over until 7p.m. or 8 pm.
DB: Anything else?
FS: It was 1976 when I was elected to city council and we got married in 1977. Those first eight years of our marriage I served on council. We met every Thursday from 7 p.m. to 10 .p.m . The reporters would call me at home after the meetings and ask for comments. IT wasn’t the best way to start a marriage and raise young children but Jo Ann has always been supportive. I have to say it does help that we have the same political persuasion.
DB: What are grateful to have more time for during retirement?
FS: No real plans. Maybe take a few weeks off and do some soul searching about how much and where I want to continue to be involved in the community. I’m definitely not going anywhere and I intend to stay involved with the community at a level where I can be most helpful while still making more time for my wife and grandchildren.
Fred C. Sears II has been President and CEO of the Delaware Community Foundation since December 2002. Through his work with the Foundation, he encourages individuals, businesses and organizations to engage in long-term charitable giving to improve the statewide community, now and in the future. Fred has served as a community leader in the greater Wilmington area and with organizations serving residents throughout Delaware for over forty-five years.
by Rana Fayez
Maj. gen. Francis Vavala is the longest serving adj. gen. in the United States and has served under three different governors for the past 16 years. Delaware Business got the chance to sit down with maj. gen. Francis Vavala to get to know the man behind the uniform.
DB: How long have you been with the Delaware National Guard?
MGV: It feels like forever, I was a “guard brat” growing up. My father was a World War II veteran of the U.S. Army. He came back as master sergeant and used the G.I. Bill to go to college, where he received a degree in economics from Wharton School of Business. He continued on to work for the State and joined the Delaware National Guard about the time I was born in 1947. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Delaware National Guard, which began his career and effectively my career as well. As a kid I would follow him around everywhere, he would take me to play at the armories.
I can remember the National Guard in the in the 1950s and beyond, my father introduced me to the organization as it was a rite of passage for me to join. He retired as a colonel. In 1967, I joined and served for three years as an enlisted soldier. In 1969, I went to officer candidate school, graduated and received my commission in June of 1970. My total official service is 48 years. In reality, it probably goes back to almost 60 years.
DB: At what moment did you decide you wanted to be a member of the National Guard?
MGV: That’s difficult to determine because it was ingrained, it was expected. It just happened. It was a rite of passage. Initially, I never thought that my career would span 48 plus years, when I first joined the organization it was a six year term for the enlisted people. I thought I would serve the time I signed up for and leave soon after, but I stayed. It might be my interpretation of the old Army phrase, “be all that you can be” and went to officer candidate school. You catch that fire and desire to exceed expectations and be all that you can be. Be the best platoon leader, be the company commander. You do everything you can. But the real important thing about this is the story shouldn’t focus on me, it’s not about me. It’s larger than life. It’s about service, it’s about the Delaware National Guard. It’s about the young people that sit in these seats right here, these great Americans. They inspired me, they keep the old man going. They tolerate me and that really helps to motivate and continue to drive me.
All of us do all that we can every day to make the Delaware National Guard better. We’ve done a lot to make the Delaware National Guard more visible and valued in the State and in our local communities because our folks willingly get out there and they’re woven into the fabric of our community, they’re visible and people appreciate it. Today’s National Guard unlike the one I remember. Post-WWII up to Desert Storm, the National Guard was a strategic reserve. Even then, it was not as equipped as its strategic counterparts. We used to get a lot of antiquated hand- me-downs and we worked with what we had. In our case, the Army and Navy realized they couldn’t complete Desert Storm without us. We started to get the same type of training and equipment as our counterparts. After 9/11 the country realized that there was no way they can condone this multifaceted asymmetric war that we were involved in without the men and women of our national guard. That became a new-found training and equipment, a new-found respect for our formations. It’s all because the great job our men and women have done since 9/11.
Currently, we have the best equipped, best trained and most veteran force we have ever had in our National Guard. We are the hometown force with the global reach. The fact of the matter, this is what our citizens both at the local and national level, we do it at a fraction of the cost that our counterparts do. We do not operate out of huge facilities with golf courses and bowling alleys. We operate out of a small compact base without a lot of accouterments, we have the ability to serve to meet the nation’s needs. We live and we work in the local community. We’re a part of your church group, your exercise group. You only use us when you need us, so you’re only paying for it on an active basis when the country calls.
We have that two-fold mission to fight the nation’s wars overseas and under a state emergency in Delaware. We report directly to the Governor, he can activate the National Guard for a national emergency.
We are the hometown force with the global reach.
The fact that there’s an opportunity here in the guard to serve your state and nation and to pursue a career in your field in whatever you desire is amazing. Where else can you serve your nation and your state, wear the uniform on the weekends and then go back to the civilian sector? You come out and you’re trained, you bring the great skills you’ve acquired in the civilian sector to benefit you while you’re in uniform. There’s military skill and there’s also ancillary skills that can be combined here and overseas. I’m proud to be a guardsman. Best organization in the world.
DB: What was your most defining moment?
MGV: I am three ranks higher than I ever thought I would be. My appointment as the adj. gen. and promotion to maj. gen. is pretty major, that would probably have to be the big meaningful moment. Prior to that was the decision to become an officer and get a commission.
DB: What is your favorite moment in your career so far?
MGV: The real underscoring of my career was rising to the command level, it was one of those things that I really enjoyed being a staff officer. Being a platoon leader and such. The higher up you go, the less interactions you have with your staff. It comes with the job, you try to get out as much as you can, but you’re insulated. Even when you go out, you’re shown what people want you to see, not so much what you need to see. It’s the nature of the position that you become more insulated and detached. The job pulls you elsewhere I guess. Wherever I am, I make sure I’m representing the National Guard in the best way possible.
The National Guard has the responsibility of both the nation and state, we’re more grassroots than our counterparts. We’re more connected and that makes us so much more valuable and successful in emergency situations in the state. We know the first line of emergency responders by name, they know us and have confidence in us. It makes us much more effective to be able to assist the state because of the relationships and networks we build.
DB: If you could give advice to someone who wants to follow your footsteps, what would you say?
MGV: If you seriously want to serve your country and your state and you’re not sure of how you want to do it, you want to pursue a civilian career, it’s the best possible job in America. Any of us in uniform are always glad to talk to anyone about service in uniform. All the benefits that come with military service are available to all the members of the National Guard with Army and Air. Young people don’t always look at retirement, but I can tell you that you decide to make a career out of the military service with the guard, you have healthcare opportunities, you have educational opportunities, there are so many benefits that are associated with our service that just are not as available as they used to be in corporate America. We have the best plans.
Never did I think back in 1967 I’d still be here in 2015 serving the National Guard of Delaware. It ain’t about me; it’s about this great organization.
by Matt Amis
Ernie Dianastasis—perhaps more than ever—is eager to go back to school this fall.
The longtime business leader and education advocate serves as chairman of the Vision Coalition Leadership Team, a cadre of local influencers who work collaboratively and cooperatively to improve Delaware schools.
This month, the coalition releases Student Success 2025. Like its well-known predecessor, Vision 2015, Student Success 2025 is an ambitious 10-year plan designed to boost Delaware’s public education system to world-class status.
Delaware Business caught up with Dianastasis—who, when he’s not leading his CAI (Computer Aid, Inc.) global IT firm, also leads the Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee—to talk about the plan and the vision for the future of Delaware schools.
Tell us about a little about Student Success 2025.
This is a 10-year vision for public education in Delaware. We started back in 2014 by asking a question: What are the skills and attributes that an educated Delawarean needs to have by the year 2025?—and worked backward from there to develop the strategies to achieve that vision. And we’re not just jumping straight to 2025—these are issues we can begin working on today.
The plan itself deals primarily with six core areas: quality early learning, personalized learning, postsecondary and career attainment, educator support, school funding, and governance. The thinking is, by aligning those six areas better, Delaware can build a more modern and seamless education system, and our kids can take advantage of that in numerous ways.
So whose vision is this, exactly?
The ideas in this report don’t come from me. They don’t come from the Department of Education. Over the last few years, our group talked and collaborated with more than 4,000 Delawareans—including 1,300 students. They reached out online, in surveys, at community meetings, cups of coffee—you name it. The people of Delaware told us where they think we need to go as a state. They told us their hopes for providing more social and emotional support for kids, and for more collaboration between families and schools. And the kids themselves said they wanted more real-life career experiences and flexibility in their school experience. We took the student input very seriously. They’re at the center of this whole thing.
We also called upon leading experts in Delaware, across the country, and around the world—to help inform our thinking.
This is a follow-up to Vision 2015. Did that plan work? Is this the sequel?
Vision 2015 came out in 2006, and since its release around 75 percent of its recommendations have been acted upon in Delaware. That includes higher academic standards overall, new investments in teacher prep programs, and huge increases in the number of children enrolled in high-quality early learning environments. We have more kids than ever taking and passing AP courses, taking foreign language immersion classes, applying to college, and participating in career pathways.
So, I’d say it has worked, but to be candid some things simply haven’t—like improvements to our funding system, and big shifts that we didn’t anticipate a decade ago, like the explosion of technology in our daily lives. When the community sees Student Success 2025, they will see that we looked to address those gaps and build on the foundation we started. There’s still so much more we can do to support our schools and our kids. We also need to remember that transforming a multi-century old system does not happen overnight. It is a multi-year journey with many phases. There is no finish line where we declare victory. Rather, it is a life-long commitment to excellence that we must all embrace.
What happens next? How do you transition the plan into action?
Well, we’ll officially release the report on September 16 at a special event at the Del Tech Dover campus, and from there, we’ll follow up with our Annual Conference on October 28, where we’ll try to reenergize Delawareans around these issues and keep the momentum going. From there, we’ll establish some dedicated implementation teams to dig in on putting these recommendations into practice. Some will be easier than others, and some of them are already underway. That said, at the end of the day, this is about results, so we are going to hold ourselves accountable by producing a report card on the progress we make every fall. We hope the Chamber and the community as a whole keeps the pressure on to make sure we collectively deliver on what we’ve promised. We all need to own this.
We haven’t seen a whole lot of harmony when it comes to education policy in Delaware lately. What makes this any different?
I think it goes back to the collaborative nature of the plan. At the end of the day, of course we will need political and legislative action to enact some of these recommendations. And we know the state is facing some major revenue issues. But the truth is, we aren’t all going to agree on everything. As a group, the coalition is committed to working on the 80 percent or more that we all agree on, and keep the work moving forward. We accept that there will be real disagreements on the margins, but we can’t let that slow us down.
And in fact, everyone in Delaware can play a part. You already have members of the business community energized around career pathways for students; you have all these wonderful family and community organizations providing support; you have school districts collaborating on things like personalized learning. There are already so many great things happening in pockets throughout Delaware, so our biggest challenge right now is connecting them all together across the state, and doing more of what works. Let’s focus on the things we already agree on, and work toward this vision for the future. It’s closer than we think.
For more info on Student Success 2025, visit www.visioncoalitionde.org
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.