The Delaware Senate has approved Governor Jack Markell's nomination of Steven Godowsky to become the state's next Secretary of Education.
Senators were emphatic that Godowsky must be more approachable than Mark Murphy, his predecessor. Matthew Albright of The News Journal writes that Sen. Nicole Poore (D-New Castle) called Godowsky a "ray of light" and the right person for the job.
Only two senators, both Republicans, voted against Godowsky's candidacy. Other lawmakers agreed that Murphy was not a communicator and failed to listen to teachers' and local school leaders' concerns.
When Sen. Ernie Lopez (R-Lewes) asked Godowsky how he planned to win back educators' trust, he said he made improving communication and strengthening relationships with school officials and teachers a priority.
To be fair, Murphy did serve his term during the implementation of many new programs such as the plan to improve three Priority Schools, along with a new, more rigorous standardized test, and the tying of teacher evaluations to test scores. Critics said Murphy's department was more concerned with school reform initiatives than listening to the needs of educators.
Though both the Delaware State Education Association teachers union and the Delaware Association of School Administrators expressed their lack of confidence in Murphy, leaders of both groups have endorsed Godowsky. The head of the school superintendents group and Delaware School Boards Association joined these groups in support of the new head of education.
"As a cabinet secretary, it is understood that his role is to implement the administration's education agenda," the school leaders wrote. "However, the relationships that Godowsky has built across the state may help, if he is confirmed, to lead the Department of Education through some complicated and contentious issues during the next 16 months."
According to the Dover Post, Godowsky was working at the University of Delaware as a program associate for the Delaware Academy of School Leadership before he accepted his new position. For twenty years he was an assistant principal at Delcastle Technical High School, principal at Hodgson Vo-Tech, and was an assistant superintendent. During his time as superintendent, he was President of the Delaware Chief School Officers Association. Godowsky was also a special education teacher.
WBOC-TV reported that Sen. Gary Simpson (R-Milford) opined:
"I think we're going through a healing process between DSEA, the state board, the PTA, legislators. There's been turmoil in education for the past couple of years,"
Priority School is a designation defined under federal waivers for the Elementary and Secondary Act. They consist of schools that are among the lowest 5% of Title I schools based on standardized test performance and a demonstrated lack of improvement over the past two or three years.
Liz Hoyt, reporting for the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, explains that funding is used to implement school- and district-developed, state-approved plans for improvement. Two sources for funding improvement plans are federal School Improvement Grants and remaining Race to the Top monies. In Delaware, Priority School improvements will go into effect during the 2015-2016 school year. This year has been a planning year for the Priority Schools program.
The Rodel Foundation was founded to help Delaware build one of the finest public education systems in the world by 2020.