The Delaware House Education Committee held their first meeting today after the long Joint Finance Committee break. On the agenda was one bill, House Bill 234, sponsored by State Rep. Kim Williams. As well, the University of Delaware gave a presentation on their overall enrollment trends.
House Bill 234 concerns wellness centers in three traditional school district high schools: Appoquinimink High School, St. George’s Technical High School, and Conrad Schools of Science. These three are the last remaining high schools in the state (not including charters) which have no wellness center. A wellness center is not just a school nurse. They also provide counseling services as well. The bill was unanimously released from committee. Several folks gave public comment in support of the bill: Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty, Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick, President of DSEA Frederika Jenner, and a representative from Red Clay. Rep. Williams read a letter she received from a high school student. The young man was going through a depression and he credited the wellness center at his high school for getting him through this very troubled time.
There was some debate about which schools would get a wellness center first if the bill passes. Rep. Williams felt it should be the oldest school first, but State Rep. Charles Potter felt it should be needs-based. Rep. Williams indicated the JFC would determine this in the budget as the bill calls for each of the schools receiving the wellness centers at one per year for the next three fiscal years.
Dr. Nancy Targett, the Acting President of the University of Delaware gave a long presentation on enrollment trends and a general overview of the university. She showed many slides about minority enrollment, retention rates, and graduation rates. Afterwards, during a question and answer with the members of the House Education Committee, things got a bit more tense. State Rep. Charles Potter was very concerned about minorities being placed in the Associate program at the University of Delaware. This program is for students who need more help when they enter college. When asked about what may be holding these students back by Rep. Williams, Dr. Targett was unable to give a clear answer but did promise the committee she would get more information. Many civil rights advocates feel the University of Delaware under-enrolls African-Americans. Dr. Targett did say this is her number one priority and many universities across the country are dealing with these issues.
Dr. Targett felt the recent announcement about the pilot program concerning SAT scores not counting towards admission credentials could allow for more minorities to be accepted at University of Delaware. She said the University understands not all students do well on tests like that and a student could just have a bad day. They want to focus more on students’ actual Grade Point Average and other activities.
After the meeting adjourned, I asked Dr. Targett about an omission in her presentation: students with disabilities. She said she didn’t know the numbers offhand but gave me her email address so she can find out. Which I will certainly take her up on!