‘Principal for a Day’ pairs local business leaders with schools

MILFORD — For one day, Scott Welch walked the halls of his alma matter again — this time as its principal.

The Milford High School graduate and owner of Mohawk Electrical Systems Inc. became the principal for the day under the supervision of Milford High Principal Jesse Parsley, thanks to a program offered by the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce.

The business organization started the statewide program in 1993, affording hundreds of local business professionals the opportunity to support education in an innovative way in their own communities.

During the past week, schools across Delaware hosted business leaders and elected officials to serve as principals for the day, showcasing education.
“The state chamber has a big push for education to get businesses involved, whether it’s the superstars in education or the pathway the Manufacturing Association started to get manufacturing and things in the high schools, and the principal for a day is one of those things. They like to have one person in the business in pretty much every school. And I think they get pretty good coverage,” Mr. Welch said.

Last year, he acted as the principal for a day at Milford Central Academy which was not yet in existence when he went through the school district as a student.

“It’s good to see how the schools really work,” he said. “This [Milford High School] is the same school I went to, but they’ve invested in a lot of technology since I’ve been here. Which is good, because that’s what employers need; that’s what students need for a job. And it’s good to get out and get some time with the community.”

During his time as principal of Milford High School, Mr. Welch attended meeting with Principal Parsley, monitored hallways, visited several classrooms and discussed school business. Last year, he also had the opportunity to talk with students about his career and how they could be successful, also.

“Education is important. It’s important for my employees. I hire people from out of the town and more and more we need more skills from them. We’re going to need less manual laborers and more machine operators or programmers or people using robotics and things, higher level skills.

“That’s why the chamber is involved, because all the businesses said, ‘Look, we really need skills and we need to work with the schools so we can get the skills that we need and not just some random set of skills.’ So, we see what they’re teaching, and can give them advice or know that we’re going to have students coming to us with the skills that they need,” Mr. Welch added.

Like other schools that now offer a STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics, pathway for students, Milford High School offers classes to meet community needs like those discussed by Mr. Welch. In that grouping of courses, students could graduate high school with a working knowledge of robotics and programming, skills needed by many different industries.

“They’re printing their own posters and designs downstairs. They’re thinking about how they are going to use these skills in the real world,” he said. “Businesses should be looking to get involved and find the areas where we can visit the schools, or the schools visit us.”

Principal Parsley said he was happy to participate in the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce’s program and hopes it continues to better connect the community to the schools and their students.

“As we expand our programming here, having Scott Welch and others spend the day with us and other principals for a day really helps us figure out what our community needs so we can tailor that to our students. That’s our next generation of worker,” he said.

“We have a 3D printer and a laser cutter. These kids are developing these little gizmos where, remember the old jack in the box where you crank it and the thing popped out? Well, they’re creating those types of items and it’s not only the 3D printer and the laser cutter, but it’s always the math and the science behind it of why it does what it does and it’s that critical thinking.

“And that pre-engineering can really tie into his industry and other industries in our area,” Principal Parsley added.
Aside from manufacturing, industry-related skills supported by courses at Milford High School include agriculture, health sciences, art, business and finance to name a few.

“We’re programming little cars. Our computer classes that I taught originally here taught Microsoft Office. That’s Word and Excel and Powerpoint; and that’s not necessarily the nuts and bolts of computers, that’s just teaching them how to use the program.

“It’s not teaching them how to really program. Now, we’re getting back into that programming little cars and writing code. We’re developing things that hopefully our students won’t need to go to college to get a good paying job. Now, if they want to go to college to get an engineering degree, or become an architect or something like that, awesome.

“We want our kids to be day one ready – whether it’s ready for college or the work force. And having businesses in here helps us put that together in a meaningful way,” Mr. Parsley said.

But even when students aren’t ready to discuss future careers, community involvement is important.

State Rep. Bryan Shupe enjoyed a day at E.I. Morris Early Education Center in Lincoln, a Milford School District school dedicated to students in kindergarten or pre-kindergarten. The 2002 MHS graduate is now a business owner and the former mayor of Milford. He is also a member of the State House of Representatives Education Committee.

“I chose to be principal for a day at Morris because, for many families, this school is their first interaction with the public-school system and our community,” he said. “It is critical to understand the variety of academic and social skills and the varied home environments that students come to school with.

“Many kids come prepared with an understanding of the alphabet, colors and basic social skills while others have never held a pencil before. It is vital that our local teachers have the support they need at this age while they develop the very foundation that families and students will carry with them through their academic career and life after school.”
For more principal for a day stories, visit www.facebook.com/DelawarePrincipalForADay.

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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