Commentary: Taking pride in Delaware’s public school system

By Evelyn A. Edney, Ed.D.

The following is an open letter to University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis,

I am writing to you today to respond to your recent comments about the K-12 Delaware Public School System. I waited for some time to respond, because my emotions were getting the best of me, and the first two versions of this letter were beneath me.

Evelyn A. Edney, Ed.D.

I am not anyone important in the grand scheme of the world, but I am a K-12 Delaware public school educator (for the past 29½ years), I am the president of the Delaware Association of School Principals, I am on the Delaware Association of School Administrators Board, I am the president of the Delaware Women’s Alliance for Sport & Fitness, I am on the DIAA board, I am on the DIAA State Track and Field Committee, and I am on the NASSP National Student Leadership Advisory Committee.

I am the most tenured principal in the state of Delaware and serve on a state Leadership Advisory Committee. Finally and most importantly, I am a graduate of the University of Delaware, and quite frankly, I am embarrassed.

I have been in school since 1972 when I began as a small, meek 5 year-old student in a Head Start program. From that moment until now, I have absolutely loved school. I tell everyone I know that I don’t go to work every day, I go to school. I know that I have the attitude I do today because of the many nurturing educators I have had in my lifetime. I stand before you today because of them.

I did not grow up in the best of conditions. We were poor, did not have much by way of money or anything near to riches. I had divorced parents, and a single mom raising three of us as a teaching assistant on a salary that was well below the poverty line. It was in her classroom that I first learned to love school.

Later, it was in my own teachers’ rooms. There, we were never treated like the poor kids. We were never told anything less than “You can achieve anything you want in this world.” They pushed us. Some of us worked harder than others, but they never ever gave up on us.

If I asked 1,000 Delaware educators, they would give me a similar story about their feelings about school when growing up. They would tell me about that one teacher or coach who cared and made them feel like they belonged to a school rather than just “attended” it.

They would tell me about the impact that person had on them and inspired them to want to do the same.

As educators, we live our lives every day making all of the other professions in this world. This is no easy task. Are we successful all of the time? No. Do we ever want to give up? Absolutely. But we do not.

We fight against the streets that are so hungry for our students. We fight against poverty. We fight against substance abuse. We fight against bullying. We fight against mental health issues and trauma. We fight against the fact that we have parents who want to help but who have to work to make ends meet. We have so many factors that we fight against, I never thought we would have to fight against a fellow educator, who in one fell swoop, erased what we stand for each day and made a mockery of the lives we lead.

I have worked my whole 29½ year career in the K-12 Delaware public education system. I believe in it. I believe in its educators and their ability to show up every day despite all of the factors that they are up against. I am assuming, President Assanis, you have not spent any valuable time in a K-12 Delaware public school or you would not have made the callus remarks about how we are failing students. I would like to change that.

I would like to personally invite you to come to my school, the Early College High School at Delaware State University, to spend some time with my hard-working staff and to see what Delaware State University has done to partner with a high school to help the students rise up to meet high expectations by taking college courses in high school (next to actual full matriculated college students and not online and not if they just have a 3.5 GPA like in your new program).

I invite you to see our students who have earned 16,000-plus college credits since 2014, and all before they reached their 18th birthdays and without the stipulation of first earning a 3.5 GPA. I invite you to see what being a part of the solution is and not being a part of the problem. I invite you to see hard-working K-12 educators turn high school students into college students seemingly overnight (Absolutely the hardest job we have ever had). I invite you to see the magic of students from every background, race, creed and color and from all over the entire state of Delaware become a pipeline for Delaware State University.

I invite you to see how you change the narrative from “not being qualified enough,” as you say, to being highly qualified. Please let me know when you are ready to see my school or any other school in our wonderful state. I know my colleagues would welcome you. We invite you, Sir on any day.

Evelyn A. Edney, Ed.D., of Bear, is principal at the Early College High School at Delaware State University and president of the Delaware Association of School Principals.