Carney visits Opportunity Funding recipients at Lake Forest school

Gov. John Carney talks with students in Mary Tyndall’s class. Her class, which provides reading and math intervention, is new to the district through the Opportunity Funding. (Delaware State News/Brooke Schultz)

FELTON — In a Lake Forest Central Elementary School classroom, history came to life as a group of students read a play aloud, taking on personas of NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, scientist and inventor George Washington Carver and U.S. Army chairman Gen. Colin Powell.

In the audience on Wednesday, seated alongside them, was Gov. John Carney — along with other state legislators and Secretary of Education Susan Bunting.

The class, composed of a few students in a breakout session, was one example of how schools throughout the state are using Opportunity Funding. The three-year financial commitment totaling $75 million seeks to benefit English learners and low-income students, and bolsters mental health support in schools throughout the state.

At Central Elementary, teacher Mary Tyndall provides intervention to those struggling with reading and math. The class is new to the district this year, and funding for her position is tied directly to the Opportunity Fund, said Principal Jeffrey Sheehan.

“She’s a really integral part of our team when it comes to discussing student success,” Mr. Sheehan continued. “She has a great idea of the whole student, not necessarily just what they’re doing in reading or what they’re doing in math.”

Gov. Carney toured six schools throughout the state that received funding, from Appoquinimink to Capital to Georgetown.

There is flexibility within the funding so that the districts could use it how the money would best benefit the students.

“It’s so exciting to be able to go to all the various schools throughout the state and see how the opportunity funding is being used,” Dr. Bunting said.

Mr. Sheehan is in his first year in the district, having served as a principal in Capital School District prior. The difference of use between the two districts showed the differences of how the funding could be used, he noted.

“I think it’s a great opportunity, hence the name, for districts to fill some holes that they may have to better support kids,” he said.

In Capital, funding has been used for English language learner support and a social worker at their schools, Mr. Sheehan added.

In Appoquinimink, meanwhile, the district created the Brick Mill Elementary’s preschool center. The center houses more than 50 students and staff and is a preschool program for low-income and English learner families.

In the classroom at Central Elementary, Gov. Carney gave students a brief overview of how the budget is determined.

“That’s our responsibility — to make sure that you guys are doing well in school so that when you grow up, you can go and get a good job, or go on to college,” he said.

Gov. Carney toured other Central Elementary classes, like Dana Carter’s computer class where students were learning coding, and Pamela Hobbs’ fourth-grade students, who were recipients of Delaware Day’s John Dickinson Award.

“We really use our data to determine what our students’ needs are, and then we do targeted planning to ensure that we meet those needs,” Superintendent Brenda Wynder said. “We’re also ensuring that our students are getting skills to help them in this 21st century, with things like computer coding and STEM.”

Opportunity Funding is part of Gov. Carney’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year.

“This funding that we’re talking about here, today, is one of my biggest priorities and one that the members of the General Assembly have really embraced and adopted,” Gov. Carney told the students.

While at Central Elementary, Gov. Carney also signed a proclamation for Public Schools Week.