Reach to close, Gateway to stay open

By Tom Lehman 5:10pm, December 18, 2014 - Updated 9:23pm, December 18, 2014
VIDEO: WDEL's Tom Lehman reports. PHOTO: Delaware Education Secretary Mark Murphy.
Delaware Education Secretary Mark Murphy and State Board of Education members on Thursday decided that Reach Academy for Girls' charter should close but also granted Gateway Lab School stay open for at least another academic year.

During a the board's monthly meeting, Murphy, for the second consecutive year, accepted the Charter School Accountability Committee's recommendation to not renew Reach's expiring charter.

Both Murphy's approval and a corresponding vote from board members are required to renew a school's charter. He said "nominal" improvement in academic success at Reach during the last year did not justify granting the school more time to operate.

In their recommendation, committee members made similar comments, recommending the charter not be renewed because progress did not meet standards set by the state.

Murphy declined an interview request following the meeting.

The non-renewal is familiar territory for Reach, which faced the same fate last year. School leaders filed a federal lawsuit that on the grounds of gender-equality, saying the state would violate gender-equality regulations by closing the only all-girls public school in Delaware.

A judge granted a preliminary injunction, ordering the state to renew the school's charter for another year. Attorneys later agreed to drop the lawsuit but Reach was still subject to the same renewal process this year.

Tara Allen, Reach's school leader, said following the meeting that it was too early to tell whether any action, like the federal lawsuit, would be used in response to Murphy's decision.

"That's the decision that I and the (Reach Academy) board will discuss and we'll figure out where to go from here," Allen said.

Murphy also chose to conditionally renew the charter of Gateway Lab School, another charter school that the committee recommended for non-renewal because of its academic performance.

Leaders at Gateway, which primarily serves students with special needs, said the school was being unfairly evaluated on standards that did not reflect individual challenges faced by those learning at the school. About 60 percent of Gateway students have individual education plans.

In his decision, Murphy said he found some merit in that argument but the school must meet standards outlined in an alternative academic framework for the school by the end of the 2015-2016 academic year.

Gateway Treasurer Pamela Draper, the school's former leader, said the school will be forced to make quick progress but administrators and staff would try to meet the deadline.

"I think we had hoped for additional time, above a year and a half. But we're happy to have that time," Draper said.


Rocks sold, changes to Frawley Stadium planned

By Sean Greene 12:11pm, December 18, 2014 - Updated 3:35pm, December 18, 2014
VIDEO: Dave Heller on changes, and a look at what he did in Iowa
The Wilmington Blue Rocks have been purchased by a group including their founding owner's son and Main Street Baseball, who are promising changes to Frawley Stadium.

Wilmington becomes Main Street's fourth minor league team, joining Quad Cities (A-Houston), High Desert (A-Texas), and Billings (A-Cincinatti).

Main Street President Dave Heller explaining that the group plans an overhaul of the stadium, with the promise of an "iconic" feature to be added before the team's 25th anniversary in 2016. If one ballpark that Main Street Baseball runs is any example, the "25th Grand Reopening Season" could be a transformation at Frawley Stadium.



One of the major changes Main Street has added is a Ferris wheel that Quad Cities at Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport, Iowa, for the 2014 season. Also featuring to a gyroscope and zip line, Davenport says they attracted over 68,000 riders this past season.

"Baseball is a big part of what we do, but it's not all that we do. We're really all about family entertainment," Heller said. "We want to create destinations all along the outfield, as well as along the concourse where people can enjoy themselves. They can go to a restaurant, enjoy a cool adult beverage, play in a bounce house with their kids, and do all the things that kids love to do."

To that end, while saying they would wait until the appropriate time" to release sketches, Heller and his partner Clark Minker, the son of long-time owner Matt Minker, say part of the plans are to encircle the ballpark by creating items beyond the field. Currently, Frawley Stadium's concourse ends before the foul poles on both sides, with parking and an access road out of the stadium running beyond the outfield wall.


Photo credit: Sean Flynn Photography

Clark was part of the construction crew that built Frawley Stadium in the early 90s that was headed by his father Matt, who passed away seven years ago.

"This team means more to me than just about anything, and I'm going to do everything I can to ensure that is thrives in Wilmington for decades to come," he said.

He added that the fresh ideas from Main Street Baseball are coming at a proper time, looking using his construction roots as an analogy.

"I look at any business as having a useful life of 20-25 years,' he added. "At that point, whether it's a building, you're going to need a new roof, new mechanical system, new paint, new carpet, et cetera. This is a giant building, and we need to upgrade the building and facility to bring it up to modern standards and make it fun and exciting. "

While still third-best in the Carolina League, and one of the tops in Advanced-A baseball, average attendance has been slowly trickling down at Frawley Stadium in its 23 seasons. This season's 4,349 mark is the second lowest number, only ahead of 2012. The franchise averaged over 5,100 fans in each of their first three seasons from 1993-1995.

Wilmington will open its 24th season on the Riverfront in April.





Delaware celebrates state's first national park

By Amy Cherry 1:44pm, December 18, 2014 - Updated 2:01pm, December 18, 2014
VIDEO: WDEL's Amy Cherry reports.
Buried deep inside a defense spending bill passed last week in Congress is a designation for Delaware's first-ever national park, a feat being celebrated by state officials Thursday.

Click here to listen



Delaware's national park will be comprised of sites in all three counties, including the Old New Castle Court House, the New Castle Green, the Old Sheriff's House, and Old Swedes Church in Wilmington so Senator Tom Carper (D-Delaware) said tourists can see all of the First State.

"Together, they tell the story of the early colonial settlement in Delaware that led up to the ratification of the Constitution that made us the First State," said Carper.

Carper said the national park will undoubtedly boost tourism for Delaware.

"More people come to the United States from foreign countries, and they come to visit our national parks more than any other destination," Carper said.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) said Carper fought the battle for Delaware's national park for a decade.

"You all know the expression someone is like a dog with a bone? You would have to find like a lion with a bone to describe Senator Carper's passion and commitment," Markell joked. "When it looked deader than dead, when you couldn't get too many people around the country to do anything about it, and not surprisingly, here we are...what a remarkable achievement, when it seemed like it was going to be almost impossible to pull off."

He couldn't be more thrilled to realize his dream come true.

"Delaware was the only state without a national park, and that's a distinction I'm proud and happy to say, 'Goodbye!'" he laughed.

Additional sites that are part of the national park include the Woodlawn Trustees property, in New Castle County and Delaware County, Pennsylvania and Fort Christina National Historic Landmark. In Kent County, the sites include: the Dover Greene; the John Dickinson Plantation National Historic Landmark in Lent Countyand. The Ryves Holt House in Sussex County will also be part of the First State National Historical Park.

President Obama still has to sign the bill to make Delaware's first national park official.



Citizens and law enforcement connect in Wilmington

By Jim Hilgen 10:32pm, December 18, 2014
Building trust and collaboration between law enforcement and Delaware's communities was the focus of a forum in Wilmington.

New Destiny Fellowship Church hosted the gathering which brought representatives of the city, state and federal justice system before members of the community.

The panel included Wilmington Police Chief Bobby Cummings, Kathleen Jennings of the state Justice Department, federal District Court Judge Gregory Sleet and Justice of the Peace Court Chief Magistrate Alan Davis.

With protests and die-ins taking place around the country Delaware is taking a proactive approach to connecting with members of the community.

Jennings says creating a partnership between law enforcement and the people is the most important way to reduce crime.

"We do that by being out there. We do that by being honest, by being transparent and by being present," Jennings said.

Chief Cummings agreed, saying a strong connection with city residents helps solve crimes, but also can help deter crime.

He added that work is being done to address gun crimes in the city.

"We're going to be looking at individuals on the front end who are purchasing weapons and getting them out on the streets. Some of those include straw purchases. It involves the New Castle County Police, Wilmington Police, State Police and, I believe, the ATF." Cummings said.

Magistrate Davis says a new understanding could grow from something as simple as changing the implicit message delivered by signs in government buildings.

"If you have a lot of signs up that say 'don't do this, no cell phones, no chewing gum, no hats, no whatever' what's the first thing that people are looking at when they walk into the courthouse? It's no," said Davis.

He went on to say it's simple things that will strengthen communication and connection between law enforcement and Delaware residents.

Other parts of the discussion focused on the need to address the root causes of crime, which were identified as jobs, the economy and education.




2nd country music festival coming to Delaware

By Amy Cherry 9:05am, December 18, 2014 - Updated 9:57am, December 18, 2014
A battle of the Kent County country music festivals is brewing.

Firefly has announced the Big Barrel Country Music Festival is coming to the Woodlands at Dover International Speedway this summer.

The three-day festival will feature headliners Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood. Additional artists include Jake Owen, Chris Young, Gary Allan, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, and over 40 more. Three-day general admission passes are $99.

The festival will be held June 26-28, the weekend after Firefly.

“Firefly, combined with its home at The Woodlands of Dover International Speedway, has established the East Coast’s standard when it comes to delivering a top-notch music festival, ” said Greg Bostrom, Director of Firefly and Big Barrel, in a statement. "We’ll leverage the Firefly foundation and our collective backgrounds bringing preeminent music festivals to life to establish Big Barrel as the benchmark for country music experiences this side of the Mississippi River.”

Highlights of the festival include a dance hall, barbeque, and a variety of western goods.

Tickets for the music festival go on sale at noon Thursday, the day before tickets for Alex Pires' Delaware Junctioncountry music festival in Harrington at the Delaware State Fairgrounds are scheduled to go on sale.

Delaware Junction is scheduled for Aug. 14-16, 2015.


Thirsty Thursday: Gift guide for craft beer, wine and liquor

By Amber Degrace 10:45am, December 18, 2014 - Updated 11:32am, December 18, 2014
The holidays are rolling into the calendar again and it is time to make lists for all the special people in your life. No matter what your budget, this gift guide for the craft beer, wine and spirits enthusiast offers ideas from stocking stuffers to centerpiece gifts.

Growlers are the ultimate gift for portable beer enjoyment. Standard growlers hold 64 or 32 ounces of liquid and keep it fresh for several days before it is opened.

Most local breweries and some bottle shops sell screw-top or flip-top growlers emblazoned with their logo. Online companies offer options in other materials like ceramic and metal. Check out Portland Growler Co. online for a selection of stoneware growlers.

Whether it attaches to a keyring or mounts to a wall, a bottle opener is a bottled beer drinking necessity. There is a wide range of bottle openers on the market, from whimsical to high-end.

Perhaps someone on your list enjoys luchadores (mask-wearing wrestlers). Kikkerland has a luchador opener just perfect for that friend or family member.

A higher-end option is a minimalist opener that is cast in solid brass by Fort Standard. Local hand-crafted bottle openers can be found at Leaning Barn Iron Works, and they're not just practical but a work of art.

Beer and wine are no longer just for drinking. Now consumers can wash their hair and bodies, deodorize, and moisten lips with the scented essence of hops, grapes, and grain.

Founders Brewing Co. creates chapstick patterned after their specific beers and BROO offers beer shampoos and conditioners.

If someone you know has trouble sleeping, the valerian and hops combination in Malin+Goetz's herbal bath oil may help.

While it doesn't actually have wine in it, there is a gift set of hand-crafted scented soaps on Uncommon Goods that has the bouquet and color of several popular styles of wine.

Maybe the individual you're gifting often totes a bomber of beer or bottle of wine to gatherings to share with friends. A growler or bottle carrier would be a useful gift for them. These carriers come in materials like quilted cotton, wood, and leather. Some reusable wooden six-pack carriers found on Etsy have convenient bottle openers attached to the side.

A gift like a leather carrier from Gump's works well for safely transporting bottles of wine and bombers of beer.

Growler Crates make a two-seater carrier from acacia wood that is not only beautiful but is easy to carry thanks to handholds cut into the sides.

Gadgets are often more than just useful objects. They're fun.

Silicone bottle toppers are easy to clean and seal leftover wine tightly in a bottle, ensuring freshness. These toppers, made by Capabunga, also make storing open bottles of wine back in the rack or in the refrigerator easy.

A Wine2Go collapsible container carries a full bottle of wine in safer packaging than glass and it fits into tote bags and purses.

Vino2Go sells an insulated sippy cup for wine that makes spillage during a party or picnic a thing of the past.

Corkscrews, like bottle openers, come in a range of price points and ease of use.

There are many creative and simple corkscrews like the playful animal selection crafted by Modern Vienna Bronze.

If you have a friend who enjoys all the latest and greatest in electric gadgetry, the Rabbit Automatic Electric Corkscrew by Metrokane will be an appreciated addition to their collection.

It doesn't matter what kind of beverage is being served, proper glassware is essential. White wines are better served in a different glass than red wines. Stouts shouldn't be poured into the same glass as an IPA. An old fashioned tastes better when not served in a collins glass. Whether you're gifting a beer, wine, or spirits drinker, Spiegelau has your needs covered in their crystal quality glassware.



1 dead after trailer fire in Lewes

By Kelli Steele 1:25pm, December 18, 2014 - Updated 3:38pm, December 18, 2014
One person is dead following a fire in Lewes early Thursday morning, state fire officials said.

Firemen from Lewes were called to the 29000 block of Field Road in the Tall Pines Development just after 1 a.m. for a fire that engulfed a travel trailer.

One person was found deceased inside the trailer, officials said.

Damage was estimated at $30,000 and the State Fire Marshal remained on the scene Thursday to conduct an investigation.

Hours later, another unit caught fire in Tall Pines, off Log Cabin Road, officials said. The cause of that fire is also under investigation.




AAA Mid-Atlantic projects holiday travel increase

By Yossi Goldstein 3:20pm, December 18, 2014
With gasoline prices having dropped significantly over the past few months, many motorists will be hitting the roads to visit family and friends to celebrate and to usher in Christmas and the New Year together.

With the average price for gas the lowest Delaware has seen in five years, hitting the open road has not only become an option for holiday season travelers, but the preferred method of transport.

AAA Mid-Atlantic Public Affairs Director Jim Lardear offers the auto association's reasoning for why more people will likely opt for taking their car to get to their destination.

"Driving, especially with the way gas prices have dropped through the Fall, really make it easier for people to use that as an option," Lardear told WDEL. "We're seeing right now the lowest gas prices that we have in five year, and we really think this is what's helping to spur people's decision to drive rather than go by another means."

In a media release, AAA expects to rescue more than two thousand stranded drivers in Delaware alone during the holiday driving period.

To help yourself in not becoming one of those drivers, Lardear suggests installing new windshield wipers and checking your car's battery and tires.





Man dies of injuries in single-vehicle crash

By Associated Press 3:24pm, December 18, 2014 - Updated 3:38pm, December 18, 2014
State police say a man hurt in a single-vehicle crash has died of his injuries.

Troopers say 80-year-old Rafael Patino of Monroe Township, New Jersey, died Monday at Christiana Hospital, where he was taken after the Dec. 9 crash.

Police say Patino's son, 50-year-old Rafael Patino of New Castle, Delaware, was driving an S-U-V on Delaware Route 896. Officers say the vehicle drifted off the road and hit the end of a metal guardrail.

The younger Patino and two other passengers were taken to Christiana Hospital with injuries that were not considered to be life-threatening.

The crash remains under investigation.


Search warrant leads to drug charges in Wilmington

By Peter MacArthur 3:25pm, December 18, 2014
Frank Deshields
A Wilmington man has been arrested and is now facing drugs and weapons charges.

New Castle County Police said Frank Deshields, 45, of the first block of North Pennewell Drive, is charged with drug possession with intent to deliver and possession of a firearm by a person prohibited.

Detectives executed a search warrant at his home and police said they discovered just under 10 ounces of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and a 9mm handgun with ammunition.

Deshields is being held at the Howard Young Prison in lieu of $32,000 cash bail.


Icahn promises Taj casino $20M to stay open

By Associated Press 3:24pm, December 18, 2014 - Updated 3:43pm, December 18, 2014
Billionaire investor Carl Icahn is pledging $20 million to keep Atlantic City's Taj Mahal casino open indefinitely.

In a letter obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, Icahn promised Trump Entertainment Resorts that he will provide enough money to keep the casino open throughout bankruptcy proceedings.

It had been scheduled to close at 6 a.m. Saturday.

Icahn calls Trump Entertainment one of the most financially distressed companies he has ever seen, but says he wants to save the jobs of the Taj Mahal's 3,000 workers.

The company plans to hand itself over to Icahn, but only if he gets substantial tax breaks.

Bills that would have done so were yanked from the state Legislature Thursday.

His announcement came shortly after the casino workers' union said Icahn had backed out of a deal concerning its future operations.


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