Wilmington police say homicide arrests have tripled this year compared to 2014

By Tom Lehman 5:49pm, September 2, 2015
Wilmington Police Chief Bobby Cummings. (WDEL/File)
Wilmington Police officials said this week that officers have made three times the number of arrests for homicides in 2015 when compared with last year's statistics.

So far in 2015, police said 37 percent--seven in total--of the 19 homicides recorded in Wilmington this year were followed with an arrest. At the onset of the previous September, that rate was only 12 percent, according to police.

Chief Bobby Cummings said support from the federal and state governments, coupled with the creation of a homicide unit last year, has contributed to more arrests for serious crimes like murder.

"Before, our (detectives) were looking at every case that comes through and they really didn't have the focus that they have now," he said.

Increased public cooperation identifying suspects for police was also credited as one reason for the uptick this year.

Cummings said that there is clearly more work to be done in preventing crime from occurring, but the increased number of arrests indicates a positive trend for the department.

"By no means are we saying we've been totally successful, but we know we're moving in the right direction."

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You can contact Tom Lehman at tlehman@wdel.com. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.




Smarter Balanced test scores show Delaware has work to do

By Amy Cherry 11:59am, September 2, 2015 - Updated 4:41pm, September 2, 2015
VIDEO: Gov. Jack Markell speaks about the scores on the new Smarter Balanced assessment.
The results of the state's new Smarter Balanced assessment are in, and they show Delaware has a lot of work to do.

Students in grades 3, 4, and 5 performed better than middle or high school students. Delaware Governor Jack Markell said there's a big reason for that.

"Elementary school students have spent a much greater portion of their time in school getting instruction that's aligned to the Common Core," he said.

Markell said the Smarter Balanced assessment is more difficult than any test these kids have taken before.

"For the first time, our students had to do more than fill in bubbles--they had to write essays, share their work, and answer real-world, complex problems," he said.

Since Delaware has raised the bar for its students, Markell cautioned the results won't be instantaneous. He pointed to Massachusetts, which implemented Common Core long before Delaware, and now has some of the highest-performing schools in the state.

"Skills like critical thinking, and writing, and the ability to use math to solve real-world problems is going to be absolutely essential to the success of our student, and to our state, and to our nation's prosperity," Markell said.

The Smarter Balanced assessment, which is Delaware's third test in recent years, sparked an opt-out movement up and down the state, that passed in the General Assembly, but was vetoed by Governor Markell in July.

Statewide, 51.9 percent of students were proficient in English/Language Arts.

A look at proficiency rates statewide on the new Smarter Balanced assessment.

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Proficiency rates dropped dramatically for mathematics, in which students statewide ranked at 38.8 percent.



Math proficiency rates statewide show a need for improvement.  (Data/Delaware Department of Education).

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Markell said Delaware students outperformed state expectations in all grade levels in English and in all but one grade level in math. Those expectations were set based on a nationwide field test of more than 4 million students in Delaware and several other states last spring.

Test results also showed that students in 11th grade performed under state expectations in math. Markell attributed their scores to lack of learning under the Common Core standards that weren't implemented for the majority of time they've been in school.

"This is the first time we've had a state assessment in 11th grade. In recent years, we've been assessing 9th and 10th grades," said outgoing state Education Secretary Mark Murphy.

"The overall results of this rigorous assessment show we still have a lot of work to do to prepare all of our students for college and careers," Markell said. "We fully expect that our results, particularly those for older students, will continue to improve as they receive more rigorous instruction and instruction that's aligned with the Common Core in every grade."

The state said the data is not comparable to the former Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS) test, a multiple choice assessment that students took in past years. Murphy said the Smarter Balanced assessment will serve as a new baseline to measure growth. As a result, the state has requested a two-year delay in implementing test scores into the teacher evaluation system.

Students will also get an individual report that reveals areas they need to work on, whether it be reading comprehension or geometry.

The test scores students on achievement levels 1 through 4 and allows teachers to delve deep into just how well a student is performing, Murphy said.

"Our children need it, and they deserve it," said Murphy. "We know it works, we've heard over and over again that when we raise the bar for our students and we provide the adequate supports, they will rise to the occasion."

Breaking down scores by district, students in the Christina School District had nearly the lowest proficiency in the state with 36.2 percent of students proficient in English/Language Arts. Just 29.5 percent of students in Christina were proficient in mathematics. Only students in the Laurel School District saw proficiency levels lower at at 32.5 percent in English/Language Arts and just 20 percent in mathematics.

Murphy pointed to educators, who've have collaborated on curriculum and teaching strategies. He also pointed to weekly professional learning communities (PLCs) as broad supports that have been going on for years and will continue.

"There will certainly be an increase in regards to how the state allocates resources--and that's really part of the value here--let's understand which districts and which schools have the greatest struggles, and let's make sure that we, as a state, are able to allocate resources to those students who need it most."

Students in the POLYTECH, Caesar Rodney, Cape Henlopen school districts had some of the highest proficiency levels. In New Castle County, the Appoquinimink School District had the highest proficiency levels at 61.5 percent in English/Language Arts and 47.7 in mathematics.

"The bottom line is, we as a community, as parents, we need to see our kids make additional progress," said Markell. "We believe this is a truer definition of what it means to be proficient...not just here in Delaware...what is it that our kids need to be successful given that they are literally competing for jobs with the best of the best from around the world--that's the new world that they live in."

The test also measures participation levels. Murphy said that statewide, about 96 percent of students took the Smarter Balanced assessment, above the threshold of 95 percent set by federal law. Eleventh grade participation levels saw just a 90 percent participation rate.

"That is the only grade where we did not meet our 95 percent threshold," said Murphy.

A look at state participation rates in the Smarter Balanced Assessment  (Data/Delaware Department of Education).

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A breakdown by district showed both New Castle County Vocational-Technical and POLYTECH school districts saw levels below a 95 percent participate rate, but Murphy noted only students in 11th grade were assessed per state policy.

Overall, Markell said he's concerned that 11th grade students don't appear to be college- and career-ready.

"We are being honest, the alternative is to not do this... a dose of honesty is very much in order here," said Markell. "It's important that our kids know and our families know where they are."

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Contact Amy Cherry at acherry@wdel.com or follow her on Twitter at @acherry13.




Truck hits railroad overpass in Newark

By DJ McAneny 12:22pm, September 2, 2015 - Updated 3:31pm, September 2, 2015
VIDEO: WDEL's Tom Lehman reports. PHOTO: The scene of a truck that collided with a low railroad overhang. (Courtesy Newark PD Facebook)
A tractor trailer slowed traffic in the Newark area after it attempted to pass under a railroad bridge that was too low for the vehicle.

The bridge runs over North Chapel Street south of East Cleveland Avenue. Police were working to clear debris as the truck roof crumpled in the impact.

The truck was full of pallets, which looked largely undisturbed in photos posted by Newark Police.

Crews working to clean up the scene of truck crash in Newark/Courtesy Newark PD Facebook

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Delaware business group calls for reining in state spending

By Associated Press 8:34pm, September 2, 2015
A statewide business group said Delaware politicians need to take a hard look at cutting state spending.

The Delaware Business Roundtable issued a study Wednesday warning that unless officials take action, annual operating deficits could balloon to more than $600 million, or 11 percent of expenditures, by fiscal 2025.

The study said that instead of raising taxes, officials need to reduce spending growth in education, corrections, personnel and welfare, particularly Medicaid. The study also called for removing regulatory and workforce barriers to economic growth.

Republican lawmakers seized on the report, reiterating calls to cut spending and pass their proposals to put more people to work.

Gov. Jack Markell's spokeswoman said he looks forward to working with the business toundtable and will soon be creating a group to analyze state spending.


Dover's Brengle advances to 3rd round at U.S. Open

By Sean Greene 12:27pm, September 2, 2015 - Updated 3:11pm, September 2, 2015
(WDEL File)
Dover's Madison Brengle continued her fantastic 2015 Grand Slam campaign with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Anna Tatishvili in the 2nd round of the U.S. Open Wednesday morning.

Brengle earned her first 3rd round appearance in the final major of the season by playing a nearly flawless defensive match.

Madison only recorded 6 unforced errors in the two sets, while the more aggressive Tatishvili committed 34 errors against 16 winners.

Tatishvili never could push Brengle's serve to a break point, while Brengle was 3-for-6 on her opportunities.

Brengle, who advanced to the 4th round at the Australian Open earlier this season for her longest Grand Slam run, will face Estonia's Anett Kontaveit, who upset No. 31 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-4.

The two have met just once, with Kontaveit winning 6-1, 6-2 at the Nottingham tournament on grass last year.

Wednesday's victory will likely also mean a boost in Brengle's world rankings. She entered the tournament ranked 47th in the world, down from a career-high of 35 back in May.




Delaware Memorial Bridge painting project to be suspended for Labor Day weekend

By DJ McAneny 2:25pm, September 2, 2015
The painting project currently underway along the Delaware Memorial Bridge will be suspended for the Labor Day holiday weekend, officials announced Wednesday.

All lanes of the bridge will be opened to northbound and southbound traffic beginning Thursday, September 3, 2015, at 6 a.m. They will remain open through Tuesday, September 8, at 9 p.m.

On Wednesday, however, work will resume on the southbound span, officials said, resulting in a continuous closure of one lane while contractors are on site, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., until the papal visit later in the month.

On the northbound span, one lane will be closed from Mondays at 9 a.m. to Fridays at 1 p.m. to aid in the dismantling of scaffolding around the bridge's towers. This process should last for approximately two weeks.

The painting project will again be suspended during the September 25 to 28 visit from the Pope. All lanes will be opened at this time.

The project, in its entirety, is anticipated to be completed by early December 2015.


Biden to appear on Colbert's 'Late Show'

By DJ McAneny 3:24pm, September 2, 2015
Biden appearing on Colbert's previous show, The Colbert Report/WDEL File
Vice President Joe Biden will be among Stephen Colbert's inaugural guests on "The Late Show."

CBS announced Tuesday that Biden will join previously announced guests Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and country singer Toby Keith on September 10, 2015.

Colbert takes over hosting duties from David Letterman on CBS' "The Late Show" beginning Sept. 8.

Other guests set to appear during Colbert's debut week include George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Schumer, author Stephen King, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush.

"The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" will air weeknights at 11:35 p.m. EDT.


Woman, 69, tries to fight off purse-snatcher in Claymont grocery store parking lot

By DJ McAneny 1:34pm, September 2, 2015
A 69-year-old woman had her purse snatched right out of the shopping cart she was using in a Claymont-area grocery store parking lot Tuesday night, police announced Wednesday.

According to Delaware State Police, the woman was loading groceries into her car in the Super Fresh parking lot at 2105 Philadelphia Pike at approximately 6:09 p.m.

A man in an unknown make and model pickup truck pulled up next to her, hopped out, and grabbed her purse. The victim was holding the purse at the time, and struggled with the suspect, however, he wrestled it away from her. He then left the parking lot.

The suspect was described as a black male, 5'8" to 6'2" tall and weighing 180 to 200 lbs., wearing a red button down shirt, light tan khaki pants, black shoes, and a tan baseball cap.

Anyone with information about the incident is urged to contact Delaware State Police at 302.365.8566 or Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1.800.TIP.3333.


Newark man charged with robbing Marshalltom Pizza Hut twice in 5 weeks

By DJ McAneny 12:41pm, September 2, 2015
Leroy Ross/Courtesy Delaware State Police
A Newark man has been charged in connection to the robbery of a Marshallton-area Pizza Hut twice within a five-week period.

Delaware State Police announced Wednesday the arrest of Leroy Ross, 27, on August 31, 2015.

Ross allegedly robbery the Pizza Hut located at 3611 Kirkwood Highway on Wednesday, July 22, 2015, and then again on Sunday, August 30.

Both times, Ross received an undisclosed amount of money after confronting employees and implying he was armed.

Ross was charged with three counts of first-degree robbery. He was committed to the Hoard R. Young Correctional Institution in lieu of $180,000.


Delaware business group calls for reining in state spending

By Randall Chase/Associated Press 5:28pm, September 2, 2015
A statewide business group is calling for Delaware politicians to take a hard look at considerations for cuts in state spending .

The Delaware Business Roundtable issued a study Wednesday warning that, unless officials take action, annual operating deficits could balloon to more than $600 million, or 11 percent of expenditures, by Fiscal Year 2025.

The study said that instead of raising taxes, officials needed to reduce spending growth in education, corrections, personnel and welfare, particularly Medicaid. The study also called for removing regulatory and workforce barriers to economic growth.

Republican lawmakers seized on the report, reiterating calls to cut spending and pass their proposals to put more people to work.

Gov. Jack Markell's spokeswoman said he looks forward to working with the Business Roundtable and will soon be creating a group to analyze state spending.


Rt. 13 reopened after being closed near Dover Mall due to gas leak

By DJ McAneny 12:45pm, September 2, 2015
Dover Police announced a long stretch of road that had been shut down due to a gas leak Wednesday morning was reopened at approximately 12:30 p.m.

According to police, a gas main break had shut down US Route 13 between College Road and the South Entrance of the Dover Mall.

The Dover Police Department and Dover Fire Department and assisting crews remained on scene just after noon to continue work in the area, but the road was reoped to motorists.


Maryland Senator is 34th vote that hands Obama victory on Iran deal

By Erica Werner/Associated Press 12:03pm, September 2, 2015
Senate Democrats rallied the 34 votes they need to keep the Iran nuclear deal alive in Congress, handing President Barack Obama a major foreign policy victory. Mikulski became the crucial 34th vote Wednesday morning./(AP Photo/Steve Ruark)
Senate Democrats have rallied the 34 votes they need to keep the Iran nuclear deal alive in Congress, handing President Barack Obama a major foreign policy victory.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland became the crucial 34th vote Wednesday morning, declaring the agreement is the best way to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Congress is to vote later this month on a resolution disapproving the deal, which is unanimously opposed by Republicans, who call it a dangerous giveaway to Iran.

Obama has vowed to veto the resolution if it passes. It would take 34 votes to uphold his veto, and Democrats now have those in hand.

The agreement - signed by Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers - seeks to dismantle Iran's nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from sanctions.


New Castle man ID'd as victim killed crossing Wilmington Manor road

By DJ McAneny 2:44pm, September 2, 2015
A man was killed while crossing the road just outside Wilmington Manor Tuesday, Delaware State Police announced Wednesday.

According to authorities, the victim--identified by police as 50-year-old David Brixen, of New Castle--attempted to cross the southbound lanes of Basin Road at approximately 9:33 p.m. on September 1, 2015, when he was struck by a vehicle being operated by a 21-year-old Dover man.

The operator of the vehicle stopped at the scene. Brixen came to a rest in the roadway directly in front of the vehicle which struck him.

Brixen was not utilizing a crosswalk at the time he was struck, police said. He was transported to Christiana Hospital Trauma Center where he was pronounced dead. His body was turned over to the Division of Forensic Science.

Police continued to investigate the incident Wednesday afternoon.


Medical emergency crashes car, traps man in New Castle

By Andrew Sgroi 10:59am, September 2, 2015
The crashed SUV on the property of the New Castle County Airport on Tuesday afternoon (Mike Phillips/WDEL)
A man was left unconscious from a crash in New Castle Tuesday afternoon.

New Castle County Paramedics reported an off-duty medic was flagged down on Route 13 near Old Churchmans Road around 5:15 p.m. for the single vehicle accident on the property of the New Castle County Airport.

Officials said the medic found the small SUV off the roadway into a fence, with the non-alert driver trapped inside.

Authorities advised the medic had to smash the rear hatch window to get access because the vehicle's doors were locked. The emergency worker discovered the 60-year-old patient was in cardiac arrest and--with the help of a passing UPS driver--administered CPR to the man before he was freed from the wreckage.

The patient was eventually taken to Christiana Hospital in critical condition.


Crash at Dover crossing kills one

By Andrew Sgroi 9:17am, September 2, 2015 - Updated 10:47am, September 2, 2015

A motorcycle driver was killed following a crash with a vehicle in Dover on Tuesday.

The intersection of Kenton Road and Central Church Road, west of Dover (Google Maps)

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State Police have investigated the wreck that killed 62-year-old David Hemphill, of Smyrna, at the intersection of Kenton Road and Central Church Road just before 5 p.m.

Troopers said Hemphill's 2014 Harley Davidson Road King--which was trailing two vehicles that turned onto eastbound Central Church Road--struck a westbound Central Church Road car that was pulling into the intersection from a posted stop.

Police said Hemphill wasn't wearing a helmet when he was ejected during the collision and was later pronounced dead at Bayhealth General Hospital.

No charges were expected to be filed and investigators said they did not believe alcohol was a factor in the crash.


EdWatch: Federal grant to Delaware Tech aimed at attracting minority students to STEM careers

By Amy Cherry 9:39pm, September 1, 2015 - Updated 11:12am, September 2, 2015
A new federal aims to get more minority students studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in Delaware.

Click here to listen



STEM UP Delaware!'s goal is to strengthen Delaware's workforce by creating a more diverse pipeline of minority students pursuing careers in health care.

A grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Social Services will give Delaware Technical Community College's George campus in Wilmington $2.4 million over five years. The money will be spent by Delaware Tech and its partners, Nemours Health and Prevention Services and the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, on targeting and motivating under-served students to pursue STEM careers.

Data shows blacks and Hispanics make up 30 percent of Delaware's population, but represent less than 10 percent of primary care physicians and less than 2 percent of nurses.

President of Delaware Tech Dr. Mark Brainard said students will be targeted early on in middle school and high school.

"Program participants will be recruited in their 8th grade year--they will come right here to the George campus, and together with our partners we will address persistent academic problems that students in these areas tend to face," said Brainard.

President of Delaware Tech Mark Brainard speaks about his school will use a $2.4 million grant to help bring minority students into STEM careers.

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Senator Tom Carper (D-Delaware), who helped unveil the federal grant money at a news conference Tuesday at Delaware Tech said he hears from businesses like Capital One and DuPont that Delaware's workforce needs better training.

"Jim Kelly (Executive Vice President at Capital One) tells me every time I'm with him, he says 'I have 300 jobs I cannot full. Ellen Kullman (CEO of DuPont) said to us, we have these jobs, we have a skill set that we're having difficulty filling," Carper said.

Brainard said their program will use a multi-pronged approach.

"Folks will use hands-on STEM technology. As part of the curriculum, we will have supplemental instruction, academic and career counseling, mentoring, and of course, internships wit local employers," said Brainard.

The program is slated to begin this fall with 40 8th and 9th grade students in New Castle County.

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Contact Amy Cherry at acherry@wdel.com or follow her on Twitter at @acherry13.

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