Committee recommends charter revocation for Delaware MET in Wilmington

By Amy Cherry 12:41pm, December 1, 2015 - Updated 3:56pm, December 1, 2015
A new Wilmington charter school is already at risk of closing.

The state's Charter School Accountability Committee recommended Tuesday that the state Board of Education revoke Delaware MET's charter in January, meaning the school's 210 students could be forced to move to another school for the second half of the school year.

The Wilmington high school, which just opened in the fall, has come under scrutiny for alleged academic, operational and financial problems. Delaware MET was placed on probation on October 15, just six weeks after the start of the school year.

"This is not something to point to and say, 'See they don't work.' This is not about charter schools. This is about a school that had major challenges in implementation and based on the information that is received is not handling those challenges," said Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network and a non-voting member of the charter school accountability committee, who agreed fully with the recommendation.

The Delaware Department of Education said the committee determined that lesson plans submitted are out of alignment with state academic standards while commitment to the school's Big Picture Learning model appears to be lacking. The committee also said the school was out of compliance with its 59 special education students who have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

In addition, the committee cited safety and discipline concerns and a lack of compliance with open meeting laws as reasons for the recommendation that Delaware MET be shuttered.

"Our kids need ot be in an environment, where they are safe and where they are learning," said Massett. "There was concern based on information that they had given that there might be some culture issues that could cause safety concerns."

The committee also noted the school's financial viability isn't sound, in part, due to what they claimed was decreasing enrollment.

The school will be the subject of a public hearing on Monday, December 7, at 5 p.m. at the Carvel State Office Building. State Education Secretary Dr. Steven Godowsky and the board will then make a final decision on the school's fate at the regular state Board of Education meeting on December 17.

"Every child deserves an opportunity for an excellent public education. To make that happen, you have to sometimes make the hard decisions. This is going to be a hard decision," Massett said.

If the school is forced to close on January 22, 2016, the Delaware Department of Education said children would return to their district schools in their feeder pattern or would have the option of "choicing" into another district or charter school with open enrollment.

"The alternative is to leave kids in a school...that is not a good school," explained Massett. "I did not agree with the kids staying at Moyer last year after revocation because you've sent the message that the school is not a good school."

The application deadline of the choice program is January 13, 2016.

WDEL has reached out to various officials at Delaware MET for comment.


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

Delaware's poet laureate retires

By Shana O'Malley 9:57pm, December 1, 2015 - Updated 10:07pm, December 1, 2015
After serving for more than seven years as Delaware's poet laureate, poet JoAnn Balingit has retired.

Balingit was appointed as the state's 16th poet laureate by former Governor Ruth Ann Minner in 2008.

During her time in the position, Balingit helped organize poetry readings and writing workshops and worked at schools and nursing homes to help Delawareans of all ages learn to express themselves.

"Being in this official position, although I've been writing for a long time, made me have to think a lot about why poetry is important," she said. "It's one of the ways people can connect most deeply. A poem is a conversation."

Balingit was honored with a retirement reception Tuesday night.

"You have somehow managed to touch, in your seven years, a broad array of Delawareans," said Gov. Jack Markell. "You've touched their heart, you've touched their head to make them think, to make them laugh, to make them weep."

Balingit said she plans to continue to work within Delaware's writing community.

The state has not yet chosen her replacement.

Man shot in the head in Wilmington

By Tom Lehman 4:16pm, December 1, 2015 - Updated 4:25pm, December 1, 2015
A 30-year-old man was shot in the head Tuesday afternoon in Wilmington, city police said.

It happened just before 1:30 p.m. in the area of 22nd and Spruce streets, Sgt. Andrea Janvier said.

Responding officers arrived in the location and found the victim suffering from a gunshot wound to his head, Janvier said.

New Castle County Paramedics treated the victim and transported him to Christiana Hospital, where police said he was in critical condition.


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Mayor Williams, supporters of Riverfront arena pitch plan to private sector leaders

By Tom Lehman 6:53pm, December 1, 2015 - Updated 7:48pm, December 1, 2015
VIDEO: WDEL's Tom Lehman reports.
Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams and other backers of a plan to construct a $25 million arena in the city's Christina Riverfront District made their case on Tuesday to corporate leaders for offering millions of dollars in private sector support for the project.

A rough outline of the plan currently calls for six private donors who would contribute a combined $6 million to $8 million to assist in financing the construction for the area, which would be attached to the Chase Center on the Riverfront. In exchange for the contributions, naming rights to the facility and box seats could potentially be offered to the companies or organizations.

However, Williams (D) said public money would likely comprise most of the project's financing, with a $16 million bond potentially coming from the state. He also noted that state lawmakers need to be onboard with a plan that would allow some taxes paid to the state to be redirected toward paying off debt service incurred by the city.

"There will be bond money that we'll be asking for and there will be money off of general revenue taxes that will be funneled back into this arena," he said.

Ed Osborne, a friend of the mayor who owns an auto shop in the Riverfront area, helped pitch the plan and said the 33,000 square foot arena could potentially seat as many as 4,000 people for events that do not require the facility's main floor. Otherwise, many sporting events would seat as many as 3,200 people.

Although the seating falls well short of larger arenas in bigger cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore, Osborne, who also was part of Williams' 2012 campaign effort, said the current plan would be the only way such a building could be actualized.

"Sometimes a slice of the pie is better than the whole pie," he said.

Williams said the project also offers another potential venue for concerts and artists that would broaden the entertainment offerings in the city and potentially attract younger people with disposable incomes.

"Those kids aren't talking about crime. They want something to do," he said.

The plan would also have to be approved by the board of directors for the Riverfront Development Corporation, which owns and operates the Chase Center. The organization's executive director, Mike Purzycki, is running against Williams in next year's Democratic primary for mayor.

Mark Fields, executive director of the Grand on North Market Street, said the size of the Riverfront arena would likely attract events that wouldn't necessarily conflict with programming offered at other local venues. He said it should have an "additive" effect in the downtown area.

"I would think that you would feed each other by brining attention to all the artists by virtue of that," he said.

Fred Sears, the president and chief executive officer of the Delaware Community Foundation, said he wasn't surprised to see some skepticism surrounding the project but thinks it's worth supporting because of the jobs created through construction and operations. He likened criticism of the project to "the same BS" that was offered when Frawley Stadium was planned.

"I think it's something that could actually happen," he said.


You can contact Tom Lehman at Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Wilmington mayor's chief of staff to leave post, replacement named

By Tom Lehman 5:35pm, December 1, 2015
Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams announced on Tuesday that Cleon Cauley, his chief of staff, has resigned his post to open a boutique law firm.

The vacancy will be filled by Gary Fullman, who served as finance director under former Mayor Dan Frawley. Williams said he will take over as the acting chief of staff in January.

Cauley joined the administration in 2013 as commissioner of the city's public works department. He was soon promoted to chief of staff.

"I am truly grateful for his tireless service to our city and for his commitment to the administration," Williams said in a statement.

Fullman currently works in the city's finance department as a procurement manager. He also previously worked as the chief financial officer for the Delaware Department of Transportation.

"In addition to his diverse background of policy and government experience, he consistently demonstrates his commitment to the City of Wilmington through his involvement on various boards and commissions for Wilmington organizations," Williams said. "I believe he will offer valuable insight as we continue to move our city forward."


You can contact Tom Lehman at Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Barney wants Delaware's congressional seat in 2016

By Amy Cherry/Andrew Sgroi 9:36am, December 1, 2015 - Updated 1:54pm, December 1, 2015
Sean Barney is running for Delaware's congressional seat. (Photo/WDEL file)
Democrat Sean Barney announced Tuesday that he's running for Congress in 2016.

Barney stated his intentions for the lone U.S. House of Representatives seat Tuesday, entering a crowded field to replace three-term incumbent John Carney, who's running for Delaware governor.

Responding to calls that the country turn away Syrian refugees after the attacks in Paris, Barney immediately called for the United States to instead step up its refugee resettlement program, accepting 200,000 refugees--100,000 from Syria. On WDEL, Barney called the crisis a scapegoat for Congress' lack of a plan for the military conflict.

"We have a war ongoing; this president's going to send more troops to Syria, and yet the Congress has failed to debate and pass a use of force authorization to set the parameters of our military policy in Iraq," said Barney on WDEL's Delaware News at Noon. "We lost good marines in Fallujah taking a city that is now in ISIS hands because we never had a long-term strategy."

Barney received a Purple Heart for his honorable service as a U.S. Marine in the Iraq War, where he was shot in the neck in Fallujah in 2006.

Barney also served as a military and foreign affairs advisor in the U.S. Senate. He also previously served as policy director to Governor Jack Markell, helping Markell pass legislation to raise the minimum wage, end mandatory consecutive sentencing, create universal background checks for gun sales, pass marriage equality, and establish civil rights protections for transgendered Delawareans.

Barney served as a clerk to Delaware Supreme Court Justice C.J. Seitz Jr. before recently becoming president of InfoVest, a Delaware venture capital firm.

He will face a crowded field of candidates that includes State Sen. Bryan Townsend (D-Newark), State Rep. Bryon Short (D-Highland Woods), former Delaware Labor Secretary Lisa Blunt-Rochester, and Sussex County businessman Mike Miller in the Democratic primary on September 13, 2016.

He ran as a Democrat for state treasurer in 2014, but lost to Republican Ken Simpler.


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

Wilmington tree lighting ceremony cancelled

By Chris Carl 1:43pm, December 1, 2015
WDEL archive photo of Wilmington's Christmas tree
The weather has forced the City of Wilmington to cancel tonight's Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on Rodney Square.

Instead, the tree's lights will turn on automatically at 5:30pm.

Wilmington-based Chemours to lay off 400 workers, about 50 in Delaware

By Tom Lehman 7:19pm, November 30, 2015 - Updated 7:21pm, November 30, 2015
Wilmington-based Chemours announced on Monday that it plans to lay off 400 workers globally, including about 50 Delaware employees.

A Chemours spokesman said the workforce reduction, expected to be completed in 2016, will save the company about $50 million each year. The former performance chemicals division of DuPont posted a $29 million net loss in the third quarter, its second earnings period since it was spun off to become an independent company.

The DuPont spinoff will shutter a plant in Niagara, New York by December 2016, affecting about 200 employees and contractors who work at that location.

The news comes months after the company closed its Edge Moor facility in New Castle County, which employed 200 workers and 130 contractors. The company currently employs about 1,100 workers in Delaware.


You can contact Tom Lehman at Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Newark man busted for drugs during traffic stop near Stanton

By Andrew Sgroi 1:43pm, December 1, 2015
Kermit Hilton, 39, of Newark and the drugs located during the traffic stop Monday night (Delaware State Police)
A distracted driver attracted plenty of police attention during a traffic stop near Stanton.

Delaware State Police said patrol officers pulled over 39-year-old Kermit Hilton's Honda Odyssey Monday night--on Route 7 and Churchmans Road--after he failed to use a turn signal and was spotted using a mobile phone while driving.

Troopers said that--during the stop--officers smelled marijuana inside the minivan, leading to a probable cause search which uncovered 549 grams of pot and more than $56,000 of suspected drug proceeds.

Kermit Hilton was arrested and transported to Troop 2 in Glasgow and charged with possession of marijuana in a Tier 1 quantity, possession with the intent to deliver a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and several traffic offenses. He was arraigned at Justice of the Peace Court 11 and released after posting $15,100 secured bail.

WDEL's Road Scholar: Rapid Flash Beacons arrive in Delaware for improved safety at pedestrian crossings

By Andrew Sgroi 11:09am, December 1, 2015 - Updated 2:59pm, December 1, 2015
A Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon (RRFB) application in Bellevue, WA (YouTube)
A busy roadway near Newark becomes the state's first location for an enhanced pedestrian crosswalk.

Click here to listen

The Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) designated the crossing area for improvements--at the intersection of the Tri-Valley Trail and Polly Drummond Hill Road--after considering public input.

"One of the complaints from the bikers and the pedestrians crossing there," revealed Mark Luszcz, a DelDOT chief traffic engineer, "is that they feel they have an excessive amount of wait time. If there's an excessive amount of wait time, that may lead to people making poor decisions and jumping out in front of traffic."

Though the current crossing--extending between the DNREC community yard waste drop-off site and the Judge Morris Estate--has standard warning signs and crosswalk markings, the decision to upgrade was more preemptive than reactive.

An aerial view of the location near Newark for Delaware's first RRFB pedestrian crossing (Google Maps)

"Fortunately, there's not a big experience of crash problems at this location," Luszcz conceded, "but we look(ed) at the high speeds (from vehicular traffic) and also the delays."

Since the location is not ideal for a full traffic signal, or even the HAWK (High Intensity Activated Crosswalk) pedestrian hybrid beacon that's been used elsewhere in the state, DelDOT chose to install a device new to Delaware called the Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon (RRFB).

"This new treatment has been experimented with in Florida since the early 2000's," Luszcz explained, "(and) the Federal Highway Administration gave it an interim approval in 2008. So we've been keeping up with this since that time and watching where other agencies have been placing (them)."

This inaugural placement for Delaware will enable users of the extensive trail system through the White Clay Creek State Park and Middle Run Valley Natural Area to safely get across Polly Drummond Hill Road in separate, focused efforts.

"In addition to the RRFB," Luszcz illustrated, "we're also installing a center median island. It'll be approximately 6 feet wide and-- as a pedestrian or biker trying to cross there--it'll allow you to really focus on one direction of traffic, get to the center island, and then focus on the other direction of traffic before getting all the way across the street."

The RRFB--a solar-powered, LED fixture--idles as a dark signal until it is activated by users via a push button. The beacon faces oncoming traffic and, mounted below a pedestrian/bicycle warning sign, begins to flash in a rapid, stutter pattern.

"It reminds you of what you would see on a police or emergency vehicle."

Research has shown that driver yielding rates are improved significantly (up to 90 percent) with the implementation of these rapid flash beacons, versus 10 to 20 percent in applications where either no beacon or a standard flashing yellow beacon exists.

"The irregular, stutter flash is what appears to better draw driver's attention," Luszcz summarized.

The project began preliminary work in November and hopes to meet a determined timeline.

"It'll just depend on how the weather goes (through the winter) and if we run into any unanticipated utility problems," Luszcz disclosed. "We should have everything up and running by the end of February 2016, which would hopefully be in time for when we get into spring and the pedestrian and biker volumes pick up."


Contact Andrew Sgroi with Road Scholar story ideas to or follow him on Twitter at @Cuse92.

Newark City Council approves hefty property tax hike in 2016 budget

By Shana O'Malley 11:45pm, November 30, 2015 - Updated 11:23am, December 1, 2015
Newark City Council passed the city's 2016 operating budget.

The $39.8 million operating budget is about 3.5 percent higher than 2015 and includes a 9.5 percent property tax hike.

"Three percent of the 9.5 percent supports operating expense growth while the other 6.5 percent supports stormwater infrastructure, street infrastructure and sanitary sewer infrastructure," explained Louis Vitola, finance director.

The city's total budget for 2016 is $48.9 million, an overall increase of 7.7 percent from 2015.

During budget discussions Monday night, City Manager Carol Houck said the city has experienced three water main breaks in the past week including one on Thanksgiving, leaving some residents without water during the holiday.

Houck said they're on pace for a record year of water main breaks and the extra funds will allow the city to replace aging pipes before they fail.

"They're just failing at a rapid rate, and we've identified areas, and it's something we really need to tackle at this time," she said.

City council will also consider additional proposed increases to water and sewer rates at a meeting on December 14.

Jury picked in assault trial of Dover police officer

By WDEL Staff 11:18pm, November 30, 2015 - Updated 9:45pm, December 1, 2015
Cpl. Thomas Webster seen in the video released by Dover Police. (Photo/Screenshot)
Jury selection has been completed in the trial of a white police officer in Dover accused of assaulting a black suspect in 2013 by kicking him in the head.

The predominantly female jury for the trial of Cpl. Thomas Webster IV was seated Monday after a lengthy winnowing process. None of the jurors is a black male.

President of the Central Delaware NAACP Lamar Gunn isn't happy with the make-up of the mostly white jury.

"I'm not satisfied with it, to say the least, I think it could have been a little bit more diverse as far as even gender was concerned, but from a race and ethnic side, I don't believe it's representative of the Dover or Kent County community," Gunn told Delaware 105.9.

Dashcam video taken from another officer's car shows Webster kicking Lateef Dickerson while Dickerson was on his hands and knees. Dickerson was knocked unconscious and suffered a broken jaw.

Webster faces second-degree assault charges; his attorney has maintained that the officer's actions were justified.

Trial is expected to last five days.

A Widener Delaware Law School professor said "use of force" reports may or may not be important for jurors as they decide the fate of officer Webster.

Visiting Assistant Prof Amber Baylor told WDEL News whether the reports would matter to the case relates to their content.

"It depends on what the report, you know, what the report states--it becomes the justification in the reports for the use of force, so it's hard to say without having some insight into the reports," said Baylor.

Baylor says an overriding question for all police departments is why they would allow officers with several such reports on record to continue to be out on the street.

Baylor added the jurors' past dealings with police could affect their perceptions of guilt or innocence in the case.

"When you're asking jurors about negative interactions with police, you are, in most instances, going to have jurors of color that have had those interactions, or have had family members who've had those interactions, in the criminal justice system", said Baylor.

Officer Webster is accused of using excessive force against Lateef Dickerson in August 2013, kicking him in the head and breaking his jaw in an incident captured on a dash cam video.

Marshall pushes for $15 minimum wage in Delaware

By WDEL Staff 11:14pm, November 30, 2015
Delaware's minimum wage would rise to more than $15 per hour by 2023, under an amendment to legislation filed in the General Assembly.

State Senator Bobby Marshall (D-Wilmington West), who's running for the Democratic nomination for mayor of Wilmington, cites the increasing numbers of people with low-wage jobs as well as a rising rate of poverty as the main reasons for his measure.

The minimum wage hike would be phased in on June 1 of each year, starting with a 50-cent increase and rising by $1.20 per hour in the final four years through 2023.

Currently, minimum wage is $8.25 per hour in Delaware.

Federal grant helps pay for water filtration system in New Castle

By Tom Lehman 5:38pm, November 30, 2015 - Updated 7:21pm, November 30, 2015
VIDEO: WDEL's Tom Lehman reports.
A new filtration system for New Castle was recently installed through the help of a federal grant announced on Monday by Delaware's Congressional delegation.

The $500,000 grant from the U.S. Agriculture Department's Rural Development program covered half the cost of installing filtration equipment for New Castle's water system.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware) said the timing of the funds was important because New Castle had to temporarily shut down wells used for drinking water earlier this year over a high level of contaminants.

The new system will be used to remove Perfluorooctane Sulfonate and Perflurooctanoic Acid that was previously found in the water.

"Eventually...we need to find out what was the cause of the pollution and make sure that's addressed but in the meantime, the folks who live in New Castle have clean water to drink and it's at an affordable price," he said.

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware) speaks at a news conference announcing a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Agriculture Department used to help cover half the cost of a water filtration for New Castle. (Tom Lehman/WDEL)

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The only other time the Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant Program has been applied in Delaware was 2001, when two of Selbyville's three wells were out of service.

Carper said it might seem strange to some observers that rural development funds would be used in New Castle County but the program has helped upstate municipalities and schools meet their needs. The filtration system itself is located at the Historic Penn Farm.

"We know there's still some rural areas up here," he said. "There's a real need."


You can contact Tom Lehman at Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Worker burned during flash fire at Delaware City Refinery

By Andrew Sgroi 9:10am, November 30, 2015 - Updated 8:47am, December 1, 2015
A worker at the Delaware City refinery was badly burned in a weekend incident at the facility, according to New Castle County Paramedics.

County Paramedics said the 62-year-old man suffered facial burns resulting from a flash fire inside an industrial area at the complex Sunday evening, November 29.

According to medics, the employee was eventually taken to Crozer-Chester Burn Center in Chester, Pennsylvania, for 1st and 2nd degree burns to his face and neck. He was last listed in stable condition, paramedics said.

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