Finding Facilities Money

By Glenn Cook

It’s not too often that a district starts construction on a new $114 million high school the same year that the state tells you the school is failing to meet the needs of its students.

But that’s exactly what happened in 2011 in Delaware’s Capital School District.

Construction started in May, and that summer, Dover High was labeled as a state “Partnership Zone” school because it had failed to meet adequate yearly progress for several years. Since then, the school has been transformed, meeting state goals on tests and graduation rates despite challenging student demographics and mandated changes in its instructional staff.

This past August, students and staff moved from the old facility—a Cold War-era labyrinth of buildings that once was used as a bomb shelter—into a state-of-the-art, 290,000-square-foot school just west of the state capitol. And they did so after having moved out from under state supervision, thanks to sustained improvements in student achievement.

“It’s been a lot of work, and a long process,” says Michael Thomas, who was named state superintendent of the year in July. “But the work is paying off.”

It is, indeed. Thomas’ honor was the second major award given to a Capital School District official in six months. Earlier this year, the National Association of Secondary School Principals named Courtney Voshell the 2014 National Assistant Principal of the Year for her work at Dover High.

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