action taken at the board's monthly business meeting on Nov. 15
reverses a decision made 10 days earlier to proffer a plan which
would assign students to schools based largely on the postal zip
code in their home addresses and present the status quo as a
favored alternative. That vote was 7-2, with all of those voting
affirmatively indicating that they did so reluctantly.
eliminating any lingering ambiguity in its position, the board
has asserted the primacy of local control of public education.
"In the end, the voters of Brandywine, along with their elected
representatives on the Brandywine board, have concluded the
Brandywine Plan is the only plan that meets all the requirements
of the act," the plan document states.
effect, the Brandywine board has challenged the state board and,
ultimately, the General Assembly to concur with that conclusion.
document refers to as the 'Brandywine Plan', is the current
alignment of grades into four divisions as originally mandated
by federal court in its desegregation decision with children
living in Wilmington assigned to suburban schools for all but
the fourth, fifth and sixth grades and suburban children
assigned to schools containing those intermediate grades in the
city or Claymont.
detailed 'Power Point' presentation at the meeting,
superintendent Bruce Harter said that "a closer reading" of the
controversial law, particularly its preamble, convinced him that
the present arrangement satisfies both its letter and spirit.
Among other things, he said, it assigns most students to schools
near their homes, is neutral on race as a basis for assignments,
will be "fair and equitable" to all students and reflects the
will of the community.
Brandywine submitted its plan literally at the 11th hour --
sending it by electronic means after the board's evening
meeting adjourned. The four conventional school districts in
northern New Castle County were required to file plans on or
before Nov. 15. Harter will make a presentation to the state
board on Nov. 27.
30-page document sent to Dover covers the zip-code plan,
but focuses on why it is undesirable. The plan states: "While
the zip-code plan is relatively straightforward and does meet
the strict configuration requirement of [the law], closer
scrutiny reveals that it falls short of meeting the other
requirements of the act and would be detrimental to many
students and schools."
several ways, Harter said, implementing that plan would create
"substantial hardship" in Brandywine and thus violate the intent
of the law. Specifically, he singled out the displacement of
some 5,000 students, nearly half the district's enrollment.
said the practical effect of the present arrangement is to avoid
having any 'high poverty' schools by dispersing children in
areas of the district with lower average personal incomes. A
'high poverty' school is one in which a majority of students
qualify under U.S. Department of Agriculture standards to
receive free or reduced-price lunches.
superintendent said that concentrations of students with lower
socio-economic backgrounds result in schools with overall poorer
academic performance. To support that contention, the plan cites
the recently published Delaware Department of Education school
performance ratings. "The district with the highest percentage
of all schools under school review -- Red Clay -- also has the
greatest disparity of income levels among [its] schools," the
report said. Red Clay has seven schools so designated;
Brandywine has one. 'Under review' is an euphemism for schools
not showing sufficient academic improvement in state assessment
referred to the likelihood of "teacher flight" from such schools
which he said would run counter to the need to have more highly
qualified teachers there. He also said providing additional
services to those schools would be extremely costly.
the board's discussion of Harter's presentation, president Nancy
Doorey said that supporting the zip code plan would be
tantamount to "telling taxpayers we have to come up with several
million [dollars] for a plan you say you don't want on top of
coming up with money for other initiatives."
who turned out on Oct. 30 to vote on three proposed plans
endorsed the status quo by a 68%-to-32% margin. Countering a
claim that was not an accurate gauge of sentiment in the
district, vice president David Adkins noted that every district
resident age 18 and older had an opportunity to cast a vote and
presumably anyone who cared about neighborhood schools, one way
or the other, would have taken advantage of that opporunity.
Board member Janice Tunell added that the result "was not one
time, [but] something we've heard over and over again."
another matter at the meeting, the board gave first reading to a
revised policy that district administrator Barry Bogden said
will result in consistent application of the district's fee
schedule for use of school buildings and other facilities. The
previous policy, he said, actually ran counter to state law in
that it promoted arbitrary decisions on whether facilities could
be used and the charging of fees.
policy, if adopted as seems likely in December, provides for
off-hours and subject-to-availability use by charitable
organizations or for charitable activities by reimbursing
custodial and other actual costs and at the stated fees for
adopting the new policy is part of a long-running review and
revision of all district policies, Delaforum has learned from
informed sources that previous rentals of one facility, the
swimming pool at P.S. du Pont Intermediate School, was one of
the subjects of a just completed state audit of the district.
Results of that audit are expected to be made public soon by the
state auditor of accounts.
policy presented at the meeting would slightly modify priorities
and procedures for applying the state's public school choice law
and deal with terminations of choice assignments for academic
and disciplinary reasons -- something that administrator Wayne
Emsley said has been rare.
approved an interim policy for assigning additional weight to
grades earned in higher-level course in determining class rank
for present high school freshmen and sophomores. It changes the
method that has been in use and which will be applied to present
seniors and juniors. The district administration has been
directed to come up with a new arrangement for future classes.
granted a waiver from the state law which limits the size of
primary grade classes to 22 students for 11 of the district's
137 kindergarten through third grade classes. Seven are at Mount
Pleasant Elementary and four at Carrcroft. The largest class is
an 'academically gifted' second grade at Mount Pleasant, which
has 26 students. Eight other classes are above the cap, but do
not require waivers because they have teacher aides assigned to
them, Emsley said.
who came to Brandywine from Florida, said districts there and
elsewhere around the nation would be more than pleased "if they
had those numbers." Emsley said that with only two of its nine
elementary schools out of compliance with the law and the number
of oversize classes having declined from 52 over the four years
that the law has been in effect, Brandywine is leading the pack.
Red Clay required waivers for all 12 of its schools, Colonial
for all 10 and Christina for 12 of 15, he said. The law sets the
limits but empowers districts to waive the requirement if they
do not meet it.
The board approved the hiring of
Ellen Marie Cooper as in-house attorney, John Croney as internal
auditor, and Penny Person as construction project manager. All
fill recently authorized positions unique to Brandywine. Wendy
Lapham was hired as public information officer. Salaries were
not immediately disclosed.