Dec. 10, nothing has been determined. There is no time frame.
We're working through this," board president Joseph Pika
replied when asked about the process to be followed. He did say
that, whatever course is followed, it will be done in public. He
added, however, that a published report to the effect that
the board had decided to hold a public hearing on the matter was
nearly four hours of listening to and questioning officials of
the Brandywine and Red Clay districts at a special board meeting
on Nov. 27, there were only a few vague hints about how members
of the board may be leaning. The Christina and Colonial
districts get their turns on Dec. 10.
asked both delegations for their views on whether having up to
four different student assignment arrangements would be
"fair and equitable" to children living in the city of
Wilmington and whether they would be open to "a
collaborative cross-district arrangement" to mitigate that.
school board president Nancy Doorey said it is commonplace
throughout the nation to have "districts that are
contiguous run very differently."
are many different ways to build a house. I can see multiple
plans being effective as long as we hold to the bottom
line," Red Clay superintendent Robert Andrzejewski said.
rejected the idea of working together, but Pika did not pursue
the point beyond his initial question.
members Claibourne Smith, Mary Graham and Robert Gilsdorf
separately pressed retired Red Clay administrator Gail Ames, who
wrote that district's plan, to quantify the extent to which a
literal application of the law's requirement that students be
assigned to schools closest to their homes would impose a
hardship on the district.
at one point reacted to allegations of extensive adverse
consequences of doing so by remarking, "I'm trying to
figure out who our legislators were listening to." In
another context, he praised the extent to which Brandywine
involved the public in the formulation of its plan as "a
lighthouse for others to emulate."
that the special board meeting attracted only about a dozen
people, there were no surprises at the session as both
delegations gave 'Power Point' presentations that did not differ
significantly from previous public presentations.
asked to retain its present four-tier class alignment, instead
of reverting, as the law specifies, to the three-tier one which
used to be considered traditional, and to continue to assign
most suburban students to city schools for the intermediate
grades and all city students to suburban ones for the other
superintendent Bruce Harter testified, would comply with the
expressed wishes of parents and other district residents; avoid
the hardships, inequities and costs associated with creating
schools at which more than half the students come from poverty
backgrounds; and prevent extensive disruption of an established
wants to be allowed to continue to move toward having all its
students and their parents choose which schools they want to
attend with only those who do not avail themselves of the
opportunity to do so under the state's public school choice law
assigned to schools closest to home with the capacity to
accommodate them. "We are not proposing to assign a house
or an address to a school; we will assign children," Ames
that 42% of Red Clay's 1,500 students are now attending schools
of choice, up from 39% last year, and that proximity to child
care providers and places of parents' employment is as
significant a factor in those choices as nearness to home.
testified that concentrating children from poverty backgrounds
in the same school "compounds the effects of poverty."
She said that teachers in such schools spend 40% of their time
disciplining children, as opposed to the 12% of their time in
has developed what it calls a 'challenge index' which purports
to measure the impact of various elements associated with
socio-economic background. "Our best and brightest teachers
are going to want to move from where the challenge index is high
to where the challenge is low," Doorey said.
directly responding to that assertion, Ames later testified that
in Red Clay "teachers are not deserting high-poverty
schools." She said that the faculty at Shortlidge
Elementary in Wilmington a third of the teachers have 22 to 35
years of experience, a third between 13 and 22 and other third
less than 13. "That is an ideal mix," she said.
said he personally and Red Clay as a district are committed to
providing quality education to the portion of its population
defined as poor. "We're applying extra resources in our
high-poverty schools and we're trying to find ways and the money
to do even more," he said. "I refuse to use poverty as
an excuse and it's starting to pay off."
an assertion by board member Jean Allen that extensive
application of state's choice process would discriminate against
families with limited means. The state does not provide free
transportation to schools selected under the choice program, but
Andrzejewski said Red Clay is using local money to pay for 20
'choice transportation' bus routes. He added that the district
and others will again attempt to get the General Assembly to
correct what is considered ambiguity in that regard in that it
does pay for transportation to charter schools.
Spiegelman, who served on the committee which devised a schools
plan for the city of Wilmington, urged the state board to follow
a course that does not "impose cruel and unusual
punishment" on city children as the result of a law that
was enacted "with little understanding or [consideration]
of what its impact would be."
that the General Assembly totally ignored the work of her
committee and subsequent action by Wilmington City Council and
asked, "What has happened to local control that Delaware
has always prided itself on?"
with specific reference to the Brandywine plan, State Senator
Dallas Winslow told the state board that "the school
district has determined the facts and you should accept them in
the absence of any conclusive evidence that they have made