results show open and honest dialogue is working," said Craig
Gilbert, a parent who co-chairs the volunteer referendum
declined later to provide specific numbers, but said the poll
resulted in "a preponderance of yeses." He added that the survey
"was focused ... on those with students in our schools."
his presentation to the board at its May 21 meeting, he stopped short of predicting
approval of either or both questions to be put before voters in
the May 31 referendum, he reported that an intensive effort to
reach school and civic groups and influential people has
resulted in several endorsements.
on the list of backers is Wilmington City Councilman Theopalis
Gregory, who sponsored a Council resolution calling on the
General Assembly to declare a moratorium on all school
construction in the four northern districts in New Castle County
until plans required to comply with the Neighborhood Schools Act
are in place. State lawmakers did not agree with that idea.
Gilbert said, however, that Gregory -- who served on a
Brandywine financial taskforce which found a dire need for the
proposed renovations -- makes a distinction between building new
schools and fixing up existing ones. First school to be affected
by the Brandywine program would be Harlan Intermediate, which is
located in north Wilmington.
the Assembly will have the final say on the Brandywine program
since the state's 60% share of the record $96 million total cost
is not yet budgeted. It is included in the annual state 'bond
bill', now pending before the legislature and due to come to a
vote in late June. Although theoretically possible, it is highly
unlikely the authorization would be removed from the
capital-spending legislation or that Governor Ruth Ann Minner
would exercise a line-item veto if Brandywine voters authorize
sale of local bonds to match the state's appropriation. On the
other hand, if voters reject the sale Brandywine would have to
start the entire process from scratch during the fiscal year
which begins in July.
the referendum will be asked to approve selling 20-year tax-exempt bonds to finance completely
renovating five schools and doing major work at three others.
Money to replace running tracks at the district's three high
schools would be raised entirely with local taxes in one year. The two questions
are independent of each others. Voters can approve both, one or
noted that the tracks would be used not only by the
schools' athletes but also in the physical education
curriculum and be available outside of school hours for
anticipated that local debt service, assuming a 6½% interest
rate on the program bonds if they are authorized, will require
annual increases in the major capital expenditures portion of
Brandywine's tax rate over the next five years, followed by
annual decreases as these bonds are paid off. However, selling
additional bonds during those years to finance another phase of
the long-range building program would require increases. The
present capital rate is 4¢ for each $100 of assessed property
value. It would go to 5.13¢ next year for school renovation with
approximately 2.85¢ tacked onto that to finance the tracks. In
subsequent years, that portion of the total tax rate would rise
to 9.99¢, 13.18¢, 15.85¢ and 17.97¢. The current total rate is
92.9¢, most of which finances salaries, materials and other
elements of current operations. Brandywine has indicated it will
go to voters next year to seek an increase in the ceiling on
that portion of the tax.
determine the amount of tax, the assessed value of a property is
divided by 100 and multiplied by the tax rate. In campaign
literature, the district said the tax increase on the average
assessment, which it said New Castle County puts at $68,257,
will be $8 for the buildings and $20 for the tracks in tax bills
due by Sept. 30 and would amount to $95 over the next five
another matter before it at the meeting, the school board
repealed a prohibition against students having cellular
telephones in their possession inside school buildings during
the academic day. That was one of several changes made to the
district's Code of Student Conduct for the coming academic year.
the matter did not come in for discussion before the unanimous
vote, it previously was a highly controversial issue as school
administrators were torn between preventing possible disruption
and parents and children strongly desiring access to the
communications devices for both convenience and faddish reasons.
As amended, the policy still prohibits "the use of any such
device in an audible or disruptive manner." Enforcing a total
ban of the easily-concealed devices, it was previously agreed,
was virtually impossible.
key change was insertion of a provision which provides that any
student helping another student to plan or carry out an act that
violates the code be subject to the same disciplinary action as
the perpetrator. Yet another section specifies five actions
which constitute prohibited sexual harassment plus one which
encompasses anything else defined as offensive in state law.
also received a proposal, which is scheduled to be acted upon at
its June business meeting, which modifies the method by which
class standing is determined. Assistant Superintendent Donald
Fantine said that experience since a previous method was
established in 1998 has found that it leads to several
inequities. Class standing is one of the reported indices used
by colleges to determine which applicants will be accepted for
admission. Grade point averages, which also are an admissions
factor, will continue to be calculated on a straight-line basis.
proposed new method would base standing only on performance in
basic subjects and advanced-level electives instead of all
subjects. Fantine explained that some students have been signing
up for study periods rather than taking such electives as music
and art so as not to lower the weighted class-standing averages
reflecting their performance in honors or advanced-placement
classes. The new system will still provide bonuses for taking
for the upper 10%, whose class rank will be reported
specifically, students will be grouped in ranges of 10
percentage points. For example, a student would be listed as
15th in a class of 400 or in the 80th percentile of a class of
400 if his or her actual standing was 45th.
told the board there are "almost as many ways to figure class
standing as there are high schools." He said the proposed
formula is based on ones used in the Ridley Park and Lower
Marion districts in Pennsylvania and, as far as he knows, is
different from any used by other Delaware districts.
member Ralph Ackerman announced at the meeting that he has
decided to repay the $802 the state auditor said he owes to
reimburse the district and state for pay his former wife, Linda,
received when granted an improper paid leave from her job as a
Brandywine High School custodian to attend two educational
conventions with him in 1998 and 1999.
statement read at the meeting, Ackerman reiterated a previous
contention that he did not seek preferential or improper
treatment and that he relied on former superintendent Joseph
DeJohn and former personnel director Kathleen Overstreet's
determinations that the leaves were appropriate. Ackerman
questioned why only he, and not those officials, are being
judged accountable. He said, however, that he decided to pay to
uphold his own integrity and bring closure to the issue.
There never was any allegation that
Linda Ackerman's expenses to attend the out-of-town conventions
were charged to the district.