Failure to correct glaring
deficiencies will subject children to continuation of unsafe,
unhealthy and educationally obsolete conditions, Craig Gilbert,
a member of the district's Financial Review Taskforce, told the
council's May 10 business meeting.
about the kids [and] some of the actual environments we put our
children through," he said.
series of Power Point slides, he showed several examples of
infrastructure and other defects in the five schools slated for
compete overhauls. For that to happen, voters at the May 31
referendum will have to approve selling bonds to cover the 40%
local share of the cost of what will be a state-record $96
million worth of school construction in a single district over
the next five years.
noted that the Delaware Department of Education has committed
the remaining $57.6 million, provided the General Assembly
accepts, as expected, its request when the state's annual
capital spending authorization is enacted in June. If Brandywine
voters reject their half of the deal, he said, a soft economy
and competition from other school districts for state money
makes it uncertain that a similar commitment can be obtained
school district also is seeking approval to finance installation
of all-weather running tracks at its three high schools. The
entire $948,000 capital cost of that project would be borne by
district property taxpayers in a one-time outlay. The council
meeting was told that teams from other schools refuse to
participate in track meets at the Brandywine schools "because
they don't want their runners hurt."
the oral resolution submitted after the presentation by Jerry
Martin, the civic council's education committee chairman, put
the group on record in "support of the referendums," the context
of the presentation indicated, and Martin later confirmed, that
the intent was to express support for the programs themselves.
The resolution was passed by a voice vote with no dissent
the council's executive committee had earlier unanimously voted
the same endorsement. Brandywine Council's policy-setting
executive committee meets behind closed doors and had not
previously made public that stance.
told civic association delegates and other attenders at the
general meeting that the council's involvement in the school
issue had to do with its concern for the general welfare of the
area it represents. "The quality of life of the Brandywine
community is certainly impacted by the quality of our schools,"
he said. Martin also served on the school district's Financial
Dempsey, the council's vice president, said that "people in my
generation" -- that is, older residents -- have a stake in that
the quality of local schools affects the market value of their
in literature distributed at the meeting showed incremental
increases in the 'average' tax in the district totaling $95 a
year by fiscal 2006 if the bonds are sold. That amount is
calculated on what is said to be the average property
assessment, $68,257. Gilbert said tax will decrease after
reaching the peak, but neither he nor the chart take into
account the district's already stated intention to seek a
higher ceiling on its operating tax rate next year nor its
implied intent to schedule other buildings for renovation after
the work now planned is finished but long before the 20-year
bonds are paid off.
said that members of the taskforce visited the eight schools
involved in what the district describes as the second phase of a
long-term program to upgrade all 18 of its school buildings.
Five, including Brandywine High where the council meeting was
held, were modernized in a previous round of work.
things that the average person doesn't get to see," Gilbert
said, indicating that those on the tour were shocked by some of
the things they saw. Several, he said, amounted to "frightening
conditions." He mentioned such things as fire-alert systems not
directly linked to the emergency call system, doors that cannot
be locked and poor air filtration and circulation systems.
I wouldn't want to breathe the air that the kids have to breathe
every day" in one of the schools visited, he said.
school district proposes a complete overhaul of five schools --
Concord High, Talley Middle, Harlan Intermediate, and Forwood
and Lombardy Elementary. Major but less extensive work is
planned at Mount Pleasant High, Claymont Intermediate and Mount
Acknowledging that Mount Pleasant High was enovated during the
first round, he said escalating wages in the construction
industry resulted in having to cut replacement of windows from
the plans for that building. Doing that work now, he said, will
protect the earlier investment. Actually, the state's imposing a
requirement that prevailing wages be paid on public works caused
the budget shortfall.
Gilbert said that, this time out,
the budgets have been drawn accurately and Victoria Gehrt, the
district's interim superintendent, who attended the Brandywine
Council meeting, said that an advisory committee will be
established to oversee the work. "The problems that may have
been there before won't be there now," she said.