his prerogative," Council president Theodore Blunt said.
"If we had wanted
two voices to go to Dover, we would not have done it in the form
of an ordinance," said Theopalis Gregory, chairman of
Council's education committee.
a veto message delivered in letter form by his press secretary,
John Rago, right after Council adjourned Baker said he favors
"a more conservative approach." While indicating that
he agrees with most of the main features of the complex plan, he
said he wanted something that "does not disrupt the current
four district system and allows us to plan a model education
program to ensure a better education for our children from
pre-school to 12th grade."
mayor endorse, albeit obliquely, the idea of establishing what
it refers to as a charter-school 'consortium'. It would begin
with four schools -- Warner, Lewis, Bayard and P.S. du Pont --
reconfigured to serve each of the grade levels. A charter school
is a public school that essentially is modeled after a
self-governing private school.
laboriously hammered out, through multiple drafts of the plan, a
consensus that resulted in 12 'aye' votes, with one abstention,
Council members were obviously distraught after the mayor
floated an 11th-hour dissent.
was difficult to come up with a plan in a very short time. Now
we read that the major is unhappy with it," said Charles
Freel. "It is not a perfect plan, but a lot of effort has
gone into it and I hope he reconsiders his decision."
noted that there exists more than the nine votes necessary to
override. That action is expected to come at Council's next scheduled
meeting, on Mar. 29.
event, Blunt said he intends to forward to state legislators a
copy of the measure on which Council took action on Mar. 15 --
the deadline established for doing so in the Neighborhood
Schools Act -- "to let them know how we feel"
before the official ordinance document arrives, with or without
the mayor's signature.
mayor's message is clear --
no plan that has been discussed or debated, in his opinion,
gives you a better educational program for kids. All it does it
disrupt the kids again just for sake of going along with the
neighborhood schools proposal," Rago later told
mayor doesn't think the [plan] has majority support in
Dover, nor is the legislature likely to come any where near to
authorizing the amount of money needed to put a proper, sound
educational system in place for Wilmington's children. So why
beat around the bush just to play the game. The mayor is more
direct than that, as reflected in his veto message."
Baker -- who previously had adamantly refused to comment
pending Council's decision -- reportedly switched gears and
aired his objections, Council members were in the final stages
of hammering the consensus agreement. As recently as Mar. 12 there
was sharp disagreement among members. When it came time to vote,
however, the only dissenter was Councilwoman Stephanie Bolden
who said that she could not support the measure but, so as not
to jeopardize the consensus, voted 'present'.
as it now stands asks the Assembly to empower the city to:
the initial steps toward what Gregory said could evolve into
one of the full-fledged urban charter-school district in the
country, as the
Wilmington Neighborhood Schools Committee recommended;
among two, rather than four school, districts with the
Brandywine being the line of demarcation, rather than
attempt what is deemed politically impossible and merge the
city with those districts to form a single 'metropolitan'
district as the committee recommended;
a series of 'educational enhancement' recommendations put
forth by the schools committee to improve the academic
performance of children living in the city; and
a cooperative program with public libraries to serve areas
identified as poor and having a low level of literacy, and
to establish a statewide advocacy office for children who
are learning disabled and otherwise in need of special
was acknowledged as the least significant of the four elements,
the question of how to configure attendance zones while
the innovative charter consortium is being implemented emerged
as the major element of contention as Council reviewed the
schools committee's report. To a large extent that was
because its implications are more immediate and clearly obvious
-- particularly the fact it would eliminate long bus rides to
distant schools, particularly high schools -- in the Christina
and Colonial school districts.
youth have disproportionately shouldered the burden of
desegregation" by having to spend nine of their 12 years of
schooling in suburban schools, Gregory said. Blunt added that he
would have preferred to see Wilmington consolidated into a
single district but was willing to compromise.
teacher at Christiana High School, said that was further than
she would go. "Bring our kids home so we can nurture
them," she said. The Assembly also should eliminate the
practice of school budgets being subject to referendum, she
said. "We have a state lottery that is not being used for
anything and could be used to support education."
give people a reason to move into or move out of the city,"
said Kevin Kelley. "The bottom line is we now have a plan
people can look forward to implementing."
Oliver cautioned, however, that he hopes "we're not just
going through the motions" of submitting a plan which the
Assembly will shelve in favor of its own agenda. Michael Hare
suggested that some of the motivation behind the Neighborhood
Schools Act "was to get the children from the city of
Wilmington out of suburban schools."
any event, Norman Griffiths said, passage of the ordinance falls
far short of resolving the issue. "This is not the end;
this is just the beginning," he said, urging Council
members, city residents and the city's representation in Dover
to lobby strongly for legislation in keeping with the