concept has come in for a considerable amount of lip-service
support in Delaware in recent years, but those who work in the
system say that its actual application has been limited and hard
to achieve. Coming from Florida, a much larger state where
centralized control is less engrained, Harter has fewer ties to
that management style. He said that autonomy extends down to the
local level in the Lake County district, where he is wrapping up
his tenure as chief executive.
He told Delaforum that he favors
strengthening the role of school-level advisory committees by
giving principals the authority to follow through on
implementing recommendations that come from them. That, he said,
extends to "the allocation
resources." Hypothetically, a school could decide that it would
prefer to give up a counselor position in favor of having an
additional classroom teacher.
"You (the district) provide the
resources in a single lump sum [and] let the people closest to
the school decide what they want to do with it," he said.
Recognizing that, if implementation
of the Neighborhood Schools Act plays out as it now appears
likely, Brandywine schools will become considerably less
homogeneous than they now
are, Harter said he favors allocating district resources --
particularly financial resources -- in accordance with
educational need. The teaching profession recognizes that
educating children from lower socio-economic situations requires
greater effort and commitment. The Wilmington Neighborhood
Schools Committee devoted a large portion of its report to the
specifics of what will be required to keep city schools on a par
with suburban ones.
Harter said he has read that report
but does not yet feel he has a sufficient grasp of the
local situation to comment directly.
Photo from the Lee County (Fla.)
School District Web site
He said, however, that emulating the
success of the federal Title One program, which concentrates
support in schools serving low-income students, is the sort of
approach he favors.
"There is a difference between dividing things
equally and dividing things equitably," he
In general, he said, he is not
coming to Brandywine with any set agenda or with an assumption
he has a mandate for extensive change. "I don't think I have
nearly enough knowledge to put anything in the way of a detailed
program together," he said. "I intend to spend a good bit of my
time when I get here listening."
Gehrt to leave
Victoria Gehrt announced that she will leave the
Brandywine School District on Aug. 3.
She has been serving as interim superintendent since
last October. Bruce Harter will succeed her as
'permanent' superintendent on July 1.
Gehrt said that she has not yet decided on future
career plans or, specifically, whether she will
return to the New Castle County Vocational-Technical
School District, from which she has a leave of
She promised to provide a smooth transition into
"The bump will be so small, you will hardly even
notice it," she said.
terms, however, he said he gives priority to whatever will "improve
performance of Brandywine students against [state] relative to
state standards." Unlike Florida, where a turnaround was in
order, he said that coming into his new position he has the
advantage of "being able to build upon the strengths in the
that he is "very gratified" that effort evidently will have
enthusiastic backing from parents and the general public.
the May referendum -- in which voters overwhelmingly
authorized a $38.4 million school construction bond issue, the
largest-ever in Delaware -- "tells me that community support is
very strong." Delaware Department of Education confirmed that
the 76% margin of approval was the largest within the scope of
available records when the vote involved a question which would
lead to a tax increase.
said he intends to keep the momentum going.
or early September, he expects to re-establish the practice of
delivering an annual 'state of the district' message and
publishing an annual report. That will be followed by arranging
for "as many [public] appearances as I can." He intends to make
a presence not only at school and Parent-Teacher Associations
functions but also at gatherings of business, service and
community organizations. "I will accept invitations to speak and
in other cases where it is appropriate I will just show up to
attend the meetings," he said. "Either way I intend to get out
in the community as much as possible."
He already has begun to put down
some roots. The Harters have arranged to purchase a house in
Shipley Heights and have enrolled their daughter, Kyla, to
attend seventh grade at Springer Middle School. His wife, Lee
Anna Hedges, is a consultant specializing in adult-teenager
relations. They have two adult children, Daniel, who lives in
Alaska, and Susie, a student at the University of Michigan.