March 14, 2001

Brandywine Board of Education officially confirmed by unanimous vote the appointment of Bruce Harter to be superintendent, subject to successful negotiation of an employment contract. No one involved in the process expects that to be a barrier.

The action, taken at an 11-minute special meeting on Mar. 14, was anticlimactic. In sharp contrast with previous sessions involving the superintendency, no one not associated with the media, the district or the selection process was in attendance.

Each board member, except student representative Lauren Mineo, read a brief prepared statement endorsing Harter before the vote. David Moore, principal of Forwood Elementary School and a member of the community search committee which recommended Harter's appointment, said after the vote that the selection process was "by far the most thorough of anything I've been associated with" during a 35-year career in education.

Harter, 52, is superintendent of the Lee County School District in Fort Myers, Fla. He is expected to take the Brandywine position no later than July 1, the start of the next fiscal and academic year.

Still undetermined is any future relationship of Victoria Gehrt with the district. She has been interim superintendent since last October and is under contract through August. 

Board president Nancy Doorey said that she expects the transition from Gehrt's administration to Harter's to proceed smoothly and that he will "build on [her] work, not replace it." But Doorey then added, "We will miss her greatly come September."

Moore said he is appreciative of "the healing she has brought to the district in a very short time." Gehrt was hired in the wake of the turmoil surrounding the ouster of former superintendent Joseph DeJohn.

Gehrt told Delaforum that she has not yet made a decision concerning her professional future.

Harter's appointment was a virtual certainty after a board delegation returned from a reference-checking visit to Florida and reported favorably on its findings at a closed-door executive session on Mar. 10. As Delaforum reported previously, the consensus emerging from conversations with some of the participants after that session was that he would be offered the job.

In her statement, Doorey said of the Florida visit, "From the large majority of administrators who worked with Dr. Harter, we hard that he is the most outstanding superintendent they have ever worked for."

Board member David Adkins, who also was with the delegation, said that he was satisfied Harter responded appropriately to a controversy over meeting fire-code standards. "Achieving high standards requires risk taking with inevitable breakdowns. Rather than ignore or cover up problems, Dr. Harter confronts them openly," Adkins said. 

There was no discussion concerning the path forward to an employment contract. As previously reported, the board established $125,000 as the bid salary for the position. That is about $10,000 more than he is earning in Florida. As Delaforum previously reported, the board is thinking in terms of an initial three-year contract.

Harter told Delaforum he did not anticipate any difficulty reaching agreement on a contract.

He said his family is excited about the prospect of moving to Delaware. His wife, Lee Anna Hedges is a consultant in business leadership development and is involved in mediation with teenagers. His daughter, Kyla is a sixth-grader who is active in band and "very oriented toward the visual arts." The Harters also have an adult son, Dan, who operates a remodeling business in Anchorage, Alas., and a daughter, Susie, a sophomore at the University of Michigan studying for a career in education.

Harter said he will devote time between now and taking his new position to learning about the state, district and community but added that he does not intend to become directly involved. "While I certainly want to be informed, I'm not in a position to make decisions or get involved in specific projects until I actually state my employment in Brandywine."

Moreover, he added, "my current job in Lee County takes up 70 to 80 hours a week and I have no intention of slowing down or backing away until the end of the day on my last day here."

He praised Gehrt for having "done a remarkable job in brining key staff and community members together to initiate and complete ... the 25 goals the Brandywine board has set for this year."

2001. All rights reserved.

Get more information about this topic

Read previous story: Harter said to get the nod
Read Harter's professional resume
Go to Brandywine School District Web site





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